Monday, 6 April 2009

The Robert Jasper drama and M7 in Olympus Mons Evo...

Speed is safety!

A quick raid in Chamonix harvested a new experience that was kind of not so cool. I was in Chamonix over the weekend getting some altitude for this weeks project. We stayed at the lovely Cosmique hut and as always it was a true pleasure thanks to Arnaoud and Laurance. Saturday morning I was off to the Chere Gully with my wife who was about to do her first ever goulotte. She has tried Ice climbing a few times but this was her initiation ceremony as an aspiring alpinist. The choice between a 05 or 07 am breakfast seemed like a no brainier wit 20 minutes to walk to the bergchround and an anticipated 3h route up and down 6 pitches of easy climbing and some instructions of how to do it on the "big hill".

When I show up at the breakfast at 7 am sharp and look across the glacier I can see 4 headlamps already over bergchrund they left after the 5 am one... Shit its time to hit the road before the first cable car hits the Midi and the folks start to pour out in masses. We arrive at bergchrund at 8.30 after a not so fast hut exit and to my surprise the 4 guys have only managed to start on the first pitch from the initial snow field. Obviously in no hurry (the 4 guys) I thanked higher powers as I pass them on my first pitch. I some times wonder why people bother to bring 60 meter ropes when they insist on using every single fixed belay no matter if there is only 20 meters between them. Any way we cruise up and are soon joined by a guide and his client and we all have a nice time away from the crowd that has now grown to about 10 teams under us all struggling to figure out witch Ice Line is theirs and who's rope to cross and untangle... Rapping off I try to tell my wife this is NOT how it is supposed to be on an alpine route. Where did the adventure go and remoteness go? Well I have to blame my self for the stupidity of bringing a beginner to such a mess. Any way we had a good day but the fun had yet to begin. Back at the deck at the hut we watch the circus in the gully and and no one was coming down. At this point most of the teams had spent way over 8h on 6 pitches. The dinner is served at 7pm there was still plenty of action and finally at 8.30 pm the last team was back in the hut having a late dinner.

I don't care if people spend hours negotiating some thing that is on there limit but what I seriously question is the judgement this people have when they do this in the company of about 20 others who are as clueless to what they are doing. Not to mention the dangers involved with sharing a route with so many. Speed is safety and stay clear of the crowd should be spread as a mantra at any climbing club seminaries on alpinism and safety. In my opinion its a miracle that PGHM is not having a few pic ups a day in the over crowded goulottes such as this one and Gabarrou Albioni etc.

8000 meter boots at 3800 meters

The weekend had one other fun ingredient. I was for sure the laughing stock of the weekend in my brand new La Sportiva Olympus Mons Evo. I used this acclimatisation to see how the fit of my new high altitude boots work on "real" climbing so we spent Sunday doing the Cosmic Icefall a WI5, 200 meter route. It was super cool as the route was with out Ice and the roof on the final pitch was a bit like Hitler, short and nasty... Its a big roof with a cave under and some thing resembling Ice way left an right. Right in the middle there is a lost arrow size crack that proved to be a excellent fit to my Grivel Matrix Tech. The roof and the wall above goes free at about M7 and is super cool. And the best thing with this exercise was that I got the confidence boost I needed for my future plans in the Olympus Mons Evo. Thanks La Sportiva!

The Robert Jasper drama...

NTK (Norsk Tinder Klubb) has issued a statement according to stating that visiting climbers has to follow local ethics. That's all fin but its bull shit to say that this is a diversion from ethics. In the early 80th the superb Ice rout "The White Stripe" just north of Oslo at Andersnatten was bolted and lots of pegs left. It was even so that if it was to much ice the route was considered in bad condition as the fixed gear was under the ice. Further I can confirm Jaspers claim that both Hemsedal and Rjukan has plenty of routes with bolts.

I know of other alpine and Ice routes in Norway where there are bolts on belays backing up a poor belay. Not to mention some winter big wall routes with bolts to support Portaledge camps and hauling stations.

Its easy to have ethics on the ground watching others move boarders. Its all sounds like the Norwegians who I respect are pissed at a missed opportunity since the historic reason have little real bearing. Once you are up there its likely you place a bolt if it is going to make a exposed accent safer or just to get off. Having a drill is a bit to much but I have had the same idea of bolting a line on Borgahallan in Sweden during the Summer and returning to do it in Winter so I can understand Jasper. I think its a matter of opening up to new ways of climbing. And frankly to bolt belays is not helping the mental challenge that much if you are looking at a 100m fall potential. Lets say you use standard 60m ropes fall off 10 meter before the next bolted belay you are for sure looking at one hell of a screamer....

Then we have the most famous bolt on ice route case in the world. Andy Parkins and Marc Francis Twight put up the route "Beyond Good and Evil" on Pelerins in Chamonix in 1992. The route is a master piece of modern hard mixed and well known for its exposed belays and bad protection. Then in 1999 bolts and other fixed gear was found backing up belays. According to independent sources it was the SUPER STAR J C Lafaille who had done the bolting. J C was not known to be a wimp and I don't know why he did it if he did it. But there was plenty of anger around.

Other examples is when ice routes get bolts so Guides can get off fast and safe... This we will see more of. Also the trend to "free" routes using dry tooling will change alpinism. Route finding is getting easier as scratch marks can be found and cracks will get wider as tools will damage them and they will widen.

I think its the ethics of sport climbing that is sadly rubbing off on alpinism. There will be little real climbing left to do in classic areas in the future that's for sure.