Monday, 29 November 2010

Crash of the Titans - Normand/Dempster hit it big with a huge FA on Mt. Edgar East Face

Chapeau for 2/3 of last year's Piolet d'Or-winning Xuelian West team! E9climbing is proud to report (FIRST and with exclusive photos) that Bruce Normand Kyle Dempster has been in action again in the mountains of western China, this tilme in Minya Konka range in Sichuan province.

This compact line of peaks includes, in addition to Minya Konka itself (at 7556m one of the most imposing and dangerous peaks on the planet), more than 10 peaks in the 6000m range which have seen one ascent or fewer.

Warming up.... With a First ascent of W Face of Mt. Grosvenor (6376m)

This much eyed peak has fended off some great names in the past. Knowing when to strike seams to one of the Normand Dempster teams talent's. Dempster and Normand completed the central couloir on the W Face of Mt. Grosvenor (6376m) explaining to me that because most snow falls in summer in the mountains of Sichuan, autumn is the season to find ice, and the dry corner which turned back previous parties (notably Mick Fowler in 2003) was WI4+ ice. The pair climbed the route from base camp (4300m) in a single 24-hour push in cloudy weather, strong wind and occasional snow. From BC at 3am they had climbed the crux (5700m) by noon and continued in the upper couloir (remininscent of the Supercouloir, with two additional steep sections) throughout the afternoon. Sunshine through the wind-torn clouds greeted the climbers onto the summit at 6pm.

Like the first-ascent party (Roger Payne and Julie-Ann Clyma, SW Ridge, Nov 2003), they made some progress down the increasingly corniced NE Ridge until dark. After that, 15 rappels down the precipitous N Face took them to an upper glacier basin at 2am, where they bivouacked before returning the BC the following day.

Picture: Kyle Dempster on the First Acent of teh W Face of Mt. Grosvenor

Huge First Acsent on Mt. Edgar

Edgar History

Sadly most of us get a chilling feeling up or spine when we hear Mt.Edgar. This mountain will always be remembered for the tragedy that took place in June 2009, when the US team of Johnny Copp, Micah Dash and Wade Johnson was killed in an avalanche while trying to approach the SE Face.

On the E side of the range, it is approached from verdant valley floors at only 1500m. With over 300 days a year of misty, rainy weather, and 2000m of preciptous slopes and blown-out river gorges between the fields and the mountains, this region shrouds its peaks in a special brand of mystery. Edgar had seen one ascent, by a Korean party in 2003 which found a route from the south, while its E Face was of course the subject of an iconic picture by Tamotsu Nakamura. In May 2009, the Russian/Kyrgyz team of Sasha Ruchkin and Misha Mikhailov tried to find the a way to climb this face, but failed because they could not see it.

The Rose of No-Man's Land (M6, WI5) Eastish Face of Mt.Edgar!

Relying again on drier November weather, Dempster and Normand approached the face somewhat blind, spending their first day in misty forests and canyons, and their second navigating up unstable, vertical-sided river cuts to the foot of a small glacier at 4100m. On their third day, clear sunshine revealed a long approach up a narrow glacier to the base of the face, which the climbers were surprised to find beginning at 5500m.

They found that the E Face is a scoop with a dry, SE-facing side below the true summit, a shaded, NE-facing side with several thin ice lines, and a central drainage gully catching everything which falls off the cornices rimming the face. On day 4 they climbed ice and steep snow to begin the serious climbing with an M6 dry-tooling pitch, a line they chose to avoid the drainage gully. Three pitches of steep, thin ice followed, to a snowfield yielding only a sitting (and spindrift-washed) bivouac.

The fifth day served up cloudier but still stable weather, and more thin then non-existent ice and mixed lines up and to the left of the face, leading finally to an exit col at 6200m. A very windy night ensued. Day 6 required a long ice traverse into the S Face and up to the rounded S Ridge, which the climbers followed to the summit at 2:30pm. By this time, the stormy wind had replaced reasonable morning weather with a white-out, resulting in a fast and blind descent into a high glacier basin.

On day 7 the team worked its way down this glacier, climbing and rappelling a first-descent line in low to zero visibility and finding the easiest going between rock and ice on the true left. On the eighth day, in thickly falling snow down to 3500m, the pair found their steep, morainal descent gully give suddenly onto a road, where they were able to hitch a ride out in a classic Chinese Dongfeng truck. Although not a very direct line, their route The Rose of No-Man's Land (M6, WI5) does seem to be the only safe one on the face.

Kyle under the East Face of Edgar

Kyle on thin ice.... on Edgar

Kyle covering some nice ground on Edgar

As good as it gets in climbing? Bruce high on Edgar

Steeeep and mixed on Edgar. Kyle leading some hard stuff

Its getting harder... Kyle leading and NOTE THE Ice Axe by his feet...

Kyle playing in a perfect runnel on Edgar

Kyle climbing stuff on Edgar that would either get him laid or divorced....

Rout on Edgar!

2nd ascent of Mt. Edgar, climb by Kyle Dempster (USA) and Bruce Normand (UK).

Day 1 (Nov 7): rainy day. Walk from upper Xinxing (2050m) to lower base camp (3200m). 1 local porter carrying equipment.
Day 2: cloudy day. Scrambling in unstable river drainages from 3200m to upper base camp at 4100m on glacier below E Face of Mt. Edgar.
Day 3: sunny day. Roped walking/climbing/glacier travel in glacial gully from 4100m to 5500m directly below E Face.
Day 4: sunny day. Ice and snow-climbing from 5500m to 5800m. 1 dry-tool pitch M6). 3 ice pitches (WI5) to 6000m. Sitting bivouac in E Face.
Day 5: sun and some clouds. Steep/vertical ice and mixed climbing for 5 pitchesfrom 6000m to exit col at 6200m.
Day 6: sunny morning, snowy afternoon. Ice and snow-climbing on S Ridge from 6200m to summit (6618m, 2:30pm). Descent by S Ridge and southerly glacier to 5700m, roped glacier walking/climbing. (summit 12th Nov)
Day 7: cloudy morning, snowy afternoon. Descent of glacier (roped glacier walking and rappelling) from 5700m to 4300m.
Day 8: snowing. Completion of descent (rappelling and hiking) from 4300m to road at 3400m and return to Xinxing. (return to Moxi 14th Nov).

The team was sponsored by:

Copy and all rights reserved by (All pictures by Bruce Normand)

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Red Bull PR Strategy - Cerro Torre melt down

I have to say that Red Bull is doing a fantastic job in terms of their PR strategy when managing the complete melt down created by David Lama and his documentary team. I mean staying low profile and hoping this will blow past them is for sure a smart move if you are looking at it from a PR point of view. Now that strategy might fool one or two and might keep main stream media away from picking up the story but it will do little or nothing when it comes to restore the Red Bull brand in the eyes of the climbing community.

All the contradictory information out there about the added bolts right beside perfectly fine splinters and new bolts on belays strongly suggest they have permanently change on of the most controversial routes in climbing history. And not for the better. They have not as intended opted for a better style, they have just degrade to conquering the mountain blinded by ambition.

What surprises me is that they seams to get a way with saying nothing. Guys who was pretty eager to balance the picture in the first round of the debacle is notably silent right now and I'm not only thinking of fellow athlete Will Gadd (who has nothing to do with this). Also the climbing media seams to be deferring from asking the uncomfortable questions.

It will be interesting to follow this well rehearsed circus as its moves along.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Cerro Torre and Super Topo comments

First of all Chapeau to Rolo Garibotti for standing up and speaking up. I'm not sure I'm the best person to sum this up but I will give it a shoot. This is my subjective view of the latest development in the Cerro Torre/Red Bull controversy.

First of all Rolo is know to be a reliable source and a climber withe great judgement. His track record in Patagonia is one of the most impressive out there.

Rolos latest report after coming dow Cerro Torre lately is to put it mildly conflicting with statements given from the Red Bull team to climbing media such as Alpinist. Its also in sharp contrast to what has been reported to Will Gadd and published on his blog.

Its impossible not to think of the "old" controversy when Josh Wharton and his partner shopped off one bolt on the top part of the Compressor route after completing a new variation avoiding a huge (if my memory serves me right) number of the bolts, that dispute ended with a hospital after a proper fist fight. So one thing is sure ethics matter in Patagonia!

A few questions raised in the Super Topo thread that kind of define the essence of the hole issue (in no specific order):

- Is it legit to add protection when you set out to do a classic in a better style than its previously has been climbed in?

- When you have belays with lots of old slings and pegs is it not better for general safety to clear it and bolt it?

- Who shall be blamed? Red Bull, David Lama, the Austrial UIAGM Guide or the hole bunch?

- Style VS progress and what price shall be paid?

Some of the topics raised remain unanswered but there is a strong consensus that Rolos removal of the added bolts was the right call.

Climbing style is an other strong consensus point. I think its fair to say that no one in the thread is in favor of diluting the style for the sake of a a film.

Adding bolts to belays is controversial any where in the world. Adding bolts to a route on the route thats has been at the epicenter of controversy since it was first claimed to have been climbed is just to much. Lama was clear that no bolts had been added to the actual climb and he is yet to speak out but there is nothing that suggest Rolo is wrong and that would leave the Red Bull team in a pretty ugly mess.

One point mad is that old slings and pegs can be removed, bolts can't. It can never be right to bring big crews on the hill if the price is paid by other who will follow and encounter added bolts and trash.

I think the iconic American climber Jim Donini sums it up well in just a part of one post.

"Style matters because climbing doesn't. If there were a cure for cancer on the top of Cerro Torre any means to get there would be justified. Climbing has evolved via knowledge, training, equip. etc. As climbing evolves style should follow."

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

In sharp contrast... El Cap and Cerro Torre...

In one end of the world on one big wall one of the coolest efforts seen in long time is playing out as i post. I'm off course referring to the Caldwel/ Jorgeson effort on El Cap. In an other end of the world one an other big wall one of the saddest stories of modern times is take a new turn. I'm off course referring to the David Lama debacle on Cerro Torre.

Bolts chopped on Cerro Torre

"Under the auspices such a topic title I wish I could report that I have chopped some of Maestri's bolts, but I have not. The bolts I chopped two days ago are some of the many that David Lama's film crew placed last summer.

Above the col of Patience (the shoulder) I came across 20 “David Lama-Red Bull bolts”, as opposed to the 12 reported by Lama himself and the person responsible for placing them, the Austrian mountain guide Heli Putz. Because of time constraints I could not make an in-detail inspection of that section of the route, so I am guessing there were a few more. Of those 20 bolts, I managed to chop 17. In contrast to what Lama and Putz reported, all bolts were very much on the route, drilled in existing belays or in the middle of pitches, all in places where natural protection is readily available and where for more than 30 years climbers have climbed by.

Heli Putz had also reported to Will Gadd that the rappel line he bolted below the col of Patience (the shoulder) followed an independent line. This also proved to be incorrect. More kool-aid or whatever fizzy drink his employer manufactures to cover up for his own idiocy. The rappel line Putz bolted follows the same buttress that the normal rappel line follows, sharing the first two anchors, which he retro-bolted and later takes a more direct line to the ground, following a line that is often used by climbers to rappel when conditions are very dry. Next to each of his bolted anchors there are old rap stations on natural gear. Because of bad weather I was unable to chop those anchors. In that section I saw 20 bolts, but likely there are more, in contrast to the 14 reported by Lama and Putz.

Also worth noting Lama and the Red Bull film crew left 5 haul-bags of stuff on the mountain last season when they bailed out of town, including the 700 meters of fix line on the route. About a month later they hired three Argentine guides to clean up their mess. They did a great job and managed to pull most everything off the route, with the exception of two haulbags (not one as reported by Lama and Putz). Just four days ago two Argentine climbers brought down in disgust those two remaining haul-bags and hopefully will hold their contents up for ransom.

In his response to the debacle Lama wrote saying that for his second attempt to free the Compressor route during the 2010-2011 season they would take a different, lighter approach. However reports suggest that the team size has been increased rather than reduced, so again in this case Lama’s statement might be but a diversion.

With the level of misinformation that the Red Bull crew is dishing out their fancy fizzy drink is fast becoming the modern Kool-aid. Dont drink it!"

Sad to have to thank some one for this kind of clean up. But job well done! Chapeau! I think this is as sobering news for the climbing world as the sad speed story on K2 or the "lost" Swedish girls on Shishapagma. Pathetic that so many seams to be motivated by fame rather than style. With the ethics out the widow one have to ask one self set off to the hills? What the driving force? What is the reward for the effort? Is it a headline in a magazine or is it an ever lasting memory? I'd opt for the the memory.

Source Rolo Garibotti post on Supertopo:

Some interesting points on this issue from Rock&Ice to me copied from Facebook:

Rock and Ice magazine David ... always interesting opinions! ... Not to divert the discourse, but what is the difference between Caldwell and Jorgeson adding bolts to existing routes (which have been climbed for decades) in order to make a free climb, and the bolts that were added on Cerro Torre? Not trying to take anything away from Caldwell and Jorgeson, of course ... but since you brought up the comparison ...

David Falt I don't know how many bolts Caldwell and Jorgeson have added but one difference if they pull it off is that they have achieved what I would say is a quantum leap in terms of free big wall climbing. Then I think some one can go there and try and repeat it in a better style and cop off what ever bolts they don't need. On Torre they are not improving the style some thing Caldwell and Jorgeson are trying.

This is NO JOKE!

Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson have taken off on their official bid to free climb the Dawn Wall on El Cap. Caldwell and Jorgeson's 19-pitch line will arguably be the hardest of its kind in the Yosemite Valley and a quantum leap forward for climbing in the valley.

I wish them luck on what is possibly one of (if not) the greatest achievement on El Cap since the Nose was climbed!

Friday, 12 November 2010

I guess this is no joke... Or?

AddVenture - Exclusive course package

Rjukan Adventure, Fredrik Sträng and Addnature presents an exclusive ice climbing course package, for winter 2010 / 2011. Instructors are two of the Scandinavia's most experienced ice and alpine climbers, Andreas Spak and Fredrik Sträng, and together they have more than 30 years of climbing and adventures behind them.


Sunday, 7 November 2010

Hurlyburly a future classic!

There is few things that stick with me for years. One of those rare things is the movie Hurlyburly ( and my time spent in LA watching the movie. Its feature some of the finest actors of my time and is a fantastic screen play. My long lasted love and affection for this movie got a unexpected love infusion this weekend.

I'm now a even bigger and more devoted fan after getting some inside to what kept fueling Mr. Penn during the shooting of the movie. This is a movie I can see over and over again with out getting bored. But from now on it will have a personal meaning to me and i want to to pay a special tribute to Director Anthony Drazan and his wife for there humanitarian efforts and social commitment to the people of Nepal.

It seams like its now my destiny to make sure this movie will stay in the memory of the climbing community. Having tried a few times I know this is quite some task but its now an official mission to forge a new line of some degree of importance up a peak in Nepal in honour of the Drazan family and the movie.