Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Spring alpinism in Chmonix

© Copyright 2011 - All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Bored or pushing the envelope?

Climbing is growing and its getting more and more specialized. Climbing in "general" (climbers practicing all different disciplines) is practiced by few. Still I think the generalist are the among the best climbers, they master hard boulders, can find there way up brittle ice and bag an new line in the Himalayas and when resting they redpoint the odd 8a+ or 8b. Ok They may not not be frontrunners in any specific discipline but they are the climbers performing cutting edge accents. Its almost impossible to understand how hard it is to climb on the level of lets say Josh Wharton, Steve House, Ueli Steck, Simon Antamatten or Simone Moro. To perform at there level is in my opinion much more impressive and harder to achieve than being able to do a 9a.

Sadly the understanding among fellow climbers for the different disciplines seams to be lacking. Sport climbers live in there meta-ethical bubble and the same goes for other hardcore narrow focused climbers. I think all of us who are climbing would benefit if we tried to learn how to improve from other disciplines or specialists but there seams to be a funny kind of snobbism among climbers where no one is really interested in understanding the dynamics of other disciplines.

One example of this was displayed this week on a sport climbing website where the editor on his personal blog is congratulating a friend who toped out Everest using supplementary O2, Sherpas and fixed ropes. The editor who was the youth coach to the Everest summiter announces proudly to the audience that his former adept now is a world class alpinist.

I don't know if it was euphoria or lack of insight to what it takes to be a elite alpinist that lead to the statement but ist for sure misleading. I'm not trying to take any thing away from the happy coach and Editor but to put things in perspective. Each year about 500 to 600 people summit Everest. Out of that number one or two with out using supplementary O2. Attempts on Everest in pure alpine style is almost unheard of and that would be truly world class elite alpinism.

One of the worlds best alpinist Ulie Steck turned around Everest earlier this week at 8700 meters in a non O2 bid for the summit after warming up with a record speed accent of the South face of Shishapangma and then bagging Cho Oyo less than 3 weeks later.

This puts things not only in perspective it also tells us how hard it is to do world class alpinism and how far off the tourist accents of Everest are from being even remotely interesting for any one else than the person doing it.

Is Arnaud Petit Being bored???

An other endless debate that I to some extent think is reflecting the lack of understanding among climbers who focus on different styles of climbing is the "trad" vs "Sport" debate. Some times this is "just" a debate and some times its escalating to bolt wars. Action is great and I have nothing against chopping bolts if a bolted line is climbed clean. Improved style is just a natural evolution in climbing.

But what about this one?

An interesting hybrid of sport and trad climbing is on display right now in Ceuse a crag in south of France where local bad ass climber Arnaud Petit seams to be in to a new way of doing "trad" climbing on a sport route. Petit is trying to "trad" climb a 70 meter 8B+ (The Black beau). The start is a hard boulder in to a 7c+ route and so on for 70 meters... The lime stone is not offering a great deal of protection so some spectacular falls was taken. Since the start of the route is quite intense and Petit did not want to carry all the gear on the first part of the route he was pulling up the protection pieces on a tag line, hanging from a hold about 30 meters up where the route Les Colonettes, 7C+ ends... If or when Petit pulls off this A page is turned in the history of sport climbing in Ceuse.

Friday, 20 May 2011

What to do in Himalaya?

Himalaya is one of the best places on earth with some of the best climbing in the world. Going there can be committing if you opt for an alpine style attempt. Not only do you need to deal with the usual expedition stuff you need to get it right in terms of weather, partners, objectives, strategy, gear, health, fitness, motivation and conditions. As you star listing the components you need to get right in order to accomplish the goal, you soon understand that the odds are starting to stack up against you.

So going for a route in alpine style in Himalaya is all about trying. Practice makes perfect. Well I have had quite some practice. Lets hope luck is with us this time. No matter how much you plan there is always the X factor. So staying motivated is key. I find motivation and inspiration in the planning of an expedition. Finding an objective and starting climbing it in my mind as I train and prepare is key.

As there is no such thing as a perfect trip and conditions swing faster than politics change direction I have opted for a new strategy this time. I have applied for a number of permits in 3 different areas of Pakistan. The targets are also very different and they all have interesting possible lines facing different directions. The idea is to start off by doing some thing fairly moderate to get fit and well acclimatized. Then the idea is to try and push the envelope a bit on some thing bigger and more committing in a ultra light and fast style.

It will be interesting to see how this multi permit strategy pans out. We have permits on the Choktoi Glacier, Baltoro Glacier and in the Charakusa Valley. All areas with huge potential and some awsome challenges.

Photo of Ledgeway to heven courtesy of: www.nicolasfavresse.com

Picture of an unclimbed summit just off Baltoro

© Copyright 2011 - All Rights Reserved David Falt