Tuesday, 29 March 2011
I was super psyched when Ben Moon and Shane @ MOON CLIMBING informed me that I would be part of the MOON Team this year. But I have to say I'm even more psyched now having receive some great stuff from MOON. Its not only nice looking stuff but its super comfortable to climb in. Since I climb allot in the shade and on "high altitude" (around 1500 to 2200 meters) I have totally fallen in love with the warm Birdman Cord pant and the Hoody (in Lime Green).
The spring season has taken off and sport climbing conditions are great. I feel stronger than last spring since I have enjoyed a great winter with no injuries. The plan is to try and climb as much as possible now and try and grab some good spring conditions in and do some thing alpine. The wish list is long...
One exiting spring event for me will be a photo and film shoot when I'm sport climbing. This will be super cool for me as I have never done it before and I have almost no pictures when I'm sport climbing. Locations is yet to be decided...
Posted by E9 Climbing at 20:27
Tuesday, 15 March 2011
Photo: The East Face to the left and the North Pillar of Fitz Roy
Well all good things always comes to an end. That's no big deal as long as it was fun. This one I can't really decide if it was all that fun... Climbing big mountains is stressful in many ways and thats part of the charm. Watching friends pull off monster ascents is usually inspiring but when I end up screwing up its kind of not so fun any more (sorry Magnus...). Dealing with defeat and still finding motivation is one of the most important virtues for an aspiring alpinist. All this pretty much sums up our semi epic attempt to climb the huge North Pillar of Fitz Roy.
Doing it different
Patagonia was tough to figure out and as we had tried and failed twice we opted for a more "traditional" approach when attempting the North Pillar of Fitz Roy. Traditional meant going heavy and having the second man jugging with the monster back pack. We dedicated a full day for the "approach" instead of a few hours. The North Pillar on Fitz Roy can be climbed and approached in different ways. We decided to try a start called Pendulorama 6b/A1 that leads on to the Kearney-Knight 7A/A0.
The Pendulorama start did not come with the best set of recommendations, it was rather the other way around. Not even the FA like the route, how ever I have to defend the route. It was way better than expected. As the name indicates its about moving side ways between systems of cracks.
We left El Chalten for the 4 hour hike up to our camp in the afternoon, hiking in a relaxed fashion with quite heavy packs. For dinner we had brought take out food, stake sandwiches and home made chocolate cake from the Chockolateria. Food de lux!
Photo: In camp the night before taking off on the North Pillar
The day before starting on a big route is always kind of different. Some times I'm feeling relaxed and some times the stress of the daunting task a head of me puts me in a state of mental discomfort. Before starting on the Super Canaletta I was on fire. Before starting on the Red Pillar I was nervous. Its strange how the mind is playing games with you. The Super Canaletta is an all in kind of route. The Red Pillar a non committing venue till I was feeling kind of iffy. What's really behind this? Before the North Pillar I was feeling great. We had a relaxed start and left camp at around 7:ish after having had an super dinner the night before.
The approach to Pendulorama is quite long in terms in altitude gain. I think we did plus 1700 meters. The initial hike is on moderate snow down to the elusive glacier (we had that one dialed now) and up a long snow slope to some easy climbing. Before we tied in, we melted some snow (by far not enough) and filled up a water bag and a bottle. Looking at this in hindsight we did not melt enough water in order to stay sufficiently hydrated. Bad judgement call!
Photo: Slugging up the snow slope to the start of the route
Standing under the pillar was a cool feeling. Fitz is one hell of a mountain and the North Pillar offers great climbing the only down side was being surrounded by so many other climbers. We had done a few easy pitches and the real climbing was about to start. Erik was leading and I was jugging with the not so nice pack. Climbing in Patagonia is hard work both in terms exposed climbing and ferrying all the shit you need to compleat an ascent. Jugging up the steeper pitches was no fun what so ever and really not my thing. I love alpine climbing where I can move fast and be on the move not spending endless amounts of time on belays. This was a new world for me.
Photo: First pitches on Pendulorama
The upper pitches on the first day offered some harder climbing and Erik had to resort to aiding a few moves on the A1 pitch before starting working on the tension traverse. As darkness fell I reached the belay and we switched on our head torches and prayed we where close to the ledge above the block. Erik left the bely but the ledge was not close (in the dark)... We found nothing good to sit down and rest on for the dark hours of the night but it was 10.30 pm so we opted for a tiny flatish spot where we could sit with our legs crossed . At this point I had started vomiting... The fun was on!
Photos: Starting to be fun on Fitz
The bivy was one of the "best" miserable bivys I have endured. It was fairly warm and not to windy. I even managed to reed a few pages of The Elementary Particles by Michel Houellebecq during the night as I could not sleep. Sadly we had run out of water so our noodles was boiled in 0.5 L of waters. We had hoped to find snow on the ledges but the snow was a no show so hydrating was not going to happen any time soon.
Photos: Last pitch of the dat or in the night... And finding a bivy...
We left the bivy at around 7.30 climbing two pitches to the big ledge where we found some snow to melt. The weather and the conditions where great only I was feeling down and beaten from the vomiting and lack of proper hydration. What lay ahed was 18 pitches of superb climbing to the top of the pillar but by the time we had melted water the time was 11ish. I was not to keen on continuing up the pillar and then getting on to the head wall and go over the summit as I was not well. The prospect of two more days on the move feeling sick felt risky. The time was also factoring in for me. In an ideal world we should have been at the brew edge the night before and had a good nights rest and we should have left early. That would not have mattered so much if spirits was up. Any way for me this was game over.
Photos: Morning at the bivy, Finding snow to melt and resting at the brew stop before calling it quits
Bailing was not a no brainer. We had two options. We opted for the couloir normally used to reach the North Pillar. Rapping that one during the day did not look to good. The freezing levels where above the summit and there was no question whether or not there would be rock fall. The question was how bad would it be. Had I know how bad it would be I would have opted to continue climbing to the summit. NO DUBT! It was a huge mistake to bail. A few rapps down the couloir (it was partly a real water fall showering us) the bombardment started. We where in the middle of an open couloir with no where to hide when Erik called out ROCKS!!!! I looked up and could see a huge block coming straight at us. We ducked and the rock hit about 50 meters above us and we where "only" hit by smallish stuff. We had 3 or 4 solid helmet hits and Erik had a big hit on his back pack. Wow that was not cool. We both freaked out and the only thing we could do was to continue dow trying to find some shelter.
About 45 minutes later the next big one came down. This time we where in a slightly better position but still this was as bad as things can go. For me this was one of the most horrific rock falls I had ever been through when climbing. When we finally hit the glacier we moved out as far as we could from the wall and the rock fall. Sitting down we both said that this shit was the kind of stuff that would make one want to stop alpine climbing.
Photo: Erik finally down and safe
For me this was clear reminder why I never climb in the alps in summer. I hate hot days on glaciers. I hate rock fall. I hate crowded mountains (the rocks in the first fall came from someone on the ridge above us). Still I love alpine climbing and I can't wait to get back out but for me the time to do alpine routes is in winter.
I will be back in Patagonia but I will be going in the cold season. Patagonia was great and I had a great time and the best possible partner. I also like to lift my hat for Magnus Eriksson and Tomas Melling who did a magnificent ascent of the North Pillar a week before we tried via Mate, Porro y Todo lo Demás and linking it with the head wall and being part of the first teams (a slovenian team toped out a few hours ahed) ever topping out Fitz Roy via that route. These guys had this shit figured out!
Photo: Self shoot before rapping off
Photo: Rapping off
Photo: Descending climbers from Fitz Roy
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Posted by E9 Climbing at 09:46
Tuesday, 8 March 2011
Photo: The Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy group from the road
I have to start by pointing out that going to Patagonia was breaking with protocol. There is nothing in summer alpinism I like. Its hot, its wet, its crowded and when conditions are good rock fall is constant. Its out right not my thing. Any way an opportunity cam along and I tagged along... Well I have to admit I was exited given that I was going with Erik a Swedish friend who I like allot.
We had no other plan than trying some thing that was in condition if conditions allowed. I think that was a good call. We kind of geared up for having the flexibility to go up to the Torre valley as well as up the Fitz Roy area. But in reality we got tide down to the Fitz Roy area.
After arriving with a not so nice cold I spent some time resting. A window opened and we probed around among the Patagonia veterans as whether they thought the Super Canaletta would be a viable option and the overall feedback we got gave us enough good vibes to shoot for it. How ever the Isoterm sky rocketed the next 36h but we figured that it would still be possible.
Being a lazy ass climber I had no desire what so ever to go with a big pack and lots of gear. So "Light duty David*" (The definition of Light Duty is: "not designed for heavy or demanding work") managed to convince poor Erik that a few Clif bars, Clif Blooks and one epi gas was more than enough to bring along on such a straight forward route...
We brought a quite light rack, one 7.7 mm Sterling rope and one 7mm semi static tag line (not sure this set up was that smart) no bivy gear but a reactor. Our pack where feeling great = light. I was really psyched at the prospect of climbing this epic line on on of the finest mountains in the world. Our aim was to climb the route in 12 to 15 hours and use an other 7 hours for descending the mountain. All great in theory. How ever one small detail was that we under estimated the time from our camp to the start of the climbing with about 5 hours. Marginal one can think in the big scheme of things but on a "food and energy budget of 24 hours" this kind of mistakes are making a clear and unwanted dent in the over all game plan.
Any way approaching (the only thing we did to much of on this trip) the route we manage to venture out in to the Glacier in the dark and get more than lost. Suddenly we found our self surrounded by 30 meter leaning serac towers. Things started not only to look bad in terms of getting to the start of the climb in due time but more urgently the danger factor was growing so fast that it was no longer fun.
At one point we found ourself standing on a collapsed snow bridge about 10 meters down in to a bad "vibing" crevasse trying to move in the right hand direction but some thing prevented me from doing that and as I was passing Erik and moving in the opposite direction, trying to get us to more solid ground (a highly relative term at this point) the whole bridge was shaking and 10 meters to the right about half a ton of ice fell down on the spot I just avoided. Wow that was way to close! Luck is some thing you earn. So far we had done nothing to earn any luck. The prospect of getting out fast was not look to bright as we had no real point of reference to navigate against. I was thinking to my self: "Wholly fucking shit this is as bad as it gets and it will take about 200 years before we get spitted out at the end of the valley". What a way to go... Well no time to reflect on what might happen. We moved as swiftly and as GENTEL we could on the fragile and shaking ice towers, doing some interesting climbing, down climbing, traversing and and finally we had a solid target to navigate against. After about 2 hours of utter fear, terror completely lost in a labyrint of lurking death we found our self on solid ground filing quite stupid and tired. I felt like I had just got off a major epic route and still we had 2 hours to the start of the Super Canaletta. Wow we really did not nail this one!
Photo: The point of exit on the glacier...
Finally at the start of the route we had more or less given up all hopes of climbing the route but still I wanted to have a closer look for future reference. I think Erik was mentally quite spent as he managed to fall asleep under a boulder on the glacier for 10 minutes. I was wire on caffein powered Clif Shots and adrenaline so I hiked up to get in a better viewing position. The route was out. No connecting snow or ice on the first 600 meters and most definitely not on the first 1100 meters of the route. The upper parts looked dry but to get there would be a daunting task far from the simul soloing we had hoped for. Bailing after sending the approach! Thats a new one! But it felt good the route was in horrific conditions. On a side note I could not detect any debris from falling rocks on the "avi cone" leading up to the bergscrund so I think it would be fine to start this one even quite late in the day but one might need to observe the start more to get a better understanding for what's right.
Photo: A dry Super Canaletta
Back at camp Erik is now punished for my light duty mania and we have to descend back to El Chalten to get more food and supplies. I feel like an idiot returning to town in the middle of a huge weather window. And its far... It sucks. I hate hiking and I hate approaching. The next afternoon after resting, eating and hydrating we hike right back up and we are now shooting for a pure rock route.
Photo: Approaching the Red Pillar on Mermoze
The Red Pillar is on the paper a straight forward rock route with bolted belays and even some bolts right next to splitter cracks. It was "kind of" established by Kurt Albert (bolted by Albert) and features some quite hard crack climbing 7b:ish. A wee bit tired we go to sleep in our high camp after downing some frozen margaritas mixed by Blake Herrington and Scott Bennett. Thanks guys! We don't sleep much a few hours tops. The going up a hill again. The hate the hill feeling is being an all to well know feeling at this point. We are back doing what I hate. Approaching. This time the packs are not that light even if we are going for a day trip. The rack was big. I have bleeding blisters. Erik is carrying the big pack... Light duty David is contributing with...
We soon hit the glacier and i find it quite wet in my trail running choose, I also feel like a idiot. Who in his right mind is approaching a big rock route via a big glacier in trail running choose? Armed with only one axe and one ski pole (no crampons). This is starting to go down hill. As we head up the 200 meter 55° snow slope Erik firs (not to happy, I suggest a few times we untie) with Crampons its evident we blew it again spending to much time approaching.
Photo: Crossing the bbergschrund rapping in running choose felt better than heading up in them as you see its huge...
We managed cross the bergschrund on the wrong side of a rocky island but still reach the first belay quite easy. We did a few pitches but my motivation is out the window as my bleeding blisters makes it unbearably painful to where the tight rock choose. Erik leads a splitter 5.12 crack and I see true happiness in his eyes. Maybe I was selfish not pushing on. Maybe I should not have left my running choose tide in to the first belay to dry out so I could have endured the route jugging... But did we even have jumars with us? Can't remember. Any way we head back to camp beaten up and tired after being approaching for the last 4 days. Erik decides to stays in camp but I continue down the 4 hour hike to El Chalten to dry out and try and cut away all the blisters in a sterile environment.
Photo: Heading up the Red Pillar
Photo: Splitter Erik on a splitter 5.12 crack on the Red Pillar
Photo: Back down on the glacier under the East face of Mermoz and the Red Pillar
* "Light duty David" was invented by John B Gleason, not sure it was a compliment...
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Posted by E9 Climbing at 12:14