THE COLORADO COLLEGE
2011 Edition CCAJ
The Mission of the Colorado College Alpine Journal is to unite, inform, and inspire both our climbing community and others by showcasing the climbers and climbs of Colorado College â€“ past and present â€“ through writing, photos, and artwork via this free publication.
2011 EDITION THE CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
CONTENTS Editor’s Note.....................................................7 Letters...............................................................8 Climbs, Expeditions, and The Climbing Life.....................................12 Final Thoughts.................................................64 [Cover] John Catto (‘82) powers through a beautiful arch at 12,000ft, high above Colorado Springs. Erik Rieger [This page] The Center of the Universe, mixed media on canvas. Renan Ozturk (‘02) In the Hindu religion, Meru, the tallest mountain pitured, is considered to be the center
of the universe. Following the attempts of over ten other teams to climb its famed “Shark Fin” feature, Renan and his two partners, Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin, succeeded in climbing a direct route this past October in a monumental twelve-day push. CCAJ
Thanks to our donors Kicker Sound Systems, Critical Care & Pulmonary Consultants, and our friends at Colorado College: the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund, the Life of the Mind Grant, and the Colorado College Department of Outdoor Education for their generous financial support of the 2011 CCAJ.
Colorado College Department of Outdoor Education Ahlberg Gear House. CC Surfers. BreakOut. Climbing Association of Colorado College. Cycling Club. Freeriders Union of Colorado College. Kayak Club. Outdoor Recreation Club. Ritt Kellogg Climbing Gym.
The Colorado College Alpine Journal Erik Rieger (‘12), Editor Senior Editor Joe Forrester (‘06) Guest Editors Emily Anding (‘12), Nielsen Davis (‘15), Ryan Guerra (‘15), Lucas Schaffer (‘15) Production Supervisor David Hoven (‘06) Design Erik Rieger (‘12) Distribution Hanson Smith (‘14) Advertising Kyle Kennedy (‘13) Production Assistant David Fay (‘13) With additional thanks to: Elizabeth Pudder, Debby Fowler, Colin Jenks, Dan Crossey
[This page] Mt. Robson. Kendall Rock (‘15) CCAJ
SUPPORTING CLIMBERS LIKE NEVER BEFORE Advocacy: Fighting for Climbers' Rights Conservation: Protecting the Places We Climb $10,000 Rescue Benefits Free Guidebook Checkout: 20,000 Volumes American Alpine Journal & Accidents in North American Mountaineering Grand Teton Climbers' Ranch and Lodging around the World And heaps more...
YOUâ€™VE NEVER SEEN THE AAC LIKE THIS
The relationship between climbing and writing has always fascinated me. At times, the line is blurred. The written word seems able to convey so vividly the climbing experience. But the missing link between event and memory creates distance in the progression from the experience to its reproduction. Wall-to-paper is an imperfect art. To me, climbing has always seemed a similar project to writing, despite the inadequacies of their translation. Lately, I’ve likened climbing to the image of writing in the dark. I first noticed this on a multi-day climb after dropping my headlamp from a small bivy ledge. As the pen drifted across the limited space of a page in my journal, the formation of letters and words was completely unknown to me. Looking back today, I fill in the empty spaces in my journal with what I can recall. I enjoy filling in the blanks with my imagination, but knowing this is only a second-rate account gives me pause. The image of writing in the dark is so often mimicked in climbing. Alpinism, onsight climbing, first ascents, predawn approaches, and late-night epics produce some of the most vivid examples. These parts of climbing exist in a space somewhere in-between creating and reacting to the mountain mosaic. Action and the imagination conflate until all else becomes superfluous. Possibility arrives both limited and endless.
In drifting across the mountain landscape, outcomes are never certain. Which way should we go? Think the next pitch goes? Will we make it back alive? Still, one presses on. Such journeys leave a myriad of scars. These impressions are many, formed by everything from beauty to terror. Through writing we palpate these scars. The effects range from joy to misery, but the raw material that climbing provides is always unique. I am continually awed by the voice each one of us brings to climbing. The CCAJ reflects this deeply. From colorful depictions of high peaks, to fleeting moments captured in photographs, to the words that recount our own inner dialogue, we recall feelings and images, giving voice to them in styles entirely our own. Do not linger too long on the rendering of these experiences into print – as imperfect of an art as it may be. There is always a latent energy surging beneath the printed surface challenging the plane of imperfection. This energy saturates the following pages, revealing numerous contrasts and commonalities, and that despite a storied past, the history of Colorado College climbing is still being written today. I hope you enjoy reading about it. -Erik Rieger (‘12) CCAJ
LETTERS Respect Your Elders On the very first day of my very first class at Colorado College, I sat down next to a tall, lanky guy. He looked over at my LaSportiva shirt and asked, “Are you a climber, or do you just wear the T-shirt?” I knew I had found a friend. “That’s what I would have said,” I thought. Cy Keener (‘98) was a senior and knew all the local spots. He was glad to know that I was not a sport climber, but we did a lot of training together on his campus board to the sounds of Prodigy and Portishead. We took trips after class to Ute Pass, a bouldering area that I would come to know better than almost anyone in Colorado Springs. Only a handful of locals - Mark Milligan and Mike Johnson, from whom I learned - knew the area better. During my senior year I would
do 150-problem circuits there. Climbing at Turkey Rocks was another important part of the initiation into the local scene. A few of the older guys in town, including Steve Cheyney, were a bit too much for me as an 18-year-old. They claimed that if I was not climbing with a hangover, an ascent at Turkey did not count. Through Cy, I met more and more of the Colorado College “hard-core set.” A couple of these guys, Andrew Wexler and Louis Sass, convinced me to spend my first block break attempting the Diamond, aid climbing D7. Off-route on the Black Dagger, our attempt ended in severe dehydration. On the descent, I learned first-hand the rope-eating prowess of the Diamond. With the remaining piece of my brand new
[Previous page] The bivy where the editor learned how to write in the dark, Huandoy Norte, Peru. Erik Rieger [This
page] Renan Ozturk, Toby Carmen, Ben Lamm, and Brian Sohn atop Devil’s Tower, WY a decade ago. Brian Sohn
Mammut rope, a long cordelette, and a static line, we rigged a series of knot-passing rappels that eventually got us to the base minus quite a few nuts and hexes. Having had older climbers take me under their wing when I was a freshman, I did my best to return the favor. I remember taking Jake Martin (‘03) and Kim Lee (’04) to Ute Pass and helping convert Alex McPherson (‘02) from a competition gym climber into a trad-aholic. I taught Andy Neuman (‘05) how to place gear at Parachute Rock. Not that I did any of this single-handedly by any means. Almost all of my climbing partners loved having someone other than me around. I cannot imagine why. The “respect–your–elders party” semi-formalized the idea that mentoring was part of the Colorado College climbing tradition. This began as a way to connect current students with alumni and other local pioneers such as Jimmy Dunn, Pete Gallagher, Michael Johnson, etc. It was great to see young climbers light up when they realized they were in the presence of legends. Or, maybe that was just the whiskey. The Journal represents another way to establish the link between older and younger CC climbers. It’s great to see what everyone is up to - even the people I haven’t met. I get inspired to find a way to put off more of my work and familial
obligations so I can get out there and send. If I can - insert myriad of ageing guy excuses here: get a reliable partner, get my tendons healthy, find a way to directly inject ibuprofen, etc., - soon enough I’ll have something other than nostalgia to contribute. -Brian Sohn (‘01)
A New Gestalt I just wanted to drop a quick note and say, “Congratulations!” on a fine 2010 Alpine Journal. The words, art, and spirit are all just great! To be honest, I questioned why there even was such a thing as The Colorado College Alpine Journal; “Paper seems so archaic sometimes, why not just do it online?,” went my thinking. I was wrong. The sum of the printed pieces is far more than a disjointed set of web pages would be. Keep the paper, and I look forward to finishing the rest of the articles soon. Well done, I’m personally and professionally impressed. -Will Gadd (‘90) CCAJ
America’s Mountain This year’s journal gives voice to Pikes Peak, a mountain embedded deep within the history of Colorado College climbing. Perhaps no other climbing area central to our community is steeped in such an array of myth and secrecy, and for good reason too. Through a conscious local effort, climbing on the Peak has remained an island of the past while everything around it seems to change at a rapidly quickening pace. Even today, climbing on the Peak proliferates the space of legend despite it being dubbed “America’s Mountain” and one of the most travelled mountains in the entire world. To this day, existing routes await further ascents. Bryan Becker described his mixed feelings to me about climbing on Pikes Peak this summer. In the early free-climbing days, Pikes Peak was about getting there and finding one’s own way, and it was only shared among friends. Just climb something and walk away. Leave the experience unchanged for another. Just climb. It still is guarded by those who know it well as a way to preserve a sense of adventure, mystery, and peace. Bryan’s tone changed, though, and there was a reticent uneasiness in his voice, as he described how things are subtlety changing. When he asked, “Is that era over with?” he responded, “I don’t know…” The anxiety on his face was no less apparent than my own. The worry is in the change, perhaps something as recognizable as the shift from Yosemite in the 60’s to its current place in the mainstream of climbing. The place remains intact, the walls as big as ever, the original aura perhaps only a [This page] Kishen Mangat (‘96) halfway up a massive, nameless route, Bottomless Pit, Pikes Peak. Bosier Parsons 10
memory. Detailed guidebooks, route descriptions, well-trodden approaches, advanced technology, and modern climbing’s ever-growing propensity to security over risk have profound power to change this place. And then there’s the highway to the summit, which allows for unprecedented access to an otherwise wilderness area and climbs that would require ten-mile approaches. The line between solitude and crowding in this place will eventually rest on the existence of something twenty-feet wide with curving yellow lines and the integrity of those who climb here to retain a strong traditional ethic. In my own exploration and climbing on Pikes Peak, a fear of change still remains despite only subtle evidence that it has. At least for now, the prevailing ethic that has long coated the Peak’s high alpine rock faces still seems intact. As I imagine myself running down the Rumdoodle Ridge, there’s but a bare trace of another. The solitude of the alpine world gracefully unfolds. Yet, I’m not alone. I feel the watchful eye of history gazing down upon me. The footsteps of the stone masters I follow in guide me, those guardians of this sacred temple. As I descend for yet another remarkable climb, I remain thankful that the myths, secrets, and legends are not a thing of the past. A wild and mysterious unknown still awaits. I only hope the presence of past and present protectors is enough to ward off the troubles to come. -Erik Rieger (’12)
[Facing page] Drew Thayer atop Warbonnet, Cirque of the Towers, WY. Erik Rieger
Send Off Two years ago, I joined the CCAJ project in order to help foster the Colorado College climbing community. What I discovered through helping collect and edit the fantastic writing submitted by all of you is that this community, an impromptu amalgamation of students, weekend warriors, internationally renowned athletes, and dirtbaggers between jobs, is a pervasive network that spans the North American continent with frequent forays to other parts of the globe. I first experienced the far reach of CC climbing’s tentacles in the summer of 2010 when fellow student Dan Rothberg (‘12) and I, flying into the Cirque of the Unclimbables from a remote fishing lodge deep in the Northwest Territories, were upgraded from a float plane to a helicopter because the bush pilot needed to pick up “some badass women” from the Proboscis cirque after dropping us off. A quick internet search revealed that the party included alumni Madeline Sorkin and Emily Stifler, and their project, Women at Work, made our expedition look like a Sunday jaunt to Shelf Road. A month later, in Yosemite Valley, Dan and I enjoyed a brilliant slideshow presented by alumni Kate Rutherford. Later that fall, enjoying a rare balmy November afternoon at the Turkey Tail, I recall discussing beta with another climber
when we quickly discovered that we’d both attended CC; he and I proceeded to work parallel routes, grunting and flailing in unison. I’ve climbed with alumni from Nevada to Idaho, crashed at their houses while on the road, and every year I hear about alumni meeting up at crags ranging from Joshua Tree to the Gunks to share a rope together. A senior now myself, and with a few weeks of school left, I still have the convenience of sharing a campus with a community of climbers. Come summer, though, and I’ll just be another guy on the road with a car, a rack, and hopefully a way to fill the gas tank. So, I’m glad you guys are out there, sending together, sketching together, and sharing a cold one at the end of the day. See you out there. -Drew Thayer (‘11)
CLIMBS, EXPEDITIONS, AND THE CLIMBING LIFE 2011
A Wild Streak in My Heart Kate Rutherford (‘01) I sat in a cloud of dust, pants dirty, my hand planted in the sewing needles of some Patagonian flora. I’d just landed there after my tired muscles failed to correct a small slip of my foot on the steep gravel. We were headed down from Fitz Roy: day five. I stood and wiped the pinprick of blood from my throbbing finger. There must be poison in those stupid needles. I had been listening to a song about a “threadbare
[Previous spread] The Bridger Jack towers, Indian Creek, at sunset. Tim Gibson [This page] Kate Rutherford climbing the large crack system on The Washington Route. Mikey 14
gypsy soul” with a “wild streak in his heart” and a cowboy hat. I had those too: different hat. That was yesterday. Now I’m on a bus, still thinking about threads and whether I have a threadbare gypsy soul. I’m that jittery kind of exhausted. Excited and tired to the bone. But I relish it, the only souvenir I have of our new route. Today it makes me smile how bare those threads feel. The fatigue makes me know it is real. Cerro Fitz Roy stood pink in the dawn light as I climbed aboard my ride. Our new route on left skyline looked so far away. Two nights ago Mikey Schaefer and I shiver-bivied on the summit of Fitz Roy. What we are calling The Washington Route had deposited us on top at dark, and rappelling through the
Schaefer [Facing page] Kate Rutherford atop Fitz Roy with the Torre spires in the background. Mikey Schaefer
night sounded doable but horrible; worse then shivering all night in a sack thinner then my rain jacket. Yes, we have the most high-tech cloths, sleeping bags, and tents available, but we had left them, wanting to be lighter and faster. We decided to rely instead on the incredible human body’s capacity to shiver and warm itself. On the bus, I try to recall how many pitches and other details of the route, but in my climbing frenzy, I’d lost track. I can say there was a 400 meter vertical crack system that I had climbed until we got to easier terrain. Mikey, with great alpine skill, had deposited me at the start of our route a quarter of the way up the Fitz Roy on day two. It had taken a day of post-holing across the glacier, mixed climbing La Brecha – which was running like a waterfall – traversing La Silla on boiler plate, ice skating rink, blue ice – the scariest part of the climb in dull crampons and a little “third” tool – and “sleeping” in a small slot of flat terrain on a steep mountain, to even arrive at the base of Fitz Roy. This is when we started talking about the new “light and slow” trend. A sleeping bag would have been worth it.
My mind wanders back to the present; there are wild streaks of color running alongside the bus this morning. There are six silver strands of light on the fence out my window. The threads of light race along to keep up. Here are the bare threads of my life. I love these little moments when the beauty of sun reflecting off a wiry, crooked stick fence in Argentina’s Southern Pampa contrast greatly with the huge accomplishment of a new route up Fitz Roy. The bus has now turned a corner and I can see the peaks again; they look even larger than before. The sun still shines on them in this rare window of good weather. Although I would like to have climbed our new route in light and fast style, I think I’m just too slow. Or, the conditions were slow. Or, was I just too scared and tired to go any faster? Regardless, that second morning I started up that rocky part of our mountain, chipping ice out of a dog leg crack which led to thin hands on a pillar. At least twelve pitches of perfect cracks passed. Many splitter wide sections and run out, ice slicked chimneys. These lead to filthy hand jams here, and delicate face climbing there, more hand jams over chockstones and improbable face holds in a spectacular bombay CCAJ
chimney. Finally, in the golden evening light, just as I was losing my mind, easier terrain appeared. I handed the lead back to the alpinist. Mikey found and lead us up the path of least resistance. The golden light was a beautiful ominous reminder that it was about to get dark. The wind was sharp and stung my face. We put our crampons back on and darkness crept over the snowfield near the top. Down to the east was the glittering orange jewel of El Chalten. It looked very far away. To the west, a pink line defined the ice cap from the sky, and the stars popped out as we picked our way up the rime-covered boulders. The summit was dark, so we rested. There were many people rappelling. It sounded stressful. We spent an hour pimping out a little sheltered spot right under the summit boulders. The activity kept us warm. Hot water bottles and hand warmers in our boots made sleeping a possibility, and we ate some cheese and salami while hiding under our bivisac. The next morning, pink clouds made all the teeth chattering worth it. I was actually really happy to be there - in our gypsy home for the night, looking down on Cerro Torre, the ice cap, the desert. Now we finally got to enjoy the prized view. Summary Patagonia, Argentina Fitz Roy, The Washington Route, VI, 5.10, A1(FA)
The Rain Maker Jake Norton (‘96) Ethereal, mist-shrouded valleys. Jagged, glaciated summits. A torn and troubled socio-political history, and an uncertain future. One of the least-traveled mountain ranges on earth. The Rwenzori Mountains are all of this, and then some. For years, I dreamed of one day visiting the Rwenzori. A little-known range, this 75 mile-long cluster of serrated summits lies along the volatile border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. One of its earliest mentions in Western history comes from Ptolemy in 150 AD, who noted a range in Central Africa he called Lunae Montes, or “Mountains of the Moon.” The Rwenzori would later be identified as the source of the White Nile, and host explorers such as Henry Morton Stanley, the Duke of Abruzzi, Eric Shipton, Bill Tilman, and more. The range is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but still draws fewer people in a year than Kili16
manjaro sees in a week. In the local language, Rwenzori means “Rain Maker.” Of all its names, that moniker is the most accurate: the Rwenzori average some five meters of rain annually. The result is one of the most stunning and difficult landscapes I’ve encountered. I traveled to the Rwenzori in August, 2011, as the first of a multi-year climbing and philanthropy project called “Challenge21.” I started off in Rwanda to help our non-profit partner, Water For People, kick off its bold, new “Rulindo Challenge”, an audacious effort to reach every inhabitant of Rulindo District with safe water and adequate sanitation. From there, it was on to Kampala, Uganda, where I met my six clients and headed southwest to the mountains. Our team was a dedicated group, and showed incredible resolve in dealing with the trials and tribulations of the Rwenzori. My sincere gratitude goes out to each member of the team: Water For People CEO Ned Breslin, Colorado College senior Charlie Lovering (‘12), photographer Tim Ryan, and close friends Collin Barry, Barb Neary, and Dan Fillipi. Our goal on the expedition was to climb the third highest peak in Africa: Mount Stanley’s 16,763-foot Margherita Peak. When putting the trip together, I deliberately chose a new outfitter and a new route, opting to climb with Rwenzori Trekking Services on the Kilembe Trail, as they had a more solid reputation regarding porter and guide treatment than their older rival, Rwenzori Mountaineering Services, which had the sole concession in the mountains until 2009. This choice would prove both a blessing and a curse.
The Kilembe Trail was pioneered in 1895 by Scott Eliot, but became home only to poachers and hunters until the new trail opened. The result is a route into the rugged mountains that sees very few people, but an extraordinary amount of mud. I never thought I’d spend hours wondering what exactly the angle of repose of mud is. But the Rwenzori are a unique range, and they spur such questions. Day after day, we spent hours walking through the most amazing terrain - and the most amazing mud - I’ve ever seen. Flat mud. Steep mud. 30 degree mud. 40 degree mud. 50 degree mud. Completely mind-boggling thick, sticky, slippery mud, mud, mud, mile after mile after mile. And the Rwenzori are relentless. One of my teammates, Collin Barry, used that term to describe the topography of the Rwenzori. Relentless indeed, and in every possible way. If there is a range of mountains as challenging and inhospitable as the Rwenzori in the world, I have yet to experience them. These mountains are completely unlike their East African volcanic neighbors: the Rwenzori are a jumbled mass of granitic rocks crushed and folded and jumbled into towering 2,000 foot walls, swooping valleys, hanging lakes, and water - water everywhere. It’s underfoot, oozing from the air, spilling from the sky, rushing down the rocks, dripping from the trees and moss and lichen. [This page] The wet, muddy approach through the jungle into the Rwenzori Mountains. Jake Norton CCAJ
But, as with most things that push us to our limits, the rewards of the Rwenzori are astonishing. Just as the terrain and the rain and the mud are relentless, so is the beauty. It is completely unlike any place Iâ€™ve been before, and each valley unveils new hidden gems and stunning vistas. Throughout the trip, we found ourselves contemplating the dichotomous relentlessness of the Rwenzori. The days on the Kilembe trail are long and their length compounded by the arduous mud. The route took us through mile-long bogs, over 15,000 foot passes, across rivers and over boulder fields covered in six-inch thick moss. Nearly every day, rain spilled out of the misty air like rice from a perforated sack. Handhewn ladders, only a year old and already covered in creeping vegetation, took us over impossibly steep sections of nearvertical mud. But, every day, we stared in awe. As the mists swirled, theyâ€™d reveal a 2,500 foot towering wall of granite in one direction, then a stunning, hanging lake in another. Distant, mysterious ridges lay in the distance, their ramparts dropping into the Democratic Republic of Congo, just a couple of miles away. Colorful Sunbirds flitted from tree to tree, sipping [This page] The glaciated Rwenzori Mountains illuminated by alpenglow. Jake Norton 18
nectar from pink flowers whose color explodes from the mist. Rare Rwenzori red duikers grazed in the distance, shy and mistrusting after years of poaching. And, as far as the eye can see, there is beauty: relentless, awe-inspiring, utterly enchanting beauty. The beauty lies in the people, too. Cultures and peoples, for me, are an integral part of the mountain mosaic, adding a rounding depth and dimension to a place. Our challenges with Rwenzori Trekking Services notwithstanding, our Ugandan staff was integral to our positive experience. From our local guides to our porters, they greeted each day in the mountains with arching smiles and good spirit. As with many mountain peoples, the Rwenzori locals have a tough lot in life, and yet bring a bright, positive perspective that is perhaps fueled in part by the infectious optimism of their environment. After several days on the muddy trail, we finally emerged from the jungle canopy and climbed into the high country. Here is where the intense drama of the Rwenzori plays itself out: serrated massifs, dusted with snow and clad in glaciers, jut from shrouded valleys hiding alpine lakes. High camp, or Camp 5, on the Kilembe Trail sits at roughly 15,000 feet. Above, Trango Tower-like granite obelisks loom; by legend, their names cannot be spoken for
fear of angering the persnickety mountain deities. From high camp – which had been obliterated by storms weeks before – we finally emerged from muddy purgatory, took off our rubber Wellies which had housed our feet up until then, donned our climbing boots, and moved into a more traditional mountain realm. Compared to its higher cousin, Kilimanjaro, Mount Stanley provides considerable challenge. Summit day here entails glacier crossings, 4th class scrambles over ice-crusted rock, and, thanks to climate change and subsequent glacial recession (of the 40+ distinct glaciers in the range documented by Abruzzi in 1905, less than 20 remain today), a 200 foot near-vertical drop from the Stanley Plateau Glacier to the Margherita Glacier below. Fortunately, though, we were blessed on our summit day with the only clear weather spell of our adventure - blue skies and bright sun from horizon to horizon. But, it wouldn’t be that simple; the Rwenzori would not give up easily. An hour into our ascent, the ever-strong and optimistic Barb Neary was struggling, her breathing ragged and pace erratic. Fairly certain she had the early signs of High Altitude Pulmonary Edema, I reluctantly decided she needed to turn back with two Ugandan guides and head back to Camp 4 to rest and recover. The remainder of us continued on, reaching the summit at 10am and beginning our descent shortly afterward. The old adage in the mountains is that the summit is only half way, and the descent is often more challenging than the ascent. The Rwenzori only reinforced this ideal. After the summit, it was some nine miles across glaciers, down scrambly rocks, around lakes, across bogs, and over a small pass back to Camp 4, much of it done in a 40 degree, driving downpour. We arrived at camp at 9pm, checked on Barb, who was stable but weaker, and fell into a short sleep. The following day was a big one, by far the toughest of the trip. Knowing Barb was struggling with HAPE, we needed to descend from Camp 4 down to 11,500 foot Mutinda Camp and a safer, lower altitude. But, to do so required schlepping through some 14 miles of rugged trail, over 15,000 foot Bamwanjara Pass, and down a literal mud river to camp. Never one to complain or show any trouble whatsoever, it was obvious Barb was in a very vulnerable state when she struggled up the short climb out of camp. Descent needed to happen, and happen efficiently. Our Ugandan guides, William and Edson, and I quickly re-arranged some porter loads, freeing up a stable of strong guys who could help us carry Barb and move as quickly as possible down valley. I sent the rest of the team ahead, as we took turns piggy-backing Barb toward camp. It wasn’t an easy job, but Barb kept a smile on her face the entire way, laughing through the mud and rain and exhaustion until we reached camp at 1am.
After ensuring our whole team – clients, guides, and porters – were safe and sound, warm and dry, I found Edson to check on an anomaly during the night. As we approached Mutinda Camp, Edson and I saw two lights on a distant ridge a couple of miles away – a strange sight in these quiet hills. Edson thought it might be some porters hired by the company to carry supplies to the various camps, and given the hours of cold rain, we were both concerned for their safety. Edson decided to send two of our porters, Neckson and Pascal, to check on them. They returned hours later with tragic news: a 15-year old child porter, Santi, had died during the night of hypothermia, a completely unnecessary casualty that underscored the desperation – and intense need - in this part of Uganda. After paying our respects to Santi and his family, we left the Rwenzori with more than a hint of melancholy. We had realized huge success, reaching our climbing and philanthropic goals, but not without hardship and pain. But, I guess that’s the nature of the mountains. “Challenge21” is a four-year project by Jake Norton to leverage the drama and visibility of climbing toward directing attention and funding to the world’s most pressing development crisis: water and sanitation. Through Challenge21, Jake plans to climb the Triple Seven Summits – or the three highest peaks on all seven continents – to raise at least $2.1 million for Water For People, and engage and impassion at least 2.1 million people in the global water and sanitation crisis. Read more, and get involved, at www.challenge21.com or www.facebook.com/Challenge21.Water4People.
I Think, Therefore I Ambush Chris Barlow (‘04) Out of context, it all seems a bit absurd: the sleek expedition duffel dropped catawampus into the dusty pannier on the horse’s side, a lake with icebergs in mid-July, a day that began with a race against mosquitoes and ended with a race against the setting sun, open bivies, front-pointing in tennis shoes down icy slopes, another first ascent simply to retrieve a bag of rock shoes and water bottles. It was the accumulation of these absurdities that compelled us to contemplate the more philosophical ramifications of our existence as rock climbers. All that really came of them was a burly rock climb, a witty route name, and a pretty good story. Madeline Sorkin (‘04) and I met up in Lander, WY in early July. The plan had few more details than “a big mountain adventure.” Slowly, something more substantial emerged. CCAJ
Through all the photos, Internet spew, and conversations with other climbers, a single objective kept our attention: the East Face of Ambush Peak. Nestled deeply in the Wind River Range along the upper end of the East Fork Valley, Ambush’s East Face is a bit of an obscurity, despite it being one of the largest faces in the Winds. There is good reason for the obscurity; the East Face proper begins with 800 feet of moderate, clean slabs that
eventually curve into a massive wall of discontinuous cracks and steep, complex corners. This 800-foot headwall is guarded nearly in its entirety by a large roof system – upwards of 30 feet at its largest – across the middle of the wall. The face’s history dates back to the 60’s when Fred Beckey first climbed it and proposed “Ambush” as the name. Since then, the East Face, which actually encompasses four distinct aspects of two summits, has seen somewhere around a dozen new routes 20
by as many teams. For some reason, this activity has been poorly reported. There have been little blurbs here and there, but few of the most modern routes on Ambush’s East face have much of any detail in their descriptions. Nearly all of these narratives have a few things in common: dubious route finding through nebulous features – often involving significant traversing away from the “intended” line – and the notorious “evidence of previous ascents” (i.e. fixed gear) high on the route after many pitches of what seems to be virgin terrain. From what we could gather from these reports, most of the established routes climbed slightly off from the true East Face proper to avoid the roof system. As far as we knew, only one line went through the roof itself – an unreported Chip Chace line carrying the formidable “A3+ R” rating. Not that encouraging. Mad and I hoped to change the shroud of obscurity around Ambush Peak. Armed with enough bags of gear to make the two of us and a horse stagger under the weight, we set off on the 14-mile hike from Big Sandy Opening to set up basecamp near Midsummer Dome. A record snow year in the Winds stopped the horse packer much shorter than we’d hoped, thereby forcing us to add an extra day of hiking to get the black duffel to our camp. Pyramid Lake, our home for two weeks, lay mostly beneath a large sheet of ice. On our first climbing day, we tried a moderate line on Midsummer Dome. What began as a mellow 600-foot 5.9 turned into an extended traverse away from cracks running with water followed by a hurried descent down steep snow as lightning split the sky overhead. “Our Little Rodeo,” as we’d somewhat ironically come to call the trip, had started off smashingly. I have to confess that there was a time when I could climb the way a cowboy could. I didn’t dread the unknown; I dug it. Objective hazards weren’t reasons to go down; they were bullets to dodge. I wasn’t weighed down with fear; I was fueled by it. This has all changed. It didn’t take long before the mass influx of responsibility, commitment, and all the other “adult things” I’ve accumulated over the years started tugging on my proverbial tagline. All the changes remind me that getting up there didn’t mean what it used to. Madaleine, on the other hand, faces the mythical challenges of mountains a bit more elegantly than I do; she stares them down and suffers through them with resolve. She’s a pro and approaches this unknown world with a professional commitment. Needless to say, we had some tense belay-ledge conversations about the wind or impending rain. The crux of our tension, though, extended deeper. What did it mean to climb this mountain? What would we give to climb it? To our credit, we did manage to continue “doing something” while contemplating these questions. We started our exploration of the East Face by climbing Ambush Plaisir (III
5.9). James and Franziska Garrett had established that route up the middle of the lower slabs to a rappel anchor below the large roof system in 2006. We decided to leave from their high point to find a line through the roof system into the upper headwall and to the summit. After a short reconnaissance, we began forging up and right through the most accessible weakness of the roof we could see. Over a few days, we traded long leads, and belays, as we aided, cleaned, and equipped a few pitches through the steepest part of the wall. While we hadn’t free climbed the pitches yet, we felt that we may have broken through the major barrier to the line. After a rest day, we went for it. The mosquitoes were getting pretty thirsty and we were getting antsy. To give us more time on our route, we avoided the first several pitches of Ambush Plaisir by scrambling up a gully to the left. The gully offered quicker access to the upper wall and a longer feeding period for our little blood-sucking friends. The bugs had left by the time we started on the new pitches of climbing. Mad led a tenuous roof and slab to put us below the big roof. The next pitch was the big question. I had only seen the pitch from the comfort of aiders, and Mad had only briefly tried the moves on toprope. As I started climbing, I realized my stomach had been tight all morning. It wasn’t because it was dangerous (I hadn’t spent hours hand drilling those bolts for nothing!); it was that it was hard, that I might fail. When I started climbing, I let go of something, though; I accepted the discomfort, fear, and possibility of failure. I floated the pitch. It wasn’t in the bag after that. Sure, the crux was done, but we had lots of unclimbed rock above us. Mad took the next pitch, a dicey lead through poorly protected 5.9 to a long, technical 5.11 splitter. After that, I crimped my way left into a steep dihedral. It started to rain slightly then cleared. We were almost thwarted by a benign-looking ramp that ultimately necessitated another bolt and some more reckoning with danger. We found the requisite evidence of previous ascents, too, when we passed an old fixed stopper the top of the wall. Eventually, the climbing relented. The sun went down as we scrambled the final ridge. We gave each other high-fives and hugs by headlamp on the summit. Our descent of Ambush was not straightforward. One is supposed to descend to the west, traverse south to the saddle, and then descend the couloir back to the base of the East Face. We did the best we could with 10 meters of LED light. The distant lights of Pinedale teased us. After several hours and several hundred vertical feet of backtracking, we decided to give up and huddle under a boulder. We didn’t last long before we decided to go lower. Mad says it’s because I’m a bad bivouac buddy, but I think it was just that cold. First failed bivy. We did find a better, more protected shelter. This one
had its entrance from directly above. After getting settled, I looked through the opening above but couldn’t see any stars. Madaleine confirmed this. It was about 1am, and our levels of exhaustion had reached the “matter-of-fact” stage. This is when everything in one’s world is utterly a matter of fact. It became very clear to us both that if it started to rain, we would quickly become very cold and probably die. Obviously, the only solution was to continue walking. Second failed bivy. We reasoned that we could simply descend all the way to the base of the West Face and at least find shelter and maybe even hike back up the drainage to the saddle. This actually worked. At 2am, we started descending east from the saddle down steep talus. Then, it started sleeting. At that point, we opted to kick steps in the snow instead of the talus. Finally, at 5am, after 23 hours of moving, we were down. We both curled up in our sleeping bags and fell asleep. There was a catch, of course. We’d left much of our gear in a cave at the base of the wall. More importantly, we still had gear on the wall – sort of. On our final push, we had chucked much of our extra gear down the wall in a dry bag. It seemed like a somewhat bad idea, but the alternative seemed worse. The slabby bottom section of the wall hung up the bag well above the bottom of the wall. The poorly protected, chossy, traversing 270-foot, 5.7 wouldn’t have been fun under any circumstances, but the sting was particularly sharp two days after our ascent. We were done. We’d done what we came to do, and we were too tired to come up with something else. We packed our stuff and left it waiting for the horse to pick it up. There’s not some grand philosophical resolution to our climb, despite the questions the experience catalyzed. We put up a rock climb – a damn good one, if you ask me. We hope other people will do it and enjoy it, maybe even experience the sort of transcendence we did. If nothing else, maybe it’ll give someone a chance to feel a little like a cowboy again. I sure did. Summary East Fork Valley, Wind River Range, WY Ambush Peak, I Think Therefore I Ambush, IV 5.12- (FA)
Flight of the Vampires Noah Gostout (‘10) Sorting gear in the Big Sandy parking lot, we were greeted heartily by the vampires of the back country. At once, Drew threw down the gear he was stuffing into his pack and stalked briskly across the parking lot, flailing his arms wildly CCAJ
about his head – and so beginning the first of many “sanity walks.” To an observer it would appear that he was just struck with a bolt of insanity, but in fact he was fleeing the faint grey cloud of mosquitoes that had engulfed his backpack. That evening, camped on a grassy field nestled in the Cirque of the Towers, Drew Thayer (‘11), Erik Rieger (‘12), and myself soon discovered that our campsite was in fact a pasture, where we were the food and the mosquitoes the voracious cattle. Our only shelter from the onslaught became the small tent – which we called the Bug Free Zone, or BFZ – , brief sanity walks, and spending as much of the day as possible climbing on the granite walls above. We started the trip with an ascent of Feather Buttress on Warbonnet, on which we enjoyed much stemming and run out chimney climbing. The next morning we were weary from the long descent that had taken us bumbling off into the night. However, as the sun climbed higher we could no longer stand the heat inside the BFZ, so we opted to team free-solo the East Ridge of Wolf ’s Head. For a rest day, it was an exciting endeavor that was packed with thrills and great sights, and most importantly, kept us relatively safe from the mountain vampires. From the summit of Wolf ’s Head we gained another perspective of a line we’d been scouting from our camp up Warrior I. According to the guidebook, the only access to the stunning dihedral on top of the tower involved a 5.11 R traverse on poor rock. We were pretty sure a line on
the right side of the peak would also get us to the dihedral, and from our new vantage point it looked promising. The next morning we trudged up the steep snowfield with a full rack to find out if it would go. As we approached the first pitch crack we slowly realized that it was much wider then we had initially thought. From the base I racked up and put on my shoes from a hanging belay over the crevasse between the rock and snow. I quickly moved the bigger cams to the front. I started the broken corner on fun 5.9 moves with stunning rock quality, gaining a small ledge. The ledge had an enormous, loose block on it that was teetering on the edge; with a mighty push I sent the large block smashing into snowfield below making a huge crater – the first of many trundles. With the ledge now clear I jammed and stacked up the offwidth. The climbing was strenuous but fantastic! Occasionally a broken flake protruded from the crack affording twin hand jams and great rests. The next two pitches were memorable, the first shorter one on broken and fairly loose rock, and the next up an overhanging hand-crack, and over a fun roof into unknown terrain. From here the way upward was unclear, but I took the lead again and worked up a crumbly weakness towards some sharp rock fins that protruded up like booby-trap spikes. I slung one and moved up delicately, eventually standing on the sharp points. Above me was a large overhanging roof with a moss-filled crack running with water. Unable to jam in the moss and with the face
[This page] Noah Gostout and Drew Thayer stand below the infamous and wild “Feather Crest.” Erik Rieger
[Facing page] Drew Thayer heading into a vertical sea of unknown granite on The Candy Shop. Erik Rieger
covered in lichen, I stood befuddled. After two unsuccessful attempts, backing down to the points, I questioned whether I was going to be able to climb it at all. Remembering the crux pitch of Astrodog in the Black Canyon I prepared my palms with a healthy layer of chalk and began stemming up the corner. With a few small crystal feet I worked up into the roof. Just as I was getting run out and pretty unsteady, I noticed a crimp rail. Abandoning my right palm plant and grabbing the rail, I swung over and matched the hold just as my feet cut. From the rail I could just reach a cam placement; pushing with my index finger on the tip of the stem I nudged the cam into the crack, finally protecting the next difficult move, which led to a good belay stance. The final pitch towards the dihedral involved an exposed and unprotected traverse. Thankfully, it gained the large dihedral. The dihedral was as good as we hoped. The movement was amazing, perfect finger locks with interesting stemming. The small roof section was wet but still fun to climb. The second pitch had awesome stemming and chimneying up the next exposed 60 meters to the base of a cave. Removing my pack, I began squirming upward, eventually poking my head
out to see sunlight glistening on a splitter hand and finger crack up a varnished face to the summit. Straddling our narrow perch on the summit ridge, I was glad that we had ample light left to descend because the ridge - our passage, according to the descent description - was serrated with sheer towers as tall as 20 meters. Traversing the wild gendarmes seemed hopeless, so we looped a horn and began a series of raps towards a dark gully, in which the three of us and our ropes became mired in icy sludge. We continued rapping in the gathering dark off of a series of sketchy anchors, which included a single piton, a pile of rocks that shifted when loaded, and several snow bollards. Six hours later we were standing again at the base of Warrior I, soaked, splattered with mud and ice, and happy. Peering through the mesh window of the BFZ the next morning, we looked up at the gorgeous splitter that began our climb. Despite being an obvious line, we found no evidence of climbing on the route, trundled many precarious blocks, and broke many holds off, so its likely to be a new line. In praise of the fantastic surprises that kept popping up on the route and our mid-wall singing eruptions, weâ€™ve called our CCAJ
Mount Huntington Kevin Brumbach (‘07)
route The Candy Shop. This 5-pitch variation on the NW face, which goes modestly at 5.10+ PG13, ascends one of the longest and most direct features in the Cirque of the Towers via fun, exposed climbing, and we hope other parties visit The Candy Shop and continue to clean it up. Summary Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, WY Warrior I, The Candy Shop, IV 5.10+ PG13 (FA) Warbonnet, Feather Buttress, IV 5.10+ R Warbonnet, Black Elk, IV 5.11 Mt. Mitchell, North Face, IV 5.9
[This page] Erik Rieger tops our the Feather Buttress in the evening light. Drew Thayer 24
In September 2010 a friend of mine, Chris Hamilton, and I were rambling on about climbing areas we had visited and ones we had only dreamed of. Chris told me of his 2004 ascent of the West Rib of Denali and how much he would love to return to the Alaska Range. Instantly I knew we would be planning a trip there for the spring of 2011. We began training over the next few weeks, which involved mostly talking about training and deciding what objectives seemed most enticing and reasonable. I was pushing for a trip to the Ruth Gorge while Chris was dead-set on climbing a peak on the North-East Fork of the Tokasitna Glacier. Not knowing anything about the Tok Glacier area, I began researching the history of climbing there. I soon discovered that the most popular climb in the area is Mt. Huntington! The words of David Roberts truly capture the aura of this mountain, “Mount Huntington is remarkable not for it’s past, but for it’s present. For the sixty years men have known about it (not many men either), it has possessed a quality common to only a few mountains in the world. A sense of arrested grace, perhaps; a sculptured frailty too savage for any sculptor’s hand; a kinship with the air around it that makes it seem always in motion-but these are only metaphors, unable to capture the essence of the mountain.” Additionally, I found that the NE Fork of the Tok has been nicknamed the Tok-and-sit-there glacier due to the propensity of clouds to move in to the narrow canyon engulfing the peak and landing strip for days on end. I was in! The most commonly climbed route on Huntington is the West Face Couloir, offering 4,000 feet of 65-degree ice and steep snow climbing to Huntington’s exposed and corniced summit ridge. We opted for a more majestic and technical route splitting the West face; The Harvard Route. Having never climbed in Alaska, nor set foot anywhere in her wild lands, persistent questions occupied my mind: “Am I a dumb ass? Am I in over my head? What the hell are we going to do if we end up tent bound for days on the Tok? What am I doing? Fuck!” But the months of physical and logistical preparation, including weekly 3,000 foot snow slogs, skate skiing, 2-4 days of climbing, and Excel spreadsheets, helped ease my anxieties. Chris’s calm demeanor, obsession with the small stuff, and both of our incessant stokes made this dream a reality. On May 1, 2011 we took the most awe-inspiring flight of our lives from the quaint town of Talkeetna, Alaska, to the narrows of the Northeast Fork of the Tokasitna. Within
minutes we went from the warmth and safety of our plane to the silent, biting air of the Alaska Range, and although eight other climbers inhabited this icy haven, a true sense of isolation sank in as the plane disappeared from view. The next morning brought perfect weather but our late arrival the previous evening necessitated a day of gear sorting and acclimating our minds to the magnitude of our new home. We ran into one other party gunning for The Harvard Route as well, and their plans were to head up the following day, forcing us into yet another rest day under perfect skies. On day three we awoke at 4:30 am and were out of camp two hours later. We skied across the glacier and began climbing the approach slopes, crossing two bergschrunds on our way to the access couloir. We simul-climbed the 65-70 degree, 800 foot ice gulley and continued through the first easy mixed ground of “The Alley”, stopping at the “Upper Park” to regroup before tackling the free climbing crux of the route, the two pitch, “Spiral”. Here we noticed the weather taking a turn for the worse, with heavy snow beginning to fall. Not wanting to give up just yet, I took over the lead and embarked on a section of steep, technical rock climbing.
About two-thirds up the first pitch, I heard the nauseating yell from Chris, “Avalanche!” Before I could look up, I was engulfed by snow. Fortunately, I was nestled in the only protected spot on the pitch and was not hit by the full force of the snow, allowing me to hang on for the 45-second whiteout. After a quick, “You O.K.?” and a, “Yep!” I began slowly scratching my way up the vertical rock again to a kitty-litter ledge where a solid pin scar-flared #1 Camalot, and fixed nut composed the anchor. Chris followed and I was soon battling through pitch two of the “Spiral.” By this point, an estimated 10cm of snow had accumulated around us and more was falling. At the top of this pitch, just as I clipped into my anchor, another small avalanche released above us, hitting me full force. Thankfully, I was clipped in, and the snow was soft-slab not possessing much weight. As Chris followed, three more small slides came over us, with several more passing on either side of our stance. Few words were needed before we decided [Facing page] Kevin ascends one of the upper snowfields high on route. Chris Hamilton
to turn around. We awoke late the next morning in base camp. After our decision to turn around, we spent the rest of the day rappelling, cooking dinner, and attempting to rehydrate. My body felt like a train wreck as I slowly sat up in my down bag to pee that morning. A dark yellow liquid flowed into my Gatorade bottle. We spent a couple more hours brewing up hot drinks, making breakfast, and waiting for the sun to warm our tent and we began feeling alive again, putting together plans for
the next attempt. We decided to hold off our second attempt for a couple days. Then we received weather texts via our SAT phone, indicating that a multiday system was building and was expected to settle in on our newly scheduled departure day. The storm indeed arrived, and although it was small, we knew that climbing in those conditions would be indubitably worse than what we experienced on our first attempt. Six days passed before a proper weather window came into view. We passed
the time by spending countless hours listening to music, drinking bourbon, and watching movies on the iPad. So much for roughing it! The next weather window only offered us 48 hours to summit and get down before gale force winds would blow through the range and send the already frigid temps into the deadly range. We knew a fast ascent was essential. On the morning of May 13 the skies dawned clear and calm. We left camp by 6 am moving fluidly across the glacier, up the entrance couloir, and arriving at the base of the Spiral
45 minutes faster than on our first attempt. Many parties bivy here, but since it was only 10am we opted to continue and try and make the Nose bivy 1,500 feet above. I re-lead the “Spiral” crux and handed the lead over to Chris, bringing us to the first aid portion of the route a beautiful vertical C1 crack. Having decided to bring only a single set of cams, a limited selection of pins, and a single set of nuts, I was forced to embark on steep, run out free climbing at the top of the pitch which added to the adventure of the route. Following this pitch was another 1,000 feet of fun, moderate mixed and snow climbing. Twelve hours after leaving base camp, we arrived, exhausted, at the infamous Nose bivy, only to realize we had another two hours of ice chopping in order to pitch our tent. In the end, only 80-percent of our tent ended up on solid ground and we collapsed exhausted inside and began brewing up warm drinks before a restless night spooning, trying to keep feeling in our toes. Morning lit another blissful day and I started up the beautiful over-hanging C2 crack of the Nose. Chris jugged quickly and upon him reaching the belay we knew we had finished all the “technical difficulties” Now we kept our fingers crossed for safe snow slopes above. The top of the Nose has become known as the finish to The Harvard Route as many parties head down from there. We decided to continue to the summit. Above us laid several pitches of steep, unconsolidated snow and we were soon faced with the decision of continuing up un-protectable, and avalanche prone 50-degree sugar snow slopes, un-roped, or reverse one pitch and be able to safely rappel the entire route. After several minutes of deliberation and testing the slopes beyond our final belay, we both agreed that our mental and physical exhaustion, although not debilitating then, was not something to be pushed, particularly when we would be forced to down-climb these same slopes several hours later on our descent. The descent was uneventful, which was lucky considering we had nearly 18 full-length rappels. The luxuries of base camp couldn’t have felt better after our cold, cramped night at the Nose bivy. We feasted on sausages, mashed potatoes, and Nutella, falling fast asleep until the expected winds arrived. Around 3am Chris and I bolted awake as a thunderous slap smashed into our tent. This was the first of many gusts that night and, come morning, when we finally got out of the tent, we saw a plume of snow more than a half-mile long blowing off the summit ridge of Huntington! We both cracked a sly smile knowing we had made the right decision to leave when we did. Another beautiful flight through the Alaska Range [This page] Kevin leads the “Spiral” in deteriorating conditions. Chris Hamilton CCAJ
brought us back to Talkeetna. An evening filled with beer and story telling at the Fairview followed, rounding out our alpine adventure. The next day we found ourselves back in Anchorage, renting a car and driving south to Seward for a few days of exploring the Kenai peninsula and visiting a great friend, Laurel Schoenbohm (‘05). This was truly a trip to remember and has certainly sparked my excitement for exploring the Alaska Range! Summary Mt. Huntington, Alaska Range, Alaska The Harvard Route, Alaska Grade 5, 5.9 A2 70-degree ice
Sanity Restored Jeremy Roop (‘10) Being a first year PhD at UC Berkeley wasn’t allowing me much time to go rock climbing. Similarly, for Joe Forrester, a first year surgery resident at Stanford, climbing time had all but disappeared. Neither of us could take more than a day at a time away from the lab or hospital, and although Yosemite was only a four-hour drive away, it hardly seemed worth the trip just to climb a few pitches and drive back the same day. At some point during the spring however, driven to near madness by a cruel concoction of 18 hour work days, caffeine, obsessive compulsive disorder and, in my case at least, extreme scientific nerdism, we realized we needed to go rock climbing. Not just any rock climbing would suffice. We needed to get up high; to feel the air beneath our toes, suffer a bit, get scared, and look down at the ground with the perspective that only comes to you somewhere around the 11th pitch hanging belay when you find out your partner has just finished the last of the water. And so we hatched a plan. We would leave the Bay at 7pm on Friday after Joe got out of the hospital, climb the 1000+ feet of mixed free and aid on the South Face route of Washington Column on Saturday, then drive back Saturday night. I had to get to the lab and finish an experiment Sunday morning and Joe had to round in the hospital. The fact that the last time I had climbed outside – and the last time Joe and I had climbed together – had been nearly two years ago in Malawi was not a problem. We reasoned that given our recent lack of opportunities for adventure and physical exercise, we would, if all else failed, be propelled to the summit on our extreme level of psych alone. And so, on Friday night after leaving the Bay, we arrived in our campsite outside the Valley at 11pm. After three sleepless hours, the alarm went off, we got back in the car, and made the final 45 minute drive to the Valley floor. We 28
had forgotten to bring spoons, and so, like dogs, we slurped our breakfast of granola and milk from tuperware bowls while speeding along the winding road through the pine forest. At 3am, we racked up in the Awahane parking lot, tossed back a few espresso shots, and charged into the woods in the direction of Washington Column. Despite our extremely high level of psych, we promptly got lost and thrashed around in the dark for an hour or two before finding the highway of a trail that led to the start of our route. The first pitch, a 5.8 corner was mine. After two years of not crack climbing, the first two jams felt very awkward. The third and fourth started to feel better though, and by halfway up the pitch, my body had remembered what to do and I raced upwards on easy terrain with yelps of joy as the treetops fell away below. After passing a few sleeping parties on the third pitch bivy ledge, Joe took over for the middle five aid pitches and easily dispatched a lot of micro-nutting up splitter seams. I took the final four pitches, which were a combination of beautiful and exposed, thin hand sections interspersed with awful thrashing in poorly sized chimneys and off widths. Joe, wearing a pair of yellow Hawaiian board shorts printed with blue flowers, merrily jugged around these bits in his tennis shoes. We topped out in the early afternoon, made our way down the descent gully, and as planned, drove back to the Bay; our sanity, for the moment, restored. Summary Yosemite National Park, California Washington Column, South Face, V 5.8 C2
The Last Gentleman Michael Wejchert (‘08) Soloing is a tasty way of incorporating the commitment of alpinism on an otherwise easy climb. My best solos usually happen when I’ve slept well the night before, not anticipating any type of activity except reading a book or going out to breakfast the next day. I’ll wake up, notice it’s beautiful outside, feel particularly antsy, and be in the car with a pair of ice tools before I can convince myself it’s a bad idea. On this particular day I drove to Lake Willoughby to solo The Last Gentleman, an idea long dormant and certainly one that festered in my mind since sitting in a tent in Patagonia. The climb consists of four to five pitches of WI5. I love to solo onsight: to me it’s the purest form of adventure. The uncertainty assumes an artistic quality often not found in other forms of climbing. Today, I cheat, packing a skinny rope, a harness, and two ice screws. A means of retreat
is often distracting. I pull up to Lake Willoughby, in my opinion, the best venue for pure ice in the lower 48 states. It rivals the Canadian Rockies in scale and grandeur and within a half-mile of cliff offers a huge amount of ice, usually W15 and harder. Anybody willing to argue surely hasn’t been here. Fortunately, the only other party here is ascending The Promenade (WI5+), about 100 feet to the right of The Gent. I look up and I mentally break down the bulges, rests, and nuances of this blue monster. After a breathing exercise and a full stretch at the base, I start up. Despite my attempts
famous last words. The ice is perfect but climbing steep pitch after pitch without a rest puts a toll on my hands and forearms. I take extra time to shake out on good placements and even stretch my arm while hanging. After what seems like hours I reach the final bulge. Silently, I continue to climb, the ice becoming a little more tenuous. After a few awkward moments and a terrifying tool placement shift, I reach the trees. Usually I try to sprint up climbs and down them, and would be irritated that no one has broken trail through the birch forest. But with new snow on the ground and trees, it
otherwise, on the first pitch, I am nervous. But as I gain a rhythm, I become relaxed. I talk to the party on The Promenade as I quickly gain elevation. It turns out to be Andy Tuthill, a prolific route developer here in New England. Each bit of ice he kicks off shatters as it bounces through the air to my right. No way it could hit me here, but I’m still nervous. “Ya missed him Andy!,” his partner yells. Just my type of black humor. “I’m feeling nice and comfortable here with my rope, youth!,” Andy yells. “I’ve got tethers!,” I yell back. Although that sounds like
is a joy to wander through the pristine landscape on a perfect day. Most people assume soloing ice to be an act of the mentally deranged. For me, it’s mostly just the childlike urge to have an adventure in the woods that lures me out. Summary Lake Willoughby, Vermont The Last Gentleman, IV WI5 [This page] Michael on the Ruth Glacier, AK. Tim Gibson CCAJ
Ideas Are Bulletproof Alex Lowther (‘05) A monumental boulder fell off the Shawangunk Ridge eons ago. A huge slab, wide and flat, like a very thick tabletop, now rests on one edge, canted between two other boulders at forty-five degrees in the middle of a talus slope. The cliff above is pitched slightly under vertical, so the monolith probably bounced down the face, accompanied by a hail of cobbles, and continued until it yawned to a stop on this strange pedestal. The surrounding hillside is covered in a thin layer of soil from the canopy’s fallen and decomposed leaves. The approach to this rock’s monumental problem is like what you might find leading to sheer rock faces all over the world except that, door to boulder, it’s about two and a half hours from our tiny, half-submerged apartment in Brooklyn. Still, when you scramble up to the base, the thought of actually climbing the boulder’s twenty-five-foot arête makes you suddenly feel like you have to pee. It is as obvious as Fitz Roy, shit steep, with a landing like a jammed ice floe. There’s a triangular prism that juts into the small flat-ish base, perfect to wrap your back over if you fall from more than fifteen feet up. Just beyond it, there’s a man-swallowing hole for when you get good and high and into the crux. The periphery of this is all jagged conglomerate of quartzite pebbles bound by a hard sandstone substrate. While you know you’re not going to hit that stuff, it doesn’t help the situation. Nonetheless, I start: reaching high above my head on the light side of the arête where varnished quartzite sees morning sun, with four mediocre places to put my fingertips and toes. As I pull on and sink a toehook on the underside of the table’s corner, there’s a sensation of four-way tension—such that, if I try to move one limb, I feel as though the other three are going to ping and I’m going to take a crumpling, humiliating fall off the first move. In New York City on an early spring weekend, my alarm is the shrill, pauseless crowing of a digital rooster. It is 100% awful. Half underground, our place is either dark, dim or warmly incandescent. Too much red, too little blue, not enough real light. Incandescence isn’t an option in the early morning for my girlfriend still in bed. I heft my crash pad in the dim light and squeeze through the tiny spaces and doors that separate our small space from everybody else’s and into the new thin daylight of the city. Two blocks away, above ground, I dive underground again. After the click of the turnstile, I can barely squirm through sideways, my chest against stainless steel that is 30
always cold. Down another level to the platform. The great metal on metal clatter and screech of the train sounds like war, and the two-note electronic tone signals screechy doors about to close. A comically distorted voice calls “Jay St. is next” and “Stand clear of the closing doors please”. Inside, the car smells of worn linoleum and humans whom you size up, stamp, and soon forget. The daily census. The crack-head asking for money; the former crack-head who has committed himself to Jesus asking for money for people who are still crack-heads; the dozing workers in steel-toed boots just getting off from the night shift; the mustached hipsters in assertive eyewear still awake from some party that you were not cool enough to know about; the small mariachis in pointy, shiny, faux snakeskin cowboy boots and hats and guitars; the women sleeping limp-necked with their children sleeping limp-necked and open-mouthed upon them; the Russian women in their fur and bright lipstick; the Hasids uniformed and mumbling prayers and bending repeatedly at the waist; the over-educated whining on and so forth about things that are obnoxious and over and fabulous and ironically “OMG” for if there is one thing New Yorkers are good at, it is talking. Not much physical doing gets done here—instead, we make all kinds of media, which, etymologically speaking, means we come between stuff: the producers and the consumers, the person and the experience. I’m not absolved from any of it. It’s what I do too. New York City, as such, is a figment of itself born through the logos of millions of hyper-verbal people and through the logos of thousands of marketers, who are just now waking up. The beginning of the whole thing is a squeezy, chestful lunge, a left-hand slap to a starfish sloper. The right hand rears around the corner to a crozzly, nothing on the dark side of the arete, loose and dirty. Here, two moves in, I’m splayed over the landscape, chest to the corner of a giant piece of stone. Two more moves and I lunge to a four-inch fat pinch that is the arête. Pivoting round, my body comes parallel to the perfect line of the arête and everything is suddenly in balance. Since pulling on, all I’ve been doing—toes to fingers—is squeezing hard as I can. The landing has started to recede and I think, if I permit myself, about that rectangular prism over which I could fold myself or the hole that could swallow me whole. A miraculous undercling appears on the dark side of the boulder. A brilliant, biting, good grip I fall improbably up into. Aloha, right biceps. A move. A desperately flexed balletic switch of toe tips on a varnished ramp, leaning hard off lefty. An audible breath. I make a wide-eyed silent plea to the next handhold, which appears just impossible, the square lip of a rooflet on the dark side of the arête.
In the city, the marketers and mass disseminators are doing brunch with bottomless mimosas and hollandaise—or drinks and dressings hipper than these—at places that have been written up or blogged about. They are squinting, recounting hazy memories from last night’s two-borough, eight-bar night, and jousting for cool points and accords in taste in music, movies, and TV, because, as John Cusak’s character in the movie High Fidelity says, “It is not who you are, it is what you like”. In Times Square, the tourists who can’t walk anymore huddle in new, so-called “green spaces” where the pavement is painted physically green and blocked off with large potted plants. They rest on chairs and shield. Sirens are loud enough to hurt. A girl in her twenties sits, elbows on her knees, crying. She is saying, “Fine, fine…”, with an iPhone to her face, and the tourists cannot help getting distracted from the cool burn of Jumbo-Trons and moving text and James Franco’s eight-story averted middle-distance gaze that sells perfume to watch this girl they don’t know despair in the heart of the city. I am eighteen feet off the ground over a pit of possible physical despair grappling with this rock that is 400 million years old that fell off a ridge in a series of small geologic cataclysms that littered a miles-long ridgeline with gigantic boulders. I eyeball the edge of that rooflet, which is maybe a foot deep, with pebbles of quartzite sunk in it like oversize buckshot in a phone book. I am going to frog my foot on a pencil eraser of quartzite and pinch the square edge of that motherfucking roof as hard as I can. Downtown, in Union Square, the listless are gathering: skateboarders posing in motion for the crowd, a witness of Jehovah shouting about Adam and Eve to nobody and everybody; some NYU kids are shooting the scene of a student movie so this girl is running in a circle, trying to stay in a building’s shadow, avoiding the blown-out light of the sun, while student actors playing homeless people stand next to actual homeless people, a front-toothless one of which is playing to the crowd, making fun of another who has headphones plugged into a transistor radio, and whatever he is hearing he is pretty jazzed about it and oblivious to being watched or just doesn’t care because he keeps bouncing back and forth on his toes. His hands open out in front like a gloveless boxer ready to fight, except he has a serene look, a complete lack of concentration on his face. Art imitating life-imitating artimitating life with hundreds of people milling about, looking—some just standing in sunlight, which they hadn’t felt on their faces in weeks. Some taking pictures to show people: This is New York.
I make a noise when I make the move to the lip of the rooflet. A “Whup!” sort of grunt, only no vowels. There is a hold. I am still on. Hips rise as if pulled by strings and I move to an edge that’s like a lightning bolt. I thrutch about, trying to avoid the potentially season-ending barndoor. I move right to this raised bit of Braille to set up for the final move - which is really the moment, this one. I’ve raced through so much in so much detail and I’m so high off the ground trying really, really hard and I have managed to cajole friends and motivation and mercurial ability together all in one place at one time to full-body wrestle with this geologic wonder. I stare down this motherfucking jug - which is so close but really far away and it is all I can think about and there is nothing else except how scary it is. Really, even if I don’t do it, it doesn’t matter. A good spotter will divert my long, oddly quiet, and dangerous fall onto a pad. I will pack up and trundle down the talus quietly among friends who understand, the last bit of water sloshing in the jug, and I will get back on the road toward that bristling skyline, exhausted and safe and empty and maybe a little sunburned, already wanting to come back. Tomorrow I will go down into the subway, emerge into the thin light and walk up to my desk and later talk among friends who don’t understand, but still feel like I did something and got scared, so it doesn’t matter. But then, I do it. And here, within a commuter’s shot of the city, it matters very much.
Promiscuous Emily Stifler (‘02) I got a job this year, so my climbing has been in brief and satisfying spurts, desperate for rock, sky, dirt and the companionship of climbing partners. It’s made the days I do get out that much more satisfying, but also frustrating because my position as desk jockey at a set of publications based in Big Sky, Montana hasn’t exactly improved my strength. My friend Rose and I escaped to a granite gorge east of Yellowstone Park in September, adventure in mind. The first day we repeated a fantastic, dirty, wide, four-pitch 5.9 called Mr. Wiggles. The next morning, we decided to go for something new. I’d spied a 300-foot line of prominent dihedrals that looked filthy, but not 5.11, so we dumped cams, beaks, hammer and ropes into our packs, and descended into the canyon. We wanted to go ground up, so I spent the next four hours on lead, hucking rocks and massive hummocks of moss down at Rose, free climbing, aiding, cursing and hacking at CCAJ
the dirt with my hammer. Rose sat happily under a little roof and whistled as she belayed me. I stopped after 210 feet and belayed her up from an ancient juniper tree that looked like it could have been on the African Savannah. Little pellets of dried mountain goat poop were scattered across the ledge. She started up pitch two, rambling up moderate terrain, until she reached the base of the next dihedral. “It looks filthy!” she shouted. Then it started to rain. She slung a horn and rappelled down to me, and then we descended back to the ground. I pulled off my shirt and pants; both were loaded with dirt and pine needles. We returned two weeks later and spent two full days cleaning both pitches on rappel. Rose led pitch two back to the top, but pitch one, which we both mini-traxioned clean, has yet to see a true free ascent. We think it’ll go at 5.10+. In keeping with the nearby Proboscis - a popular and serious 5.12 - we decided to name our route Promiscuous. Summary Yellowstone National Park, WY Promiscuous, 5.10 A1 (FA)
827-GO! Tim Gibson (‘10) Once again, the Black Canyon has astonished me with its magnificence. Early last spring, Jon Schaffer and I met on the North Rim and decided to climb the free variation to Air City called 827-GO!. I was intimidated by the fact that Leonard Coyne originally called it Grade VI, but as always, Johnny thought that we could climb it relatively fast. The first half of 827-GO! follows the wide crack system of Air Voyage and then branches off into a series of harder pitches that culminate in a 20-foot off width roof. We started the day by descending the Cruise Gully and soloing up the Diagonal slabs to the base of Air Voyage. As we linked pitches, stretching the rope and simul-climbing, the climbing was enjoyable – wide, but not particularly grueling. We made good time, and the weather was cool and cloudy. The canyon was empty except for us. After the first half of Air Voyage, the route description sent us hard right onto a face climbing pitch. It was my lead, so I insisted on procrastinating for a while to be sure that we [Facing page] Tim following up the “Serrater Flake”. Jon Schaffer
were heading in the right direction. When I finally started the pitch, I traversed 30 feet out a horizontal finger crack with no feet, placed a piece, and crossed to a large sloping rail. After sticking the rail I felt invigorated by the immense exposure and relieved that I saw bolts. After desperately climbing another 20 feet on friable slopers, pinches, and jugs, I found that I would have to make a difficult move to reach the flaring crack above. As I shifted my weight to make the move, both handholds and a foothold broke off the wall and spit me into the air. For the remainder of this pitch I desperately clipped many of the pathetic copperheads found rotting out of cracks between bolts and sketched my way to a large, comfortable belay ledge. From here Johnny linked a short, easy pitch into the long, overhanging “Serrater Flake.” Johnny cruised the imposing flake, which Coyne claims will slice through quickdraws if you fall, and continued into the gaping roof pitch above. After crawling inside and wedging a #6 Camalot deep within the roof, he struggled past his piece and spent quite awhile attempting different sequences out the huge, downward sloping roof. Struggling to place more gear in the tiny fissures adjacent the main crack off of bad slopers, he finally fell, dangling 2,000 feet directly above the Gunnison River. As I cleaned the anchor in preparation to follow the three wild pitches that Johnny linked, I tried to focus on my present actions, letting neither the ominous overhanging flake, nor the terrible bad-width roof above turn my stomach into knots. Climbing the “Serrater Flake”, I was immediately impressed by how sturdy it felt. From below, it looks as though it could easily be pried entirely off the wall. After trying to rest in the awkward stance below the crux roof, I moved part way out the roof on bad holds, fell, and immediately flipped upside down from the weight of our pack. I had to haul myself up the rope to the cramped hanging belay Jonny had rigged directly above the lip. The final pitch goes out a smaller roof and into easier terrain to the summit. After making it over the initial roof, I traversed on a ledge system until spotting what looked like an easy ramp that would lead me to the rim of the canyon. As I approached the top of the ramp, I was forced to crawl on my belly, face first, through a pricker bush, hand jamming between loose blocks and mud. As Jon and I conversed after reaching the top of the wall only six hours after starting the route, we agreed that this final pitch, which left us caked in mud and torn from scratches, was our favorite. Summary Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado 827-GO!, V 5.12 CCAJ
A Crystal Vision Drew Thayer (‘11) This June, Noah Gostout (‘10) and I met in the Black for some good old-fashioned sketchin’. We decided to start with the classic Astrodog, and our first night we drove to the Chasm View overlook to scope the rap anchors and subtract some bumble factor from the next morning’s efforts. It was my first visit, and standing on the rim gazing down into what seemed like an infinite abyss of blackness, I felt the unsettling fear of the unknown grip my stomach. I tossed and turned that night, troubled by stories and rumors of the Black’s burly reputation. We awoke at dawn and made the dozen raps to the canyon floor without incident, and as we pulled our last ropes the beautiful simplicity of climbing in the Black was obvious: just get to the rim. The night’s anxiety melted away as we cruised pitch after pitch of quality stone; the rock quality far surpassed my expectations and every pitch seemed about a grade easier than the topo suggested - the payoff from a season spent [This page] Tim making his way out a strenuous roof. Jon Schaffer [Facing page] Drew following up one of the 34
in the South Platte. The cruxes were interesting, gear was solid, and the pitches above the two-boulder bivy were downright splitter goodness. Even crossing the pegmatite band was decently protected, and I reached a belay beneath the crux with plenty of daylight left and a full head of steam. We did not admit it to each other, but we had both been thinking, “Are we going to crush Astrodog?” Unfortunately, the next pitch answered “No.” After some grundle-clinching attempts at stemming up the overhanging slot, Noah resorted to aiding. Without the recommended 000 cams for this endeavor, there was suddenly a loud “Pop!” as a tiny nut blew and suddenly all 190 pounds of Noah was sitting in my lap. Oh boy, things were getting serious now. Some grunting and creativity got him up to better gear on the next attempt and he finished the pitch free. The next day we were in no shape to climb so we spent a delightful rest day scoping lines across the canyon, replenishing calories at Dragon Wall Chinese Buffet, and purchasing matching green hospital scrubs at a very eccentric thrift store. Dawn the next day was inexplicably freezing. As we crouched in our sleeping bags to eat breakfast, the thought of climbing seemed ludicrous. The day soon warmed as we rapped and scrambled the seldom-trod gulley to the base of Crystal Vimany splitter cracks on Astrodog. Noah Gostout
sion. This route, a bit off the beaten path, was rumored to be loose, wide, and spicy, but clad in our stylish new threads we were confident that speed and boldness would get us back to the rim. In contrast to Astrodog’s aesthetic splitters, most of this climb was a jungly mantle-fest of chimneys and stem-boxes, with a fantastic splitter pitch thrown in. After much fun climbing, we reached the route’s namesake pitch. Noah courageously lead up a blank arête with no gear, then began traversing a slab protected by three sparse bolts. The “Crystal Vision” name for this pitch soon became apparent; the smooth slab glittered brilliantly in the sun, and the climber crossing it only finds purchase by smearing fingers, palms, and toes on miniscule, slick crystals. At one point Noah was perched precariously in a sea of crystals, his legs shaking as the nearest bolt awaited 30 feet away. I soon heard him shout, “Noah, calm the fuck down!” He had taken a more direct traverse, which unfortunately demanded a 45-foot run-out to the nearest crack. However, he got his shaking legs under control and avoided the sickening pendulum fall that awaited. When I crossed the slab next I found myself in such an absurd position trying to stick to the rock. I looked across another 20 feet to next bolt and saw no recognizable holds whatsoever. I just wanted to give up. In the next instant, I recognized that since the rope ran horizontally, giving up was not an option. I told myself that this was one of those times when the only way forward is to turn the brain off and let the body do what it needs to do. All I can remember of the next 60 feet is the blinding glare of the stone. At the end of the traverse I grabbed a positive hold and rejoined the conscious world, where Noah and I could laugh it off. Once more we scrambled over the rim, trotted to our waiting car, Tecate and lime, and toasted another successful day in the Black. Summary Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado Astrodog, V 5.11+; Crystal Vision, IV 5.11b R
Canvas of Obsession Bosier Parsons (‘95) About a year ago I ventured down to the Black Canyon with John Thomson (‘07), a new friend and climbing partner. Our goal was to climb the Southern Arete on “The Painted Wall”, one of the longest free climbs in Colorado at 2,500 feet tall. Having spent one day on the rock together at the Garden of the Gods, we declared ourselves ready. I was too cocky and underestimated the route and the conditions. We brought very little of anything, and I found myself shutting down from dehydration just as we were starting the crux headwall pitches, 1,200 feet off the ground. I was leading at a snail’s pace on terrain that I should’ve been running up. Desperate for reprieve, I threw in a belay off some dubious blocks and brought John up to apprise him of my situation and to see what he thought about taking the lead to the rim. He was less than psyched to have to rope-gun the remainder of the route, and I felt I was climbing way too slow to make the rim before dark, so we decided to bail. Fourteen rappels on our single 70m rope and lots of leaver slings and stoppers later, we were back at the river, drinking as much as possible to get rehydrated. My friends Buster Jesik and Jes Meiris went down to try the route in early October of this year. I was eager to hear how they did, as last year they made a 20-hour ascent of the Nose on El Cap. But they too were forced to do the shameful slog back up the SOB Gully after Buster injured his hand. I was disappointed for them, but excited, too, as Jes said she definitely wanted to go back. I committed right then and there to taking a couple days off work and making it happen. At this point, Buster wasn’t especially psyched to go back, but after thinking it over, he was in. Although we were a party of three, I was more confident that Buster was joining us, as he was fresh off his AMGA cerCCAJ
tification course in Red Rocks, and was climbing strong. The plan was to let Buster do his “super-guide thing.” He decided we’d start climbing before sunrise. Somewhat familiar with the route, I wanted to cover the lower section as fast as possible, but I was pretty scared of how cold it would be and, not having done any night climbing before, unsure of how well I could move in the dark. The approach was uneventful, and I started leading by headlamp, pitching out the first three pitches to the big meadow. We climbed on two ropes and carried small packs for the loads of water, food, and extra layers we were forced to bring due to the early morning, near-freezing temperatures. One thing I knew for certain, I did not want to fail on this climb again and have to repeat the slog of shame back to the rim! So I climbed as fast as I could, linking the middle section of the route in two, long pitches that we simul-climbed on one rope, carrying the other rope coiled. It took John and me about five hours to climb the first half of the route last year, but with the familiarity of the terrain, we were able to shave about two hours off this section and reached the headwall just
as the sun hit the route. Buster took over the lead for the headwall pitches, which he sent gracefully and in good style. Jes and I had to follow with the packs, which seemed heavy on the steep and overhanging off-width slots and chimneys of the first four pitches of the headwall. Most of this climbing was moderate, from about 5.8 to 5.10, but there were several sections where we had to clip the packs to our harness and hang them below our feet in order to maneuver through the chimneys. Then, just before the 5.10 slot/roof pitch, I realized not only was I carrying my shoes, but I was also carrying Buster’s shoes. He had stuffed them in the pack - bastard! At least he was kind enough to lower a loop of rope and haul the packs through the difficult 5.10 slot! Above the fourth headwall pitch, the chimney system got steep, dirty, and heinous looking so we ventured out right onto the chalked holds and thin and exposed 5.9R traverse around the right side of the dihedral and onto the broad Southern Arete proper. Here the climbing was spectacular – steep, sustained 5.9-5.10 climbing with the entire route laid out below. This was some of the best, most
[This page] The Painted Wall, Colorado’s largest wall seen from the river below. Bo Parsons [Facing page] Bo enjoying
the sunshine and (suprisingly) good rock. Buster Jesik
exposed climbing I’ve done, and I thoroughly enjoyed pausing and hanging off finger locks while Jes snapped some pictures from above. Some have referred to this section as the best hand-crack in the Black, and although this was only my seventh route in the canyon, I don’t disagree. Where the terrain eased, Jes then took over and led the remaining 500 feet or so of mellow, but loose terrain to the rim. The three of us topped out to a sinking sun. To make a perfect day even that much more enjoyable, we realized while wiping our names off the whiteboard at the ranger station, that we were likely the only climbers in the canyon that day. We then rolled back into camp, realizing that we were also the only people in the entire campground! Cold beers and warm dinner around a blazing fire was a perfect end to a perfect day. The next morning after breakfast we packed up and made the drive back to Colorado Springs, where that night I got to see my good friend Pete Mortimer (’97) at his presentation of the “Reel Rock Film Tour” in Armstrong Theatre at CC. While I looked out at a packed theater of maybe six or seven hundred climbers, I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “I’m the only one in here that can say, ‘I climbed the Painted Wall yesterday!’ Oh the Black!” Summary Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO The Painted Wall, Southern Arete, V 5.10+
The Art of the Be-Day Peter Kernan (’11) A bidet (bi:de) is a low-mounted plumbing fixture or type of sink intended for washing the genitalia, inner buttock, and anus. Popular in France. When spending time in Southeastern Idaho, one falls into a rhythm: wake up to rain, make coffee, contemplate the prospects of rock wrangling, go to the town of Burley for the Best Western’s off-colored, luke warm, hot tub. Then and only then, return to the City of Rocks, have a beer, and do some rock climbing until darkness falls. Naturally, there are
slight variations to this routine, including, but not limited to: increasing coffee intake, increasing beer intake, and eliminating the Burley trip altogether since Latter Day Saint family reunions tend to overrun hot tubs in Idaho. One day, all the elements aligned perfectly. After grazing through the guidebook, trimming the list of potential climbs, we picked our route – “The classic three-pitch crack climb at City of Rocks.” The climb was supposedly on a formation closed to climbing, but with a lack of proper signage near the physical rock, we went for it. Ian Heyse (‘12) led up the first pitch, a sustained crack system with a fun transfer into another crack. I belayed him in the 1.5 sq. ft. of shade given off by the corner to avoid burning in the hot Idaho sun. On pitch two, I took off on less than vertical slabs to a stance below a large roof. The French would be proud, as I grabbed webbing hanging from a piton below the roof to help aid my upward progress - the phrase for such a maneuver called “French Freeing.” We would soon find French terminology to be par for the course. Once above, I set up a hanging belay, adrenaline coursing from the hard finger-crack lieback to roof-mounting mantle. Jack Fields (‘12) started up next. He cruised through the roof and I released mounds of slack as he ran up the rest of the pitch. Ian followed next. While working the roof, Jack calls from above, “Ian, don’t climb! Lightning!” Sure enough, the weather was coming in fast with thunder booming in the sky. We waited, unsure of what to do, locked into place. Minutes later, Jack hollers down, “Go, Ian! Go!” Then, again, “Peter! Hunker down! Lighting! Close!” Then the rains came. I was still hanging at the belay. The storm didn’t dissipate after five minutes, nor ten, nor even twenty. I just hung there: shivering, counting sheep, fingers, CCAJ
just hoping nothing started vibrating, praying to anyone or thing – keeping it vague – that my hair didn’t become static. I watched the skies with a biting anxiety. Clouds moving east – no, north. Where is this storm coming from? In a lull, the rain still pouring, Jack rushed back to the summit to belay me up. What was once a crack through the roof is now a gushing waterfall. Shivering, I had given up hope for trying to free the climb. I grasped for cams, cursing my way upward, but able to walk some of them to help aid up. “Fuck me!” I screamed, in my all too characteristic rage as one of the cams pops. I was once again below the roof, water streaming down my face - soon to be an unpleasant memory. The sun quickly came out when I arrived on the summit. The ropes got stuck on rappel, but before long we were at the base, more than ready to take a couple days off to drive north. Often in climbing lore one hears of the sensation of being benighted on a climb: left to wait out the dark hours with only the clothes on their back and the food in their stomach. However, it was only 5 o’clock in the afternoon; we were not benighted. Completely saturated, we had been be-dayed.
Playing With Fire Erik Rieger (’12) Heraclitus once wrote that all things become fire; that fire is the process of change, the one truth, and what teaches those few who will listen. In nature, this truth is unmistakable. When fire takes hold of the earth it scorches everything in its path. Life is vanquished. The land goes dormant. Only a corpse remains of what once was. Even the wind seems to threaten. Silence. Emptiness. A barren vacuum of sights and sounds. Yet, in time, the scoured land will transform. The tarred soil will breathe life into new roots. In the wake of brutality and ruin, a fragile landscape will blossom. Pikes Peak has become my fire. From the great plains below, Pikes Peak stands deceptively tall, rising over 8000 feet from the valley floor. Its
massif stretches far and wide across the Front Range. Still, the summit often appears just an immutable brown smudge against the sky, a mere backdrop to a city and the endless urban sprawl cratering out toward the east. Higher up, there is another world. There is wind, lightning, and the quake of thunder; ridges, walls, and towering buttresses. Things change in the blink of an eye as clouds bow over the summit. Today is cold. I’m without a partner. I make tracks through fresh snow at 13,500 feet. Soon, I drop down, taking the plunge into a vertical expanse. Thousands of feet of rock suddenly swell up around me. I recall Robert Ormes declaring Pikes Peak “not a mountaineer’s mountain.” He was wrong. I recall the road above me. It offers only an illusion of safety. There’s plenty here to kill me if I’m not careful. This mountain defies understanding. Its unruly spirit seduces me and I long to unravel its mysteries. I climb a narrow buttress that looked easier from below. Now, I stand at the crux. Edging with my crampons on a
steep face, I stand on a razor’s edge. Fall, and I’ll die alone on this mountain face; they’ll find me when the snow melts. The moment is quiet. I breathe deep, pulling upward onto a small hold, careful not to sheer my crampons. I am perfect, it’s not a choice. Above the buttress, I kick steps toward the summit in search of thinner air and a freer mind. From there, I once again descend thousands of feet to the cirque below and head back up on an easier route. A steep dihedral leads to a narrow couloir, taking me to the summit for a second time. The mountain feels like an open canvas, and I draw upon it freely throughout the morning, dancing my way upwards. It seems that all around me, climbing has taken a different route. There is what Voytek Kurtyka called “Spiritual materialism”, “…displayed in the urge to possess the mountains rather than to unravel and accept their mysteries”. Today, numbers are in high demand, no longer just the mark of achievement, they pervert the art of adventure. 8000, 14 x 8000, O2, <24, 5.14. The number eaters trade mystery for
[Facing page] Peter Mortimer (‘97) heads up a finger crack on the Gold Wall. Bosier Parsons [This page] Jack Rodat (‘15) follows up past the steep crux (WI4 M6) of
one of the Peak’s best alpine routes. Footprints from the approach lay hundreds of feet below. Erik Rieger CCAJ
sport. This mountain I’m on can’t be quantified. I am content to simply play with fire. Subdued by real winter now, I crave the Peak’s warm summer rock. I recall the afternoon linkups on The Pericle with dear friends; of laying in the tepee frame below, surrounded by the warm, August air sipping whiskey between our forays up perfect arching cracks. Yosemite had nothing on us. Even the October ice is gone now, merely evaporating in the sub-zero temperatures. This mountain is always changing. I look up from the plains at the wind-swept tundra above. I am quick to imagine the Peak’s most beautiful route, The Flame. In absurdly ironic fashion, the route seems emblematic of my whole relationship with the Peak. The perfect, solitary crack, which splits upward from the ground, has had me under its spell since I first laid eyes on it. In the winter, the thought of The Flame consumes me. It melts through the cold alpine world, finding me in my solitude. Its heat dances at my fingertips and the tinging and burning upon my callouses assure it is never far from my thoughts. Its truth will only come to those who listen carefully. On the surface, these pursuits are full of limitless freedom. Yet, in my winter absence from the mountain, a feeling of subdued pain causes me to wonder if there’s something perilous in all of this. I sometimes wonder if I am imprisoned by this mountainous affair with the Peak. Often, my fiery attraction reminds me of a moth to the flame or Icarus’s tragic flight toward the sun. At times, I fear that my child-like love and fascination for this mountain has become a condemnation. I wonder if I’m trapped in a game of fated obsession, 40
erotic enchantment, and inevitable selfdestruction. My own mythology engrosses me, rising perpetually out of my strife and necessity to make sense of this all-consuming idea; of all this flux and mystery and love. At times, I grow weary simply listening to this mountain for an answer. Perhaps time will only give way to a bitter end. As my time in Colorado comes to a close, I now long to be free from the grip of this mountain. It has taught me so much but I want to move onto a broader life. This yearning, though, seems dismal at best and I fear that this fire now rules me. Still, a part of me hopes that eventually some route amongst the Peak’s towering walls will end this chapter of my adolescent obsession; that somehow its perfection will leave me with enough to move on in search of other mysteries. Though, if my short time climbing has taught me, it has taught me well that a route’s completion will only briefly forestall this endless pursuit in the vertical world. This mountain, this fire, it has taken hold of me. Like the land, it too will burn until all is brought to ashes. In the obscurity, though, I recall what Heraclitus said, and I realize that in my fire lies a more reassuring answer to this vigorous mix of joy and apprehension, of this immeasurable and seemingly dark pursuit: more mountains and more things await this process, fire is immanent throughout this world, there is repetition and change always. From the fire, the world is forever created anew. The fire has taken hold. But, it’s ok. Without it, there is only nothingness. Perhaps I will seek my own ruin. But, perhaps that is all obsessed lovers can do. This was never about security.
Shock Treatment Drew Thayer (‘11) This spring my partner-in-crime, Noah Gostout (‘10), and I were looking for a proper South Platte adventure, something beyond the scope of our usual excursions to Turkey Rocks or Thunder Ridge. The sheer size of the Big Rock Candy Mountain captured our imagination, and we picked a sunny Sunday in May to pursue the unknown, starting, as usual, with a bumble. It was already 9am and we were in the Donut Mill, caffenating and poring over approach descriptions printed off Mountain Project. We gave our best guess at the road directions and took off in Noah’s Jeep, which had no doors as he had removed them for the lovely spring weather. Following confusing and conflicting directions, we eventually spotted the broad flanks of the Big Rocky Candy Mountain and used the nimble Jeep to bypass a gate and cross the steep, rutted road to the top of a gorge across from our objective. With the sun high and daylight burning, we ran down open fields of grass and scree, forded the river, and raced up to the wall searching frantically for our line. By the time we’d identified the climb and roped up, it was pushing 1pm. Whoops, time to get business done. The first pitch set the tone: “Short, wide, 5.8” had me desperately squeezing up a smooth, flared chimney with only a questionable chockstone slung for pro. Noah led the crux pitch, an overhanging corner with small finger pods in a seam, and he took it into 5.12 territory before resorting to aiding on tiny nuts. I couldn’t free the 12+ seam either, so it will have to await another try. I then led up an angling thin, flared, crumbly, vegetated 5.10+ pitch. The situation became more and more heads-up as I found myself making committing moves to small plants well above “hopeful” placements. Many broken footholds and several whips later, I’d gained the belay at the start of the “Pterodactyl Traverse.” Noah styled it, including the seriously run-out transition to an offwidth that he could only protect with a small cam in a flared gash. Next, with our bodies tiring and our nerves running thin, I led up into another overhanging corner, slung a healthy bush, and found myself utterly shut down by a downwardopening 4-5 inch crack. In this shady, steep corner, the bomber South Platte granite had been altered over time by seeping water to its current mineral-rich, slick and crumbly state. I tried stacking, jamming my feet, throwing to face crimps (they broke), and eventually resorted to aiding the crack with a single #4 Camalot, which became the most strenuous [Facing page] Sam Pfeifer (‘12) follows a classic. Erik Rieger
french-freeing I’ve ever done. I then had to leave the cam behind and smear up a widening slot that finally relented into a squeeze-chimney. Relief was short, however, as one side of the chimney was a hollow flake. I took care not to knock rocks on Noah as I wriggled up the chimney, stemmed up a thinning corner, and made a final roof pull with horrendous rope drag to the next belay. The final pitch was definitive of the style of the South Platte hardmen who put this route up: they are strong slab climbers. With the sun gone and daylight fading, Noah launched onto a bullet-hard slab of sustained 5.11+ crystal pinching, which prolific first ascentionist Kevin McLaughlin courageously bolted on lead. Noah does not know what he was holding onto most of the time, but somehow he reached the summit as darkness descended. I clawed my way up the slab without any help from the big guy. Standing atop the Big Rock Candy Mountain, bruised, bleeding and nerves frayed from six hours of heads-up climbing, we finally relaxed into the gathering dusk as the wild expanse of burn scars and granite spires of the South Platte lay spread out beyond us, sinking deeper and deeper into soft purple hues. After honoring our tradition of naked summit yelps, we gathered our wits once more for a search for the rap anchors. We then began a grueling descent through gravelstrewn slabs and thorn-chocked bushes that I have tried to forget. Midnight found us crossing the river and burning our last fumes up the scree slopes to the Jeep, where we cursed the yahoo-ism responsible for taking the doors off on a sunny morning. The warmth felt like an eternity ago. We wrapped a tarp around ourselves to avoid freezing as we sped back across the South Platte under cold, bright stars. Fortunately, Taco Star is open till 3am. I did not make it to class the next day. Summary Big Rock Candy Mountain, South Platte, CO Shock Treatment, III 5.12+ (5.12 C1)
Stemwinder Jack Fields (‘12) Stemwinder was one of the routes in the Gothic Group of the Selkirk Range in British Columbia that Peter, Ian, and I were most excited to climb. Getting into the Selkirks this past summer was a bit of a challenge as the mountains were experiencing full winter conditions all through July and into early August. Fortunately, the three of us were able to capitalize on a two-week window of mostly clear weather in mid-August. CCAJ
Because of the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund grant that we received, we were able to fly into Fairy Meadows on a Bell 407 helicopter with illustrious pilot Don McTighe. In the first two days of the trip, we simulclimbed the Southwest Ridge of Mount Quadrant and delicately climbed our way up the scarily loose and blocky Northeast Ridge of Magog. We then set our sights on Stemwinder. After enjoying coffee and breakfast burritos, we approached Mount Quadrant on a trail that we had recently discovered, leading from the Bill Putnam Hut to the base of the Gothics cirque. This proved much easier than scrambling over several miles of talus as we had done on our other day climbing Mount Quadrant. Peter took the first lead up a large right-facing corner system with many side cracks. Opting to do a toe-hook, drop-knee boulder move instead of easy chimenying, Peter connected the first and second pitches of the climb in a large 70+ meter pitch. We then all tied into one [This page, left] Jack leads up Stemwinder. [Rght] Peter and Jack simul-climbing . Ian Heyese 42
rope, caterpillar style, and simulclimbed for several hundred feet with Ian at the lead. For a more difficult section of face climbing, Ian belayed in Peter and I and then led the pitch with a stationary belay. Some exposed, loose, fourth-class terrain brought us to the summit dihedral. I had the fortune of leading the next stunning pitch. The single crack in the prominent, upper dihedral system was continuous for a full 70 meters, ranging in size from thin hands to #5 Camalot off-width. Peter quickly led up the last, short pitch to the ridge, where we un-roped and continued on several hundred feet to the summit. We all found the summit dihedral pitch to be one of the best we had ever climbed and slightly more difficult than its moderate rating. Having already climbed Mount Quadrant two days prior, it might seem that we should have had an easy time descending. This was not quite the case. However, some creative rappelling maneuvers eventually brought us to the ground and the green zone. On the walk back to camp, we took the liberty of using the Bill Putnam Hut wood-burning sauna and
played Jenga with the hut’s Jenga set. What better way to prepare ourselves for handling the loose, blocky towers to come than Jenga? Summary Northern Selkirk Mountains, BC Mt. Quadrant, Stemwinder, D+ 5.8+
Tower Takeover Chris Dickson (‘13) After years of dreaming about going to Indian Creek, second block break had finally arrived and it was time to go crack climbing. There were twenty-two of us, so we dubbed it “The Indian Creek Takeover.” The crew ranged from freshman, some who had never before felt the caress of a crack, to seasoned seniors making their annual pilgrimage to the land
of perfect sandstone splitters. It was fall and the Utah air was crisp. At night, we huddled around the fire, gazing up at the stars and the jagged towers of the Bridger Jacks Mesa looming above our campsite. In the mornings, the sun would creep over the canyon rim, melt the frost from our sleeping bags, and alert us that it was time to climb. After whipping up some coffee and the daily desert breakfast scramble, the crew piled into the cars, laying on top of gear in the trunk or hanging onto roof racks and dangling off the sides. At the crags, we worked as a well-oiled machine. The upperclassmen rope-gunned for the young’uns, setting up top-ropes on the classics, and then bustled along the cliff in search of harder pitches to take-on. For two days we crushed, soaking up the warmth of the Utah sun, and swarming up perfectly parallel fissures in the canyon walls. By Saturday, the freshmen were sore. I was sore. Beaten down by the unrelenting strain of crack climbing, they longed for an easy day of something softer than 5.10. Only a few miles away, the moderate South Sixshooter loomed in the distance. A “Tower Takeover” was in order. Having heard about the burliness of the access road, our friends decided to ditch their trusty Subaru by the highway. At that point we did the only logical thing and shoved as much gear as possible inside the car while piling twelve guys on the roof, bumpers, and sidesteps of my car. We were a junkshow, and after only three wrong turns, we found the trailhead for the South Sixer. Discussing the plan of attack, we determined that it would be easiest to fix top-ropes on all three pitches, essentially creating a “send-machine” propelling people to the summit. We packed up our gear: a single rack of cams, five ropes, a multitude of anchor building gear, two summit PBR’s, and plenty of water. Getting twelve people onto the summit block of this tower at one time was going to be an all day event: one that could be made much longer by some cataclysmic problem. Luckily, the lead up the tower was ridiculously easy and after placing only three pieces in two pitches, I was ready for the crux third pitch. The “5.7 mantle” was kind of like exiting a swimming pool, although I was definitely stoked to have that bolt protecting me from the 25-foot run-out as I pulled the lip of the summit. The view from the summit was mindblowing. Bluebird skies clashed with deep red rock and the sun sparkled off distant towers and canyons. I fixed a toprope, threw it down to the waiting crowd at the second belay, and watched the summit siege unveil. There is something inherently satisfying about cramming as many people as possible into such a small exposed space. It is even more enticing to do this 400 feet off the ground. When our last arrived at the top, twelve Colorado CCAJ
College climbers ranging from freshman to seniors stood on the cramped summit of the South Sixshooter. We howled like wolves, drank our summit beers, and then quickly set up a rappelling “super-highway” to free up the summit. Throughout the charade, two guys from Fort Collins watched us from the base, drinking beers and laughing at the general sight of our debauchery. They gave us high-fives as we rapped past their belay ledge, and were impressed with how well the whole thing actually went down. Of course, no day of climbing is free of a problem or two, so our ropes got stuck on the last rappel. But, after third-classing the first two pitches and freeing the ropes from a constriction, I pulled the ropes free and we geared up for the hike back to the cars. The sun was setting, and the light cast an orange glow over the desert landscape. Silently, we walked, soaking in the magic of the twilight and basking in the epic quality of the day’s adventure. None of us crushed splitter cracks on that sunny Saturday. We embraced the wonderful in the weird, resulting in a climbing experience that we won’t soon forget. Also, although it remains unverified, we strongly believe Colorado College now holds the Guinness World Record for most people on top of a desert tower at one time.
A Delicate Balance Emily Anding (‘12) The naked human form against rock is like wet ink as it first touches a blank sheet; the rocky canvas holds seemingly endless challenges, intimidation, and beauty. The human is bare, purpose painted in the mind as a first sketch begins its contrast. It is as if a brush dipped in color is traced up the climb. Each move and trial project stains of the imagination upon the rock, immaculately leading upwards as a labyrinth of potential. So what is it about the human form on rock that quiets the mind? In nothing but one’s skin, an acute awareness of the self and all that lies beyond is recognized. The beauty of rock climbing is in its uncanny ability to transform senses to a heightened state, a state that demands excellence, control, and precision. With every move, a conscious effort is exerted by the individual that includes recognition of consequences but also the search for a basic need to find something more, something deeper to push for. We all have it within us, those
words, memories, feelings, and sounds. When we access those, we almost revert our actions to rely on our most primal senses, which becomes necessity for reaching the next hold. How many different feelings pulse through our insides as our fingers touch these geological marvels? The mind races and heart feels like it might rip out until that centering notion is found. Find the calm, the peace. Accept the ability for the body and mind to work in unison. This â€œStone Nudesâ€? project came about through a class at CC in which we were assigned the task of creating a project aimed to target a particular environmental issue. I believe the common thread that links problems in any field is a lack of unity and collaboration between those who are willing to create change. The project was meant to inspire people to create, while reminding us all that we do not have to follow the preconceived mentalities and paths that have been laid before us. Our parents have put clothes on our backs and basic perceptions in our minds since we were young. If we strip ourselves of these we have the potential to create something beautiful and dynamic, and respond to the problems we face. It started as an experiment; ideas flooded and the boundaries became limitless. Five people took part in something
that began as mildly uncomfortable, but our timid nature was quickly pushed aside and we photographed each other on the boulders. Nothing more than rock shoes and bare skin clinging onto stone. I cannot forget anything I learned from these incredible people. The body is at peace in its natural world. Sometimes we need to strip off our clothing to realize there is indeed this connection between man and his environment. It is a search that thousands have and will embark on. Throw yourself into the wilderness and find that solace. The way, though, is finding the ability to do that anywhere. Taking off our clothes served as a reminder that through simple communication and trust with this world we could find that connection. This drive for solace and introspection was made real; for the first time, there was no need to seek out more common escapes in the wilderness; the questions that I continually grapple with were silenced. My mind was quieted as I became awed by these bodies in motion on the rock. Naked, bare, the nothingness demanded a new form of respect. I began by asking, what is it about the human form that quiets the mind? Still, I do not know. The spine arched, pushing the body forward; the curve of a rib raising and falling as CCAJ
adrenaline pumps the breath; maybe the complete and utter awareness between the mind and its body as the connection between what is and what awaits is recognized. Everything melts. In the nakedness between rock and body there is a delicate balance. It’s a dance between no one else but the mighty giant within. Careful planning, soft changes, and beautiful improvisation create this sacred balance both within and in nature, one that guides us through fear and transcends our boundaries.
No Country for Bold Men John Catto (‘82) Eyelids fluttering with fatigue, I barely noticed the shadow move. My hand jerked to the headlamp. The beam illuminated a black widow spider rappelling toward me as if to attack. I hesitated. I sensed a delicate balance of life and death in this desert and didn’t want to challenge it. “Kill it,” Greg said. Then he grabbed a shoe and struck, smearing the red hourglass mark on the sandstone beside me. I thought about vengeful relatives erupting from the web and crawled a few meters away to scrape out another bivy spot. Above me, Uranium Peak glowed in the starlight. Below, Red Canyon created its own gravity, bending the shadows along the walls, smothering sounds with darkness. It was bold, yet counter-intuitive, for a spider to attack a giant. Self-preservation does not always prevail. Two weeks earlier, Greg, Pete, and I drove deep into the southeast Utah desert, our sights set on the first technical ascent of Uranium Peak, an isolated 1748-meter sandstone mountain with a 300-meter north face. Only eight hours from our homes, the labels 2WD, 4WD-H and 4WD-L marked the shifts from civilization to wilderness to desolation. Pale-green tailings of abandoned uranium mines dappled the canyon’s sides around our camp. The topography played with light and sound in a way that confused the senses, warping and blending textures, colors, and noises into a kind of canyon-country aurora borealis. When quiet, Red Canyon’s stillness had a density to it. In the void of human noise, other sounds seemed amplified, especially the buzzing. Swarms of ferocious gnats mauled any exposed skin. Standing still was unbearable. Greg’s picture of the wall, taken last year, didn’t show the massive rockslide scar, now a thousand-foot pink stain on left side. To the right of the slide’s rubble, a line of unconnected corners and cracks offered the only probable route. It might continue to the top, but the last pitch was hidden from view. 46
We’d find out if we got there. The cliff’s lower rock band appeared to be solid Wingate sandstone. Underfoot, it crumbled. We all gawked at the second pitch, a sixty-meter corner with perfect ninety-degree symmetry and a splitter finger crack that separated the glasssmooth walls, narrowing as it rose. Greg called lead on it. We agreed; he was the one who discovered the wall. Pete slapped the dust off his soles, stuck a meticulously taped hand into the initial jam on Pitch 1. Five meters up, his eager, confident movements suddenly turned to thrashing and clanking. Roaring obscenities, he descended, ripped the gear off himself, and threw it to the ground. Red Canyon amplified his curses, hurling them back from all directions. Charged with anger, the air crackled the way it does before lightning strikes. Greg recoiled. Desperate to leave the fear and fury behind, I picked up the rack and climbed, seeking protection. Three days later in base camp, Greg and I quit the climb with two hundred meters of rope still fixed to it. Heat, toil, and insects had gnawed our resolve raw. Pete stewed about retrieving his gear, much of which was on the wall. Greg said we couldn’t finish the route with the time we had left. I thought we could, but lacked the conviction to continue. A kind of spiritual desiccation seemed to have drained us all. The canyon blew our dust plume around us as we drove away. For a week my ears remained swollen from the bug bites. I wondered whether I still had the drive for this kind of escapade. Yet I promised Peton I’d get his gear back to him. Leaving a project unfinished irritated me. Perhaps more than anything, I needed to slake the parched feeling of the first attempt. Greg was sick now, but if we didn’t go back immediately, we had no idea when we could. So he and I went. Pete would say, “That’s logical reasoning within a framework of totally irrational perception.” He’d be right. Sheltered in the afternoon shade, we grunted back up our ropes, hefting forty pounds of water, four cans of tuna, ten tortillas, a bag of cashews, and some orange Gatorade. Canned fruit was dessert. Neither of us eats much when it’s hot. Warm nights required little bivy gear: half-length pads, mosquito-netting headgear, long-sleeve shirts and pants. On giant terraces 200 meters up, we settled in for the night. This is “rockneering,” mountaineering minus the dangers of avalanches and cold. On a desert mountain, soft rock adds unique hazards. Edges powder when pressured by hand, or foot. The rope cuts grooves when pulled. The leader has to toss loose blocks out of cracks when possible, or else place gear to guide the rope around them. It takes little effort for the rope to dislodge a rock. Yet these factors, along with the possibility of a first ascent in a desolate place, form the elements of a grand adventure. Usually our quests take us far away from home. To find one so close is sweet.
Moving back up the ropes the next day, I carefully avoided an eight-foot boulder balanced on a small ledge. During our last visit, it wobbled under Greg, eliciting from him a rather frightful squeak. We regained our high point. The bugs seemed to have dwindled. Midday ground temperatures rose to 95–100°F. The wall was definitely hotter. Breathing felt like sucking on a blow dryer. Though hacking phlegm and running a fever, Greg stepped away from the anchors to lead the crux aid pitch. Ten feet out, he drilled a bolt to prevent a swinging fall into the ledge, then slumped into his harness and etriers. After a moment, he stood up, drove in a knifeblade, stepped up again and wilted. “Maybe you should take over,” he croaked between coughs. I didn’t want to, but would if he retreated. If Greg was struggling, I knew the climbing must be scary. “Need more knifeblades,” he uttered. Maybe he’d already forgotten about swapping leads. Greg fumbled with a tiny wire Stopper as he mumbled, placed it, and stepped up once more before collapsing. For the next hundred feet, he performed the same ritual. The heat pressed down. I cowered under the shade of a reflective tarp. My head bobbled as I tried to stay awake and belay Greg. On the next pitch I led up, over right, and down, making sure the rope didn’t knock a block on him. We were within a pitch and a half of the top. Anticipation amped me up for the last fifty meters, but Greg croaked, “Go down.” I smacked in a pin, made an anchor, and returned to Greg. Even the harsh light bouncing red off the rock added no color to his face. His eyes were bloodshot and unfocused. My stomach squeezed with fear. Down we went. On the bivouac terraces, Greg curled into a ball, his breathing irregular [This page] “Rockneering” on Uranium Peak. John Catto
and raspy. The thought of dragging him across ledges, short-leashing him down rappels, should his condition worsen, did little to ease my worry. Red Canyon rippled in the heat. No cars, no noise, nothing. That’s the way out, I reminded myself and chuckled, thinking of another one of Pete’s phrases: Cheer up, there’s no hope. Eventually, afternoon shade fell over us. Greg recovered enough to sit up and eat an atomic taco: a tortilla, some tuna and a sprinkling of Uranium Peak dust. Crows’ feet wrinkles clutched the outside of each eye, expanding and collapsing with each bite. He’d been through decades of exposure at high and low altitude, a lifetime of worries, and then today’s efforts. It showed, but some color returned to his face. Ravens played. Their kaws drifted upward as they circled, riding a thermal towards us. Then something hurtled through the air, the sound imitating the unnerving whoosh of a falling rock, followed by a shriek. Peregrines! A raven took a blow to the back and tumbled meters before regaining equilibrium. The falcon accelerated out of a high-speed loop and attacked again. A second falcon engaged the other raven, and the four were rolling and tumbling, talons tearing. Then the ravens broke free and raced for the cover of our terrace. The raptors vanished, screeching stay away from here. Greg and I sat agape. Night wrapped us in coolness. The stars shone pale. Their soothing light dissolved into dawn. As we re-gained our high point, the sun torched the face orange. Temperatures spiked 25 degrees in minutes. Grateful for some early shade, I started up the final dihedral. Because there was no gear to pull on I had to free climb around the crux, a fifteen-foot section that looked and felt more like a stack of Saltine crackers than rock. One more broken hold would dislodge the dry-heaves stuck CCAJ
in my gut. And then I was past that part and moving eagerly up the last bit. Ten feet from the top, a cam sheared out as I stood on it, and I fell hard onto a ledge. Greg’s belay and a back-up cam tightened the rope in time to prevent a broken ankle. The adrenalin surge vaulted me over the top. On the summit perched an old survey tripod so bent and grayed by the elements it barely supported our camera. I imagine we had a similar look. To the south, the monoliths of Monument Valley shimmered. To the west, the waters of Lake Powell radiated blue. Canyons and more canyons surrounded us, their starkness inescapably alluring. Heat mirages danced with the horizon as we descended. Slowly, carefully, we glided down our lines. Stay alert, pay attention, I cautioned myself on rappel. Self-preservation does not always prevail. This place is harsh and will punish hubris and haste. This is no country for bold men. *This story was originally featured in Alpinist and has been reprinted in the CCAJ with permission from John. Summary Uranium Peak, Utah Northeast Face, 5.9 A3, 350m
A Generation of Desert Masters Tim Gibson (‘10) It was a day that epitomized the essence of our generation of CC climbing: we were a well-orchestrated shit show seeking wholehearted adventure and good times. The day began as Drew Thayer (‘11) and Dan Rothberg (‘12) realized that Noah Gostout (‘10) was the only one in our party wearing cut-off jean shorts. They quickly proceeded to chop off the legs of Drew’s only pants with a samurai sword. Driving through Arches National Park we scanned the endless possibilities of towers to climb, eventually setting our sights on Argon Tower. After approaching, Noah and I spotted a big, sandy butt-crack that led up to the first pitch of our intended route - the North East Corner. It was soon evident why the guidebook failed to mention this as an alternate start. It was a sandbox. While climbing this pitch, Dan and Drew walked around to begin the first true pitch of the route, and by the time I reached them, they were discussing beta. The beta in question involved the 30 foot slab approach to the first pitch. The guidebook said nothing of this challenge, likely because it 48
was no harder than 3rd class and no steeper than 30 degrees. Drew had already attempted a direct approach and backed off. Drew and Dan eventually spotted an alternate approach on which it looked as though some gear could be placed. Meanwhile, I had no way of building any sort of anchor until reaching the pitons that marked the start of the first pitch. Noah waited below, oblivious to our situation. After another twenty minutes, Drew had successfully led the approach and Dan followed, trailing a rope for me to then join them. Once we all made it across the slab, I put Noah on belay and Dan led off on the first short pitch. With no gear and sandy rock, Dan nearly whipped onto our anchor, but narrowly managed to pull through and around a corner to the belay, which consisted of a knotted piece of webbing slotted in a constriction. By the time Noah joined us, Dan decided that the route looked far too sandy and lowered off the sketchy anchor. We then walked around the corner and, upon seeing the West Face, decided to try to salvage our day of climbing. The guidebook proclaims that “Anyone who climbs the West Face of Argon Tower is a true desert master.” It seemed we were going to disprove that claim. This time Drew led off on the first pitch. The thin, sandy dihedral required many takes and yarding on much gear. As Drew reached the top of this pitch, Noah and I decided to link a face climbing variation to the first pitch into the second pitch. Noah made it about 30 feet off the ground without gear and realized the only holds available were massive detached blocks. Hollering up to Drew for him to drop a line, Drew told him to wait while he lassoed the bolts on the anchor with stoppers and taped them in place since they had no hangers. A few minutes later Noah had ascended to the first belay ledge and was cruising the clean fist-to-offwidth crack above. I too, then, passed Drew and Dan, who asked me to leave the wide gear Noah had placed on his pitch. The next pitch began in a slot similar to the wide pitch of Shune’s Buttress (IV 5.11) in Zion. The climbing then becomes steep and physical with good holds. Near the top of the pitch I began slipping out of a sandy jam, so I placed a piece and immediately tried to grab it. As I weighted the cam it skittered right out of the crack, so I clenched my anus and somehow made it up to a sloppy, sandy ledge, which I mounted and wriggled my way onto. This led to a comfortable pedestal just below the summit with a great view in all directions. After Noah climbed this pitch, we heard struggling and then a shriek as Drew took a 30 foot fall below us. After a short pause he let out a rebel yell that echoed around the sandstone walls and caught the attention of dozens of tourists. A short face studded with three inspiring star-drives led
from our pedestal to the summit. As Noah worked his way up the difficult face, he noted that each hold was subsequently smaller and sandier than the last until he was groping two horrendous slopers coated with sand, well above his last star drive. What happened next has increased my confidence in star drives immensely. After arresting the giant’s 6-foot 200-pound body, the hardware still seemed solid. He went back up and sent. By the time Noah and I summited there were enough tourists watching us from the base to warrant us stripping down and enjoying the desert sun on our white buns. When Drew reached the pedestal below us, he also removed his harness, disrobed, and soon enough we were four strong atop another delightful desert tower and getting weird. Summary of Activity Argon Tower, Arches National Park, UT West Face, III 5.11
Liquid Sky Nathan ‘Bonesaw’ Brand (‘11) If you boil down a block break to the bare necessities, it ultimately comes down to three things: friends, Wingate, and cold beer. For my final block break of college I wanted to make sure that I didn’t ignore any of these important facets while spending four and a half days in Utah. Like most trips to the desert, we pulled into camp long after dark trying to find our obnoxiously large crew playing what felt like a frustrating game of sardines at 2:00am. [This page] Drew climbs Argon Tower. Tim Gibson
The next morning Tim Gibson (’10) and I awoke, packed our bags, and started walking towards The North Six Shooter in hopes of climbing both Liquid Sky and Lightning Bolt Cracks. The approach was long and beautiful, and soon we were hiking up the talus field looking at the gaping chimney roof that is the defining feature of Liquid Sky. I inevitably stalled a little bit before taking the beautiful finger crack first pitch of Liquid Sky. It is funny how different the two pitches are – one is thin, relatively secure, and full of gear options while the other is wide, less secure than a middle school dance, and is nearly unprotectable. In typical fashion, I sewed up the first pitch like a sweat shop worker, utilizing every piece we hiked in. Timo led the second pitch, which is really where the fun began. The first forty feet are good old fashioned in your face off width, which, contrary to the guidebook’s description, does not take #5 or #6 Camalots. Standing on a ledge beneath the roof, you can clip a bolt before heading into the abyss, which is so narrow that my good Jewish shnaz took a punishment when I tried to squeeze through. I won’t say Timo made it look easy, but he made it just the same. When my turn came to follow the pitch, I had never felt so intimidated by the thought of following a pitch on top rope. Loaded with the two #5’s and a #6, which Timo left for me on the bolt, I started up. Standing on the ledge before the roof, I clipped the big cams to a sling off my waist, but left all the others attached to my harness. I came to realize this was a fatal error fifteen minutes later when I would not fit through the chimney. Tempted by the fact that the chimney widens towards the mouth of the roof, I started edging that way until all of a sudden I was spit out like a bar of soap between two hands. Swinging in mid-air outside of the roof, I was left with no option but to make prussiks and ascend the rope to meet Timo on top. I pulled over the top of the tower to find one of the more tuckered CCAJ
Timos I have ever had the pleasure to climb with. The poor guy looked like someone had tortured him with a buzz sander – double cheek gobies, a tattered shirt, and a full core-shot in the rope at his knot. Sitting shakily on top we gave each other a big, yet delicate, hug and looked out over Indian Creek and Canyonlands from one of the most amazing summits in the desert. We then rapped down, drank some whiskey, quickly scampered up Lightning Bolt Cracks, and headed back to camp in hopes of finding cold beer, warm friends, and the sort of debauchery only found in Indian Creek at night. Summary North Six Shooter, Indian Creek, Utah Liquid Sky, III 5.11+; Lightning Bolt Cracks, III 5.11-
Wall Dreams Phil Armstrong (‘07) Early in 2009, I found myself climbing in the gym when my lanky acquaintance, Evan Horvath, asked if I wanted to climb a big wall in Zion a few months from then. Not really knowing any better, I said “Yes.” The wall Evan had picked was a classic, Touchstone Wall. We trained a bit. I’d say we had a grand total of six pitches of basic aid under our belts by the time the trip was upon us. In reality, it wasn’t nearly enough practice to get up the wall with grace and style. Needless to say, things didn’t go very well. After a little scuffle between frustrated partners at a cramped hanging belay on pitch four, down we went, our tail between our legs, humbled by big rock. Fast-forward to earlier this year: spring in Yosemite. The biggest stone around. The plan was to go entirely for free climbing, and to cheer on our friends Wally and Greg durring their successful bid on the proud El Cap line, Mescalito. My partner, Sean and I tagged along on the trip with our friends, Dave and Tori, and got in some amazing single day free climbs. It was a fantastic trip. Being under El Cap and gazing up was surreal. The wall was so huge and the top so far away that it looked like a painting. Still, you could trace it down from the heavens until your hand was actually touching the base. This definitely rekindled my desire for big-walls. It apparently inspired Sean as well, because by the end of the trip he was asking me about my experience in aid climbing. I was psyched to have Sean as a big-wall partner. Besides being my climbing mentor, he’s a strong and collected free climber, always organized at belays and is thinking one step ahead. This is crucial on walls, as at 50
least half the battle is foreseeing cluster-fucks before they happen. On the plane ride back to Colorado we made a list of all the gear we would need to get our hands on. My sites where set on returning to Zion. While the conditions in Zion are radically different than Yosemite, it is a good gauge for big-wall competence. Strong and hard aid teams can usually get up and off Zion walls in a day using the light and fast “fix and fire” method. No hauling, no ledge, you climb a few pitches the first day, fix your ropes to the base, sleep on the ground, and then the next day you jug your lines and fire to the top in one push. For us however, the plan was to get the full experience of the big-wall and everything it entailed: hauling fat pigs, shouldering huge racks, climbing into the night, and sleeping on a portagledge. I felt like we were really well prepared. Well, at least compared to my last trip to Zion. We had been practicing with the full haul system for the past few months and things had been going fairly smoothly. We had even spent a night on our ledge on a local crag just to get the feel of it and work some kinks out before doing it “for real.” So, we picked a date, got the time off work, and waited for the temps to drop before heading out for the Moonlight Buttress. When the time came, the temps didn’t drop. But the trip was now or never. Thoughts of sunburn and heatstroke clouded my mind. In Zion, we feel like heroes getting onto the tourist-laden bus that will take us up canyon. The tourists gawk at our climbing plans. “Oh, all this gear? Yeah, we’re going to take it up that wall over there.” The approach doesn’t go smoothly. There is no trail. The bushes are very angry and very pointy. We finally get to the base of the buttress and start wandering back and forth like lost Japanese tourists with our topos out, trying to pick out our line above us. It should be obvious; it’s the most coveted line in Zion. After a good hour of tomfoolery we decide we need more beta, maybe an actual picture. So we head back to our packs and stash them, go down, cross the river, get on the bus, and soon we’re on our way back to town. Not heroes anymore, just tourists with wet socks. Back in town, we scour the internet looking for a picture to identify the start of the route. Finally finding one, we head back to the park late to catch a bus down canyon. With no handlamp, I brandish my phone like Triforce as we head back to the wall in search of our gear cache. An hour goes by before we can find our things. Cue clown music. The climb begins at 6am with a Doubleshot espresso and a hauling fiasco on the first pitch. Soon enough, though, we’re cruising up the route, hauling as we go, and paying close attention to our topo. The sun begins to set as I climb “The Grand Dihedral” pitch. I soon find that climbing in the dark
becomes rather relaxing as my whole world becomes the mere glow of a headlamp. Suddenly, all I can focus on is the climbing right in front of me and I leave behind the fear of being so high above the ground. At the top of the pitch, our pulley and micro-ascender somehow plummet toward the base of the route. I panic. We can’t haul. We can’t go on. We are so humped. Sean calms my nerves, though. We can still haul with the gear we have. The night is gorgeous, calm and warm, with clear skies and a deep starry canopy. We organize all the ropes, pull out the porta-ledge and soon enough we are sleeping far above the ground. The hauling and climbing on our second day begins smoothly. I get better at conserving and leapfrogging gear the higher we go. At this point the only problem is the amount of water we have left. Hopefully we’ll make it last if everything tips our way. We climb in full view of the tourist buses traveling through the canyon. Once high enough, we can actually hear the bus loudspeaker coming out of the open sunroofs. At one point we overhear “…And what he is doing now is called hauling the pig! It might be the hardest part of wall climb[This page] A glimpse of Zion says it all. Mt. Kinesavah at dawn. Drew Thayer
ing...”. Fuck, it is hard. I continue to haul everything up with an audience and then dig into the pig to get the last of our water on top for easy access. I drink up and leave the last liter for Sean’s final push to the top. He arrives at the belay. It’s around 7pm. The sun is starting to plummet. Sean drinks half the remaining water and sets off. I lose sight of him quickly. One starts to think of weird shit in conditions like this. Discombobulated, confused, mixed up, just muttering to oneself alone at the belay. Forever passes. It’s full dark. The rope seems to be moving impossibly slow. It goes up, it goes down, it goes up, it stops. Yay the halfway mark! Oh shit he’s only halfway? Finally, Sean calls that he is off belay. I jug quickly to the top of the pitch. Sean is a mess. The belay ledge is a clusterfuck. Exhausted, dehydrated, malnourished, and frustrated, we begin to get a bit short with one another. It’s close to 1am when we crawl over the rim. We have definitely missed the last shuttle. We have no water. Sean is having trouble walking straight. We have about 130 pounds of gear between us. With pounding dehydration headaches, we decide to power through the night and descend. Stumbling through the dark, we arrive down at the Grotto a few hours later and gorge down water, elated by our survival. Despite the close calls, I’m so psyched we made it up the route. Thankfully, Zion hadn’t turned me back a second time; though, I’m still humbled by the big rock. I just hope it didn’t
turn Sean off from the whole big-wall idea. We still have the Big Stone ahead of us just on the other side of winter. Summary Zion National Park, Utah Moonlight Buttress, V 5.9 C1
Helplessly in Love Dave Hoven (‘06) After falling helplessly in love with the adventurous routes at the Garden of the Gods during our years at CC, it’s amazing that Joel Irby (‘06) and I have taken such a long time to appreciate the friable rock, pestering tourists, and short approaches offered by Arches National Park. However, after purchasing a one-year National Parks Pass, we decided that free climbing in Arches would become a new area of focus mostly for the return on investment. Our first objective since acquiring our pass was the West Face of the Gossips, which is a superb line. The perfect thin hand-jams that comprise the first couple hundred feet of the route were simply delicious. At the summit we downed a couple of Busch special series camo-can beers and then headed over to a route on the Penguins. We climbed an excellent hand-fist-offwidth crack system that went straight to the top of the tower, where we were attacked ferociously by a cloud of gnats. Summary Arches National Park, Utah Three Gossips, West Face, 5.10 C1
Death by Hands Joel Irby (‘06) Rope soloing has always seemed one of the dumbest forms of climbing to me. It takes way too long, requires too much work, and takes away the most fun part of climbing: obviously, heckling your partner. Despite these intense misgivings, I somehow found myself alone at the base of The Organ in Arches National Park on a cloudy and cold December day. My thoughts ranged from “Wow this is stupid” to “Do I really not have any friends?” After about an hour of procrastination I finally urged myself onto the sandy rock. The first pitch is a 5.8 slab, which appears to be an easy 52
unroped walk-up from the ground. Looks can be deceiving. According to CC grad Pete Gallagher, who did the first ascent of the route, this slab has “the friction coefficient of fresh boogers.” I think he was being generous with his description. Desperation and sweaty palms are the majority of what I remember from this “low angle” and extremely run-out slab. Thankfully the next pitch was an easy C2 crack with a touch of offwidth at the top. A nice and dirty 5.10 boulder problem started off the third pitch, and after a short bolt traverse it was all free to the top. I sat on top of my own little piece of sandstone heaven for a bit, pondered my existence, and promptly decided that rope-soloing was definitely as dumb as I had previously thought. Summary Arches National Park, UT The Organ, Death by Hands, IV 5.10 C2 R (rope-solo)
Ozymandias Joe Forrester (‘06) On April 20th, at 1am, I was lost deep in the San Rafael Swell. Having just driven 14 hours across the desert from Palo Alto after an unsuccessful apartment search, I was tired. The directions I had printed from Mountain Project said to go left on an unnamed dirt road for a mile to find another unnamed dirt road. I had driven that road several times, and I could find no second dirt road. The wind was picking up on the high desert, and each time I turned around the wind whipped into the truck. I was 20 miles out into the middle of nowhere and couldn’t find my way. In the height of my frustration, minutes away from bivying on the side of the road, I re-read the directions. I was supposed to take a right. Buoyed by this find, I took off down the second dirt road into the dark. The driving became progressively more difficult as I went up and down washes. In the darkness, it began to rain. This was not a soft rain, but a hard, driving, cold high desert rain. Again, my heart rate quickened. I had crossed a number of washes that would likely be swollen in several minutes, making retreat by car difficult. I was alone in the Utah desert. With my heart beating in tune to the music blasting through my speakers, I realized I was home. Eventually I came to the end of the dirt road and stopped. Donning my raincoat, I hopped into the bed of my truck, pulled my sleeping bag around me, and fell asleep in the pouring rain and punishing wind. I awoke early the next morning. The storm had cleared
and the sky was blue. As I looked North, I could see the tower. The Weasel, a 500foot Wingate tower, and the Rooster, stood proudly over the desert plain below. A fellow named Paul Ross had been doing a number of first ascents out here and I had to see what the buzz was about. I was not to be disappointed. The Wingate was white and there was not a soul around. The occasional cow milled around my truck. I felt like the original desert climbers, far from the glitz, glamour and pussification in Moab. I had grown weary of “the scene” and just wanted to be alone. Even the Fishers, my traditional hunting grounds - where risk is essential and men are made out of sweat, mud, and fear - had slowly been perverted. As old hardware on routes was upgraded, the re-bolters lacked the proper experience and knowledge: They castrated the routes. Once daring routes, now artificially safe. It made me sick. The approach to The Weasel was brutal. I climbed a talus cone with three ropes and a quadruple set of cams. By the time I got to the base, my legs were quivering. Unfortunately, the price of excellence in practicing medicine had come at the cost of other life skills, and my ability to carry a heavy pack had suffered. Eventually though, as the sun got higher, I reached the base. I looked up and the route began to reveal itself to me. Excited, I began up the first pitch. It wasn’t hard, mostly C1 camming until the end where I had to place gear behind a huge, loose flake. I told myself that there was no way the flake would come off, and stood up. Clipping the anchors, I felt relief wash over me. This wave was short lived. Another extremely loose flake was right past the anchor. I could tell from surrounding bail webbing that a party had been here before and bailed. Two bolts had pulled out of the stone. Knowing I was soloing, I had to balance the risk of pulling the flake against the shame of bailing. Using almost a decade worth of clean climbing trickery, I moved past the danger using hooks and stacked nuts. By the time I finished the pitch, the wind began to howl [This page] Ozymandias’s white Wingate. Joe Forrester
and it started snowing. I quickly cleaned the pitch, fixed my lines and headed down to the car where I crushed a can of chili. The next morning I charged up my fixed lines. The remaining pitches blurred together, although the 15-foot roof on the third pitch was memorable. My biceps cramped, as did my legs, but the pain became my friend, keeping me vigilant. I decided to untie and solo the last 80 feet of moderate fifth-class climbing. With 500 feet of exposure below, I carefully made my way to the summit. Opening the summit register I found that I was the second person to stand on top of the tower, ever. It was a great feeling but dampened by the burden of knowing I had to down-solo from the summit. Driving out from the San Rafael Swell, I was filled with joy. Far from the crowds, I had proved to myself that I could still embrace the fear and make decisions. As is often the case, coming back into the real world is the hardest part. Even though my surgery residency at Stanford waited for me, I could feel that white Wingate in my soul and knew the memory would get me through the dark times. There is still adventure in the desert; I encourage you to go find it. Summary San Rafael Swell, UT The Weasel, Ozymandias, IV 5.8 C2
Fisher Towers Bonanza Dave Hoven (‘06) and Joel Irby (‘06) Our aid climbing escapades in Utah’s Fisher Towers started way back in January of 2007. It was too cold to free climb and we were too lazy to drive any further than the Moab area, so Joel Irby (‘06), Anthony DeRouen, Zeus the dwarf chocoCCAJ
late lab, and I set up camp right in the middle of the Fisher Towers parking lot. It had snowed a few inches the night we arrived so we decided to cram the three of us and the dog into the back of the car. The next morning the remaining snow on the cutler sandstone created an unreal landscape of contrasting white and red. In our well established style, we started our first day of climbing sometime around 11am, arriving at the base of our first real Fisher Tower, The Kingfisher, by shortly after noon. Having a combined aid-climbing experience of about three pitches, the going was slow. We fixed a couple pitches and returned to the crowded car to indulge in boxed wine and canned chili. The next day started in similar fashion, and our pace was not hastened by the lasting effects of cheap canned chili and even cheaper boxed wine. Nonetheless we scrambled to the top of the snowcapped Kingfisher, late in the day with an expansive view of the other Fishers and Castle Valley in the distance. We were proud of our clean ascent; however, after the slow, cold climbing, and the schlepping of heavy, overloaded packs back and forth to the car, we decided that maybe aid climbing just wasn’t for us. Three years later a new dilemma led us back to aid climbing: we had exhausted most of the classic 5.10 desert tower 54
routes, and we are far too lazy to get better at free-climbing. Aid was the obvious choice; plus the looming Fisher Towers that we passed on every drive out to the desert were just beckoning to be climbed. In the Spring of 2010, on our second attempt, we made a clean ascent of the mighty Titan by way of the classic Finger of Fate (V 5.9 C2). We were lucky enough to climb the route just a couple of years after all of the anchors had been rebolted. Just a few weeks later we returned to the Fishers for a clean attempt up Phantom Sprint on Echo Tower, during which we witnessed a series of hang-gliders weave in and out of the gothic towers during their float back to terra firma. Besides taking a few wrong turns on the approach and crushing a helmet while hucking a pack, the whole day went pretty well. By the time 2011 rolled around we were fully hooked on Fisher’s clean aid, and we were determined to make our way to the top of the remaining behemoths by the year’s close. With Spring came warmer weather in Utah, and the opportunity for us both to take some time off of work. We packed 10 days worth of bacon and eggs; 20 days worth of beer; two duffel bags of climbing gear; and a couple extra pairs of underwear all into an SUV, and then headed straight for our
standard camp spot in Onion Creek. We established our campsite and immediately began settling into a level of grime that would suggest nothing short of homelessness, which is practically a requirement for climbing in the Fishers. To get things warmed up on our dirt loving climbing trip, we tackled The Flow on River Tower. River Tower is the unloved step-mud-child of the Fisher Towers, and definitely does not get the attention that it deserves. From River Road, it looks less than spectacular. However when standing below the tower’s imposing prow it is indeed awe inspiring. The Flow is a beautiful and pretty straightforward clean aid route – aside from some excellent zest on the first pitch. Dave and I have a strict style to uphold, though, so we didn’t start climbing before noon on either of our two days on route. After clawing our way up that mudflow of a route on River Tower, we set our sights on West Side Story on Cottontail in the main Fishers group. The route proved to be more than amazing, and of course we climbed it in our purest style, taking three full half-days on route. It has zest, exposure, and views to rival any climb in the desert. By far the crux of the route was rappelling Road Kill, which turned out to be a moderately terrifying experience. It is a pretty bad sign when you are trying to equalize the anchor off of a rusty hardware-nail that was pounded into the rock some decades ago. We finished Cottontail just in time, because the next couple of days of our trip turned out to be a hazy and rainy affair. Luckily, just as the weather turned for the worse, Joe Forrester (‘06) [Facing page] Cottontail, Echo, and Kingfisher as seen from the Oracle. [This page] Dave Hoven approaches the
and Erik Rieger (‘12) showed up. If you are going to sit around in the rainy desert, it is best to have good friends, beer, and of course plenty of bacon. We didn’t climb much during the rainy days at “Camp Folly”—as Joe later dubbed it—but the memories made are unforgettable. The Oracle is the least climbed of all five major Fisher Towers, and it was the last on the list for Dave and me. We decided to give Fantasia a try over a quick weekend trip out to the desert. Our first attempt at the tower didn’t make it past the Fisher Tower’s parking lot, because just before beginning the hike I started hurling my late night Wendy’s fast food everywhere. No one likes to hike after tasting the same Wendy’s twice, and the nausea proved lucky because a few hours later it started raining hard, which is no time to be on route in the Fishers. A few weeks later we made the desert trek again, and thankfully we had better weather and stomach conditions. The hike to The Oracle is moderately long, and we made it to the base shortly after sunrise – horrible style by our standards. Nothing wakes you up like some funky free climbing in tennis shoes at dawn! The climbing went extremely smoothly until we reached the Gargoyle features on the shoulder of the tower. I became extremely lost on a wild traverse pitch and ended up doing a weird, hard and dirty off with-chimney that may or may not be part of the route. Dave cruised the 5.10R pitch next, and all that remained was the summit pitch. The pitch proved to be narrow summit of Cottontail Tower. Joel Irby [Next page, top] Dave rappelling The Oracle. Joel Irby CCAJ
weirder than expected, but we finally reached the top and erupted with one of our most spectacular desert war cries of all time. Nothing washes down sardines like beer, and we enjoyed being on top of the rarest Fisher summit in style. Rapping down the intestines of the tower provided a last bit of excitement and left us looking like the mud-flaps on our overburdened Toyota. While climbing all of the major Fisher towers clean, plus the step-mud-child, River Tower, is super exciting for us, the accomplishment is completely overshadowed by the tireless efforts of selfless climbers and organizations that have committed the time and money to fix up these trade routes such that they can be climbed entirely hammerless. There’s plenty of controversy surrounding re-bolting the trade routes in the Fishers and the hoards of climbers who followed, especially on classics like the Finger of Fate and Colorado Northeast Ridge. Whether re-bolting these lines has made a more sustainable climbing environment in the Fishers is anyone’s guess, perhaps only time can tell. For the time being, the opinion and hope of us two lazy climbers is that the rebolting efforts are indeed a benefit to both the environment and the climbing community. If nothing else we are happy about all those fresh bolts because without them we probably would have had to wake up way earlier in order to get to the top of any of those mud piles. Summary Fisher Towers, Utah The Flow, IV 5.8 C2, River Tower West Side Story, VI 5.9 C3, Cottontail Tower Fantasia, IV 5.10 R C2, The Oracle
A Testament to Crueler Times Erik Rieger (‘12) After spending Thanksgiving with Joe Forrester again, this time at home rather than on a bivy ledge, we began making plans for a Spring climbing trip to Zion. We’d go fast and free on Zion’s Touchstone Wall, and then spend a few days projecting a harder, scarier wall with a portaledge. When March rolled around, it was still snowing in Zion, and I had blown a tendon in my right hand. I told Joe I’d have to bail. A week later, though, Joe sent me a picture of [Bottom] Joe, high up on River Tower. Erik Rieger [Facing page] Erik breaks free of the morning shadow mid-way up the tower. Joe Forrester 56
a massive unclimbed buttress in the Fisher Towers. I told him I was in. The thought of starting up a sweeping, unclimbed wall with a portaledge, and firing up into mysterious, vertical sandstone was just too tempting. I quickly went out and bought a lot of tape for my finger. For most people, the Fisher Towers are a complete nightmare. Loosemudstone-horror-show might best describe the style of climbing. Joe, of course, is a Fisher’s aid-climbing aficionado. He’s the youngest person to climb all of the Fisher Towers, a few via standard setting hard routes, a few others by seriously “cowboy” means. Joe’s climbing personality might best be defined through his ambitious ascent of the Sundevil Chimney on the Titan as a young Colorado College climber in which he used tent-stakes for pitons – prior to the route going clean – and ate canned dog food to make sure his body followed his scary hardware up the wall, justifying it as “Ten-cents cheaper than store-bought chili.” I imagine that story is pretty hard for most people to take. One could say Joe has shaped up in recent years, though. When we met in Colorado prior to the drive, it was following his commencement from the prestigious University of Virginia Medical School. Desert dirtbag turned top-notch trauma surgeon. The transformation made sense. The Fisher’s and the trauma ward are similar arenas; Joe finds poetry in the chaos. We met Joel Irby (’06) and Dave Hoven (’06) in Onion Creek after they’d completed their ambitious goal of climbing all of the Fisher Towers without a hammer. I remember them looking pretty drunk, aimless, and ready for mischief when we showed up, nothing par-unusual for those two. The nighttime rain cleared by early morning. I woke up with a strong headache, intent on learning the quintessential technique of climbing CCAJ
hard aid lines in the Fishers: beaking. Joe found a thin seam, wet from the nighttime rain that looked like proper beaking territory, handed me a rack of the strange pitons, a hammer, and offered a re-assuring look of, “Well, have at it.” “Great, what do I do with these,” I thought. By the time I was three beak placements up, the residents of “Camp Folly” had stirred. I looked down to see Joe, Dave, and Joel had all gathered below me in folding chairs with malt liquor in hand. As I got higher, the seam vanished into blank, soft rock. When I told Joe that was it, he yelled up, “Gotta top it out!” Scared shitless, I apprehensively top stepped onto my highest beak and began to make what was probably a crumbly 5.12 slab move. Then, “Ping!” the piton ripped and the next thing I knew I was hanging completely upside down 20 feet below my high point. I guess that was sort of my initiation into the strange and scary process of hard nailing. We planned to warm up on Jim Beyer’s route Rasta Wall on the secluded River Tower before heading out to our unclimbed objective. Our first day on the wall saw gail-force winds as Joe led the crux pitch right off the ground. At times our tagline was completely horizontal and the sound of the wind whipping around the prow of the tower was as forceful as a jet engine. Castle Valley looked apocalyptic. Seeing Joe move past the scary A4 crux and knowing he could zipper the whole pitch was certainly memorable. After fixing a line to the top of the pitch, we hoisted a wavering Jolly Roger flag, and hiked back down into the cryptic landscape toward the road. Leading out the huge horizontal roof on the second pitch the next day, I immediately understood why people wear goggles on hard routes in the [This page] Joe on the A4 pitch. Erik Rieger 58
Fishers. Pounds upon pounds of mud and stone gathered in my lap as I moved upward. Joe and I lowered to the ground after I finished the pitch. I felt both proud and completely defeated by my first aid lead in the Fishers. Sand poured off my body as we rappelled. My finger was destroyed. It’s the most exhausting pitch I’ve ever climbed. With the unbelievably bad weather, it took us another day to reach the summit. The next pitches, though, climbed through incredible terrain, the first taking us up an unbelievable rope-stretching beak seam, the next through wild overhanging mud roofs, and finally into a fun chimney through the capstone – the only free climbing on the route. Joe led the hard aid with seasoned poise, tenacity, and speed. His beakto-fall ratio is better than mine. Back on terra firma, the bad weather returned. Tentbound and beer-less, the sand piled up in our battered tent. We considered our unclimbed objective, explored Onion Creek in the snow, considered free climbing with gloves anything to keep us motivated. It seemed hopeless. After a few aimless days, we left, unable to discern the desert from Patagonia, and bailed on the unclimbed buttress, terrified of the pounding we might take from the weather on our small, uncovered portaledge. We were demolished too. Rasta Wall turned out to be a beast of climb, one that we certainly underestimated, and which was made far tougher through our attempts to survive “Apocalypse: Castle Valley.” But what a trip! Our climb was likely the fourth ever ascent of the route and it offers serious climbing on a beautiful, natural line for those willing. More importantly, I got to learn from and further solidify a partnership that I’m sure will continue for years to come. Jim Beyer’s old anchor from mid-way up the wall is still hanging in my room, a testament to crueler times. The mudcaked webbing reminds me of what I’m missing. Summary Fisher Towers, Utah River Tower, Rasta Wall, IV A4 5.8
The Arches of GeTu Ben Custer (‘10) After a long week of work, we boarded an overnight train to the city of AnShun, in neighboring GuiZhou province People’s Republic of China. When I got home from work I packed in a frantic whirlwind and blasted out the door to meet my friend Pete. Almost all the way down the stairs from my 7th floor apartment, I realized I had forgotten the train
tickets, so I ran back up and then bolted out again. Because it was a national holiday, everyone was rushing to the train, bus stations, and airport. We had left early and Pete was trying to get a cab, but I was worried we might not be able to get one. He still hadn’t found one when I got there, but shortly after, we were fortunate enough to have a cab drop someone off right near us. We arrived at the train station an hour early. We met our friends, Ryan and Olesja, and boarded the crowded train with our stuffed 75-liter backpacks. We settled in and drank some whiskey to celebrate our departure. The train arrived in AnShun around 6:30am, which meant the train attendants woke us up at about 5:30am. It was still dark when we got a minibus to take us to GeTu. The driver took us to the wrong place, there was some arguing, and we came back to the train station, paying him partially for his efforts. We then organized another minibus that got us to GeTu without much hassle. The weather was cold and rainy, and it was forecast to be like that for the entire week. Shortly after we got to our guesthouse, we went climbing beside the GeTu river. The weather sucked and I was exhausted. I was not excited. Pete got on a climb first, warning Ryan and I that there was a wasp nest near the anchor at the top. I climbed next, and before I got to the nest Pete spoke of, I had already stuck my hand in a hole full of wasps! I lowered back to the ground. This sucks. Ryan then refused to climb it, so Pete, unhappily, had to climb back up and clean our gear off. Cold, wet, and stung – such was the beginning of GeTu. Pete recommended another route on the other side of the river. Before I knew exactly what the plan was, Pete was in the water checking the depth. “OK”, he said, and so we all took off our pants and shirts, hiked our packs extra high, and waded across the cold, murky, waist-deep water. Then, in our underwear, we made our way through a bamboo forest to a very nice climb. The climb was incredible but the weather was uninspiring. It wasn’t going to keep us down, though; we warmed up with dinner and whiskey and the next day set off for the huge arch that makes GeTu famous. It took us a half-hour to make it to the river crossing, and then it was 1,375 stairs – Pete counted – to the top of the path at the base of the arch. I on-sighted an 11a to warm up and then we decided to look for a multi-pitch route we had our eyes on. I belayed Pete on what he thought was the first pitch of our route, and around the fifth bolt he hit a tough move that made us think perhaps this wasn’t our route. After trying it a few times, he worked though the section, only to find the bolts becoming farther and farther apart. He sat on a large tufa, looking at the route running left, parallel to a bulge, and run-out. He climbed through this technical section below the bulge until he got to a point with a large hanging tufa. He made a desperate lookCCAJ
ing stab out and back with his left hand and slapped the tufa, pushing himself into the wall and enabling him to smear his feet on the route’s dusty, sloping face. I was mentally distracted, worrying about the MCAT, though I knew I should have left that stress in Kunming. I hopped on the route but didn’t feel like climbing, or even being in GeTu at that time, so I called it a day and went back to the guesthouse. After taking a walk and shooting some pictures, I studied for a little while, and felt more at ease. When Pete and Ryan got back, they were both happy to have redpointed the route. They even left the gear on it so I would have to go back and do it. They also found the multi-pitch route we had originally been looking for the day before. So we had our plan for the next day. We didn’t actually start climbing until about 11am. Pete climbed the first pitch. I seconded and Ryan followed last. Climbing in threes can be inefficient, and makes for crowded belay stations. I climbed the second pitch, which was a lot of fun and quite difficult. We crowded up at the second belay, and Ryan set off first this time on the third pitch, then Pete, and last me, carrying up our second rope. By this third pitch I was already a little tired, and carrying that rope made me
feel like I had an ass full of lead. At the top of the third pitch, we had a belay stance around a small tree growing out of the cliff. Pete set off again to lead the last pitch, which we all hoped would be easy. To leave the belay stance, he straddled me, and accidentally kneed Ryan in the head. Then a light rain stated again, and though the rock was dry, Pete took the first good whipper of the climb. We hoped it wasn’t that difficult of a section, but then he fell again, and again. Ryan and I were dreading having to go through this. Finally, Pete pulled through, only to fall again even higher up, and then again! Now we were really concerned. This climb needed to get finished, but it wasn’t going to let us go easily. Eventually, Pete pulled though to the final anchor, and I set off, accidentally kicked Ryan in the throat as I climbed out of the belay. I had no delusions about climbing really well. It was getting late, and I wanted to be done. The final belay stance had a spectacular view of the giant arch and the river below; we had about 150 meters of air between us and the ground. Pete and I sat miserable in the rainy cold, both scolding and cheering for Ryan to get his ass up. We drank a few sips of whiskey. “I would rather you drop your belay device than that flask,” Pete said, as he passed the flask to Ryan.
[This page] The unique cliffs of GeTu. Ben Custer
[Facing page] Rob Bishop climbing a colouir. Sam Pfeifer
Rappelling down was almost a huge screw-up, but luckily went well. Because the route was over-hanging, as Ryan lowered he got farther and farther away from the wall. Luckily, he was able to toss the end of his rope around a tree at the top of pitch three and pull himself in! I have to say, sometimes doing things like that becomes very little fun about half way through, and the best part is just being done. We took a rest day the next day and spent the rest of the trip on some nice, albeit, less adventurous climbs.
Ski-Mountaineering in the Melville Group Sam Pfeifer (‘12) Late May, 2011. Jack Fields (‘12), Garret Lund (‘12), Rob Bishop (‘12), and myself had just driven for 30 hours. The last week of school fogged our minds from the Springs to Golden, BC. Wide-eyed and giddy, we stood around a helicopter about to embark on a two-week ski-mountaineering expedition in the Melville Group of the Battle Range in the remote and craggy Selkirk Mountains. With a weather window that morning we were anxious fly in. After flying low under cloud cover, over and through mountains and valleys, we got dropped off in the middle of nowhere by our pilot Don Mctighe – “Of 19 years Selkirk experience.” Our excitement, however, proved to be a little premature as we found ourselves socked in, trapped under our mega-mid tent, with nothing to do for four days except smoke a cigarette found hiding in a puffy jacket. We endured without breeding too much animosity – or shortage of mature conversations – and when the weather broke we were that much more excited to strap on the crampons, shoulder the skis and see
what the lovely cirque had to offer. We warmed up on a dog of a route up Moby Dick Mountain (2,830m). The climb and descent went without event except for a great show by a wolverine, which we spied snooping around camp as we descended. Still feeling energetic, we headed straight up from camp the next day to climb a steep couloir on the South face of Mt. Proteus (2,802m). The summit stood in our sites all morning. After weaving our way through the icefalls we found ourselves staring up at a 55° slope that was cut to hell by avalanche paths. This was no surprise given that since our arrival we’d been hearing the continuous roar of snow cascade over cliffs and down slopes, moving like water, as steep rock heated up from the sun. The avalanches started late and we had awoken early so without ado we roped up and began to simul-climb the couloir. The front pointing was first class and the transfers from the slopes to the deep slide paths offered a nice reason for concentration as we motored up the snow. A cliff band toward the top encompassed the crux, but we topped out without event and, by god, not even breathing hard. We intended on continuing with a running belay over the fourth-class rock but with one look at the ridge we decided to pitch out the climbing. Jack started up the ridge on lead, placing several cams. As he continued, things got significantly spicier than the route should have been, and he decided to lower off a chockstone. Several options were then explored, including rappelling off the backside of the mountain. Fortunately, Garrett popped his head around the corner and found a way to get us back on route. We easily simul-climbed around the ridge, over the upper glacier, and up the talus pile to the summit. We gained the knife edge summit on a fixed belay with two snow pickets and one by one we all spent time soaking up the 360° panorama of mountains upon mountains upon mountains. A rest day found CCAJ
us gunning for the next best objective. The two climbs on the North ridge had given us a great view up, and most importantly down, the twin peaks of Claggart and Billy Bud. Maybe they’d been skied and maybe not. Either way we could see a safe route from the very top all the way back to camp. After skinning up a nice path we’d cut in our leisure the last week - it’s nice sleeping 100 feet from perfect turns - we started up another steep couloir. The climb on Billy Bud was uneventful save for a finicky cornice at the top that proved hollow and called for some digging to get around. We attempted Claggart next but got turned around by our better judgment. A doubly exposed super sketchy move on a knife ridge with ski boots hardly 20’ from the top was all that guarded the summit. Being the summit baggers we are, we climbed to the top of Billy Bud again for a long ski descent. The ski down, although icy, was smooth and fast and we found ourselves sunning our bodies back at camp by 9:30 that morning. We continued to climb and ski, summiting, Typee (2,701m) twice, Mount Butters (3,074m), and, on the final day, Redburn (2,776m). The day we summited Butters we skinned and skied a sign graph over 14 hours up and down through a pass, up and down the mountain itself, and then up and down the pass again – this “pass” being Typee (2,701m). With a couple weeks of mountaineering and 12 hours of fatigue dogging us we tried our best to traverse around Typee and back to camp, but it seemed that every ridge hid cliffs behind it and we could not continue eastward until we were about 20’ from the summit. We signed the logbook a second time for good measure. After summiting Redburn on the 14th day we decided to message our pilot with our SPOT device. When he arrived an hour later, he told us he “Slipped us in between his morning and afternoon appointments.” Seeing our footprints and ski tracks on Mount Butters from its first ski-descent during the flight out was truly a sight. Before we knew it, though, we were back in civilization – a liberal use of the term for Golden – packing up the car once again. The drive back to Colorado mirrored the drive up, save for all of us being more sun burnt, smelling far worse, and having enjoyed the opportunity to reset ourselves after the school year in the endless craggy peaks of the southern Selkirk Mountains.
The Dolomites Rachel Greenberg (‘02) When Jonathon and I were planning our trip to Italy, we 62
had visions of climbing alpine rock on the famous limestone towers in the Dolomites. We decided to stop at a few of Italy’s classic sport climbing areas en route to get a couple training days in on the steep rock. We first spent a day in Machaby for a spell of slab climbing on the metamorphosed, granitic rock. Composed of minerals like biotite and mica, it sparkles intensely in the sunlight. We did a little cragging and did some multi-pitch climbing on one of the big domes. The climbs overlook the vineyards, wineries, and the river that runs through town. It was a great introduction to small-town Northern Italy with good pizza, views of castles, and plenty of sunshine. Next stop was Arco, a touristy town on the northern tip of Lake Garda. Limestone cliffs, ranging in height up to 300 meters and hosting well over 3,000 routes, surround this area of Italy. We checked out the classic crags of Nago and Massone, while trying to avoid the sun. Arco is known for its heat and sunny weather. With a weather forecast that looked hopeful in the mountains, we decided to head to the Dolomites after the heat and the overhanging sport climbs had tired us out. The character of Italy changes dramatically upon arrival to the small mountain villages within the Dolomites. The towns feel much more Bavarian-esque and there is a strong German and Austrian influence evident in the architecture and the languages spoken. The roads into the Dolomites are winding and narrow but they literally put you right at the base of these huge limestone towers. We decided we would first climb around the Sella group, in the western part of the park, and work our way east to the famous Tre Cime. We found a spot to set up our tent for the night and prepared our packs and racks for a small, warm-up objective the next day, The Thumb on Punta Delle Cinque Dita. The next morning, we woke up to cloudy skies and a light drizzle. Since it didn’t look too bad, we decided we would still try to climb our attempted objective and just see what happened. Europe is all about taking lifts/trams to the base of climbs and this area was no different, except this lift looked like it might fall apart at any moment. Boarding the lift was quite exciting. It did not stop or slow down. One person runs and jumps into it followed quickly by the second. The lift operator closed the door and soon Jonathon and I were squished into a tiny, rickety cart and on our way up to the base of our route. We picked a very moderate objective since we had heard the ratings are sandbagged. Routefinding is challenging and the leader must be comfortable climbing well above marginal gear. Jonathon led the first several pitches and for most of the time we weren’t entirely sure if we were on route. As predicted, gear was sparse and route finding was difficult. The climb-
ing was easy, but it was quite steep for 5.5. The clouds and wind continued and the rock got looser. After several pitches we decided to bail. Later, the hut guardian told us that people don’t climb this route anymore because it is too loose. It didn’t seem like it would fit the definition of a classic Dolomite climb, despite being considered one. Not wanting to waste the day, we thought we might try a different route that we had read about in the guidebook. Jonathon ran back to the hut and took a picture of the topo. We decided to go up the normal route – the NE Face. We climbed four more steep pitches, still not entirely sure if we were on route but at least the rock wasn’t as loose. Then the wind started to blow and it started to sprinkle a bit. We decided to rappel the route. The rappel anchors all consist of one glued in piton with a large metal ring. That seems to be the standard here in the Dolomites. Once on the ground, the skies opened up and it began to pour. At that point, it didn’t quite look like our high pressure forecast was going to be accurate. After three days of rain, we decided that it didn’t seem too likely that we were going to get to climb anything in the Dolomites. The weather wasn’t going to cooperate with our time-restricted schedule and we were not psyched to sit around and wait for a possible sunny day. Fortunately, Arco is known for its year round sunshine and mild climate. We left the Dolomites on a rainy morning and returned to Arco that afternoon to sunshine and sport climbs.
We checked out some more great limestone crags with views of lakes and castles. We also did some adventurous multi-pitch climbs in the valley. On our final day in Italy, we climbed the lower and upper walls of Monte Colt, a large limestone formation just north of Arco. Monte Colt hosts 100’s of routes of all levels and lengths and we went up Ape Mania to Nemisis. It was 12 pitches of climbing over 300 meters, mostly in the 5.10 range, with pitches up to 5.11c. The rock was typically solid, with just an occasional loose rock here and there. It was not so polished like many of the popular cragging areas in Arco, so the friction was pretty good. And the yellow and grey colors of the limestone beautifully contrasted the blue and green colors of the landscape below us. The climbing was entertaining and engaging, consisting of stemming up dihedrals, positive edges, and some excellent exposure on some pitches! Even though we got rained out in the Dolomites, it was still a great trip to Italy. Climbing continues to remind me to be flexible, have patience, and take in the whole experience. I have learned that climbing internationally is not always about the climbing necessarily. There are many more adventures beyond the actual climbing that range from sampling the local food and deciphering a new language to navigating the foreign lands. It was a grand adventure! [This page] Rachel starts up The Thumb in the Dolomites. Jonathon Spitzer CCAJ
At 11:30pm I was still scrubbed and operating. A long day had turned longer as a late afternoon emergency department consult turned into an urgent operation. The unfortunate gentleman had bowel black from lack of blood supply. The operation was tedious and complicated, and errors were not acceptable. After 2 hours and 47 minutes we sewed the abdomen shut, pulled down the operative drapes, and took the patient to recovery. On our way, my chief asks what I will be doing this weekend. I respond “Well sir, I am driving up to Tuolomne to do some climbing.” He was astonished, to say the least, as I wouldn’t be home until past 1 am. Jeremy Roop (’06), one of my long time climbing buddies, was waiting in Berkeley at 6 am. Blasting our pre-climbing pump-up techno song, I pulled in fast to the parking lot outside of his apartment. Gear was thrown into the cab of the truck and we were off. The drive to Yosemite passed in a blur. 64
Sleep deprivation, sensory overload, and excitement for the day propelled us. The reality of adulthood is that sometimes work takes precedence over sleep and our passions. However, Jeremy and I were pushing through the fatigue. At noon we arrived at the Cathedral Lakes trailhead. We grabbed our harnesses, some water, and a rap line. The pines gradually receded into the alpine, and before long we were at the base of the Matthes Crest, a jagged fin of rock high in the Sierra. We soloed fast, yet controlled. Each move was contemplated and executed with perfection. Passing slower parties at will, we charged to the summit. The rappels were uneventful. At the base, we both fell asleep in the grass. Waking up after a brief nap, we headed back toward the trailhead. However, Cathedral peak beckoned us. The setting sun cast a soft orange light on the white granite. The temperature was perfect, and we were in sync.
Looking at each other, we both knew what was next. Charging to the base of Cathedral, we headed up the granite. The air was soft, my body felt light, and that incredible aura of just being surrounded me. Far from the stresses of my profession I reconnected to a part of me that had been suppressed during the preceding week. That solo was one of the best of my life. One recurring theme in this year’s journal are personal responsibilities, and how we use climbing as a way to balance and justify these responsibilities. Each of us has burdens that we impose on ourselves, or are imposed upon us, yet, we still find ways to chase the fading light on mountains and cliffs.
We must grasp, if only for a moment, that feeling of freedom that we associate with experiencing life to the fullest. We are all connected through our experiences at Colorado College yet I would argue we are more closely connected through our shared love of climbing. Reach out to those who share in your passion, create bonds and friendships between years and between climbing disciplines. Around a campfire share the stories, the legends, and the challenges that make us all so unique, yet so similar. Please be safe out there and happy climbing, -Joe Forrester (‘06)
Dear journal patrons, Colorado College students, alumni, and friends, We hope that you have enjoyed the 2010 Colorado College Alpine Journal. In these pages you have read about some of the past year’s adventures of Colorado College climbers old and new, both in Colorado and around the world. Our goal is to capture the experience of being a CC climber, and record that experience for others to enjoy, reminisce about, and draw inspiration from. The members of the editorial staff have put countless hours into making this an exceptional publication. In order to produce the CC Alpine Journal each year, we rely solely on grants and revenue from advertising space. We hope you enjoy receiving the CC Alpine Journal every year and want to see it continue. Your support will help make this possible. To help offset the costs of publishing and shipping, we are providing ways for our readers to help support the journal financially. You can make a charitable donation to the Colorado College, designated for the CC Alpine Journal, to help support the production and distribution of this unique publication. Contributions can be made by any of these three convenient methods: 1) Visit http://www.coloradocollege.edu/giving/ and follow the instructions. Make sure to specify that you would like the donations to go to the Colorado College Alpine Journal. 2) You can call toll free (800) 782-6306 – Hit menu
[Facing page] Joe Forrester soloing Cathedral Peak. Jeremy Roop [Back cover] Hanson Smith (‘14) heads up the
option 3 – and you can charge your gift with a Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or Discover card 3) Finally, you can mail a check to the Colorado College, and write “Colorado College Alpine Journal” in the memo line. Here is the address Development Office The Colorado College P.O. Box 1117 Colorado Springs, CO 80901-9897 All donations go directly to the production and distribution of the journal. The alumni and student editors receive no financial compensation for any of their work. We would sincerely appreciate any financial support that you could provide. Please help us continue the publication of the Colorado College Alpine Journal. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns about the journal, please feel free to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or find us on Facebook by searching “Colorado College Alpine Journal”. Sincerely, The Colorado College Alpine Journal Staff
classic Center Route on Cynical Pinnacle, CO, during a warm fall day. Erik Rieger CCAJ
THE COLORADO COLLEGE
The 2011 edition of the Colorado College Alpine Journal.