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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–past and present– through writing, photos, and artwork via this free publication.





[Cover] Joel Irby (‘06) leads one of the upper pitches of West Side Story, a 1969 first ascent by Harvey Carter (‘56), Art Howells, Don Doucette, Mike Dudely, Morgan Gadd, & Herbie Hendricks. Dave & Joel Collection [This Page] Tim Gibson (‘10) climbs an impressive corner on South Howser Tower, Bugaboos. Tim and partner, Jon, climbed several new routes (p. 66). Jon Schaffer CCAJ


In Memory of

Harvey T. Carter

“If you think you have done a first ascent, regardless of how obscure it is, don’t count on it.”

1932-2012 Class of 1956


CONTENTS Editor’s Note......................................................10 Letters.................................................................12 Climbs, Expeditions, and the Climbing Life:

Colorado and the Desert.............................16

Local Hero Profile: Dan Crossey.................44

Wyoming, Yosemite, and Beyond...............46

Final Thoughts....................................................80 [Left, background] The Fisher Towers, one of Harvey Carter’s stomping grounds. Joe Forrester (‘06) [Center, foreground] Harvey Carter (‘56) displays a collection of his pitons. Photo courtesy of Dave Philipps [Above] The iconic threaded hole on Fantasia, a Harvey Carter and Steve Kentz route on The Oracle, also in the Fisher’s. Joel Irby (‘06) CCAJ




thanks to the friends of the ccaj for their generous support: The American Alpine Club Boulder Rock Club/ Colorado Mountain School City Rock Colorado College Outdoor Education Critical Care & Pulmonary Consultants Individual Donors Kicker Sound Systems The Life of the Mind Grant Mountain Chalet Reel Rock Film Tour The Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund

David Fay (‘13) climbing Men at Work in the Garden of the Gods. Read about his adventures in the Bighorn Range of Wyoming (p. 55) and in Refugio Frey (p. 76) in this year’s edition. Erik Rieger (‘12) CCAJ


STAFF Board of Directors Joe Forrester (‘06), Dave Hoven (‘06), & Erik Rieger (‘12) Senior Editor Nielsen Davis (‘15) Additional Editors Miles Griffis (‘16), Ryan Guerra (‘15), & Lucas Schaffer (‘15) Contributor Hanson Smith (‘14) Design Nielsen Davis (‘15) & Jack Rodat (‘15) Additional Thanks To Elizabeth Pudder Debby Fowler Chris Noble Dave Philipps

A view of the Khumbu valley from Camp III on Lhotse from Hilaree O’neill’s (‘95) link up of Everest and Lhotse (p. 63). Hilaree O’neill 8




EDITOR’S NOTE I’ve climbed the route New Era, in the Garden of the Gods, more than any other. It’s not hard to formulate a reason––the route is transporting. In maybe twenty minutes, one can go from sitting in class to racking up at the route’s base. Whenever the protection isn’t there, the heavily featured face is. A 15’ stretch of splitter crack is reminiscent of a dustier version of some desert classic, and despite the signs of the hundreds of swallows that inhabit the route, pulling out of the dark corner and onto the airy, final face always makes everything drop away. Though the Garden is far from an alpine environment, with the cars circling below or people stopping to point and take photos, the final section of New Era has always inspired a similar sense of remoteness. I imagine that this sense of remoteness would be even more powerful if our modern protection was relented for the headspace between each of the weathered angle pitons that CC alumni Harvey Carter (’56) used to complete the first ascent of the route in 1959. I never met Harvey, but it’s impossible to avoid his influence on the sport. This is especially true belonging to the Colorado College climbing community because of his heavy hand in establishing so many of the climbs that make up our training and stomping grounds.

In his sixty-plus years as a climber, Harvey completed over 5,000 first ascents, with each one recorded in a stack of notebooks. This number contains the first ascents of many routes in the Garden of the Gods, three of the Fisher Towers’ summits, the Priest, and many other routes throughout Colorado and the Desert Southwest. His other accomplishments include creating the first “sport climbs” in the Garden of the Gods using drilled angle pitons, the organization of the first bouldering competition in 1956 (also in the Garden), and the establishment of Climbing Magazine in 1970. Harvey’s impact on climbing culture and the Colorado College climbing community is so widespread that we have dedicated this edition of the CCAJ to his life and legacy. We encourage you all to learn more about the man who has paved the way for so many of our adventures and inspired many more beyond these areas that we all call home. Many of these adventures are documented within the following pages––from climbing here in the Garden of the Gods, to the Utah desert, and beyond. We hope that the 2012 edition of the Colorado College Alpine Journal helps bring you there. —Nielsen Davis (‘15)

[This page] Alex Hager (‘15) leads the final section of New Era. Nielsen Davis [Facing page] Erik Rieger (‘12) and Cole Kennedy (‘13) climbing “somewhere above Cheyenne Canyon.” You’ll have to ask them for the specifics. Photo courtesy of Trask Bradburry 10




LETTERS Generations of Crushers Thank you to the editors and founders for hatching another Colorado College Alpine Journal. During our years at CC, we talked endlessly about our climbing forefathers—Ellingwood, Ormes, Carter, Webster, Hong, Gallagher, Gadd, Coombs, and Kellogg. As the years go by, the CC climbing legend grows with Norton, Rutherford, Sorkin, Ozturk, O’Neill and the new realm of CC-infused movie making at Sender Films and Big Up Productions, among so many other names. Many of you who I have never met continue to inspire and amaze, whether reading the CCAJ, a Ritt Fund application, a story in a Patagonia catalog, or a Facebook post from Oman. I want to express gratitude for fueling our passions! Because I value the CCAJ mission, I forced my way into a volunteer sponsorship sales role this year. I want to thank Peter Mortimer and Nick Rosen from Sender Films/REEL ROCK, and Mike Alkaitis from

Colorado Mountain School/Boulder Rock Club for participating as 2012 CCAJ sponsors. Your contribution allows the CCAJ to produce a top quality book every year, and keep it free for our readers. If you look around you will find CC grads at virtually every level of the outdoor industry. Their leadership can provide a beacon for current students and recent graduates. Congrats to Erik Rieger (‘12), the former CCAJ editor, who landed a job as an editor at the American Alpine Journal. If you are making your move beyond CC and building your future, reach out to the leaders who came before you. We are easy to find through social media, and friendly to boot! The CCAJ provides posterity and continuity of a proud tradition that pays it forward to the next generations. I urge you all to write and contribute your stories annually. My own comeback this year on the Incredible Hulk stoked the climber’s passion that burns in every avenue of my life. Make a climbing goal, write down your experiences, pull out your smart phone and snap a few shots. Climb safely, have fun, and be inspired in 2013.

–Kishen Mangat (‘96)

Pushing Forward I just wanted to say thank you for continuing what has become a great publication to which I look forward to every year. It’s inspirational to read about the radness of the younger generations and has led to a tremendous summer and fall climbing season for me personally. It started with Positive Vibrations on The Incredible Hulk in July, probably the best route I’ve ever climbed (with Kishen Mangat (‘96) and Matt Pierce). This was followed by three consecutive weekends on the Diamond (with Monte Lunacek, Nick Rosen (‘96), and Erik Rieger (‘12), respectively), which included my 12th successful ascent of the wall and separately my eighth completed route. Then, with a sore shoulder I decided to ease off a bit and onsight free-soloed the Ellingwood Arête on Crestone Needle and linked it up to Crestone Peak on a perfect September day. And, finally, to close out the season, I made two late trips to the Black: one in late October, still milking my shoulder and climbing Lauren’s Arête and Maiden Voyage (with Jes Meiris); the 12


other in early November, climbing Ghost Dancer Arête for my 10th route in the canyon. This was an especially memorable and epic adventure shared with Erik Rieger (‘12), as it was his first foray into the depths of the canyon. All of this at the ripe old age of 39, and with very little training to speak of; I literally didn’t climb for four weeks prior to the Hulk and almost not at all in between the rest of these adventures! So maybe there’s hope for a brilliant birthday cele-

bratory climb next year? But even if it doesn’t come together, I’ll continue to push forward in whatever I’m doing in life, and knowing I have the Journal to help me through when I can’t find the time for the big stone. Best, and thanks to everyone, keep crankin’! –Bosier Parsons (‘95)

[Previous Page] Vincent Mangat waits for his rope gun. Kishen Mangat (‘96) [This Page] Climbing unites! CC alumni Kate Rutherford (‘03) and Madaleine Sorkin (‘04) meet up with current CC students Owen Anderson (‘13), Luke Rasmussen (‘14), Hanson Smith (‘14), John Collis (‘13), Nich Koch (‘13), and David Fay (‘13) on a block break this past September on the North Rim of the Black Canyon. Madeleine Sorkin. CCAJ





Kate Rutherford (‘03) climbing The Free Nose in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO. Chris Noble CCAJ


Colorado and the Desert 16


The Anaconda Challenge: An Homage to the Garden Luke Rasmussen (‘14)

It was starting to get dark and I was beginning to get worried. The daylight faded fast and I was not looking forward to the many strenuous and awkward moves that lay before me. It looked like I was in for a few more hours of grunting and cursing before I would finally reach my goal, but I had to do it. I couldn’t bail now. There was no retreat. I was going rock climbing the next day and I really needed to finish fixing my car that night. I was epic-ing. Damnit. Not on a rock climb, however, but in trying to coax my wheels into rekindling the relationship they once had with my steering wheel. But, like I said, the next day I was going rock climbing, and the psyche factor was high. Miraculously, the next afternoon, I was successful in using my steering wheel to direct my car and pick up Julian Kraus-Polk (‘15) and Hanson Smith (‘14). They tossed their packs into the back of my old Land Cruiser, a.k.a. The Cruiser, with the familiar sound of clinking cams, and we set off in search of the finest desert sandstone that the west had to offer. There was only one caveat: I hadn’t quite put my steering wheel back together. There were still a few missing nuts and bolts, but that was alright because we were running on pure psyche. It was an absolutely gorgeous sight to behold. The sandstone formations stood erect before us, glowing in the afternoon light. It was almost as if we had entered a garden fit for the gods. That’s right, we weren’t climbing the internationally renowned cracks of Indian Creek nor were we standing at the base of one of those proud sandstone monoliths of the desert. We were at a place best known as “The Garden.” While it may be the bane

of many CC climbers, I see it as my life-source. But as much as it should be revered, it should also be feared. The first pitch of Anaconda (5.11c, 3 pitches) rises up beautiful sandstone and immaculate cracks. The second pitch, however, does not. To quote mountain project, “The second pitch looks heinous, a pigeon-shit encrusted slot.” Having climbed this pitch twice before with the illustrious Hannah Trim (’14), I could safely say that this was a serious understatement. Sure, the encrusted pigeon shit makes some of the jams a little insecure, as it has about the same friction coefficient as lubricated polytetrafluoroethylene, but really it’s the fresh pigeon shit that oozes between your fingers with every poorly placed hand jam that makes this pitch a true classic. Even more exciting are the rotting pigeon carcasses of birds that spent their last moments of life wedged securely within the cracks. Knowing all this, I offered to take the first lead and leave the rest up to Hanson and Julian. I led the first pitch on gear only, ignoring the drilled pins, and enjoyed myself quite thoroughly on this classic pitch to the first set of anchors. Above this, the climbing gets a bit spicier. I placed a couple cams while I rested and then started up. Soon I realized that it would be pointless to fiddle around with gear, so I ran it out, finger-locking and heel-hooking my way to glory. I was happy not to test how good the gear really was in Garden sandstone. As I brought up Julian and Hanson, I looked up at the pitch to come. It looked every bit as heinous as I remembered, but nonetheless the psyche factor was still high. All situated, I happily handed Hanson Smith the sharp end. He started up, leaving behind the chalked holds of the classic first pitch and entering the super-mega-classic terrain of the second pitch; this is where the adventure climbing begins. Having already paid my

[Facing Page] A textbook trad anchor. John Catto (‘82) [This Page] Julian Kraus-Polk (‘15), Luke Rasmussen (‘14), and Hanson Smith (‘14) enjoying the spoils of victory after summiting Anaconda. Hanson Smith CCAJ


might hold. Sure enough, there it was, in the very place I had left a prize waiting the year before. We toasted another great afternoon in The Garden before rapping off an unidentifiable metal object pounded into a pothole and a manky pin. Climbing in The Garden can easily fill your lust for adventure despite the paved sidewalks and the hordes of tourists gawking at you. There’s no reason to drive nine hours to the desert when you can drive ten minutes and have the same experience. To quote Tim Gibson (‘10) in an video posted by Noah Gostout (‘10), “The Tower of Babel is the reason I’m never going back to the desert.” So, go do it. If you’re still at CC you can be climbing Anaconda at the very latest by tomorrow, if not right now. If not, come back and relive the experience that is Garden climbing. Besides, you never know what type of prize you might find on the summit. So that’s the challenge! Battle pigeon infested crack. Retrieve 40’s, or perhaps whiskey. Achieve veneration! Summary Garden of the God’s, CO Anaconda, 5.11c

Trad Gone Bad dues, I got to sit back and relax as I watched Hanson squirm his way into the slot above. This task is not easily accomplished, but after many expletives and various “techniques” he finally managed it. The pitch was far over, though, and as he pulled a roof into a bomber fist-crack I heard him yell down to us, “This is fucking bullshit.” Pigeon matter began raining down onto us. From then on, I kept my mouth firmly shut. Hanson trudged on, and, soon, it was my turn to climb through the pigeon graveyard. Quickly enough, I finished climbing the worst of it, or—depending on how you look at it—finished climbing the most classic pitch in The Garden. We handed off the sharp end to Julian and he romped up the last pitch, bringing us to the summit of the Tower of Babel. As we sat there, high on our perch, we looked down on a view of The Garden with the sun setting behind Pikes. I’m sure the hundreds of tourists who had watched our ascent would kill to photograph it with their iPhones. Personally, it was my third time seeing this view and the reason was soon clear as I further explored the summit, checking potholes to see what treats they 18


John Catto (‘82)

It “broke bad” after the ninth or tenth hammer blow; the id did, not the bit. My psyche just crumbled. Desperate pounding on the button-head bolt didn’t drive it any deeper than the tool’s second strike —the proverbial round peg in a square hole, or rather, in one too small. The mistake crushed my confidence and sapped my courage completely. Stepping gingerly downward on feldspar caltrops, I retreated cautiously. Out of bolts, out of nerve, out of there. This quest for wild rock started as it should: with a vigorous hike through endless deadfall shlepping ponderous packs. Hours of maddening obstacles made for slow travel to the cliff’s base, but it was worth the hassle. In a rare contradiction to Pete’s truism that most cliffs usually “Look good from afar, but up close are far from good,” the rock quality looked excellent from the base. But there had to be a less convoluted way. After a bit more bush whacking and map studying, we found it. For four days last June, Max Kendall (‘84) and I, with help from Peter Gallagher (‘80) and Colorado Springs climbing veteran Mark Hesse, toiled on a new

line, establishing four pitches on superlative Pike’s Peak granite. Recon photos revealed an elegant and direct route, possibly over 160m in length. Once at the base, Max made quick work of pitch one. It ended at a small stance with an anchor that would have made Harvey Carter (‘56) grin—a #10 Hex slotted sideways and a double sling wrapping a rock horn the size of a rhino’s neck. The crack on pitch two appeared to be the key to the crystal-studded faces above. From the belay, the line traversed right into a prominent, left-facing corner with a bit of wide-crack climbing at first, then excellent stemming. Higher, the corner crack got quite wide but a finger crack led out right, out of the dihedral, and onto the face in a series of traversing moves that left us giggling from the exposure. Holds appeared as if summoned. With hooks for protection, I drilled one bolt for pro and two for anchors at the crack’s terminus. All in all, a superb pitch. Satisfied with our progress on day one, we descended. Day two: Max and I swapped leads. On pitch three, after placing three bolts, I ran out of standard 3/8” bolts and reached for the reserves. Unfortunately, the back-up bolts (the aforementioned button-heads) needed a slightly bigger hole, and I didn’t have the proper drill bit. I also didn’t have the cojones to climb the remaining sixty feet up the crystalline face with no protection in sight. We went down and regrouped at Pete’s place in Manitou. Naturally, a discussion ensued over beers and steaks. We all had a strong traditional preference to

climb ground-up. But would this be a better climb if we placed the bolts on rappel, mapping out the protection thoughtfully? Even armed with the right kind of bolts, I’d probably drill a bolt ladder while standing on dicesized holds for two more pitches. Age seems to temper ambition. I knew that not even the appropriate hardware would empower my broken spirit to drill on lead again. We’d finish the line from above. On day three, our approach linked up with a good trail below Mt. Vigil. The path ended at the summit after some exposed moves protected by a bolt. We scrambled up and over, continuing down the southwest aspect to the top of the route. We top-roped the last two pitches. Bolt placements were marked by the first climber and reviewed by a second climber, then drilled. The next day, we went back and climbed the route from the ground up, adding a direct start, which makes the first pitch even better. It was what we’d hoped for—a good adventure and a splendid new route off Gold Camp road. Though a total of 20 bolts were placed (including four for anchors), the climb is neither a bolt ladder, nor a fright-show. It won’t give the aging traditionalist a heart attack, but it will challenge the skills, and gently tweak the nerves, of most climbers. The rating might be harder or easier, but the consensus is solid 5.10. Though the “old guard” didn’t succeed entirely as vigilantes of the traditional, we did sniff out and climb a gem of a route. I hope the truth, that trad went bad,

[Facing Page] Hanson Smith (‘14) goes searching for pigeons on Anaconda. Luke Rasmussen (‘14) [This Page] Trad Gone Bad has never looked so good. John Catto (‘82) leading pitch 1 of a new route. Mark Hesse CCAJ


The Casual Route Hanson Smith (‘14)

doesn’t spoil it for anyone. Summary Old Stage Road, Colorado Springs, CO Trad Gone Bad, 5.10, 4 pitches, FA by The Old Guard: John Catto, Max Kendall, Pete Gallagher, & Mark Hesse Gear - Double rack of cams- micro to #4 camalot, and one #5 camalot (big pieces really help on P2) - Set of medium to small wires, RPs helpful too - 10-12 draws, 2-4 slings, 1 double sling Descend by continuing up and over the top of Mt. Vigil and down to col just west of the summit. On approach, it is recommended to leave packs at col and descend to base of climb in rock shoes.

The diamond was something I had wanted to climb ever since first coming to Colorado. The year before coming to CC, some friends and I attempted to climb Kiener’s Route in the spring. I remember looking up at the Diamond and feeling in the pit of my stomach how impossible and terrifying the wall was. Fast forward three years— Erik Rieger (‘12) and I are up early getting ready to start hiking. As we looked up the trail it was surreal seeing a sea of headlamps headed toward the Keyhole Route. We arrived at the base of the North Chimney around sunrise. This is when we had an unfortunate lapse in decision-making, electing not to bring a puffy or tag line. From this point on, the belays would be cold and we were committed to the summit. Erik climbed the North Chimney right into the Casual Route via two vegetated pitches—nearly passing the party ahead. I had the pleasure of taking the next lead and linked the second and third pitches, which made for one of the coolest alpine pitches I’ve ever climbed. Erik turned the three dihedral pitches into two and deposited us at the base of the crux pitch. Some climbers call the crux 5.9+ and others call it 5.10a. I call it 5.9 A0. Right as I got to the belay, the weather started deteriorating. Erik hurried up the pitch as graupel rained down on us and our fingers turned into hot dogs. I rushed through an easy traverse pitch that got us to the rappel anchors on Table Ledge. Now that it was snowing, we regretted not bringing the tag line. We soloed upper Kiener’s as the storm brewed. I can’t say this was a pleasant experience. When it comes to soloing I am a big chicken. I spent the tougher portions of the climb protecting myself with a piece clipped to my daisy chain. On the summit, there were high winds but relatively clear skies. We were alone. The smart and prepared climbers had summited earlier or rappelled from Table Ledge. After a quick snack, we started hiking down the Keyhole. Hiking up that morning, I had imagined all the Keyhole climbers as “REI-outfitted yuppies out for a day of summit-bagging.” I was forced to reconsider this stereotype, however, as the Keyhole contained many slippery no-fall sections. We were fortunate enough to meet some of the supposed yuppies camping in the boulder field. After they gave me water, I felt they were

[Photo] Max Kendall on pitch four of Trad Gone Bad. John Catto (‘82) 20


more akin to saints. When we reached the split in the trail, I rested my aching knees while Erik ran up to get our packs from Chasm Lake. With this act of kindness, he became a saint in my mind as well. While I was waiting, I talked with some climbing rangers hiking up to their cabin by Chasm Lake. They were extremely nice and made me feel better about our mini-epic by pointing out that there were still climbers on Pervertical Sanctuary. As I grew colder, I met Erik on his way down, and we began the longest and most painful five-mile downhill hike I’ve ever done. Reaching Boulder, we managed to find a McDonald’s and I ate one of the most delicious Big Macs of my life. Back at Erik’s place, I didn’t pause for a moment of reflection. I was exhausted, full of fast food and happy. I simply closed my eyes and shut down. Summary The Diamond, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO Casual Route, IV 5.10a

All Two Obvious Sam Dexter (‘10)

Over the two years since I left Colorado College, I’ve had the realization that I, in no way, have left the Colorado College climbing community. When sport whipping at crags in Maine last summer, I listened to the ever-astounding beer drinking tales from Andy Newman (‘05); three pitches up on Cathedral Ledge, I heard the calls of Michael Wejchert (‘08) from a prow a hundred feet to my right; I met up with Noah Gostout (‘10) at the New River Gorge, established boulders in the northeast with Hayden Miller (‘10), ate pepperoni rolls in the backwoods’ Seneca Rocks with Nathan Brand (‘11), took myself less than seriously while bouldering in Flatirons with Chris Barlow (‘04), and watched a frazzled Hale Melnick (‘10) turn cleaning a six-bolt sport route into a memorable and epic struggle. I was blessed to share as many laughs as rock climbs with a group of friends and climbers who stretch the expanse of the U.S. One of the perks of this community is how damn strong and competent everyone is—all shenanigans aside. This has given me the capacity to push my limits in scenarios I previously felt uncomfortable. One of CCAJ


these moments came this past Spring, as Tim Gibson (‘10) and I racked up outside of his cottage—a small building that looked more at home on a Lord of the Rings set than a Boulder alleyway. We planned to take advantage of the early season weather in RMNP. The goal was Spear Me the Details, an excellent thin face climb looming above Glacier Gorge. The grade seemed intimidating for my first alpine climb of the season, but I had Tim with me, so thought little of it. We left Boulder before dawn and made our way north. Our pace and energy elevated as we made our way through the Black Lake Cirque, with the obvious Spearhead always overlooking us. A light snow-year made the final halfmile a relative cakewalk, with only 100’ of post-holing required to reach the base of our intended route. As terrible as drought, global warming, and a crap ski season are, those factors certainly make for excellent early summer alpine climbing. We swapped leads and worked our way onto and over Middle Earth Ledge and by the obvious “Eye of Mordor” feature. The fluidity of the climbing was interrupted, however, as we began fussing with the topo. We quickly found ourselves second guessing which tat nest was what anchor, and what on earth was a “hole in the wall?” After two more pitches of stellar climbing, we realized we were off route, but given the great climbing and stable weather decided that we also didn’t care. We continued up what we determined to be All Two Obvious (IV 5.11d R), an ironic name given that we were halfway through the climb and had no idea where we were. 22


After I lead a shallow dihedral, Tim cranked through a small but beautiful finger crack roof and face, into another series of corners. The rock was clean, vertical or just shy of, and offered decent exposure. The next pitch was mine, the crux pitch of the route. I lay back on our anchor and scoped the terrain. There was 30’ of highly improbable face climbing followed by a blank entry into a dihedral with a thin, tips-at-best seam running along the first five feet. Protecting the face were several shiny bolts—confidence boosting if not for the run-out between them. With a nervous smile, and a “I’m glad your leading that shit” from Tim, I unclipped and moved my feet along the face. Calves pumped and fingers turning white from desperately grabbing granite crystals, I slipped after the second bolt, taking a pendulum back toward Tim at the anchor. Feeling better, but no more confident on the moves, I whipped several more times at the crux before desperately stepping up into the dihedral after a powerful sequence. Legs shaking, but in easier terrain, I moved through the unprotected seam before getting a less-than-inspiring mid-size cam and stepping right into the next corner system. At this point, I had upgraded the pitch several letter grades in my head to boost my confidence (as all the best climbers do). A beautiful 5.10 layback followed, and Tim finished the climb up the clean headwall to the summit. The rock quality was excellent, the entire climb thought provoking, and spicy. Tim and I were quite pleased with our route finding error as we topped out the granite dome. We finished with a quick third-class scramble to

the summit and the traditional flashing of gang signs to prove that, although we were on top of a mountain, we belonged to the streets. The down climb was quick and painless. At this point in the day, Tim and I realized we had fallen into the fatal trap when most mistakes happen on the descent. We had forgotten victory beers. I tried to convince Tim to leave me to be trampled by the tourists, but he spoke of cheap Mexican food and not just a bottle of beer, but a whole growler full. With the strength of such promises, we finished the hike in good time and in good spirits. While not the most noteworthy of climbs, the day was a glimpse into the pleasures of belonging to a coalition of climbers where the company and community matter as much as the climb itself. With reconstructive shoulder surgery weeks away, I’ll hang on to these days as I struggle to pull up my own pants, tease myself with climbing movies, and read my CCAJ left handed.

dral—that if completed, we thought, would imbue us with everlasting climbing glory and renown. Thus began our goal of completing the unofficial Colorado Triple Crown. With bravado and excitement we began to plan. “Okay, okay…let me see…for Pervertical we need a full rack, eight alpines, a # 4…” “Cole, I don’t want to use your manky-ass #4.” “Hanson and Erik are injured. We’ll take theirs.” At 2 a.m., in the Long’s Peak parking lot, we

Summary Rocky Mountain National Park, CO All Two Obvious, IV 5.11d R

The Adventures of the Hubris Brothers: The Colorado Triple Crown Leland Krych (‘13)

The Diamond on Long’s Peak is without a doubt one of the most aesthetically gratifying walls in North America. Since the beginning of my climbing career I had been dreaming of floating up its lofty ramparts. This summer I was determined to fulfill this ambition. But how to siege the mighty wall? My partner-in-climb, Cole Kennedy (‘13), and I did what most climbing nerds do when planning a big objective. We consulted the great oracle: Mountain Project. Cole and I both agreed that the cattle route would be an improper introduction to the Diamond so we zeroed in on the next most feasible line, Pervertical Sanctuary. However, before we knew it, we had started planning more climbs to coincide with our Diamond adventure. “We need to check out the Edge once we’ve finished the Diamond! Look at that picture of Wunsch’s!” The psyche was profuse and before we knew it, we had concocted a long weekend of objectives—Pervertical Sanctuary, The Naked Edge, and Wunsch’s Dihe-

awoke to a group of be-lamped French people stepping over us. “Je suis désolé monsieurs!” they remarked. Soon, we could see long lines of light bobbing through the forest—an extreme infestation of turons. We quickly blew past the 40 hikers on the approach. At Chasm Lake, a faint glow started to appear on the horizon. Cole’s burrito from the night prior had left him in bad shape, but with the usual fortitude of a Hubris Brother, he pro-

[Facing Page] Sam Dexter (‘10) ascends a shallow dihedral on Spearhead’s fine-textured granite. Tim Gibson (‘10) [This Page] Leland Krych (‘13) on the splitter crux pitch of Pervertical Sanctuary. Cole Kennedy (‘13) CCAJ


claimed, “I’m going to do this climb even if it kills me.” We chopped steps up a small snowfield and joined the conga-line of climbers up the fabulously loose and wet chimney. Thirty minutes of hairy soloing and grassy climbing brought us to Broadway Ledge. To our dismay, a party of climbers had beaten us to the punch. We heaved a sigh of discontent and made our way to the base, to assume our spot in queue. Cole linked the first two 5.9 pitches into a mega rope-stretcher, which set me up nicely for the sandbagged pitch of sustained 5.9+ that followed. The crux pitch was next, and, upon making it to my belay, I could see that Cole was in no shape to lead the splitter overhanging slightly above our heads. I sucked it up, thrashing through the thin-hands crack, only to be confronted with its continuation above. The next pitch, a rope-stretching offwidth, sucked every last calorie from my body. After plenty of cursing, I flopped onto the belay ledge. One more pitch to go, I thought. Cole then brought us to the shoulder of Long’s peak. With a storm approaching, we ran up to the summit and then feverishly downclimbed the Cables Route. Hail pelted us as we jumped and jogged our way down the scree. We escaped, unscathed, un-electrocuted, and proceeded the seven miles down to the car. After a much needed rest day the Hubris Brothers set off for their next mission, Wunsch’s Dihedral (II 5.11). In the Cathedral Spires, we were greeted by bluebird skies and the joyful bubbling of the South Platte River. Temperatures soared over 95°F, too hot for the Breashear’s start. Disheartened, we scampered up the original 5.9 pitch, which planted us right below the amazing overhanging hand crack on the second pitch. We cruised up this baby, full of bird feces at the time, to the cave that denotes the start of the third pitch. My mouth waters just thinking about the third pitch: a roof with deep hand jams, which leads to a grueling, overhanging, finger-sized dihedral; the best pitch that I’ve climbed in the Platte. I aided through the ridiculous line of nubbins on the final pitch. We quickly scribbled in an ascent by the Hubris Brothers and started on our descent. Salvation! Two down, one more to go. At least that’s what we thought until we started the long hike down. A long-weekend already, we brooded on the way down. With important laboratory work and a trip to the Bugaboos later that week, we had come to a wordless agreement: the Naked Edge would have to wait. The Colorado Triple Crown is still out there for any audacious CC climber up for a good adventure. The Hubris brothers have since retreated to Colorado 24


Springs, nursing their egos and preparing for more impudent adventures. Summary The Diamond, Rocky Mountain National Park Pervertical Sanctuary, IV 5.11The Cynical Pinnacle, Cathedral Spires, CO Wunsch’s Dihedral, II 5.11

Unemployment Makes the Heart Grow Fonder Hale Melnick (‘10)

During the spring and summer of 2012, I had the best partner a climber could ask for: an unemployed one. Granted, not all unemployed climbers make for great partners—some are lazy, some are incompetent, and a few are so obsessed with climbing that I’d rather stick a nut tool in my eye than listen to their latest rant about grade inflation. But Tim Gibson (‘10) is none of these things. A talented and motivated climber, he will climb just about anywhere and on anything and be happy about it. Just plan for long days and don’t forget your headlamp. In July, Tim and I met up with CC alums Becca Schild (‘04) and Chris Barlow (‘04) to climb in Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a brutally hot summer, and the high alpine was an ideal refuge from the heat. We decided on Glacier Gorge, probably because of its suggestively cold name. On Saturday evening, we packed up Becca and Chris’s warrior-hula-princess-minivan, Jody, and in one giant push made it all the way to Lyons. After a quick sleep, we headed out, still in the darkness, to RMNP. As it turns out, getting to Spearhead involves a six-mile hike and a few thousand feet of elevation gain. I was completely oblivious to this fact when we left the trailhead and exhaustion almost claimed my life several times on the approach. But the payoff was a magnificent sunrise through one of the greatest national parks in the U.S. We traveled through forest, scree, and eventually high alpine lakes. Lily-pad-covered ponds and streams guarded by tall green grass surrounded us, and despite my pitiful, exhausted state, my spirit was high and I felt refreshed. I often forget about the magic of the wilderness, especially with so many roadside crags and gyms right by my house, but that awe-struck feeling came back quickly and has stayed with me for some time. After a few hours, we stood at the base of Spearhead under bluebird skies and a towering wall of granite.

I was psyched. My body kicked into high gear, and I immediately forgot about the ass-kicking approach. We racked up, and in a moment of brashness, decided to leave our second rope to eliminate the possibility of “bailure.” Oh yeah, it was on. Tim and I chose to climb Spear Me the Details a slightly less-than-vertical face up the center of the formation, with the understanding that Tim would take the scarier, harder pitches. Sparing the pitch-bypitch details—so that you don’t have to stick a nut tool in your eye—the climbing was fantastic. Consistently technical moves on bullet rock the whole way up. Upon first sight, the route seemed improbable, but wherever a crack petered out or the holds disappeared, there was always an edge or two to pull everything back together. We made quick work of the 700’ route and summited around noon. Becca and Chris met us at the top after climbing Stone Monkey (III 5.12a) and we hiked down as one big happy family. It was an amazing day and, surprisingly, my

only alpine climb of the year. I returned to the Park many times that summer to boulder in Chaos Canyon and Emerald Lake, but always with one eye to the high peaks. Since Tim moved away and into a job, I’ve had other partners, some employed, some not. But as it turns out, the best partners aren’t necessarily the ones without jobs. Rather, they are the ones who recognize the transcendence of wilderness and are willing to invest their time and effort into getting back as soon and as often as possible. That is really what makes for the best climbing partners. Summary Glacier Gorge, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO Spear Me the Details, III 5.11d

[This Page] Hale Melnick (‘10) on Spear Me the Details. CCAJ


Alpine Heavy and of Moderate Velocity By Peter Kernan (‘13)

Jack Fields (‘13) and I like to characterize our climbing adventures as “alpine heavy and of moderate velocity”. Our early summer trip to Rocky Mountain National Park was no exception. After a morning of climbing at Lumpy Ridge, we made the quick decision not to waste another night. As students, we looked up to older classmates; we had so far modeled our own progression off of Sam Wilson (‘09) and Rowan Hill (‘09), who had written a Ritt Kellogg Grant to the same area of the Selkirk Mountains in British Columbia, and climbed Petit Grepon following their trip. We decided it was fitting to once again follow in their footsteps nearing our one-year anniversary of that expedition. Thus began our hunt for good quality granite on

the Petit Grepon. We started hiking at the usual early hours toward Loch Vale and beyond. With an open-ended itinerary of one to three nights out, we shouldered a versatile, full pack each; it’s always nice to have avocados and cheese on the menu at all times. Soon enough, we were scrambling around boulders in the fading light attempting to find one of the established bivy sites. Jack surprised an unsuspecting victim in a cave, popping in and thinking he’d found our home for the night. Sorry! The search continued. Eventually, we found a bivy appropriately sized for a petite and astonishingly gorgeous woman. Jack didn’t last ten minutes and decided to sleep outside. Naturally, as morning came, we slept through the first alarm and approached the wrong tower. Quickly, we found the unmistakable start to the classic South Face route. Jack took the first lead linking the first two pitches. I linked the next two to match him— a chimney and wide crack made awkward by an excessively large “day pack.” Jack took the next couple pitches in one fell swoop, cruising the route’s 5.8 crux to the next spacious belay. Jack got to the belay ledge to find not one, but two men gnarring their teeth for the subsequent pitch. As I stepped onto the belay ledge, Jack said, “Hey Pete. We caught up with the party in front of us.” “Well, no kidding, I’m not surprised.” I said, acknowledging that Jack had exceeded our usually moderate velocity. “And they’re both CC grads.” “No way! Who is it?” “And you work with one of them.” “Rob!” I yelled, while simultaneously peering around the corner to see the man I expected hanging out at the belay above. Soon, a bond was established transcending the years of our respective graduations. Now a four-man team, we stepped out onto the traverse and the final exposed pitches of the Petit Grepon. It seemed a hand-selected CC reunion amongst the rocks and wind. Yet it was not overly surprising to find two fellow brethren continuing to explore and enjoy an art we’ve come to appreciate through our time at, and following, Colorado College. After all these years, we still find ourselves

[This Page] A CC reunion on the Petit Grepon. Peter Kernan (‘12) leads the last pitch of the South Face. Jack Fields (‘12) [Facing Page] The Crestone Needle basks in morning alpen-glow. CC proffesor Albert Ellingwood’s famous route goes up the center. Erik Rieger (‘12) 26


practicing climbing in an alpine heavy and of moderate velocity sort of way. Summary Petit Grepon, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO South Face, III 5.8

Continuing a CC Tradition Phil Armstrong (‘07)

As we pulled off the highway south of Westcliffe, the sun dipped behind the range’s crest, illuminating the Sangre de Cristo’s in their namesake fiery, red light. This would be our fourth trip to the basin, having experienced varying degrees of snow, rain, and hail on previous visits over the past ten years. I joined Elena Mihaly (’07), Justin Strauss (’06), and Tim Barker (’06), and we happily made the walk up to South Colony Lakes in the fading light. The next day we awoke to darkened, black skies, with rain and hail drenching the basin for the better part of the day. By dinner time the moisture had tapered off, and we feasted on chicken and curry. The potent kitchen smells attracted a lone bighorn sheep and a beautiful ram with a full curl. He watched us as we filled our bellies and the stars began to poke through the clouds. We woke just before dawn and made our way along the lakes to the base of the arête. We put on rock shoes and began the long solo, up, up and up, weaving through the cobbles, some as big as Elena. Near the top, we stopped to pull out the rope. I had a few moments to contemplate the many people and friends who have passed by these ledges. I thought of CC professor Albert Ellingwood and partner Eleanor Davis, clad in leather boots, creating a piece of history here in 1924. We pulled through the last pitch and made the short scramble to the summit. Smiles all around, we were happy to continue nearly one hundred years of CC tradition of standing on top of the Crestone Needle. Summary Crestone Needle, CO Ellingwood Arête, III 5.7

Crestone Needle Nick Koch (‘13)

Pike’s Peak folded into the foothills of the Front Range and the haze of the Waldo Canyon fire as we pulled out of Florence, CO, heading south along 67 toward Wetmore. The Wet Mountains stood to the west, granite and green. We had departed Colorado Springs at 6 a.m., hoping to ride during the brief gap between dawn and stupefying summer heat. Now through 40 of the trip’s 75 miles, we proceeded south through the Wet Mountains to Westcliffe. There, Leland Krych (‘13) and I would meet up with Hannah Trim (‘14) and Hanson Smith (‘14) to climb the Crestone Needle by the famous Ellingwood route on the north face of mountain. As we proceeded up the pass, the scenery shifted from desert to green mountain meadows and forests, accompanied by a welcome drop in temperature. We biked CCAJ


past gorgeous gneiss outcroppings and sweet-smelling meadows as the elevation increased. The pass leveled gently to flat roads on the open plain, upon which Leland’s rear tire kindly chose to go flat for the second time. I enjoyed an incredibly gorgeous cruise down into Westcliffe alone, meeting Leland at a gas station where the friendly people of Westcliffe attempted to patch his tube using car repair equipment. Hanson and Hannah met up with us later that afternoon and we proceeded to cram our gear, selves, and bikes inside their car as we bounced and jolted our way up the rocky South Colony road. Walking the trail to South Colony Lakes in the evening, we rose out of dense arboreal forests and into willows and marsh surrounding the lakes. From the uppermost lake, the Needle abruptly spikes out of the cirque, forming its southern wall. 28


We settled in early to get a 5 a.m. start and were treated to a brilliant, waxing moon. Leland and I chose to do the original start, while Hannah and Hanson chose the direct start. We moved quickly through the easy lower climbing on conglomerate rock, scree, and grassy ledges. In the middle of the approach we found ourselves among a herd of bighorn sheep. At first it was cool to be so close to wild animals on route, but it began to get hairy as the herd, some twenty of them, spooked and began to run away, dislodging huge rocks. After 1,500’ of climbing, we reached the base of an impressive right-facing dihedral on the main headwall of the peak. We simulclimbed the first 200’ of the wall, moving between easy corners on beautiful conglomerate rock. After reaching a broad, grassy ledge, we switched roles, and I led the next 150’ of jamming up the corner. This was the most stellar portion of the route. The protection was easy and I soon reached the slab above, where we hiked the final fourthclass gully to the top, hitting the summit at 9:35 a.m. The view was clear, extending all the way north to Pike’s Peak, the Wet Mountains,

and the San Juans. Totally out of water, the decent was an exercise in not whining. We scrambled down a series of conglomerate chutes until we reached Broken Hand pass. Clouds were gathering so we went as fast as we dared down a scree trail, which slowly leveled into more stable ground and a smoother grade. After hiking around the lower lake, we retrieved our gear and hightailed it down to the parking lot. After bumping down the dirt road and bombing the freshly surfaced highway to Westcliffe, we enjoyed some faux-Mexican food and, exhausted, melted into our chairs like the cheese on our nachos. Summary Crestone Needle, CO Ellingwood Arête, III 5.7

The TurnKorner

Owen Anderson (‘13) Hypothermia began to take hold, and it became hard to think as I stared into the blood-covered gash in Pete’s leg. Our options were limited, and none of them looked good, but climbing through the waterfall on the next pitch seemed like the only way to avoid a rescue. Heading out that morning Peter Duker (’13) and I were determined to tackle one last traditional multipitch climb. It had been a great last summer of climbing in Colorado and we were looking forward to one more day of blue bird skies and classic climbs. We had no idea just how epic this day would end up being. Lumpy ridge has been an iconic Colorado traditional climbing destination for decades. As this was going to be my last big wall of the summer, I was determined to go out with a challenging classic. After lots of debating, Peter and I had settled on an area test-piece named TurnKorner. TurnKorner is one of the longest and most sustained climbs at Lumpy, ascending the most prominent line on the Sundance Buttress. Pete and I were nervous about the climb, as it was graded at 5.10, but with an off-width asterisk, it was known for shutting down 5.10 climbers. Despite this fact, we weren’t going to back down off of such a mega classic route, and were confident that we could handle it. That weekend, a group of Colorado College hardmen made Lumpy Ridge their proving ground. A 40% chance of rain was predicted and so it was decidedly an alpine start day. Unfortunately, Pete and I have different definitions of what an “alpine start” is, but we made good time while enjoying gorgeous meadowland, which turned gradually into a sparse forest along the valley floor. Once we finally made it to the impressive granite feature, the line was obvious—a wide crack ascending the middle of the steep, western face into roof system, each bigger than the last. Pete led the first pitch with buttery smooth execution. The next pitch began with 50’ of climbing on a runout face to a well-protected roof. I took the lead, and it went cooly, with interesting sequences through the roof and into a narrow chimney system. I belayed up Pete, and we soon gazed at the intimidating wide crack splitting the biggest roof above us. The next pitch was more of a siege than a climb: a tight offwidth with no feet. Pete looked helpless as he tried desperately to wriggle up the crack far enough to get his

feet over the lip. Suddenly, on the next pitch the rope pulled taught and I was suddenly yanked into the air. I heard a yell of pain. Pete had taken a 20’ fall, and swung into the wall, shin first. He reoriented himself and struggled on, finally gaining a stance, where he built an anchor. I climbed up to meet him, and he did not look good. The fire in his eyes was gone. I looked at the gash in his leg. It didn’t look pretty. A small hole was cut half a centimeter into his shin. I led the next two pitches. While building an anchor, I began to notice the clouds that had crept over the ridge and were now looming ominously above. Pete made it to the belay right as the first drips came down. “Do you think we should go for it or wait it out”. “Let’s wait,” I said, “It looks like it’s going to pass.” Quite the contrary. The storm built up quickly and before we knew it, our rain jackets were completely soaked through and we awkwardly cuddled for dear life. We didn’t say much, except the occasional curse. After about half an hour of helpless shivering, I started to think about calling for help. Thoughts of hypothermia kept going through my mind, but I refused to verbalize the idea to my miserable companion. I looked up at the next pitch: a stream of water funneled into the crack system, complete with a full waterfall in the middle of the pitch. “We should just climb it,” I joked. As the rain let up a little, it seemed like the perfect excuse to go for it. Pete cautiously proceeded to get me psyched. I gripped hard as I pulled through the waterfall. Above, I stared at the blank face, thinking about my options. I stood there thinking about all of the things I did not want to die for and the probability of success on those wet, slopey holds. There was only one choice: I had to try and get Pete and I out of this mess. I took a deep breath to regain focus and stepped out onto the ledge. For the first two steps I felt like I was barely on the rock. Brief moments where I had only one point of sloppy, wet contact made my breath stop. I kept reminding myself that this was just climbing. When I reached the jug, I screamed. The rest of the pitch was surprisingly easy in comparison, and by the time Pete had made it to the next belay, the rain had stopped and the sun was beginning to come out. We laughed about it while eating all of the food we brought, sun bathing for a good 45 minutes before finishing up the route on a dry scramble. Descending to the base brought some of the most

[Facing Page] Justin Strauss (‘06) climbing the upper portion of Ellingwood Arête with Humboldt Peak in the background. Phil Armstrong (‘07) CCAJ


poignant feelings of clarity and happiness I have felt in a long time. Spirits were high as the two of us sauntered the hike out, ignoring the exhaustion plaguing our bodies. We reminisced about the struggles we just endured and the awe of the line we just completed. Summary Sundance Buttress, Lumpy Ridge, CO Turnkorner, III 5.10a/b

The Dark Beauty of the Black: Stratosfear Madaleine Sorkin (‘04)

In 1859, an expedition floated through a canyon with German cartographer Friedrich von Egloffstein onboard. He drew gothic landscapes of unknown “soaring rock faces, the frothing river, the play of light on the narrow spaced walls,” labeling them the “Big Cañon” of the Grand River. Later historians miss-filed these images as depictions of the Grand Canyon and subsequently tarnished Egloffstein’s professional reputation. In 2000, author Jeremy Miller stumbled upon these images, and instantly recognized the Black Canyon. In an effort to restore Egloffstein’s reputation as a great American landscape artist and cartographer, Miller presented these wild images in Harper’s Magazine in January 2012, in an article titled, “The Long Draw.” I first understood the wildness of Egloffstein’s “soaring rock faces” and gothic pillars one spring night in 2000, on my first climb in the Black. The narrow canyon’s walls hypnotized me, and the pegmatite pulsated like veins, swelling and diminishing with the daylight. And then, as the light faded, my partner, Chris Barlow (‘04), and I experienced the sheer fright—or delight—of being 1,600’ up a wall in complete blackness. I found comfort in my contact with the stone and the stars above. The beams of light created by our headlamps helped guide us to a quiet rim filled with the fragrance of 30


pine and juniper. On a fall trip to the Black Canyon in 2011, I again delved into that dark world. My goal was to do the thirty-pitch Stratosfear (VI 5.10 X) on the Painted Wall with Jon Schaffer. Seven years ago I guided Jon and another less capable OWA camper up the Yellow Spur. I remembered Jon’s calm, and I felt proud when I discovered he had climbed over 100 routes, including a dozen first ascents and first free ascents, in the Black since I last saw him. Stratosfear is the longest route on the tallest wall in Colorado. Sections of poor rock quality and a difficult 400’ traverse some 2,000’ above the canyon’s frothing river adds to the committing and serious nature of the route. The seduction of the Painted Wall and promise of a new partner trumped my inhibitions over the route’s notoriety. We arrived at its base in the early light, and I stood

simultaneously entranced and repulsed looking up at the towering scree field. Steep roofs at the rim cap the route; we stood in the fall line of the hanging choss above. We began by picking our way through low angle terrain and prickly bushes. At a large, vegetated ledge, we broke off right from the Southern Arête and onto steeper terrain. The route finding is unobvious, but goes generally up a corner characterized by short sections of challenging moves. Jon took us through the crumbling 5.10X pitch with a no-big-deal attitude seemingly unique to 23-year olds. We reached the traverse well before dark, and I scanned the shallow ledges for the place a friend told me he had spent the night. As we made a slow, snaking traverse, the rock quality improved and the

wall cut away beneath our dancing feet. On another run-out lead I met a demon that cast doubt on the game I was playing. I grasped dirty holds, and I couldn’t see my next piece of gear. The moves weren’t apparent and I began to feel uncomfortable. A flighty voice in my head surfaced to say, “You are not okay. This is stupid.” Stepping down to a comfortable stance, I unfocused, setting my gaze on the river. The sound of large water moving is constant. I am OK. I have nothing to prove to anyone, including myself. I accepted the risk. I tried again. It grew darker as we finished the final traversing pitch. In the last fifty feet, the trail of an old rope and a few pieces lead to a dead end. I reluctantly grabbed a

[Facing Page] Madaleine Sorkin (‘04) following a pitch on Stratosfear. Jon Schaffer [This Page] John Schaffer feeling the exposure high on the Painted Wall. Madaleine Sorkin CCAJ




core-shot piece of tat. “Will it hold?” I thought. We then joined up with the Serpent. In the fading light, I made a beeline for the rim. Some 150’ later I was still worming up a friable chimney. It was dark and my gear was still mostly on my harness. One of my legs dangled in the air as I twisted and cammed my shoulder back around a bulge; it was pushing me out. I imagined falling into the bottomless belly of the Black. My only option was to finish this climb. Parched, I met the rim and plopped down beside a juniper, my hunt for power done. Two hours later, my eyes welled up with tears. We were still far away from bed. I felt a little embarrassed by my emotions and exhaustion: “Did I push my limit too far today?” Did Egloffstein confront his limit when he floated through the canyon? He was misunderstood. Am I? If I could paint these walls, I’d portray the awe and terror I experience when climbing them, the answers I seek but never find. I look, smell, and grasp for truth. And in the way of a climber, I try to choose a challenge that will build and break me just enough. Whatever truths I grasp always pass. And, still, I come back again and again for more. Summary Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO Stratosfear,VI 5.10 X

Ghost Dance Erik Rieger (‘12)

“What about Ghost Dancer Arête?” asks Bosier Parsons (‘95). Ghost Dancer, I think; I immediately imagine us high on the wall, gracefully connecting features across a large face. Yes, Ghost Dancer. The name is enough.  Below the route, the wall looks steep and improbable. I recall the Tibetan term “bardo,” literally, the state between-two-existences, when one’s consciousness is not connected with the physical body. Surely, we will have to perform such a ghost dance if we want to reach the rim. I fall leading a difficult section of pegmatite. Stay calm. What are you running from? I stir my thoughts into a vat. The mental pitch is next. A scary, lone bolt hangs in the steep pegmatite above, indicating the time for mental withdrawal and a hard leftward traverse around the steepest part of the arête. Bosier slots a small brass

nut into a seam before disappearing out of sight; it quickly falls out, sliding back down the rope. Above, his body moves unaffected by the mind. The ghost dance begins. I catch a rhythm on the next pitch but soon lose it as I pull out the steep roof crack. Too slow, I think. Don’t you want it? The rope goes taught again. Too hard; too little water, maybe. Excuses won’t get me to the rim. Dig deep, remember Bob’s words; climbing’s the closest you’ll get to telling the truth. Sparse pro leads us through overhanging pegmatite to a ledge. We are beaming. Loose flakes guard the final corner and 5.10 offwidth. “I’m pulling on them!” says Bosier. I think of his daughter, Mia. I’m not sure where the boundary lies between our fun and safety. I use them, too, carefully shifting my bodyweight as I pull upward. The overhanging, knee-sized crack above provides a welcome finale. We have forgone headlamps, sure that we would reach the rim early in the day—a silly game of commitment. But it’s November in the canyon and darkness settles in sooner than expected. I promise to take us to the rim. I’ve never led in the dark of night without a headlamp before. I feel inside cracks to gauge the protection, but I can’t even see where I’m headed, let alone what’s on my harness when I reach for a cam. All my surroundings look the same: black, just like the name of this place. But something feels right; my body moves without thought through the darkness, climbing the next four pitches by starlight. It’s so quiet, vast and wonderful—I wonder, why haven’t I climbed without a headlamp before? I put in a belay. “If Erik Weihenmayer can climb the Naked Edge blind…” I yell down to Bosier. It’s enough to motivate him. Perched on a ledge, I watch shooting stars burn silently through the sky. There is only the soft clinging of metal on rock as Bosier climbs upward. Finally, I feel a part of the ghost dance, too. Summary Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO Ghost Dancer Arête, IV 5.10+

[Facing page] Bosier Parsons (‘95) climbing through the fourth pitch crux. Erik Rieger (‘12) CCAJ


Mugaki Variation Joe Forrester (‘06)

Late June is a hot time of year to be in the Mystery Towers. Ground temperatures routinely soar into the 110’s, and on that mud-caked rock, it gets even hotter. Early in the winter, I had called up my long time Fisher’s climbing buddy Jeremy Aslaksen to see if he was interested in putting up a new line on the Citadel: a proud tower in a wild location we’d been eyeing for some time. “WOO HOO!!” he replied. As winter turned to spring, the trip drew nearer. Never ending days in the hospital merged into weeks. Hilary, my girlfriend, expressed some interest in coming along. Apprehensive—she had just started climbing, and the Mystery Towers are not a casual place to hang out—I ended up relenting. How could I say no to a lady in the Mystery Towers? That’s almost unheard of! We all met up in late June in our standard Onion Creek campsite #7. The temperatures were tolerable and we hiked some gear up to the base of Gothic Nightmare before settling in. Early the next morning, we shouldered our pigs, each with three gallons of water, and began the hike. Minutes turned into hours, and by the time we passed the two strange hoodoos nicknamed “The Aliens”, the sun had risen high into the sky. The temperatures climbed rapidly into the triple digits. Finally reaching the Citadel, we collapsed in the heat. Jeremy passed me the first lead. By the time we were racked up, it was well over 100°F. Our chosen line took the proud southern arête of the Citadel, which was also fully in the sun. I withered like a piece of thick cut bacon over a fire. The aiding was exciting—beaking up into a loose flake, with a tension traverse into a loose calcite seam. I gauged my slowing pace by the increasing frequency of beers Jeremy opened at the belay. 80’ up, I found myself under a mud roof and a little shade. My body was quivering from heat exhaustion, I was trying to dry heave but didn’t have the strength. All I could do was look at my hot blond girlfriend sun-tanning. My priorities were definitely fucked. By the time I got the anchor bolts drilled, it was 2 p.m., prime sizzle-time. I lowered to the ground, dropped my harness, and we all scrambled, desperately searching for shade. The temperature reached 115°F. We dashed from juniper bush to juniper bush until about 6 p.m., when the angle of the sun gave us relief from her blinding rays. We grabbed our gear and scurried to our bivy site. At our campfire, we discussed what to do next. It was way too

hot to climb; we had to bail. Early the next morning, we hiked the pigs back out. I can only imagine what Hilary thought as she observed what Jeremy and I did for fun. Driving out from Onion Creek, I was sad and scared knowing that I would have to come back to get my fixed line back and finish the route. Three months later, I’m in the surgical ICU at Stanford. A surgery resident’s life is never filled with much free time, and this rotation was no exception. My ability to care for the sickest of the sick was improving every day. I put in late hours. I didn’t sleep much. I tried to keep my patients alive. At 9 p.m. on a Sunday night, I’m called into a room. The unfortunate gentleman before me had hit a median rail on the highway. His face was bruised, and he had broken a number of ribs, but seemed OK. “Looks like he is having difficulty breathing.” the nurse said. I went and assessed the patient, and his breathing had started to become slightly labored. I went outside to call anesthesia for help with intubation. As I walked out, the nurse yelled. The hematoma around the man’s face had tracked into the tissue planes of his neck, blocking his airway. It was very scary. The rib fractures blew and a segment of chest wall started moving the wrong way— something called paradoxical movement. The anesthesiologist rushed to intubate, but with no success. His airway was too well blocked by the blood. I quickly reached for a surgical airway kit at the bedside. I opened it up and grabbed a scalpel. With the nurses pushing pain medicine through the IV, my patient looking me in the eyes as he choked to death. The oxygen saturation monitor plummeting, I cut into his neck above his trachea. Dark blood poured out as I got into the hematoma. Quickly, I cut down until I was just above his trachea. On either side of the trachea, lie the jugular vein and the carotid artery, both of which are really bad things to cut into. As all the noise and chaos around me faded into the distance, I made a sharp swipe through his trachea. Air rushed out, mixed with blood. I shoved an endotracheal tube into his trachea, held it in place, and whisked him off to the OR for a formal tracheostomy. When I got home the next day, after being on for twenty-four hours, I collapsed on my couch. I stared blankly across the wall at a picture I have of the Fisher towers and the La Sal Mountains: my place of peace, enough to help me recharge from the craziness of the hospital, and re-discover what it means to be me. By mid-October, I found myself back in Onion

[Facing Page] Jeremy Aslaksen leading pitch 2 of The Mugaki Variation. Joe Forrester (‘06) 34




Creek. I had just worked five weeks straight without a day off in preparation for my vacation. Jeremy, as always, was pumped to go back. Additionally, we had recruited Dave Hoven (‘06) and his buddy Ross “The Scot.” After flying into Salt Lake City from Palo Alto, and grabbing my girlfriend’s car, I sped down to Onion Creek. By 9:30 p.m., I found the crew and we drank beers and swapped stories late into the night. Early in the morning we again humped loads up to the base. Jeremy and I ascended to our previous high point while Dave and The Scot took in the view of the Mystery Towers. The second pitch followed a natural calcite seam for about 185’. Jeremy went into full excavation mode, clearing out lots of mud, which rained down on me. By mid-afternoon, Jeremy was halfway through his pitch. Dave jugged up to meet me at the belay. Afternoon turned night, and Jeremy finished his pitch in the dark, leaving Dave to clean under the stars. After hiking down to camp around 11 p.m. we commenced

to make a delicious feast: bacon, chili, ghost peppers, cheese, potatoes, and jalapenos, a concoction we dubbed the “Mugaki.” The next morning came too early, and Jeremy and I said goodbye to Dave and Ross, who had to leave. The ascent up to the base was easy though, as we had stashed all of our gear, thus minimizing our suffering. The morning hike was perfect. The smell of autumn on the junipers was intoxicating. By mid-morning we were at the base of our fixed lines, and I started up. Jugging fixed lines has always been unnerving for me on Cutler sandstone, as the rock is quite abrasive. This 200’ free-hanging jug was no exception. 15’ from the anchor, I came across a core shot in the rope. I felt sick to my stomach; a bit more bouncing would have cut it straight through. Jeremy jugged the lead line, and then we re-sorted our gear at the belay. Aid climbing seems to be as much about rope management and de-clusterfication as the ability to tolerate fear.

[Photo] Joe Forrester (‘06) on Double Exposure ledge. Jeremy Aslaksen 36




The next lead was mine. We hoped to reach the east face and locate a beak seam, but regrettably found none. I continued up the decrepit rivet ladder on the Forrest-Briggs route, which ascends a spectacular arête interspersed with scary and dangerous mud mantles. The rock around the bolts was so eroded that I pounded equalized beaks as protection instead. The climbing was pleasant though, and in short time I arrived at Double Exposure ledge. I remember when I was first at Colorado College, climbing with Tobey Carmen (‘03) and Alex McPherson (‘03), looking at their Desert Rock III. In the Mystery Towers section, there is a picture of Chip Wilson, taken by Crusher Bartlett, of Double Exposure ledge, with Chip’s arms outstretched. As a younger climber, I remember thinking, “There was is no fucking way I could ever do that.” Twelve years later, I now found myself in that dreamed-about place. It was spectacular. The rock dropped away on either side, and I could look over all of Castle Valley. Jeremy worked his way up to the belay, and joined me. The last pitch was muddy, even by Fisher-Mystery standards. With the belay right under the route, a constant shower of silt, mud chunks, and the occasional calcite block pummeled me. I couldn’t have been happier though. The sand felt great on my skin under the sun, and I felt privileged to come back and climb such a fantastic route with my great friends. Soon, we were at the summit. No summit register was to be found. We drank a celebratory brew and slowly started down. Descending in the Mystery Towers is always a spincher, and this was no exception: tricky traverses and rope cutting lips leave a small margin of error. We took our time and went slow. By early evening, we were down and started collecting our gear. Ever so slowly we worked our way down below Gothic Nightmare to our luxurious bivy, and settled in for the night. As I lay awake under the stars, I couldn’t help but think back to the changes that had occurred in my life from June to October, from the start

of the route to finish of it. I had seen people die, saved others, watched love ones greave, and others celebrate. I had dug deep within myself to come to terms with my profession, and had tried desperately to balance my personal and professional life. Through it all, through those five months, and all the successes and failures, I had the Citadel towering in the back of my mind. Lying in the warm sand, under the stars and the Milky Way, our climb began to drift from a dream of the future, to an experience of the past. Summary Citadel, Mystery Towers, Utah The Mugaki Variation, V 5.3 A2+ (FA)

Welcome to the Desert Hannah Trim (‘14)

We turned onto 211 late. We followed two familiar CC cars—both riding low from the weight of people and gear. Soon, John Collis (‘13) and company came whipping around the corner, splitting through a herd of cows.

[This Page] Lauren Hebert (‘14) firing Soul Fire in Indian Creek, UT. Mareya Becker (‘14) [Facing Page] Neon or bust! David Fay (‘13) climbing the final pitch of the North Ridge route up Monster Tower in Canyonlands National Park. Luke Rasmussen (‘14) 38




We call it the desert. It has this sort of mystical quality to it. Rusted, drilled angles, and star-drives remind us to respect our elders. On our way down from Washer Woman last year, I watched in horror as Erik Rieger (’12) rappelled off two old pins and a flexing star drive, all held together, of course, with sun-bleached tat. That was a pretty safe rappel. Every trip to the desert acquires a theme song. This time, “Got that off-black Cadillac, midnight drive, got that gas pedal, leaning back, taking my time. I’m blowin’ that roof off, letting in sky, I shine, the city never looked so bright…” The freshman walk the long roads; others load up on bumpers before driving into towers and walls of all shapes and sizes. It’s all kind of legendary. It beckons us. We make the drive because we can’t help it; we’re obsessed. We romanticize it. We discuss tape glove tans and our clothes stained dirt red. And we talk: about the scariest climb, the hardest climb, the sketchiest gear, the biggest whipper, the lack of whippers, the lack of preparation, and the epics. We go to the desert because we need it. It’s where we push ourselves, where we go to get scared. It’s where new climbers first taste an epic. We climb over our heads. We climb into the dark. We get really, really cold. It’s where we go to set the bar. It’s where we eat sardines, melons, drink beers, and strip our clothes on needle-like summits. It’s never simple. We laugh, we grow, and sometimes we get really, really hurt. The desert is the place that humbles us.

Suffer Pony and Desert Goulash Joel Irby (‘06)

Driving the lazy curves of River Road is as much a part of my overall desert experience as the sandstone climbing itself. Once I’m on the road, my heart lifts and my whole body starts tingling with nervous excitement. I know every cliff and tower by sight, and most by name. The unspoken job of the passenger is to scan the walls and look for unclimbed lines. On one such trip, Dave Hoven (‘06) discovered a massive beautiful splitter ripping through an unnamed wall, somewhere between the Fisher Towers and Dewey Bridge. It became our tra-

dition to stop beneath it on every drive, stare at it, and contemplate when we would do it. Several years after Dave spotted the crack, we finally decided to devote a weekend to getting on it. Luckily for us, desert-mud extraordinaire Joe Forrester (‘06) was on a short break from his residency and agreed to drive through the night to meet us in Onion Creek. We met at the campsite and headed over to the base of the climb. We racked up, had a quick beer for good luck, and started toward the base. As we closed in on the climb it became painfully obvious that it was going to be a wide and zesty day of climbing. Dave won the first lead after a round of horse’n goggle, and started up the giant chock-stone filled chimney at the base. He wove through the blocks, got a taste of hard offwidth, and made an airy traverse move to finish off the pitch. I won the next lead, which was the money-crack Dave had originally spied. It started with splitter hands to overhanging fists, eased up for a bit,

[This Page] Joel Irby (‘06) leads a money pitch on Suffer Pony Ties the Knot. Dave Hoven (‘06) [Facing Page] Dave Hoven (‘06), Joe Forrester (‘06), and Joel Irby (‘06) on top of Suffer Pony Ties the Knot. Joel Irby 40




and turned into long and fairly desperate offwidth. Joe then led up through the wall as it became more broken, blocky, and loose. Dave finished off the route with a short and easy summit pitch. We christened the route with a hot beer, and decided to descend down a gully to the climber’s left because of the rock fall potential at the top of the route. While descending Suffer Pony, Dave and I spotted another potential line on a nearby wall. We made it back out a month later in mid-July, when it was stupidly hot. Despite the heat, Dave fired up the first pitch, which was a surprisingly fun and strenuous hand crack through a roof. We decided one pitch was good for the day and immediately booked it for the river. That night, Dave cooked up one of the most disturbing and delicious piles of desert goulash I have ever experienced. We woke up refreshed and ecstatic to see a partly cloudy sky. We repeated the first pitch; above, the climb eased slightly in difficulty but unfortunately increased in looseness. The climbing was extremely varied and involved fingers, off-widths, roofs, and everything in between. The route cleaned up well overall, though, and after four total pitches we were at the top of the wall. We rappelled the route and both vowed to never visit the desert in July again! Summary River Road, Moab, UT Suffer Pony Ties the Knot, III 5.10+, FA (Forrester-Hoven-Irby) Desert Goulash, III 5.10+, FA (Hoven-Irby)

Phantom Sprint John Thomson (‘07)

Over three days in the beginning of September, I soloed Phantom Sprint (IV 5.9 C2) on Echo Tower. As far as routes in the Fisher Towers go, this one follows a natural crack system nearly the entire way, giving it an unusual feel-good quality. I went to Echo Tower to be alone and reflect. I was one year into business school at Northwestern and far from the mountains and the mountain lifestyle. I had a growing feeling that my time was no longer mine. Life at business school moves at Mach-speed, centered on landing a good job. Everyone is always running around with 50 pots on 50 burners on high heat all the time. It had become a struggle to stay out of the rat race; I had serious doubts where I fell.

I wanted to climb to make sure I hadn’t forgotten what my former life was all about. After lugging my rope and rack to the base, I climbed up the first pitch-and-a-half. Only after I was back at the base that afternoon did I realized I hadn’t fixed as high as I intended, but those couple of pitches went well, and relatively quickly. The next day, Wednesday, it rained. On Thursday I came back and re-fixed higher—admittedly not a bold strategy, but I lacked the confidence to commit and punch it to the top on that second day. On Friday, I woke early, made coffee, jugged, aided a traverse with over 500’ of exposure, ascended the most physical squeeze I’ve ever encountered, climbed the lone pitch of fixed gear, walked the last bit of ridge to the summit, and soon after, took in the wild exposure of the variety only the Fishers can deliver. On the summit, I yelled out, utterly alone. During those few days in the desert, I was accountable to no one. If I didn’t get to the top, no one would care. There was no partner to let down. I reclaimed time as my own, and reaffirmed that my technical skills and love of climbing hadn’t completely eroded away. On route, intuition took over; I thought only of the next pitch, transitioning belays, eating, drinking, and moving upwards. Back at the campground, looking up at the Milky Way, I was tired and validated. I managed to hold out just a little bit longer from caving beneath the pressure surrounding the search for a respectable job, and as my classmate’s say, “To leave the workforce again, ever.” My time time on route was lonely, though at the same time, liberating. Back in Chicago a few weeks later, on the first day of cold weather, I dug my belay jacket out of the closet and pulled it over my head. It was still zipped halfway—just how I had left it on my last route of the summer, the Southwest Corner of the Saber in RMNP. This was my final alpine route after returning from the Fisher Towers and before leaving Colorado to return to school. It was cold that day, too—late summer, up high around 12,500’ with lifelong climbing partner Austin Badeau. Walking to class, the smell of sweat and the part of my life spent in the mountains washed over me. I was brought back to routes in the Park this summer, trips to the desert, and the period in my life spent climbing, a little part of which I reclaimed on Phantom Sprint. Summary Fisher Towers, Moab, UT Phantom Sprint, IV 5.9 C2

[Facing Page] A day in the climbing life. Campfire in Onion Creek, UT. Joe Forrester (‘06) 42




Local Hero:

Dan Crossey

By Hanson Smith (‘14) If you’ve been involved with outdoor recreation at CC, then you know Dan Crossey. Though Dan works for facilities, he is the unofficial elder statesman of all things outdoors at CC, especially climbing. Wondering how far you can drive into some random trailhead in the winter? Dan has been there. Need help building a teepee on the Worner Quad? Dan will lend a hand. Want to build a campus board for the gym? Just give Dan the measurements. Want to find some excellent, seldom visited granite climbing? Dan seems to know just about every secret crag in the South Platte. If you don’t know Dan Crossey, you should. Every time I have been climbing with Dan, I’ve been tremendously impressed. More than anyone I’ve ever met, he seems to keep his ego out of climbing and just enjoy the experience. When I



asked him about this he joked about being “old and weak,” but his is a mindset that I find very refreshing. As climbers we all have our ups and downs, but Dan, more than anyone else I’ve climbed with, climbs happily regardless of success or failure. Earlier this year, the CCAJ staff was sitting around a table talking about new features to include in the journal. We came up with the idea of an interview and Dan’s name was brought up. Everyone who knew him was immediately on board. We all agreed that Dan hadn’t received nearly enough thanks and formal recognition in our community. This brief interview is abridged from a long conversation that took place over many of Dan’s signature drinks: Tecate with lime. Thank you Dan for all you have done for the CC climbing community and continue to do.

CCAJ: What is your favorite climb? Dan: I guess my mind first goes to Rocky Mountain National Park, but the climb I was most happy with after I climbed was probably The Martyr. [Back] in those days you didn’t have gadgets; you had hexes. You had one #10 and one #11 hex and you had to decide when to use it. You only got one shot. So if you placed it too low, you had to climb ten or fifteen feet above it and then do the hard move. CCAJ: You met your wife Judy climbing on Pikes Peak. You guys climb together often… Dan: Bob Robertson had this great quote. He said, “I’ve climbed with quite a few couples, but you’re the only one where the girl leads all the hard stuff.” CCAJ: A lot of climbers shy away from the Garden because of bad rock… Dan: A friend of mine, Steve Cheyney, used to have a bumper sticker on his car that said, “Life’s too short to climb bad rock.” I thought, “That kinda makes sense.” But Earl Wiggins used to say, “If you’re a rock climber, you should know how to climb all types of rock.” You go to the Garden and some people hate it, but Wiggins is really right. Maybe it’s not your favorite, but if you go out to Colorado National Monument or Moab you are really lucky if you’ve climbed at the Garden. If you haven’t, it is gonna scare the hell out of you.

CCAJ: So back to RMNP, what about lessons learned up there? Dan: [On the Petit Grepon] we got up out of all those dark chimneys and finally we are at the crux pitch. I was like, “It’s straight forward from here. I feel good; let’s do it.” I remember my friend said, “I haven’t been climbing a lot this summer, but I have a really bad feeling about this weather.” She said “I think we should go down.” And she was really right. We had just hit the ground when it started raining and as we were hiking out it started hailing like crazy. It is so important to listen to people when they have a bad feeling. CCAJ: What about when you’re scared? Dan: My friend said, “You didn’t have sewing machine legs; you had a sewing machine body.” CCAJ: How do you climb into your 60s? Dan: I know quite a few guys—30 or 40 years old—who get to a point where they can’t climb 5.11 or 5.12 anymore and they just quit. I think if you really love climbing, you’ll do it until you’re seventy. If you are just going up 5.7’s, so what? I don’t go to Rocky Mountain National Park anymore and I don’t go to the Tetons anymore. I don’t like being that scared or worried about weather. But, you just accept that. You can’t walk as many miles and you can’t carry eighty pounds anymore. I just can’t imagine not doing it, like staying home and watching TV [laughs].

Photos from the Dan Crossey Collection CCAJ


Wyoming, Yosemite, and Beyond 46


Astro Choss, the East Face of St. Exupery After retreating from our first rainy attempt, we went back to St. Exupery on a beautiful sunny day with high spirits. Our chosen line, a big corner splitting the east face all the way to the ridge, looked so obvious. The sun rose gold, and we quickly crossed new debris from a huge rock fall on the east face. The morning was hot and rocks bombed down from the fresh scar to our left. We were glad to be up on the clean splitters that started our route.

the rope upwards. Eventually, the seam dwindled to nothing, and a ledge took me back to our loose corner. As Mikey cleaned the pitch, I listened to the gurgle of water and lamented that the sun had left our route. A few wet pitches I can deal with, but when water mixes with verglass, that is a problem. Mikey followed another chimney running with water, and was impressed by the thin veneer of ice that I had dealt with. Looking up, we were both horrified by the verglass-plastered creek that ran down the corner above. We were not willing to get soaked this late in the day, and performed a traversing rappel across the Condorito route and into another corner to the right. Mikey

Mikey lead four pretty cool pitches in the sun and then I took over, traversing left to avoid an overhanging choss-filled chimney. The thin corner had good rock, some of which I had to aid or otherwise finagle to move

took over and was really excited about the new dry line he had chosen. I told him it looked “kinda steep”… Off he went, aid climbing out on an awkward angled roof leading to crumbling rock above. From the

Kate Rutherford (‘03)

[Facing Page] Madaleine Sorkin (‘04) and Nik Berry on a free ascent of El Corazon on El Capitain. Jeremiah Watt [This Page] Mikey Schaefer following a pitch of Astro Choss. Kate Rutherford (‘03) CCAJ


safety of my alcove I watched kitty litter rain down as Mikey tried to sculpt the crack into something climbable. Aid climbing is slow, and the light was fading. Mikey sounded worried and broken rock was puking from the corner. If I leaned out really far, I could see him. The rope went up a few feet and came back down about ten times. He called down that he would try once more to face climb past the loose rock. There were at least two more attempts, and then I saw him with the ice tool… Mikey had tied a #3 Camalot to the end of his ice axe, clipped some long slings to it and face climbed as high as he could. Standing as high as he could, he pushed the ice tool-cam-stick clip as far as it would go behind a big, TV sized block. Using the block gently as a handhold, he tiptoed past it and finally found rock solid enough to build a belay. That was the most totally lame, loose, scary, crux of many on the route. It then became dark. Another aid-roof had decent rock, but our headlamps illuminated another ice-choked corner, so we ventured on to wandering cracks on each side. At 3:30 a.m. we reached the ridge where our route joined the Italian 68. We wanted to bivy. There was a spot flat enough to sleep on so we cleared it and easily passed out. The sun soon returned and we took our time heading up the ridge to the summit. Reflecting on this climb, sadness takes over. I now know that just a few hundred feet below us while we summited, Carlyle Norman, a beautiful young Canadian alpinist, was dying. She had been hit in the head with a huge rock and all I can think is that if we had known, could we have helped? We were so close. We named our route Astro Choss. It contains about 500m of new climbing. Sadly, I would not recommend repeating it. At least now we know that it’s not worth it. Maybe it would be better as a mixed climb. Summary St. Exupery, Patagonia, Argentina Astro Choss, V 5.10 30˚ C1, FA (Rutherford-Schaefer)

Mountain Wisdom Sterling Roop (‘04)

Colorado College and the mountains in which we play have helped to teach me how to embrace life

to the fullest. For me, having been a past rescuer and recent rescuee has highlighted the unpredictable nature of mountains, climbing, and, well, life. Whether it is the visceral feeling of being run-out above a questionable piece of gear or peering over the edge of a ridge into the abyss, the line between life and death is there. People ask me, “Will you keep climbing?” and the answer remains the same: an emphatic yes. But why? I began climbing at CC, perhaps young and a bit reckless in those days. Lessons were learned, and learned quickly. From acquiring rock rescue skills to taking my WFR through the support of the Ritt Kellogg Fund, I became a better, smarter, and safer climber. In February 2003 I experienced a truly near-death experience. This time, I was the rescuer of one of my best friends and climbing partner Willie McBride (‘04). Tony’s Nightmare is a popular multi-pitch WI3WI4 located in Summit County—a favorite of ours while at CC. On that particular day we soloed up to the crux pitch through a series of low angle sections of ice and snow to a 70’ pitch of near-vertical ice. We decided to continue soloing because we knew the climb was well within our ability. The crux went smoothly and we were excited about the remaining low angle gully of ice and the prospect of exploring some of the neighboring climbs and gullies. I continued up, going first and following the left edge of the gully, while Willie waited a bit and then continued up the right side. After about 100’ of climbing, the unthinkable happened: Willie kicked his crampon and the surrounding ice dinner-plated around both of his feet. This sent him quickly sliding down the low angle ice and gaining speed as he approached the seventy 70’ drop. Wild attempts to self-arrest were futile and I watched him fly over the edge with the rope on his back. I was without a rope and filled with the horrible feeling that I had just watched one of my best friends die. I could barely hear his groans a couple of minutes later as he regained consciousness. It took the cool head and recollection from my early WFR training to get me through the climbing, both up and down, until I finally reached Willie about an hour later, where I found him sitting in the snowy ramp before the crux. We were fortunate to have cell phone service and I was able to get SAR to meet us soon after we finished the technical descent. Willie had suffered a fractured kneecap, compound dislocations of the right metacarpals, a concussion, and was generally banged up—but incredibly

[Facing page] Into the Abyss. Jon Schaffer approaching East Creek Basin via the Upper Vowell Glacier with Pigeon Spire in the background. Tim Gibson (‘10) 48


fortunate to be alive. This day was seared in my memory as one of the most trying and scary experiences of my life. I have evolved as a climber over the years. My early days climbing, as well as being a rescuer have taught me that there are always risks, and although we can become wiser climbers, the dangers of climbing always remain. Nearly ten years later I would have another experience that would reinforce this lesson. Only this time, I would be the one to be rescued. It started off as a fun and supposedly quick Friday morning alpine adventure with friends in the southern edge of the Indian Peaks Wilderness: Mt. Bancroft’s East Ridge. However, it took an unfortunate turn several hours later when I fell while looking for a place to build an anchor. Stepping onto a loose rock at the top of the pitch, it broke away and sent me falling backwards onto

a ledge. The only person to see the accident described it as “cartwheeling” down the cliff. I had fallen about 50’. After the fall, my partners expected me to holler and say, as many of us have done after a whipper, “Woah, that was crazy!” Instead, I was unconscious, bleeding profusely from my head, groaning, and foaming at the mouth. All of this was despite the fact that I was wearing a helmet. My friends, Alex and Adam lowered me to the ledge and I soon regained consciousness but clearly had suffered serious head trauma. While I was relatively alert and oriented, I continued asking repeatedly what had happened and trying to “walk it off.” I remember waking up in the hospital with my friends and climbing partners. I had a tiny brain shear, seventeen staples in my scalp, and a separated shoulder. I was pretty banged up—but like Willie, incredibly fortunate to be alive. At that moment, I had no recollecCCAJ


tion of what had happened other than that I fell climbing and was now in the hospital. As time passed, things came back into focus. Thankfully, the bleeding in my brain stopped quickly on its own. You could say I was one unlucky guy. We were doing everything right; mitigating risks as best we could, wearing helmets, climbing with ropes, and climbing a route well within our ability. It was unlucky that I stepped in the wrong place at the wrong time, but lucky that I was wearing my helmet, which saved my life. While we can all take many steps to decrease risks while traveling in the mountains, we can never eliminate them all. These experiences reinforced that the fine line between fun and fatal is omnipresent in the mountains, even when we feel in control, as I did on Tony’s Nightmare and Mt. Bancroft. It’s the mountains that decide where the line will be drawn on a given day. Climbing has given me many of the best, and a couple of the worst, days of my life. But if spending time in the mountains were easy and predictable, why would we continue to venture out? It’s the unknown; it’s the intensely spiritual feeling of standing on the summit and moments in the journey upwards where we realize the majestic beauty of nature and how small we really are. One of the most important lessons we can learn in the mountains is a humbling one: the fact that we can never mitigate all of the risks. Realizing and remembering this is an important step towards gaining true mountain wisdom.

Alpine Cragging Drew Thayer (‘11)

In July, I had the good fortune of three weeks off between shifts at my wilderness therapy job, so I loaded my car, The Toaster, with implements of ascension and whimsy and drove to Salt Lake City. I met fellow CC cliff wrestlers Daniel Rothberg (‘12) and David Fay (‘13). We began our adventure with a brief tour of the Lone Peak Cirque, a pristine alpine gem perched high atop the Wasatch, above the metropolitan sprawl of Salt Lake City and Provo. Luckily the cirque is guarded by a beastly approach of six miles and 6,000’ gain in elevation. Otherwise, I’m sure it would be a zoo due to the phenomenal climbing. Logistically, the Lone Peak Cirque is “mini alpine”; the approach can be done in half-a-day, the walls are short enough to climb several in a day, we mostly saw small pikas instead of robust marmots, and the water source comes from a dwindling snowfield. The walls are 50


not massive, but they are sharp and inspiring, dominated by the turreted Lone Peak and the curious Question Mark Wall. The rock has remarkably good friction, which is nice because the holds and features tend to be very small. Before this trip I considered brass mini-offset nuts and the 00 C3 cam to be last-ditch, backup pieces; I now have solid faith in those little guys. To beat the heat we slammed out most of the approach in the evening. The next morning we enjoyed the classic Vertical Smile-Triple Overhangs linkup up Lone Peak. The climbing was dreamy and we were psyched on the rock quality and cool features. The next day we were curious what 5.11 in the cirque would feel like, so we racked up for Taivallista (4 pitches, 5.11c) on the South Summit Wall. The gods of Rock, Paper and Scissors won me the crux lead, so after Dan brought us up a fun 5.10 pitch I led up into a corner that looked from the base to be basically devoid of useful holds or legitimate gear placements. The pitch was an exercise in trust; holds and gear placements usually did not become visible until I got to them, so although the pitch protected safely I had the experience of continually pushing into increasingly difficult and runout terrain without knowing if I could protect it. It proved to be fantastic climbing, and David took us up another delicate pitch of run-out face climbing. Topping out, it was clear and still early. We quickly descended into the cirque, grabbed some gorp and water, and scrambled up to the base of Lone Peak again to climb Undone Book, an old-school George Lowe route that features wild, runout face climbing graced with the “5.9+” grade. While cutting my teeth on multi-pitch trad in Rocky Mountain National Park and the South Platte several years ago I learned to fear “5.9+” more than anything else. It seemed a code the old-timers used for pitches that were hard and scary, just not that hard, because they chew glass for fun, etc. Undone Book was no exception; modern consensus calls the pitch 5.10b and we’ll agree. Dan styled the lead, although afterward he had to take a break from the sharp end. David and I followed easy, fun cracks to the summit and we topped out in the midst of a breathtaking summit. We woke up a bit stiff the third morning, and David proposed ambling over to the Hyperform wall and cragging. A day of alpine cragging! Psyched for some relaxation and occasional effort, we enjoyed a sustained pitch called Jolly Green Giant, and then, as [Facing Page] Jack Rodat (‘15) and Nielsen Davis (‘15) reaching the summit of Warbonnet Peak. JD Merritt (‘15)

Dan sprawled out for a nap, David and I got predictably stoked. We blasted up the three-pitch 5.10 classic Hyperform. Then, with the sun dipping to the horizon, we were still stoked. Perhaps more! We ran across the talus back to camp, grabbed some more water, and ran up to the base of the Question Mark Wall and started up Out of the Question in the fading sunlight. The climb is known for the runout third pitch, but I discovered that the first pitch is quite heads-up, too. I was tempted to stall out contemplating the intimidating corner, but the sun was setting and we had to move. David crushed an equally hairy second pitch, and I got to lead the final pitch in the dark, an experience I will never forget, because it is a wall of knobs exclusively protected by tiedoff chicken-heads. We celebrated another two-wall day and trudged back to camp for some dinner, exhausted. So much for alpine cragging… Summary Lone Peak Cirque, Utah Vertical Smile/ Triple Overhangs, II 5.10a Undone Book, III 5.9+ Taillavista, II 5.11c Jolly Green Giant, 5.11a Hyperform, 5.10 Out of the Question, 5.10b R

Black Elk

Nielsen Davis (‘15) I awoke around four o’clock that morning to voices outside Jack’s mega-mid. I sat up and stuck my head out of the flap. Jack Rodat (‘15) and JD Merritt (‘15) were sleeping outside, fifteen feet from the entry. Jack: “Eaaaasy moose. Steer clear moose. You don’t want to come over here moose.” 15’ from them, a moose had stuck its head through the few trees surrounding our campsite. It stood for a while contemplating its next move. After a few minutes, the moose passed on and we were left, once more, in the overwhelming and nerve-wracking blackness preceding a big day. This was my first Grade IV climb and first time in a true alpine setting. I hadn’t slept much the night before. I had just left my summer job a week earlier; I told them school was starting “right away” and drove thirty-hours solo from NH to Colorado Springs. Jack and I then started toward Wyoming for a few days in the Winds before classes started. On our way into the cirque, we had stopped to climb Right Cracks on Sundance; however, it was Black Elk that stayed on our minds. Jack hadn’t slept well either. Around 5 a.m., we began the three-mile approach along the dirt trail and up



loose talus of Warbonnet Peak where we sat waiting for enough light to view the first pitches. After scrambling up the initial ledges, I began my block and led a traversing pitch across some mellow fifth class terrain and up 80’ or so to a belay, enjoying the calm space that comes with climbing in control high above your last piece of protection. The next pitch led up a sloping ramp to a belay at the base of a beautiful right facing dihedral. The sun rose high enough to hit Warbonnet’s northeast face. A rhythm began to emerge as the sun shook off our anxiety and awkward early-morning movement. This was not thinking but meditation: motion and breath, knowing the placements for hands and feet, becoming aware of the nuances of an off-size jam, contemplating a run out for a moment then falling back into the flow, all the while progressing, slowly, up the face. I had decided to link the third and fourth pitches since there would be no comfortable belay for the three of us. This was the crux of my block; a long, sustained right facing corner loomed over me. I laced my shoes and started up. It was a mixed bag starting out with some finger stacks tucked into slightly overhung flakes, progressing then into hands, passing through two chimney sections, and back to hands. Eventually I was left with 30’ of cups, my last #3 Camalot right in front of me. I wanted to gun for the top, though I could feel the pump building and the crack beginning to spit me out. I took and hung suspended from the cam, parched and naked against the bright granite. The sun and effort had stripped me of energy and motion. When I closed my eyes I felt nothing. I back-cleaned a piece and finished the pitch, feeling slightly ashamed that I’d broken down on such a beautiful crack. Jack led across the ledge to the base of the next pitch where JD took over. This was the crux pitch he’d been eyeing since his first trip to the Winds. As JD mentally prepared for his lead, the sky turned stale grey and snowflakes began to fall as we took in the vast landscape around us. Eventually, he started up the pitch. He pulled the roof without issue and went out of sight. We could only hear small grunts now and again as he climbed through the fists to off-fists splitter, then a loud victory whoop. It did not go as smoothly for Jack and me. At the belay, JD admitted that he was worked, though he crushed the next tough pitch as well. We sat in our harnesses at a hanging belay and took in the 1,000’ exposure to the base of the valley. Jack rallied the next one, pulling a boulder move onto a steep

slab with delicate moves above—a hard task this far into the climb. At the next belay we cracked jokes and gained the energy to finish the last two pitches. A light drizzle began as Jack led up a tough leaning chimney. We then un-roped and made our way to the summit just before sunset. Darkness Down the talus slope, Our achievements fade— One foot after another, Into exhaustion. Summary Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, WY Black Elk, IV 5.11a


Lauren Hebert (’14) This is not a tale of bold leads or of harrowing epics. This is the story of my first true alpine climb and how it changed me. This past August, Hanson Smith (’14)

and I ventured to the Wind River Range. It was one of the most mentally and physically demanding endeavors I have undertaken. I realized that alpine climbing is all about the highs and lows. Shimmying along an exposed ridge on a no-hands traverse, I cursed the lack of handholds and wondered what I was doing up there. These moments were immediately followed by a rush so strong that I forgot about all of the hard aspects of the climb

[This Page] The view from the top of Wolf ’s Head. Wind River Range, WY. Lauren Hebert (‘14) 52


and felt only a sense of pure jubilation. That’s what climbing is about for me. Whether struggle followed by pure joy, struggle followed by shivering cold, or struggle followed by a sense of great accomplishment; it’s these moments that keep bringing me back for more. After hauling our way up the eight-mile trail leading into the Cirque of the Towers with very heavy packs, I was worked. All along the trail, fellow hikers passed on words of encouragement. The Cirque of the Towers seemed to be a mystical place of great beauty and incredible granite. Cresting Jackass Pass with a view down into the cirque I was weary with exhaustion—but what a sight. Those who have had a similar experience know the feeling of awe mixed with the disbelief that what you’re seeing is real. This feeling persisted throughout the six days spent in the cirque. I would stare up at the jagged, sweeping peaks, unable to process what I was seeing. Our first objective was the East Ridge of Wolf ’s Head. The evening we arrived, I spent a lot of time contemplating the far-off summit, wondering how I would get all the way up there. We got off to a decent alpine start the morning of the climb, with the brilliant stars still illuminating the sky. After a quick breakfast we began the hike. The whole endeavor still felt surreal; we hiked in the dark with only the sound of clanking cams, my breath, and footsteps on rock. We reached the grassy ledges as the sun rose. After awhile, the pansy in me didn’t like simul-climbing anymore, so Hanson agreed to rope up and begin pitching it out. We reached the infamous Sidewalk section, which consisted of an airy ramp leading up the ridge. A couple of parties climbed past us as I crawled up the ramp, focusing entirely on my hands in front of me. This pitch is truly unique. It’s easy climbing but also incredibly exposed, which became the theme of this climb. From that section, the route followed a series of tower traverses along the ridge. No-feet traversing, nohands traversing, some exposed down climbing, and the delicate piton traverse. I didn’t lead a single one of these pitches, but it was still a heady experience. Balancing on a traverse with the next piece several feet out, I didn’t want to take a swinging fall. Hanson was a champ and did his best to protect me following, but the exposure was still intense. The mental demand of this route was high, but I learned so much. For one: how does a lady relieve herself while clinging to a ridge thousands of feet in the air? Removing my harness was thrilling. As I performed this act, a Nalgene came barreling past from a party above. This route also gave me confidence; I know I’m capable if I just concentrate and go for it. Sitting on the sum-

mit, gazing down at the rest of the cirque and across the drainage on the other side, I was so happy to be there in that moment. All the fear that I felt in parts of the climb was gone. It was a beautiful day, and I had just done something I never would have thought I could do. As with much of alpine climbing, getting down can be the real challenge. After a series of rappels, scrambling, and ungracefully sliding down scree slopes, I was once again exhausted and mentally sapped. Sitting at the base by an alpine lake, and gazing up at Wolf ’s Head lit by the setting sun, I was elated. The mountains challenge me, terrify me, and inspire me. And so it is that I have been introduced to the world of alpine climbing and there’s no going back from here. The mountains will continue to call me back. Summary Wolf ’s Head, Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, WY East Ridge, III 5.6

Lost Temple Spire Elena Mihaly (‘07)

“I’d rather eat a teaspoon of my own shit than lead that pitch again,” yelled Kevin Brumbach (‘07) from the top of pitch seven on a route up the Lost Temple Spire in the Wind River Range. Aptly called the Southwest Arête, the climb follows a series of cracks that meander up the spire’s blocky prow. Embarking upon a mid-5.10 alpine climb at the nadir of my climbing career, I prepared to get worked. Years of grad school had taken its toll on my precious slow-twitch fibers, and I anticipated that clambering up steep corners at 12,000’ would be a lesson in humility. Strength aside, I was not prepared to be scared. I craned my neck, attempting to see the pitch Kevin had just climbed and protected with “a few RPs.” Kevin travelled up the insipient crack to a menacing-looking roof and then traversed out of sight. The four of us were climbing in two parties of two, and Phil Armstrong (‘07) was just about to leave the anchor to follow Kevin. Thankfully, it Justin Strauss’ (‘06) would lead this pitch for me—I did not like the prospect of eating a teaspoon of my own shit. Even with the welcome tug of a top-rope at my waist, the pitch still sent my head spinning. Unlike the rest of the climb where the occasional ledge hid from view the dramatic height at which we were perched, this section had nothing below it but 1,000’ of crisp CCAJ


fourth-class section to reach the top of the spire, I felt that recognizable rush of adrenaline; I knew I had not lost all of the essential traits of a climber. I still had the spirit—that is, the ability to defeat the fear and weariness with some well-deserved high-fives and realize you would do it again. As Leonard Coyne once said, after he opened a bottle of beer with his teeth upon reaching the rim of the Black Canyon, “You either got the spirit or you don’t.” I may have been weak and terrified, but with strong climbing partners and the unwavering climbing spirit, we stood upon the Lost Temple, looked out over the vast landscape, and found something blessed once again. Summary Wind River Range, WY Lost Temple Spire, IV 5.10b

Upper Exum Ridge Taylor Watkins (‘06)

After an very enjoyable and relaxing failure on an attempt to climb Mt. Rainier’s Liberty Ridge with Joel Irby (‘06), Dave Hoven (‘06) and Taylor Stellman, it

mountain air. After excessively yelling, “Watch me,” I clambered up the pitch but was unable to find solace in the hanging belay. I meditated on the lime-green lichen curling up off the granite an inch from my face. After years of a lifestyle where I climbed more days than not, I believed you either had the mental capacity to handle heights and exposure or you didn’t. I thought I was among the lucky few for whom hanging off metal lobes over 2,000’ of space felt ordinary. But a way of life with less hanging and more sitting has made me realize this position only feels ordinary if it is just that: commonplace. For me to dabble in and out of high alpine climbing during my breaks from school has been a challenge. My brain’s tolerance level for exposure is like a muscle, now, atrophied without use. And yet, when all four of us scurried up the final

seemed appropriate to get back on the horse and take a stab at another of America’s most iconic mountains. This time the team was comprised of Dave Hoven (’06), his uncle, Jim Jones, his cousin, Clayton Jones, and I. The

[This Page, Left] Kevin Brumbach (‘07) on Lost Temple Spire. Elena Mihaly (‘07)[This Page, Right] Dave Hoven (‘06) and Taylor Watkins (‘06) midway up the Exum Ridge on The Grand Teton. Taylor Watkins Collection [Facing Page] David Fay (‘13) showing us a roping trick to summit the Innominate. John Collis (‘13) 54


objective was the Grand Teton by way of the super-classic Exum Ridge. The trip began in Jackson on August 2, which was perfectly planned to coincide with the full moon. That evening we enjoyed a very manly meal of meat, beer, and cobbler while we formulated a strategy for the climb. The plan was simple: walk a long way, then sleep, then climb, then drink a beer and then walk back. Everything went pretty well as planned, except the walking seemed longer than planned, the sleep much shorter, and we definitely didn’t bring enough beer. It was the first time Jim or Clayton had climbed anything more than one pitch, and it was my first time leading with trad gear. Despite our relative novice status, we cruised the route and enjoyed a cloudless day with killer views. On the way down we decided not to camp a second night but to keep hiking all the way down to the car—a long day improved by celebratory beers and pizza. Huge kudos to Jim and Clayton for a stellar performance on their first alpine climb. Summary The Grand Teton, Grand Teton National Park, WY Upper Exum Ridge, II 5.5

Work and Play in the Bighorns David Fay (‘13)

As my junior year came to a close, I was rapidly approaching an unspoken deadline. It’s customary for every geology major to devote a part of their summer to research, and I had no idea what I was going to do. This changed when I met Christine Siddoway who had recently joined a mapping team in the Big Horn Mountains of Wyoming. My friend and climbing partner, John Collis (‘13), was already a part of the trip and scheming up ways to include a rope and a rack in our daily routine. We came up with the idea of gathering data from the top of several prominent peaks, and when we asked our professor about it we received a resounding yes. Who better to collect data from steep technical terrain? It was a match made in heaven— our rock climbing/ge-

ology expedition was set! After a 9-hour drive and brief field orientation, John Collis, Dave Freedman (’14) and I horse packed 6 miles into the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area and were dropped off just below the fire ban elevation of 9,200 ft. As we pitched camp, it became clear that this would be luxury camping. Our equipment included a folding table, a two-burner stove, three pounds of bacon, and four-dozen eggs. We were also loaned a loaded revolver from our trusted horse packer, Rusty. As extended circumstances would have it, Dave had gotten stoked on a pair of firemen boots in Sheridan (i.e. very thick soles and no ankle support). On the first day of ‘work’, he attempted to jump between boulders. The soles ripped from the boots and he promptly tore his meniscus. The next several days we rested to give Dave some time to recover and process the natural denial that follows any injury of a proud man. It took some CCAJ


convincing, and an intimidating haze (We couldn’t tell if the wildfire was five miles away or 500), and before we knew it, we had loaded up all of our valuables (the rope, the rack, the whiskey and the revolver) and marched out. John had to sleep in an emergency blanket that night, but we were staying safe and one step closer to a doctor. This was Dave’s first hospital visit and needless to say, he was no longer stoked. Yet in between the time of injury and our march out to find help, there were several wonderful days of limbo. Finally we had time to pioneer first ascents in the valley! We called our first route Who Dropped the Toaster (5.8) after a toaster-sized trundle high on the route that needed to go. Working left along the Toaster Wall we top roped Sliced Bread (5.10 R/X) and established two other chimney climbs, Hot Pockets and Lean Pocket. Our greatest first ascent was the Fortress of Solitude, which was a splitter 5.8 hand and finger crack within a dihedral. As traditional South Platte climbers, we felt that the Bighorns should be pioneered with similar principals of adventure, audacity, and understatement. These routes were fantastic and as John Collis said, “It’s a good thing we climbed here, before the crowds came.” When the snow melted in the alpine, we knew it was time to move camp. Repositioned above Wilderness Basin, we set our sights on the Innominate. After 1,000’+ of fourth-class scrambling we pitched out two rope lengths of 5.6. We arrived at a large ledge system, but were still 25 feet from the true summit block— a boulder standing on its end in the shape of a giant 56


domino. With a steep and blank face before us, it was time to use some techniques unique to this cowboy landscape. After tying all of our cordelettes into a 70’ loop, I picked my line, worked the sequence and stuck the toss. With this unorthodox lasso throw, we now had a top rope secured to the summit, and all in proper Wyoming style! While I later led this pitch on gear at 5.10 R, we both agreed that our lasso toss was the most pure and ethical form of ascent in such a wild western landscape. The Gargoyle (the next tower north from the Innominate) steadily held my gaze–– not in pure stature, but in the precarious nature of its summit. Topping out with 20’ of 5.5 friction considered by our 1977 guidebook, “Holdless [and at the] maximum angle to which rubber soles will stick.” Due to the way the summit pinnacle curved and narrowed so suddenly, it looked impressive. And since there were no anchors or gear at the top, we both had to lead up and down this section. In the Bighorns we found a healthy amount of adventure, camaraderie, discovery, and rocks! Between geology and climbing, the Bighorns have it all. In fact, if I could return to any climbing area in the world right now, it would be the Bighorns. Summary Bighorn Range, WY Who Dropped the Toaster, 5.8, FA (Collis-Fay) Hot Pockets, FA (Collis-Fay) Lean Pocket, FA (Collis-Fay) Fortress of Solitude, 5.8, FA (Collis-Fay)

Renewed on the Hulk Kishen Mangat (‘96)

For the mountain dreamer who spends his or her working life connected to an online apparatus, it may be usual to long for the hills using the stellar online procrastination tool, Mountain Project. It would be preferable to say we decided to climb the Incredible Hulk after a chance meeting with Dale Bard or Dave Nettle, but the idea to climb Positive Vibrations (IV 5.11) was hatched during another online foray. The white granite of California’s High Sierra is

an absolute blessing worthy of obsession among crack climbers. As mid-rangers—not old timers!—and Front Range dwellers, our three person party of Bosier Parsons (‘95), Matt Pierce, and I, certainly live for Colorado’s assorted offerings of pink and dark grey granite, and the red, lichened sandstone; but there is nothing like Sierra granite. It is fair to say there was substantial contemplation surrounding the route’s difficulty. Given the various time commitments surrounding our young families and growing careers, our threesome of aging “Colorado Fun Kids” averages no more than 20-30 days of climbing per year. This is a far cry from the late 1990s when 5.11 splitter cracks were more of the routine variety (though never a gimmie). Our complicated lives present challenges to maintaining cadence, not to mention the sacrifices taken by

our own families to support our faithful passion toward climbing. At every stage of life, climbing is one-thousand-percent worth the time and effort—the gifts it offers are endless. But in some ways the desire to succeed burns greater than in years past. Stronger and dumber in our 20’s, the brute-force approach was the general rule to training, climbing, and everything else. The good news is we are smarter now about the preparations, which have become a more important part of our continued success. For this trip, we developed a “training menu” that was geared toward the anticipated climbing challenges on the Hulk: Eldorado Canyon to develop the head space, high altitude splitters on Pikes Peak and Mt. Evans in the early summer, and just prior to our departure we finished off with the slippery classics at Castle Rock in Boulder Canyon.

[Facing Page] From left to right–Mt. Woolsey, The Gargoyle, and The Innominate. David Fay (‘13) [This Page] Bosier Parsons (‘95) reaching the belay on pitch 6 of Positive Vibrations. Kishen Mangat (‘96) CCAJ


We discussed Positive Vibrations endlessly throughout the spring and summer. Given our apprehensions about the route difficulty, strategy became a key theme. We decided to lead in blocks, a perfect solution for the CC-trained climber. We’d each lead three-four pitches before swapping leads. When the time finally arrived to depart we were met with unexpected clouds. We ventured south to California under ominous skies. But with a one-day window to climb the Hulk, it was now or never. After a mellow three-mile hike under stormy skies, we approached the swampy bog where the climber’s trail breaks away from the main boulevard. We encountered a couple retreating from the Hulk, which was now shrouded in the cirque above. Passing waterfalls and unclimbed cliffs of splitter granite, we approached the base, where we found a very suitable bivy site. As luck would have it, the weather began to clear, the winds eased, and the temperatures gradually rose. As evening set in we basked in Alpenglow

beneath a truly magnificent piece of stone. After darkness set in we made a few friends and listened to Bosier’s infamous story about convincing an attractive young woman from Czechoslovakia, Lenka, to join him for some skinny dipping in Rocky Mountain National Park’s Sky Pond—with his father, 15 year old nephew, and Lenka’s boyfriend as onlookers. We howled with laughter into the night. Bosier took the first block–two pitches of hand and finger cracks– which gives way to the first of three 5.11 crux pitches. Bosier’s smooth and proficient work on the first block helped to set the tone. Matt, being most proficient on finger cracks, took the next block working up a series of increasingly steep and impressive features. Pitch four involved a phenomenal slot, which required Devil’s Tower-style stemming with highly memorable exposure. On the fifth pitch, the route moves toward the arête, which defines the route. This pitch moves up a series of 5.10 finger cracks and then up increasingly

[This Page] The Incredible Hulk in all it’s glory. Kishen Mangat (‘96) [Facing Page] Madaleine Sorkin (‘04) and Brad Gobrite on the 3rd free ascent of the Hallucinogen Wall. Madaleine Sorkin 58


steeper and cleaner white granite. Matt’s style preserved our quest: to climb the Hulk clean. I felt energized by the opportunity to take the lead and extend the group’s success. As I surmounted the crux on sixth pitch, reaching a jug at the anchor, I swung around to see Bosier and Matt flashing gigantic grins. Our euphoria for the quality of the climbing and our performance was building! The splitter cracks above blended together seamlessly, with endless jamming in high altitude sunshine under calm skies. I had a sense of floating up a sea of granite. Once on the summit ridge a few 5.8 pitches led to a chimney, which culminated in a small wiggle slot. The final move felt more like spelunking. We had achieved our goal: the Hulk, clean. On top of that, it was perhaps the best climb any of us had done. Awaiting us at camp was a modest ration of whiskey, which we promised would only be cracked in the case of a successful outcome. As tribute to all the collective successes and failures of the CC climbing community in 2012, Theodore Roosevelt said, “The credit belongs to the man [or woman] who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.”

Wall (VI 5.13 R) and Yosemite National Park, freeing El Corazon (VI 5.13) on the big stone. These partners have a naiveté and confidence that I’m drawn to. They help me to see the habitual patterns in my climbing mindset that can limit my growth as a climber. On the third day on El Corazon, the familiar inner demons arose. It was with a practiced mind that I eased into the discomfort and into a mindful state. By the time Nik Berry and I reached the roof-traverse, I could move steadily through the difficulties. After a moment’s rest, I set my Yosemite-ending sights on a free attempt of Freerider (VI 5.12) in a day. General fatigue was evident and the initial obstacle of losing my partner, Berry, became an unraveling point. I spent the next days looking for a partner. Milling about the Curry Village grocer, I grasped my favorite banana stick ice cream, asking a passerby “Are you my honey badger?” My friend Ian stepped up to support. But in the end, I couldn’t send the route. An inspiring goal, I know I will try it again and again. Back in my rejuvenation station, I spent a long, playful summer in the Rockies. In August, Berry and I embarked on a much-anticipated expedition to the Ak Su Valley of Kyrgyzstan. Our enthusiasm, and at times cavalier attitude, for international adventure was met with massive climbs, dysentery, open bivies, an

Summary Incredible Hulk, High Sierra, CA Positive Vibrations, IV 5.11a

30 Rocks! A Year in Review Madaleine Sorkin (‘04)

As I approached my 30th birthday, I practiced a single mantra—own it. I’ve applied this ruthlessly over the past year, creating a banner year for my insatiable appetite. Throughout the early spring, I grew strong sport climbing. Motivation and psyche rode high as I shifted toward big-wall objectives in May. In an uncharacteristic move, I teamed with young guns to enjoy career-highs in both the Black Canyon, freeing the Hallucinogen

unplanned homestay with a generous Kyrgyz’ shepherd family, sheep killing, and general arguments about helmet wearing. I returned home ready for bedtime stories with a glass of warm milk. Currently, the train is still moving but it’s less clear who is behind the wheel. This fall, I’ve CCAJ


tried to treat climbing recreationally, providing space to broaden my mantra and life beyond climbing. With 2013 approaching, I will visit Patagonia with fellow alum, Kate Rutherford (‘03). I’m readying myself for the trip through a daily practice of eight hours of sleep, clipping bolts, meditating, and listening to spiritual talks.

Lurking Fear

Rachel Greenberg (‘02) I had always wanted to climb El Capitan. In fact, my subconscious voice frequently told me that I was not a real climber unless I climbed El Cap. With that in mind, I made it a goal for myself to scale the 3,000’ walls at some point in my climbing career. In 2006, I attempted Lurking Fear with two other partners. I knew very little about aid climbing and had only been climbing for three years or so. Our team de-



cided to climb the route big wall style (i.e., we brought gear, food and water for four days and planned to haul our bags on every pitch.) It was very slow and I found hauling cumbersome and difficult. I felt comfortable leading the straightforward aid pitches but was absolutely terrified on the traversing pitches. We ended up bailing after ten pitches, when we realized that we were going to be too slow. I was disappointed but determined to acquire the experience necessary to complete an ascent of El Cap. Many years went by before I even returned to Yosemite. There were other places to go climbing, injuries to recover from, and homework to complete. Finally, this past fall, things started to come together for another shot at climbing El Capitan. I had asked my good friend Kate Rutherford (‘03) to climb with me since she had climbed El Cap five or so times and would be a great partner. Kate is pretty hard to nail down so when she said she would be free for a week in September, I immediately bought a plane ticket and planned to head to Yosemite.

We decided that we should try to do it in a day, since Kate hates hauling more than I do and I’m always up for a challenge. Plus, it’s a pretty pure style to just walk to the base of a formation and go up and over with just the shirt on your back. We gave ourselves a little bit of leeway since we decided to sleep at the base of the route and fix the first two pitches. It was also a good idea to practice our systems, since I was new to short-fixing and still hadn’t done very much aid climbing since my attempt on Lurking Fear five years ago. After fixing the pitches, I started to have doubts about a one-day ascent. I felt clumsy and slow while leading. Even jumaring felt tiring. I was worried I was going to let Kate down and ruin our chances of success. I tried to get those thoughts out of my head and think more positively. We woke up at 4 a.m. and started ascending our fixed line. Kate had the first lead block and I did my first lower out without epic-ing. I was trying to go as fast as I could so that, in Kate’s words, “The leader could have more fun.” I still felt a bit clumsy and slow but my confidence was rising little by little and I was starting to believe that we could do this. After three pitches, I took over. I remembered leading these pitches five years ago and memories of being even more of a gumby came back to me. I thought to myself, I have come a long way since those days. In the heat of the day, Kate took over and cruised through the A2 cruxes and we passed a few parties. More than halfway, we still had several hours of daylight. After pitch 12, I took over and tried to navigate us through the wandering crack systems with a mix of free and aid. I took a fall onto my aider after attempting an incredibly difficult move out of my aiders but regained my composure and eventually found an easier path. Things were going well until I was slowed down by some tiring aid and free climbing on pitch 13. I felt like I was wasting precious daylight. When I got to the belay, I remember feeling incredibly defeated. I yelled down to Kate to ask her if she wanted to lead the next pitch. To my surprise, she encouraged me to keep going. Kate reminded me that this was my trip up the Captain and that it didn’t matter if we finished in the dark. These are the moments where a climbing partnership is of utmost value and it’s this combination of support and motivation that inspires and pushes me to continue climbing. The next pitch went better and then Kate took over for the final three pitches to the summit. When we got to the summit, I was so elated

and exhausted. Dirty, tired, sore, and proud—I never thought I would be capable of doing something like that. But if you approach a huge route with just a windshirt, three liters of water, 1,500 calories, and a rack then you are going to do it. Feeling committed made all the difference. It’s easy to bail but it’s not as easy to keep going. Having overcome my lurking fear, I can’t wait for the next adventure. Summary Yosemite Valley, CA Lurking Fear, VI 5.7 C2

Washington Column

Lucas Schaffer (‘15) I had not processed the absurdity of what we were doing while driving. I just knew that I was going climbing and that thought kept me speeding down the highway with a smile on my face. However, there was no matching Jack’s gaping grin and popping eyes that reeked of excitement—which, if you did not know Jack, could have easily been mistaken for plain insanity. After six hours, about 400 miles, and with the Blood Meridian coming softly through the speakers, my smile disappeared and my thoughts shifted from climbing to how much this sucked. I tried to fall asleep in a car packed with two other guys and all of our gear, bound for Yosemite. 800 miles slipped by, I cracked my barely-able-toopen eyes and caught a sign that said “Yosemite National Park.” For the first time in my life, I was in California. My mind was too exhausted, and I was still unable to grasp that Niels Davis (’15), Jack Rodat (’15) and myself had actually driven from Colorado Springs to the Valley for a three-and-a-half-day block-break. The sun was just starting to rise as we winded down the road into the Valley, and then it happened: I was somewhere unlike anywhere else I had ever been. Massive, white, granite walls towered so high above me that I could not see where they ended. My mind buzzed as we pulled into Camp Four to meet our friend JD Merritt (’15). We were left gaping at the sheer scale of the natural features around us. Soon, we got down to business. Objective #1 was a wall—or else, that drive would have just been really stupid. We loaded our haul bag and set our sights on the classic ten-pitch South Face of the Washington Column.

[Facing Page] Rachel Greenberg (‘02) on Lurking Fear. Kate Rutherford (‘03) CCAJ




Ledge on the clearest of nights with the fullest of moons looking directly at Half Dome. It was one of the best nights of sleep I’ve ever had. We awoke the next morning, ate, and started up again. Jack aided up the famous Kor Roof. Niels took the next lead, his first aid lead, which included a pendulum. Meanwhile, I jugged. I grew excited for the next pitch, which would have been my very first lead on the climb, but the slow pace of our four-person party and heinously powerful wind forced us to retreat. It did not matter that our inexperienced party of four was too slow and large to make it to the top of the climb. We rappelled down to Dinner Ledge and stood close to 1000’ above the valley floor, looking at a place that to me seemed like a spot beautiful enough that the Gods had immortalized themselves as stone walls, now peacefully resting. Summary Washington Column, Yosemite Valley, CA South Face Attempt, V 5.8 C1

Premeditated Joe Forrester (‘06)

We drove to the parking lot of the Ahwahnee Hotel, and hiked for a little over an hour to the base of the climb. I had thrown down my pack and started to sort out my gear when I felt my insides drop. Realizing I had forgotten my helmet at Camp Four, I nearly began to cry. Nothing would stop me from enjoying this epic journey. I tore down the steep approach, back to Camp Four, and, soon enough was back up at the wall. Niels had finished the first corner. I climbed up last, making sure the pig didn’t get caught. JD aided the 5.11 corner above with Niels following free. Jack and I brought up the rear jugging a fixed line and I again had to manage the pig. Pitch three followed a 5.7 crack system and once again I was last and had to deal with the goddamn pig. Unlike the previous two pitches, this one meandered around several ledges and roofs, which meant our bag got stuck every ten feet or so. By this time, it was dark, and whether the climb, my double-approach, my lack of sleep in the car, or the fact that I had to repeatedly lift the bag above me, I was exhausted. All that mattered was that we were together on the plush Dinner

The Pinnacles are a unique up-thrust of an old volcanic field that penetrates through the Gabilan Mountains in central California. The special environment created by the rock spires amongst the chaparral is home to the largest concentration of California Condors in the world. These birds have a wingspan of over ten feet, soar at over 50 mph, and are known to check in on climbers at will. Adding to the uniqueness of the area, each year, forlorn male tarantulas search the area en masse for a mate, in the annual tarantula migration. However, the best part is that this area is within two-and-a-half hours of San Francisco Bay, and is rarely crowded. While free climbing predominates at Pinnacles, there are a small number of listed aid climbs in the old guidebooks by Young and Rubine. In both of these guidebooks, Premeditated, an obscure line on the far left side of the Lava Flows, is listed as the most challenging and one of the more dangerous. Originally climbed in the late 60’s and rated A4, it has since been down-graded to A3, but is still considered to be a challenging undertaking for the area. I was intrigued to say the least, and excited to have found some loose, scary, challenging

[Facing Page] Jack Rodat (‘15) leading the Kor Roof pitch on the Washington Column in Yosemite. Nielsen Davis (‘15) [This Page] JD Merritt (‘15) riding the pig. Nielsen Davis CCAJ


climbing close to home. August is not the ideal time to be going to Pinnacles to climb, as temperatures routinely reach 100 °F. However, I was not deterred. I was getting the beatdown at work; I had been putting in long hours and taking care of sick people; I needed to get outside. I decided that board shorts would make the temperatures bearable, and headed down. It took me a little while to find the start of the route, but before long I had set my anchor and started up. Beaks were interspersed with cams, followed by more beaks, all on a seam traversing up and left. A small roof presented a minor obstacle, and before long, I was at the one and only bolt on the route. More beaking and moderate aid led to the first anchor. It was early afternoon by this time, and the temps had skyrocketed. I decided to fix my line, and retreat to the shade for a little bit. This retreat ended up being longer than expected, and I decided to just leave my rope fixed and come back another week. Fast-forward through a week of trauma care, early mornings, late nights, stress, and uncertainty, I found myself driving down the next weekend, after working a 30-hour shift, with one of my old friends, Bertram Koelsch. Bertram and I have been on numerous adventures in the past, from long river trips to alpine trips abroad, but this was to be Bertram’s first time aid climbing. When Bertram arrived at my house, we shoved the gear into his car, made sure we had enough beer, and I promptly passed out and woke up in the early morning at Pinnacles. Bertram and I had last been to Pinnacles together about seven months before, when we had climbed Condor Chimney. This fun six-pitch line put us on top of Condor Pinnacle, a be-fitting name: as we summited, huge condors circled us. Coming to within 15 feet of these magnificent birds was the experience of a lifetime. But this time, we would be aiding, and the condors were not to be found in the hot sun. We hiked all the iron up to the base of the cliff, and I went through a quick primer with Bertram on cleaning beaks, lowering off, and the appropriate rate of beer drinking while aid climbing. With this quick teaching session complete, I started up the fixed line. The second pitch of Premeditated follows a beak seam to a pendulum to another beak seam. This made the route more exciting because I had to back clean all the beaks. Higher up on the pitch, I started hooking through old cobbles, which increased the spice factor. Eventually, the route traverses left under a huge roof, and I had to resort

to under-clinging with beaks, which was also exciting. Eventually, though, as with all fun things, they must come to an end, and the last pitch of Premeditated came and went too quickly. Our beer was finished, the sun was hot, and the line ended. I once again left my rope at the top of Premeditated. While the climb technically ends there, the cliff continues upwards through roofs and cobbles. Word has it that attempts have been made to push the line through to the top, but have failed. However, given my training on the Fisher’s Cutler, I know I am up to the challenge. In the coming weeks, as fall turns to winter, the condors will continue to soar around, and I will be back to aid some more. Summary Pinnacles National Monument, California Premeditated, III A3

Everest & Lhotse Hilaree O’neill (’95)

It was 1:00 p.m. on May 25, 2012 and I was having another coughing fit. This time I was in the vestibule of our tent, trying to avoid the freezing cold wind outside, and noticed I’d actually coughed up some blood. When you’re at altitude, and I was at an altitude of roughly 7,950m, it’s never a good sign to be coughing up blood. I yelled over the wind to my climbing partner, Kris Erickson, to see if I should be panicking but his response was calm and collected, “Ah, you’re fine, just rest for a bit and if it stops then we’re good to go.” Good to go. Did I want to go? Yes, I did, very much. I’d just spent the last eight weeks of my life at Everest base camp, away from my family and the comforts of home. Our team had been moving up and down the infamous and dangerous Khumbu icefall, the Lhotse Face, and finally to Everest’s high camp, Camp IV. In fact, only a few hours earlier we had summited Mt. Everest. The rest of our team had gone down or were resting but Kris and I had grand plans to continue climbing for the summit of nearby Lhotse Peak, the fourth highest mountain in the world, at 8,516m I know that this part of the world has been getting an enormous amount of bad press lately. This spring was the first time I’d ever been to the Khumbu and the Everest region and I will be the first to admit that climbing

[Facing Page, top] Hilaree O’neill (‘95) on the summit of Lhotse within 24 hours of summiting Everest. Kristoffer Erickson [Facing Page, bottom]A line of climbers ascending the Yellow Band. Kristoffer Erickson 64


this year on the SE Ridge route of Everest was not a pleasant experience. The conditions were abominable, with most of the route consisting of blue ice and rock. The rockfall was incredibly scary and dangerous and, of course, there were so many climbers. Our actual summit day on Everest saw roughly 150 climbers reach the top from the SE ridge route. I’ve been climbing mountains ever since my first introduction to Colorado 14’ers at Colorado College, nearly 20 years ago, and I’d never seen anything like the Everest crowd. Of course, I knew all about the chaos of Everest before I ever even signed up for this expedition—and granted, 2012 might have been the most chaotic year yet—but I’m going to attribute some of that to the conditions and the tiny weather windows available for summit chances. There were plenty of veteran Everest climbers available to offer comparisons from previous

seasons. Colorado College alums Jake Norton (‘96) and Charlie Mace (‘80) were there on an expedition to climb the West Ridge and had never seen such dismal conditions. I always find it uncanny, given that CC is such a small college, how many graduates I come across that are professionals in the realm of the outdoors and mountain climbing. I’ve made a career out of climbing and skiing mountains all over the world, many of them very remote and off the beaten path. For me, it’s an addiction with high altitude. It’s something that started innocently enough when I was 19 and climbed my first 14’er. Over the years it has grown into a passion of sorts— I love the suffering, and I love the feeling of going beyond my limits. Climbing at altitude simplifies everything, it’s just one foot in front of the other. I’m always amazed, or surprised, with how my body reacts both physically and mentally, and to what extent I can torture myself. For years, I’ve known that someday I would find myself in the biggest mountains in the world. When the chance came last spring, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. Despite the city-atmosphere at basecamp and the chaos up high on the mountain, it was worth it. Waking up every morning for two months of my life and having a view of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse was worth it. Experiencing the icefall, despite its rather terrifying unpredictability, was worth it. Seeing the avalanches peel off Pumori and Nuptse, hearing the jet stream barrel over Camp II like a freight train, these are all things I will never forget. Seeing the sunrise from the summit of Everest is breathtaking. I took Kris’s advice and slowly crawled back into CCAJ


the tent. I pulled my down suit on and tucked my feet into our one sleeping bag. I hadn’t slept in nearly 30 hours but it still seemed impossible to get any real rest. At some point, I must have dozed off because when the alarm went off at 10 p.m. it startled me. It seemed an astronomical effort to get up, my body felt like cement. I got the stove started and threw in some ice to melt for coffee and protein mix, the only thing we seemed to be able to stomach at this point. Kris was slow to start moving as well. I was still coughing but I never saw any more blood. By 1:00 a.m. we were walking away from our tents, walking away from the base of Everest where we could see a new line of headlamps ascending behind us. Once we started moving, my body slowly woke up, the coffee kicked in, and I realized we might actually be able to pull this off. Ascending Lhotse was a world away from our previous night on Everest. We were tucked into a beautiful steep couloir of rock and ice against an exposed ridge. There were no other people around us, there was no wind blowing, only absolute silence. Within a few hours, we were standing on top of our second 8,000m peak in less than 24 hours. We stood there alone, just as the sun rose. The view of Everest that morning was equally as incredible as the view from Everest the day before.

Newfoundland Jack Rodat (‘15)

The day after Christmas I showed up on Carl Deane’s doorstep in Boston, MA. We were headed to Newfoundland, Canada for a few weeks of ice climbing. With no guidebooks and limited trip reports, we had our hearts set on unclimbed ice and decided to go for it. After 15 hours driving and a $400 speeding ticket, we pulled into the harbor of North Sydney, Nova Scotia, the gateway to the Canadian island of Newfoundland. We drove aboard a container ship bound for the island that afternoon. However, extreme weather and high seas in the Atlantic kept us grounded for the next three days. Distraught, we took to boozing, watching the ping pong world championship, and listening to bad crime novels on tape. The normally six-hour crossing took closer to nine hours, and by the time we finally arrived at 3 a.m., we were so desperate for ice that we drove through the night. We drove north to Gros Morne National Park with rumors of good ice. Eventually we spotted a pillar high

off the road, pulled off, and dressed in the cold morning air. It was New Years Eve. We bushwhacked up the slope for two hours, arriving at the base of the ice, which proved to be shorter and steeper than it had seemed from the road. I led the long pitch—the first I had been on in months. The ice proved brittle, showering huge chunks past Carl’s belay, but the day was perfect. We simul-climbed the remaining 200’ of lower angle ice, rock, and shrubbery. There were no signs of people what so ever, and we had no way of knowing whether the route had been done, we christened the climb, Revelations. The next week or so went much the same way, one would drive while the other scoured the topos we managed to acquire, as well as the cliffs flanking the road with our binoculars. Driving along, we saw countless lines down huge cliffs from boggy plateaus. The climbing was great, but in the words of the late Jack Roberts, who Carl and I had consulted about the trip, “You don’t go to Newfoundland to climb off the road.” So, after reviewing a bunch of maps, we decided to go into Western Brook Pond in the Grose Morne. We brought a bunch of Gu packets, one sleeping bag, and a tarp for the cold night. The Western Brook wasn’t frozen, forcing us to do a 12-mile bushwhack including a cold, hip-deep river crossing. We set up camp and headed up to our chosen climb. We simul-climbed the first 400’ of WI3. It started to rain while I led the second WI4 pitch. Worried about icefall, I belayed in a cave of sorts, but as Carl followed water began gushing over my belay. We finished the route and then rappelled in the dark. We spent a sleepless night in the tarp waiting out a rainstorm, and the next day stumbled the 12 miles back. Even after a recovery day—our first night indoors—I was clearly quite sick. We climbed our last line near Trout River: 200’ of WI3, which we soloed, to three pitches of WI4 with some mixed climbing. Carl led every pitch. Feeling weak, and with Carl needing to finish 60 pages of overdue essay writing for Princeton, we decided to head back south a few days early. We did not see another climber—nor a single piton or piece of cord. It was a great trip in an amazing area. Summary Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland Various Activity

[Facing Page] Mike Wejchert (‘08) looking down at Ryan Stefiuk following a mixed crux in Gros Morne National Park. Mike Wejchert 66




Newfoundland Mike Wejchert (‘08)

Ryan Stefiuk, Alden Pellett, and I drove up to Newfoundland’s Gros Morne National Park in early February from my house in Jackson, New Hampshire, enduring horrible roads, ferry delays, and all other manner of travel problems along the way. We arrived a day late, leaving only four full days to climb the big ice we knew was hiding behind Newfoundland’s massive Fjords. After warming up on two single-pitch ice climbs directly above the frigid Atlantic Ocean, we skied into Trout Brook Pond hoping to climb one of the many 1,000’ routes. Packing the car that morning reminded me of my alpine apprenticeship in Rocky Mountain National Park: the wind threatened to take the doors off my car, spindrift billowed around us, even in the parking area, and the thermometer read -7°F. There was an added bonus: I fell in the pond up to my waist. I unclipped my skis and crawled out. Fortunately, it had warmed up, but the day was over. We decided to sleep and rest, and focus all our energy on climbing three big routes on the final three days of the trip. I plastered my feet to the heater and attacked my boots with a blow dryer. Alden—at 50, twice my age, with twice my experience on steep, scrappy ice— jokingly produced a pair of swim trunks for “junior” to pack in case he wanted to go swimming again. We spent the next three days getting snowmobiled ten miles into the fjord. We climbed three massive routes, each 1,500-2,000’, ranging from WI5 to WI5+ with the occasional M5 R pitch thrown in. Joe Terrevechia had done most of the routes in the area already, but we added a different finish to my personal favorite, finishing the trip with a 2,000’ route that felt more like an Alaskan classic than something on the east coast. Newfoundland is a huge arena, with paltry information, a remote setting, and not much hope for rescue. In short, it’s full on. We were the only climbers in Newfoundland at the time. Ryan was in contact with a pair of young students, including Jack Rodat (‘15), who is currently a student at Colorado College, who had done some climbs in the area earlier that winter. Congratulations to those guys! They’re probably the youngest climbers to ever visit the area, and they climbed some pretty badass routes, too. It makes me pretty happy— and awe-struck—to think of the youth getting after it in the wintertime. Alden made a film of the trip that can be

watched at, who generously supported our trip. Summary Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland Various Activity

Crack of Noon

Timothy Gibson (‘10) Jon Schaffer and I had an incredible trip in the Bugaboos this summer. We spent a total of five days shuttling gear and enjoyed generally favorable conditions. Our trip was characterized by many crack-of-noon starts, abundant slimy groveling, blisters on both of our palms from jamming, and the discovery of many immaculate, unclimbed features in the range. Our first major endeavor began at noon as we wandered across the Crescent Glacier to check out a new line on the north face of Snowpatch Spire. However, we could not deny the draw of the east face basking in sunlight, so we began climbing in the vicinity of the Beckey-Mather (V 5.8 A2). Our route, Cherchez La Femme (V 5.12 A0), branches right at the second pitch of Labyrinth (V 5.12), and follows enduro, overhanging hand cracks, bouldery, pin-protected compression climbing, powerful ring-locks and mucho wide, scary climbing to the top of the Tom Egan Wall. After moving to our intended base camp in East Creek Basin during a total whiteout, we climbed what we thought was the FA of the northwest face of Crossed Fish Peak via Red Fish, Blue Fish (IV+ 5.11 C2, followed free at 5.12-). Though this route will, and should, never be a classic—nor was it the FA of the face—it afforded us a grand adventure, taking all that we could muster to summit and descend. Eventually Jon and I found ourselves to be the only residents of East Creek Basin. With no source for weather reports, we were blessed with a relatively stable atmosphere and decided to attack the central west face of North Howser Tower—the main objective of our expedition. Reaching the base of the wall at 5:30 a.m., we climbed ten very long pitches through the lower corner system of Shooting Gallery into the Seventh Rifle gully, then following the face between Real Mescalito and Young Men on Fire to complete Doogie Howser (VI 5.11+) in 12 hours. A surprisingly mellow descent brought us back to basecamp in time for dinner as a

[Facing Page] Tim Gibson (‘10) face smearing on North Howser Tower. Jon Schaffer 68




thunderstorm rolled in. We had previously been stormed off of a route on Wide Awake Tower in the Pigeon Feathers and decided to return to finish it off. Once again, starting after noon, we climbed a wild stem-box with splitter cracks through a roof just right of Wild Fire (V 5.11+). After joining this route for a pitchand-a-half, we cut hard right via a boulder problem that led us to a hanging dihedral near the main arête of the tower, providing some of the most amazing and difficult climbing we encountered in the Bugaboos. After a final, wildly exposed moonlit summit pitch we finished Midnight Marauders (V 5.12 A1), returning to camp the same time as we had departed for North Howser a few mornings prior. With our psych and stamina waning, and no amount of tape able to prevent our hands or fingers from bleeding, we each had one good fight left in us. We ended up climbing what Marc Piche says “Has long been talked about as the last obvious line on the South Howser,” and which Jon had spotted on the cover of the guidebook before arriving. Our route, Compassion Club (V 5.11+) follows the chimney system on the northwest face of South Howser Tower that leads directly to the summit. The climbing ranges from immaculate corners to sopping chimneys full of microbial mat communities and couldn’t have been a better end to our trip. We placed a total of six pins, a couple of lengths of cordelette, and no bolts on our new routes. We would like to thank the following organizations, people, and varmints: The American Alpine Club’s Mountaineering Fellowship Award for helping fund our expedition; the team that bravely endured five days on the Beckey-Chouinard; all the nice folks that provided us with food, cooking shelter, ropes, booty cams, reading material, and company while in the mountains; and, finally, the poor snafflehound that met his maker in the 70


East Creek shit barrel—no animal should have to endure what you did. Summary Bugaboo Provincial Park and East Creek Basin, BC Crack of Noon, III 5.10-, new variation, East Peak Two Birds One Stone, III 5.12+ A0, FA, Owl Tower, Pigeon Feathers Tam Tam Boom Boom Pili Pili into Beckey-Rowell, IV 5.10+, Snowpatch Spire The Beach, IV 5.11-, FFA, Snowpatch Spire Red Fish, Blue Fish, IV+ 5.11+ C2 followed free at 5.12-, FA, Crossed Fish Peak Cherchez La Femme, V 5.12 A0, FA, Snowpatch Spire Midnight Marauders, V 5.12 A1, FA, Wide Awake Tower, Pigeon Feathers Compassion Club, V 5.11+, FA, South Howser Tower Doogie Howser, VI 5.11+, FA, North Howser Tower

Lotus Flower Tower

the belay, and transitioned onto lead. On pitch four, I headed out onto loose flakes. “Why are you playing the drums?” Kremer commented, as I tapped on a hollow Giant, dark towers silhouetted against the sounding, school-bus-sized flake. Pitch five: Kremer Northern Lights; bright stars loomed above us. Fueled leads us into the chimneys, where for three rope-stretchby coffee and bagels, Kirsten Kremer and I meandered ing pitches we wandered up the easy but loose climbing. through meadows and moraines following a faint trail Then, a 5.8 lieback placed me on the bivy ledge; just as illuminated by our headlamp beams. A solitary raindescribed: a perfectly flat 20x12’ ledge perched halfway drop stopped the morning’s conversation. “Well, we can up a most spectacular route. We snacked, told jokes, always turn around.” I said. laughed and left behind a quart of water. The ground, Already on the first pitch of the Lotus Flower now 1,000’ below, began to feel far away. Tower shone the headlamps of John and Bill, a Canadian The laughing stopped as Kremer stepped off the team. The morning’s first light allowed me to head up ledge, heading up a thin, open-book corner onto the the first two pitches; a dirty 5.8 into a steep, awkward headwall towering above us. It almost appeared as if the crack began our day. Racked and ready, Kremer hit tower had arched forward to look down upon us. I then By Lisa Van Sciver (‘03)

[Facing Page] Jon Schaffer chalking up on North Howser. Tim Gibson (‘10) [This Page] Tim Gibson (‘10) following a pitch on South Howser. Jon Schaffer CCAJ


launched onto the headwall, where for the next 1,000’ we would only find hanging belays. A thin technical face and a bit of rope drag slowed me as I moved up in search of the next belay. Dressed in all our clothes, including rain gear, we shivered and climbed fast to warm up. We quickly passed through changeovers, only sharing a smile and laugh before continuing to the next pitch. Thin clouds filtered the sun’s rays and softened the dramatic spires as we climbed high up the Lotus Flower Tower. We continued to swing leads up the featured face, which offered pitch after pitch of sweet, alpine granite. The occasional moss, seepage, or flakey rock slowed the pace, but the face, streaked with cracks, led us up to a roof, where I quickly resorted to aiding. The sense of remoteness and fatigue set in as I noticed the setting sun. Kremer was still smiling and climbing with force, leading up a 5.9 crack, which was our second to last pitch. The Canadians rappelled past Kremer and down to me. “Looks like less then an hour of light,” Bill said. “Yeah, we’ll probably bivy on the summit,” I re-


“Really, what do you have?” “What I’m wearing. Should be grim.” “Want my bivy tarp?” I reached into Bill’s pack, took the tarp and then watched him rappel away. As fast as I could, I climbed to Kremer, excited to tell her the news she had already overheard. I took the final pitch, wandering around on easy terrain. I reached the end of my rope just as I reached an anchor. Kremer followed up before darkness filled in the spaces. “Ready to rap? Or should we go to the summit?” Kremer asked. “Let’s sleep on the summit.” “Sweet,” she replied. The sun’s rays touched the high peaks for one last time. Perched on the tower, we carved a bed between rocks, lay the ropes on the tarp, huddled together and wrapped ourselves tight. Kremer’s heat warmed one side of my body while the other side cooled. Every few hours we would flip. Night fell and so did the snow. We awoke, frozen under a blanket of snow. Glad to have slept, we descended off the slippery summit. Through rising clouds and brightening daylight we carefully rappelled seven times down the headwall to the bivy ledge. From there, we lowered ourselves outside the chimneys and then down the first four pitches. Finally reaching camp, we dropped our packs, cracked beers and giggled with ease. “I think I hear a heli,” I said. “You’re just delirious.” “Probably.” I sipped my PBR. Minutes later the helicopter arrived. We jumped to our feet. This was our ride. In 20 minutes the heli was packed, and Bruce flew us to Glacier Lake, where he dropped us and flew the Canadians back to Warren LaFave’s lodge. A few beers, SAT phone calls and hours of sleep, Warren, the owner of Inconnu Lodge and the flight operation, arrived in his float plan. He served us whiskey gingers onboard and returned us to civilization. Delirious from the whirlwind, I looked over at my friend knowing she was the only one who truly knew how I felt at that given moment. I couldn’t have asked for a better partner to climb the Lotus Flower Tower. Summary Lotus Flower Tower, The Cirque of the Unclimbables, Canada Southeast Face, V 5.11-



This is Peru, You Idiot! Mike Wejchert (‘08)

Erik Eisele and myself traveled to Peru’s Cordillera Blanca this summer to get some alpine climbing done. After failed trips to Patagonia and Alaska last year, I was ready to get back on the horse. We said goodbye to sunny sport climbing with our significant others and got ready for headaches and weight loss. After a fun trek into the Ishinca Valley, we spent a week acclimatizing. On June 26 we started up the Southwest Ridge of Urus Este, which we assumed was unclimbed. We soloed, mostly on good neve and granite, for about 1,000’, occasionally running into a tricky mixed step. We then took the rope out. Having not been in boots and crampons for three months, I couldn’t stop smiling. It was really fun climbing, and I only slightly felt the altitude. We belayed a couple of awesome, easy ice pitches, and then ran into waist deep snow. Halfway up, I climbed the technical crux, probably M4-5 on decent granite. We

belayed another nine pitches on the ridge. The worst of which involved me angrily digging through 80-degree snow. Burrowing at 18,000’ was tiring, and between bouts of madly swinging my ice tools at the unconsolidated mush, I would collapse, exhausted, against the tunnel walls. This is Peru, you idiot! What the hell did you expect? Erik took over when I got too tired. He’s a marvelous climber and an absolutely solid guy to be tied in with, at home or abroad. He led a hard traversing pitch, and then a great ice pitch that brought us directly to the summit of Urus. We stepped into the tracks of the regular route and after a couple hours of easy walking, we were back in our tent dreaming of pizza. The next week we hiked up to El Esfinge to attempt a 17-pitch rock climb on stellar granite. It would have been great, except that it was 32°F and snowing. I took the first pitch in my down jacket, knowing it would be a very long day of suffering. The climbing rolled on, with Erik styling a lot of the route in the lead, including

[Facing Page] Lisa Van Sciver (‘03) leading a splitter corner on Lotus Flower Tower. Kirsten Kremer [This Page] Erik Eisele taking in Peru from high up on El Esfinge. Mike Wejchert (‘08) CCAJ


the three crux pitches. The guidebook calls this route 5.11+, but we felt that 5.10+ was more accurate. Snow continued to plague us up the route and I resolved to never mix alpine climbing and rock climbing together again. Rock shoes are not as warm as mountain boots. On my birthday, July 12, we flew back stateside, 15 pounds lighter and very excited to be back to barbeques and beer again. We’d like to thank the American Alpine Club for giving us a Mountain Fellowship Grant and the all-new Live Your Dream Grant, as well as the Ragged Mountain

Fellowship, from whom we received this year’s Wilcox Award. Summary Cordillera Blanca, Peru Urus Este, Southwest Ridge, IV M4/5, 80-degree snow (2nd ascent) El Esfinge, Original Route, V 5.10+

Caipirinhas, Climbing, and Bug Bites Dave Hoven (‘06)

Joel Irby (‘06) and I met up in Rio de Janeiro at a hotel off Copa Cabana mid-afternoon on December 6, 2011. We had about 18 days to climb and have fun, and were in no mood to waste time doing anything that didn’t involve at least one of those activities. We made haste to rendezvous with our new friend, Fernando Brito (a.k.a. Brito) who offered us his apartment as a base camp for our trip. Brito’s place turned out to be ideally located; it was only a quick 15 minute walk to the nearest climbing, Babylonia Wall; 20 minutes from the nearest beach, and about 40 minutes from the iconic hunk of stone known as Sugarloaf. As the most prominent rock within walking distance, we decided to cut our teeth on Sugarloaf ’s classic, sparsely bolted line Italianos. After getting lost several times in the dense vegetation that surrounds the base of the rock, we finally made our way to the route. We climbed the three or four pitches that make up Italianos, then connected to an ancient via-ferrata cable that we followed another few hundred feet to the summit. The most amazing part about climbing on Sugarloaf is that once you reach the summit you can find ice-cold beer, delicious acai, and then take a gondola all the way down to the beach where you started. The amenities do come with a heavy dose of prodding tourists, but that’s part of the fun. Our host in Rio, Brito, is a climber turned BASE jumper and quickly recognized our yearning for something a little more adventurous than the various—and still very impressive—escarpments surrounding downtown Rio. He told us of his favorite BASE jumping spot in Brazil, which was about seven hours North of Rio in the state of Vitoria. 12 hours later we were all packed into Brito’s mini-SUV, buzzing down windy roads, barely clinging to the pavement in the wee hours of a rainy night; people in Brazil seem to drive like they were in a video game. We pulled into the majestic village of Bom Jardin at about 9 a.m., totally fried from

[This Page] Mike Wejchert (‘08) soloing low on Urus Este. Erik Eisele [Facing Page] Corcavado in the clouds. Dave Hoven (‘06) 74


the white-knuckle driving experience, but mysteriously energized as we drew closer to Brito’s favorite rock, Pedra Onca, which dominated the skyline and loomed over the farming valley. We spent a day or two wandering around, watching Brito BASE jump, scoping the loads of unclimbed rock that speckled the skyline, and putting together some semblance of a plan for an attempt at the first ascent of Pedra Onca. Around that time Brito headed back to Rio, leaving us in the hands of an incredibly friendly elderly Brazilian couple that put us up in their guesthouse. In the days that followed Joel and I made multiple attempts to hack our way through the insanely dense jungle to the base of the rock, only to be bested by a brutal combination of humidity, bug bites, and a relentless bout of intestinal mayhem. Despite our fruitless efforts on the yet unclimbed Pedra Onca, the trip to Bom Jardin was an excellent adventure and we made vows to return for another shot at Pedra Onca and to visit all of the wonderful friends we made. After the long and restless bus trip back to Rio de Janeiro, we decided to take one more stab at a big route in Brazil. This time we set our sights on Corcovado, atop of which stands the mighty Christ the Redeemer statue, several thousand feet above the bustling city. We decided to make a go on an old line called Diretissima Sul, which ascends about 1,800’ of vertical-overhanging rock directly below Christ the Redeemer’s left hand. Once again, the crux of the climb proved to be the approach and within a couple of hours of setting out for the day we found ourselves wrestling through dense foliage on very steep terrain. It took us about three hours of battle to get to the base of the rock where we quickly found our route. The climbing was extremely straightforward for the most part; the route is

almost entirely fixed. There was still room for zest, however, as many of the old 1/8” makeshift drilled pins had completely eroded to little more than rusty stubs protruding from the rock. We made decent time and found ourselves at the top of the 1,500’ bolt ladder shortly before the sun went down. The remaining few hundred feet of the route offered some scary free climbing on trees, roots and grasses that were marginally attached to the vertical face. We topped out the climb around 9 p.m., after a long day of getting scorched in the Brazilian sun. At the top we snooped around for water until an angry security guard jumped out of a door with a gun. Through a garbled mess of hand gestures and incomprehensible Portuguese we convinced the guard that we had no intention of defiling Christ the Redeemer and he let us go with a couple bottles of water. He never took his finger off the trigger. Not surprisingly, we failed to plan how exactly we would get off of Corcovado if we did happen to reach the summit. Walking was our only option, but not exactly ideal as it was a solid twenty miles through two Favelas. Luckily we hitched a ride in an old 70’s VW van after the first five miles and ended up back at Brito’s base camp in time to hit the corner bar for a huge pile of fried food and a few ice-cold caipirinhas (Brazil’s national cocktail). Joel headed to the airport the next morning, and I left the following day, just in time to make it home for Christmas. Summary Sugarloaf, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Italianos, III 5.10 Corcovado, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Diretissima Sul, IV 5.9 C1+ CCAJ



David Fay (’13) I stepped off the plane in Bariloche, Argentina; it was Valentines Day and I had just left everyone I knew after studying ecology in Patagonia. Now I was alone. My sole companions comprised J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and lofty dreams of granite towers. Fast-forward through a whirlwind of hostels, buses, and broken English, and I’m hanging from a belay 300’ off the ground in Frey, Argentina. The sky is crystal clear, the sun is beaming, and the granite is unbelievable. My new Brazilian friend, Gustavo, leads above me, and even

though we communicate in broken sentences and hand gestures, we both know climbing and our communication feels flawless. As we swap leads, I take the final pitch, charging up a splitter hand crack for 50’. Left with only two pieces, but with solid jams and bomber rock, the climbing is secure and I continue. The company is good and the space is airy. How could alpine climbing get any better

than, here, in the southern hemisphere? As we rappel back to camp and nestle into the refugio with a large pizza and bottle of wine, I know that this is only the beginning of many adventures to come.

Frey, Argentina Rich Brereton (‘07)

After our honeymoon in Argentina, my wife, Morgan, flew home to Boston to go back to school/work. I stayed there and rode the bus from Ushuaia to Bariloche. It was a harrowing 30-hour journey during which the

American horror film Saw VI played, seemingly forever, on the public speakers so that bloodcurdling screams and dismemberments filled my ears regardless of whether I was awake or dreaming. I tried to rest, in vain, in anticipation of two weeks climbing with my old RMFI friend JB Haab in Frey. Frey, for those who have never heard of it, is a heaven for climbers. Slender granite spires of up to five

[This Page] David Fay (‘13) discovering the universal language of climbing in Argentina. Gustavo [Facing Page] An unknown tower in Frey. David Fay (‘13) 76




hundred feet bristle from the alpine landscape like the quills of a porcupine. Soaring cracks and steep, featured faces can be found on every aspect of each tower. The camping is free, with a friendly international scene at the refugio by the lake, or solitude if you want it. The weather is warm and storms are rare in the summer. Condors glide on the thermals, inspecting you as you climb. After two weeks of climbing classic routes, we had barely scratched the surface and it broke our hearts to leave. It was a little easier for JB, who was heading to Chile to climb at Cochamo. Frey is so accessible, so friendly, and so good an alpine rock climbing area to make it irresistible. Unlike heading down to Chalten or Torres del Paine where the weather can shut you down for weeks, at Frey you are practically guaranteed as many climbing days as you can handle.



Sweaty Palms in the Heart of Darkness Drew Thayer (‘11)

Tonsai Bay is paradise. The calm warm waters of the Indian Ocean lap against the soft sandy beaches where couples stroll and babes recline on beach towels. One can pass the day lounging in the open-air bars, reading a book, playing backgammon or chess, and wander down the street periodically for a coconut lassi, a banana pancake, or a cold Chang lager. The establishments— Small World Bar, Freedom Bar, Tonsai Reggae Bar, the ever-popular Jah Bar—are charming in their similarity: a patio with cushions, a sound system leaking “40oz to Freedom” or “Exodus,” boxes of Chang stacked behind the bar, the obligatory tapestry of patron saint Bob Marley gasping in ecstasy—or coughing?—with a joint smoldering in his hand. This is where the footloose and fancy free of Europe come to relax, flex their Euros, session steep limestone on the beach until the heat of the after-

noon, and then congregate on the patios, smoking and drinking through the day’s swelter cool evenings. It’s a visual and sensual paradise. And for five boys from Colorado, Zach Gostout (’07), Noah Gostout (‘10), Dan Rothberg (‘12), John Collis (‘13), and me, the climbing can be a sweltering hell—in the fun kind of way. Climbing in Tonsai is the most fun, novel climbing I’ve done, and it totally kicked my ass. We discovered, to our surprise, that our stamina was diminished at least two-to-one in the tropics; we’d go out for a full-day and after four pitches, collapse on the ground, pounding more water, and passing the guidebook back and forth with mild interest in the next day’s objectives. What’s going on? I thought. I usually bag twice that many pitches on a standard hung-over Saturday at Shelf Road. Perhaps it was the sweat. It seemed necessary to chalk up for almost every move. In an attempt to quantify this new experience—and provide empirical grounds for permissible whining on the wall—we developed the Sweat Decimal System (SDS), which covers the entire spectrum of human sweat-states.

S0 = Dry: lying naked on a 50-degree day, in the shade, in Colorado S1 = Moist in dark regions

S2 = Beads on skin S3 = Runs down skin S4 = Sweat in eyes S5 = Drips off elbows and nose S6 = Runs down ear canals S7 = “Saturation shake”, i.e., vigorous shaking will spray everyone within a 10’ radius S8 = Other people cannot hold on to your limbs S9 = Physically impossible to see S10 = Imminent hospitalization

The suffering climber can supplement the YDS rating of a climb with the SDS conditions, for example, the route Humanality at 1 p.m., in direct sunlight, is II 5.10b S7+. But at 8 p.m. it is a far more approachable II 5.10b S5. Most importantly, the SDS scale allows me to feel more justified as I dangle in the air spewing expletives after greasing off of a jug the size of a steering wheel. Tropical conditions are tough for dry-country boys, but the novelty of the climbing more than made up for the difficulties. I don’t know anywhere else where one can climb a 300’ wall, completely overhanging, at a modest grade of 5.11. The stone is blessed with wild features from tufas and pockets, to actual chunks of ancient coral; it’s a jungle gym for big kids. Stemming out to a

[Facing Page] Dan Rothberg (‘12) enjoys Thailand. Drew Thayer Collection [This Page] The overhanging walls of Tonsai Bay. Drew Thayer Collection CCAJ




free-hanging stalactite and looking down between your legs at waves lapping against the jungle is worth flying halfway around the world for, sleeping under a bug net, and getting the runs. The beachside cragging on Tonsai, Railey, and Phra Nang beaches is a pretty intense scene; guide companies run perpetual top ropes on the handful of 5.10s and packs of Mammut-clad Euros recline in the sand, spraying beta at their inverted compatriots. I swear there was a group of Koreans who worked the same route, 60’ from Freedom Bar, for six days! I also think Tonsai bay holds the world’s highest concentration of ripped dudes; you can’t turn your head without seeing six-packs and rippling obliques, whether their owner is strolling the beach, walking a slackline, or chain-smoking knockoff Marlboros, and sipping out of a coconut with a pink straw. We were not too psyched on the sun n’ gun show, or the ridiculously polished routes at the popular crags, so being American trad climbers, we did the closest thing to western climbing: got on the multi-pitches. We found that we’d not only shook the crowds but discovered sharp holds! Noah and I had a great time on Heart of Darkness, which follows a system of tufas for six pitches up a wall on which nearly every move is overhanging. From a distance, the line resembles the dried skeletons of creeper vines crawling up a wall. No move is harder than .11d but some parts—the first pitch in particular—are so overhanging that if the second falls well below a bolt he is going to have to climb the rope to get back on the wall, which adds some spice to this “sport” climb. The route involves lots of wild stemming with superb exposure, and at one point I actually burrowed through a man-size tunnel to belay in the notch of a stalactite the size of a truck. The guidebook warned that the descent involves “7c rappelling” (i.e., 5.12b) and boy you better believe it. I had to clip every bolt on the way down and keep vigorously swinging so I could reach the next bolt and not end up dangling uselessly in space. Perhaps the highlight of the trip was climbing Lord of the Thais, which is so amazingly good, that at the time we were eager to admit it is the best multi-pitch climb in the world. Presiding over Railey beach, the Thaiwand is an imposing pinnacle of pocked limestone, and Lord of the Thais ascends an ever more challenging line up the center of the shady north face, culminating in “The most aesthetic crux in the world,” as Noah said, taking off from the belay. The pitch follows two parallel tufa rails to the base of a smooth overhanging block studded with tiny corals. One clings to these ancient skeletal fragments with nothing but air to the ocean

below, then, a heel-hook to the edge of the block, before firing out for a tufa. The movement is precise and beautiful, and the setting is immaculate. The sequence was tricky to onsight, but Noah, Dan, and I all managed to send it on our second attempts. A climbing trip to Thailand isn’t complete without indulging in the ultimate novelty of deep-water soloing. I will say this: committing to insecure moves 35’ above the ocean is way scarier than it looks in the videos. After working some low problems with consequence-free splashes into the sea, Dan reached upward from the standard line to grab a large fin that protruded from the cliff like a petrified sunfish, and managed to clamber onto the fin before plummeting off. Up next, I got both hands on the fin and was about to relent to the tug of gravity when I decided I might as well take the situation to the next level of absurdity and I swung my hips up and threw a heel around a dangling stalactite. Thus inverted, I really didn’t want to fall, so I slapped my way up the fin to a vertical position before jumping clear to the waves. Noah finished the sequence, finding a path of crimps above the stalactite that gained a small ledge, now 50’ above the ocean. Soon, all three of us were perched up there like stranded cormorants and wishing we hadn’t climbed so high; there was no way we could reverse those moves. It took a collective countdown for us all to leap. Even though I did several long, controlled drops that day and none of them really hurt, I never got used to the gripping fear of preparing for a big jump. At one point, Dan and I rested against a stalactite waiting our turn while Noah groped blindly around a bulge high above the water. His eyes held a telltale focus as his foot pawed on slimy stone for a foothold. Turning back he remarked, “I miss bolts.” Summary Tonsai Bay, Thailand Humanality, II 5.10b Heart of Darkness, III 5.11c Lord of the Thai’s, III 5.12b

[Facing Page] Drew Thayer (‘11) contemplating his next move on Humanality. Drew Thayer Collection CCAJ



This year marks the sixth edition of the Colorado College Alpine Journal. We have accomplished much in the past six years. The CCAJ has now been printed for four consecutive years, our readership base has grown to include over forty years of Colorado College students and alumni, and we continue to provide the Journal free of cost, while ever-increasing the sustainability of our revenue. However, what I am most proud of is the tradition of excellent stories, photos, climbing history, and community spirit maintained in the pages of the CCAJ. After graduation, former editor, Erik Rieger (‘12) used his experience with the CCAJ to begin a career

as Assistant Editor of the American Alpine Journal. We are all very excited and proud of this opportunity and know that he will approach this challenge with the same positive attitude and persistence he approaches all else. We are also very pleased to announce Niels Davis (‘15) as our new editor. With Erik onto the AAJ, we needed a young student to step up and take a leadership position with the publication; Niels has done just that. With the assistance of the Board of Directors—Dave Hoven, Erik Rieger, and I—Niels and the student team have organized the piece of art before you, born of hard work and late hours.

[Photo] Joe Forrester (‘06) reflecting deeply on the history of the CCAJ. Joe Forrester [Back Cover] The Fisher Towers. Joe Forrester 82


This year’s edition pays homage to the life of Colorado College alumni Harvey Carter (‘56). A special individual, Harvey touched many of our lives either directly or through his climbing legacy. For myself, “growing up” in the Fisher Towers, I was awed by Harvey’s climbs, all done before the advent of modern climbing equipment. I still remember the fear during my first attempt on Harvey’s route, Sundevil Chimney, with nothing to eat but a can of dog food and less-than-adequate gear. Harvey lived life to the fullest, and many of us had the privilege of seeing him in the Garden of the Gods with only a set of stoppers and a bowline tied around

his waist as he climbed into old age. What I find most impressive is that Harvey managed to push the limit of the sport, while still living into his 80’s. Today, this seems a fixture of the past, where high profile solos, more dangerous ascents, and a long list of obituaries seem commonplace. I hope with all my heart and soul that the only obituaries we ever publish here in the CCAJ are those of old men and women, who have lived a lifetime of adventure on the rocks. Please stay safe out there, Joe Forrester (‘06)

Dear journal patrons, Colorado College students, alumni, and friends, We hope that you have enjoyed the 2012 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, revenue from advertising space, and donations. 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 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 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 or find us on Facebook by searching “Colorado College Alpine Journal”. Sincerely, The Colorado College Alpine Journal Staff







2012 CCAJ  
2012 CCAJ  

The 2012 edition of the Colorado College Alpine Journal