Issuu on Google+




The Colorado College Alpine Journal 2006 Volume 1

CONTENTS Free Girl Days: Drunk on Moonlight’s Nectar -Madaleine Sorkin (‘04) Pgs 6-12

Gurla Mandhata: Ascent in Tibet -Jake Norton (‘96) Pgs 13-17

Land of Contrast: Adventures In Africa - Joe Forrester (‘06) Pgs 18-28

A Short and Winding Road: Two Students’ Trip up El Capitan -Chris Burwell (‘08) Pgs 29-32

Face Down In The Ditch With A Slice Of Humble Pie: Trip Report Of A Pilgrimage -Chris Barlow (‘04) Pgs 33-40

Cover: Sunset on Washer Woman and Monster Tower, Canyonlands -Joe Forrester


Climbs and Expeditions


Alaska California Colorado North Carolina Utah Canada Mexico

41-43 43-44 45-50 50-51 51-55 55-61 61-62

Letters, Thoughts, and Stories


Sunset in the Fishers—Joe Forrester

The Colorado College Alpine Journal Joe Forrester Michael Wejchert Editors

Morning Fog on approach to Mt. Kenya—Joe Forrester


5 What hands have touched this rock! What fingertips have felt for the same holds as mine, have searched for the same camalot placement, have felt the same sense of security from a well placed piton, and have sighed with relief and a bit of sadness, perhaps, calling down to a well trusted friend and partner from a safe belay stance? I won’t lie: I came to Colorado College for climbing. I was as obsessed with it back then as I am now, and much to the chagrin of my parents and oftentimes friends, it consumes me. Yet I came to realize that my questions need not apply merely to glorified alpinists or mutant free-climbing rock crushing monsters. With such a revelation and a year or two of block breaks under my belt, I revised my query. What hands, then, have gripped the steering wheel on the dirt road up to Turkey Rocks after class got out? What hands have leafed through guidebooks looking for the next desert adventure? The hands in question, as it turned out, belonged to many of the most prominent American climbers of their eras. I shall refrain from saying more, as they will be allowed to speak for themselves on the following pages. Joe Forrester, one of those magnanimous and oh so patient “elders”, called me up from medical school in Virginia with a proposition. (It has turned out to be more mentally daunting than another one of Joe’s calls inviting me to help out on his ascent of West Side Story in the Fishers.) His idea for an exclusively Colorado College based journal was a brilliant and simple plan for uniting CC climbers young and old. Unlike other journals and magazines, we strive to honor all shapes and sizes of ascents. We’ll save emphasis on style and ethics for more serious publications. What follows is a smattering of literary pieces and trip reports varying in climbing difficulty and method. Yet all are fastened together by the simple joy of an alarm going off at an insane hour, stomach fluttering in predawn excitement whilst friends become roused, to leave the clutter of our world, if only for an instant, in hopes of remembering what those great moments in great places feel like again. Here is the first edition of our Alpine Journal. We hope you enjoy it. -Mike Wejchert

Mike and Joe, summit of Cottontail Tower, Aug ‘05 -J Aslaksen



Mike Schaeffer


FREE GIRL DAYS “Wahoo! Nice work,” I yell up as Kate Rutherford (‘03) reaches the anchors of an upper pitch on the Moonlight Buttress. “Ah, this is an unrelenting splitter,” she shouts back. “We’re going to have to try hardddd, Mad.” “Well, we’ll just keep climbing it until it becomes a hand crack. The joys of soft sandstone!” I cackle. “Yeah, then we could climb this when we’re old ladies! Maybe for a 60th birthday?” Kate jests. I laugh and can’t stop smiling. The sky is blue and the wind calm. I am on the most beautiful sandstone splitter with a friend I can laugh and be goofy with and who pushes me to challenge myself. I feel blessed. We top-rope two more difficult pitches and rap to the ground. This is our first day on the buttress and we’re not articulating much yet, except that we are dually inspired. I recognize the glimmer in Kate’s eyes and think hopeful thoughts. Maybe a big objective is just what we needed. We can be focused! We can be motivated! The excitement begins to stir my stomach. This is a condition which will linger through the week, keeping me up at night. On the bus, Kate turns and says, “Okay, so tomorrow we’ll rap in and try to lead those pitches.” “Oh god,” I groan. “I don’t know; I’m almost sold on high exposure top-roping for the rest of my life. That was way too much fun.” We are like giddy little schoolgirls. With a project that feels like a great big juicy secret, I hesitate to disclose to anyone what we’re planning until it becomes more of a reality. Another day is spent working on the route. I become ill at ease when a baby tarantula meets me in a finger lock at my Kate on p.6, 5.12+ face. Kate tries to swipe it out -Mike Schaeffer of the crack as she follows the pitch. It catches air but doesn’t


FREE GIRL DAYS fall far and returns to the wall only a few feet below. “Great, now it’s going to migrate down two hundred feet and bite us at our bivy in a few nights,” I yell. But at least we won’t have seven years bad luck and I happily view the spider’s resilience to extermination as a good omen. On our third day we situate the haul bag, which a raven terrorizes like an open fridge and flies away victorious with bagels and cheese in beak. Kate tries the crux pitch. I am exhausted before this day begins. Each time I swear Walter (to whom these infamous switchbacks are attributed) has added a new wiggle onto the hikers’ trail up Angel’s Landing. We return to town for beers and pizza. Our secret is no longer contained and we Top: Madaleine slotting it up on p.7 have indirectly garnered a Springdale -Mike Schaeffer cheering squad. While thankful for the team effort, I am resistant to chatter and hope we can keep our attention and energy on the task before us. I’ve never been so obsessed about a route and I’m wary of losing focus. Two agonizing days are spent resting readying ourselves for the glorious stone. Sitting in a hot tub, we avoid talking about the route. I ask Kate about her ambitions as a climber. How often mine fluctuate! I’m moved to thank Kate for her friendship, and the commonalities that bond us and empower me. I muster, “I like climbing with you, Kate. It’s really encouraging to climb with another female…and such fun!” She smiles affirmatively. Since we began climbing together, a mutual respect for one another’s ability, experience and easygoing spirit has existed. But honestly, I was unsure whether our dynamic would create enough determination for this route. I’ve acknowledged the value of climbing with other females often; however, odds


FREE GIRL DAYS and choice have put me in contact with more men than women in my climbing life—leading me to question the personal relevance of a female climbing partner and to feel unique in a maledominant environment. Climbing and traveling for much of the year, and with the start of these adventures punctuated by a sobering climbing accident, I’ve had time to evaluate the honesty of my self-image and let go more easily of traps my ego can fall prey to. Moreover, I’ve made time to be thankful for my good fortune and opportunities to learn. I am far less complacent about what I do, with whom, and why. I see my growth continuing in various ways and enjoy being able to observe these subtle changes through my continuation as a climber. I am so proud Kate and I are here, making this climb happen, and I wonder if these days could have meant as much to me a year ago. The night before our big Top: Madaleine Sorkin on p.7, 5.12 Left: Morning on Moonlight -Mike Schaeffer



day, a man, affectionately known as Fishhead, offers his waders Above: Kate and we are saved much of the torment of the icy river on our Rutherford on p.10, 5.12 ever-abused climber feet. We begin the route early enough for -Mike the cold rock to numb our hands and toes. The pitches march by Schaeffer until the base of the open book and the start of the most strenuous climbing. We sit here on the ‘rocker-block’ ledge and enjoy lunch. I struggle with the mantle problem off this ledge, wishing I’d tried it before. I eventually figure out how to keep my left foot in place and reach the desirable crack, which I follow happily upward with a clear path ahead. Kate looks flawless and absurdly composed leading through the tips lie-back corner, and finds a foothold for the first time at the crux. The slotpitch is last for the day and I am determined. We reach the party ledge in time for hours of lounging, wishing we had more chocolate covered donuts, but with no desire to climb an inch higher. We set-up the portaledge and enjoy our perch. The light fades through the canyon, bats come out and soon the stars follow. The buses stop running and we enjoy a quiet, peaceful night—aside from a cutting wind and the “epic-ing” aid party below, who Kate kindly pees upon. The morning is cold and we wait in our bags for the sun. The portaledge is old and has sagged and curled our shoulders like a hammock might. I give a moment’s praise to the early day big-wallers in their true sag-bags before us. Nonetheless, we bitch and whine as we lift our aching corpses and sacks of sand we call arms. We have only 350 feet of climbing to go. The first pitch is desperate. Kate squeaks by on lead and I follow—the notion of having


FREE GIRL DAYS to redo a pitch serves as remarkable motivation. The climb continues without any falls. By the top of the penultimate pitch, the last 5.12, we are beaming and shouting, “Holy shit, we ARE sending!” I have a small rack and I’m ready to lunge for the top but still remain 100 feet from it. Twenty feet out from the belay I hear Kate say something like “graceful” and catch her tone. I curb my enthusiasm and remind myself to maintain an iota of attention for this last pitch. Kate meets me in the sun on top. High-fives, dancing, hugs ensue. Thanks again Mikey for the beer! During the celebration, two hikers on the West Rim trail spot us and shout questions toward our peninsula of flat rock. I answer shortly that yes we have climbed up the rock’s face to get to where we are standing. And shortly afterward, Tim and Joe the hikers, have found their way over to Kate and I, and begin a most quintessential yet wonderful barrage of questions. “Up that sheer wall? How? Oh my god, come look over the edge Tim! Are you girls’ crazy? Are you just bursting with adrenaline right now? Wow, I am re-evaluating my whole life.” It’s hard to tell who’s more ecstatic here—Kate and I, atop this dream, or Tim and Joe for realizing that people do climb these walls. Time passes and we sit on top, savoring the moments. The leaves are changing into deep reds in the middle of the Great White Throne. Two days ago, it already snowed a couple feet up in Cedar City. Our high continues walking down Angel’s Landing and we can’t stop repeating, “Wow. We did it.” And, “Good job.” Or, “Holy shit. We fucking sent!” And don’t forget, “Wow. I feel like we really accomplished something Madaleine and Kate on the summit. -Mikey Schaeffer


FREE GIRL DAYS for ourselves.” Thoughts turn to the future and the dialogue stays. “Maybe next year we can climb it in a day.” “We might have to train then. A week or two in the Creek first?” “I guess that means no real jobs again.” Chuckles. The day is ours and nothing can take it away from us. -Madaleine Sorkin (‘04)



-Jake Norton


GURLA MANDHATA In the autumn of 1997, one year after graduating from CC, I waited for my friend and classmate, Quinn Simons, in Kathmandu. I had just finished guiding a successful ascent of Cho Oyu (8201 meters) for International Mountain Guides, and Quinn and I were planning to rent motorcycles and drive across Nepal. Quinn was just finishing up an attempt on the unclimbed North Face of Gurla Mandhata, a rarely visited peak in west Tibet. Unfortunately, our plans would change abruptly. Quinn and his team encountered massive storms and had a huge accident on their climb. Miraculously, he and his teammates made it out with their lives, but paid a heavy price in frostbite and injuries. But that’s Quinn’s story and it is not my place to tell the details. However, it was Quinn’s story combined with the lure of visiting a peak that was off the proverbial radar – after dealing with crowds and chaos on 5 Everest expeditions and 2 to Cho Oyu – that brought me to west Tibet in the Fall of 2006. I had organized the expedition through International Mountain Guides, with whom I have worked since 1993 as a freshman at CC. I had two close friends and clients, Kirk Allen and David Golden, who wanted to go on the trip, as well as David’s partner, Cynthia Dodson. After very little convincing, I conned my good friend and fellow class of 1996-er, Stuart Sloat, into coming along as well. Additionally, I was able to bring my good friends Panuru Sherpa (sirdar), Pemba Sherpa (cook), Mingma Sherpa (climbing Sherpa), Karma Rita Sherpa (climbing Sherpa), and Bal Bahadur Gharti (assistant cook) along with us. Before actually climbing Gurla Mandhata, we did an approach trek through the far western region of Nepal, Humla, a circuit of holy Mount Kailash in Tibet, and also visited the Stuart Sloat (‘96) spots Kirk Allen in Humla. ancient ruins of the Guge Kingdom. –Jake Norton After 2 weeks of trekking and travel, we made it to Gurla Mandhata’s 15,000 foot basecamp on September 16th. We moved up to advanced basecamp (ABC) on the 18th after a day of packing and organizing gear. Unfortunately, our yak herders would not push along the moraines to our intended ABC at 17,000 feet, stopping instead at 16,000’. This added about 3 miles of moraine walking to our future journeys to Camp I.


GURLA MANDHATA Upon our arrival at ABC, we met the only other team on the mountain: a group of 3 French climbers and two Sherpa who were headed back home the following day after reaching about 23,000 feet in deep snow. We had a good evening with them getting some information about the route and, by the next morning, the mountain was all ours. Our route up Gurla Mandhata foll o w e d t h e Chaglung’mlungha Glacier up the westThe team at ABC.-Jake Norton ern slopes of the mountain (see photo). Our initial plan was to place three camps above ABC: Camp I on the col at 19,000’, Camp II at 21,500’, and Camp III at 23,000’. However, after establishing Camp I and making carries of gear to Camp II, I was able to get a forecast from the USA and communicate with friends who were leading expeditions on Cho Oyu and Everest, about 100 miles east. Both the forecast and my friends’ information clued us in to a major storm system creeping across the Himalaya; 6 feet of snow had already fallen on Cho Oyu, Everest, and Shishapangma. Armed with that information, I had a powwow with our Sherpa team to discuss our options. Climbing at 20,500 above Camp I We all agreed that, in all likeli-Jake Norton hood, the storm would hit us soon, and our small team would be unable to continue the ascent with multiple feet of fresh snow. So, we made our gameplan: on the 24th, climb to Camp I, move to a higher-than-planned Camp II (22,000’ or so) on the 25th, and go for


GURLA MANDHATA the summit on the 26th. This was a difficult schedule and would require a monster summit day, but the team agreed we needed to make a go for it before the storm hit. Again, the climbing on the Chaglung’mlungha is not technically difficult – most of the terrain averages about 30° in steepness with some sections approaching 55° - but it is a long way to the top via this route, especi a l l y wi t h out Camp III in place. But, thanks to the strength and tenacity of our Sherpa team, and the hard work of Kirk and Stuart (David unfortunately had trou- Stu Sloat arriving at Camp II bles with the altitude on this trip and -Jake Norton decided to forego the summit bid), we pulled in to Camp II at 22,000’ in raging afternoon winds on the 25th. After what seemed a brief night in the tent, we awoke at midnight to begin our climb to the summit, leaving the tents at 2:00 AM. Panuru and I took turns breaking trail through drifted snow all morning. With avalanche being our primary concern on the route, we made sure to keep well away from the sweeping walls on either side, opting for the safer terrain in the middle of the glacier. The snow was anywhere from calf to thigh-deep, making our progress frustratingly slow at times. Summit—Jake Norton By sunrise, we had ascended to roughly 24,000 feet and could see the summit looming above. But, the snow was now


GURLA MANDHATA consistently waistdeep, and our progress had slowed to a crawl. Panuru and I conferenced again, and decided that following the main glacier to the summit was futile – we did not have enough time or energy to break that much trail. The wind was filling in our steps within 5 minutes, so we would have to break trail again on Gurla Mandhata—Jake Norton the descent. To our south (right), the walls of the Chaglung’mlungha Cwm rose steeply and seemed to transition from soft snow to firm neve about 500 feet above us. We quickly concluded that that route was our best option for reaching the top. At 10:00 AM, after 8 hours of tough climbing, we crested a knifeedge ridge and popped out on top of Gurla Mandhata. The views were spectacular: to the north, the barren browns of the Tibetan Plateau gave way to the azure waters of Lakes Mansarovar and Raksas with Mount Kailash rising above; Nanda Devi rose like a sentinel to the west; the Kanjiroba Himal sparked to the east; and the Indo-Gangetic plains of southern Nepal were just visible to the south. In homage to the deities of Gurla Mandhata and nearby Mansarovar and Kailash, we unfurled a string of prayer flags on the summit, had a brief celebration, and began our descent. All six of us returned to ABC that night and celebrated with the rest of the team. -Jake Norton (‘96) Route—Jake Norton



-Jeremy Roop


LAND OF CONTRAST “Death and near death experiences are becoming commonplace.” -Journal excerpt July 12th 2006 Africa has always captivated my imagination. Wild and untamed, the land is one of contrasts; footprints from early hominids are within 100 miles of large bustling cities. The uninhabited Serengeti, site of the largest mammalian migration is separated from banana groves by an ancient volcanic range containing the largest mountain in Africa. Early in the first semester of our senior year, Joel Irby (‘06) and I came up with the idea to travel to Africa with our parents after graduation to climb Kilimanjaro (19,341ft). As the planning progressed, Jeremy Roop (‘06) expressed interest in going, and our climbing goals expanded. In addition to climbing Kili, Jeremy and I would travel to Kenya to attempt a new route on Mt. Kenya (17,051). The climbing on Kilimanjaro went quite well. Eight of the eleven group members summited. This was the first trip of such magnitude that I had organized, and I was pleased with how well it went. Watching the sun rise from the summit was quite breathtaking, especially for our parents, most of whom had not climbed above seven or eight thousand feet before. At the conclusion of the climb, our group went on safari. While the climbing had been pretty cush by my climbing standards (we had food made for us breakfast lunch and dinner) the safari quite exceeded my expectations. Our hotels were the Serena lodges, five star resorts where buffets graced the tables and music drifted through the air in the evenings. These lodges have hosted such notorieties as President Bill Clinton. It was this environment that Jeremy and I left on July 11th. Jeremy and I boarded a small 757 at the Kilimanjaro International Airport on the outskirts of Arusha, Tanzania. Upon entering the terminal, we ambled to the bar and ordered a Safari Lager, one of the national beers in Tanzania. As we took off, and the fields of Arusha became smaller and smaller, my thoughts focused on what challenges Jeremy and I had before us. In Tanzania, I had organized our Our trusty transportation vehicle -Joe Forrester trip thru a tour group, Shah Tours. They


LAND OF CONTRAST provided us drivers, guides, porters and the security of knowing someone in Africa. Here we would have none of these amenities upon our arrival. Our final destination was to be Choguria, a small rural town that offered 4-wheel drive access to Mt. Kenya National Park. We would have to find transportation to this location, get a porter, climb, and get back to Nairobi safely. I have traveled fairly frequently in third world countries and I was confident that we could navigate our way to Choguria. The environment that greeted us in Kenya was to shatter my wildest expectations. Perhaps I should have known how epic the trip would be as soon as we set down in Nairobi International Airport. Perhaps I was being naive. As we waited in line to change our money, Redemption Song by Bob Marley was playing on the intercom. Jeremy and I were two very white foreigners in a black country, a country that just a year before had travel rights for Americans revoked. Looking at each other, we walked down the long fluorescent lit hallway leading to the lobby of the airport. A taxi driver outside of the airport recognized the town. Jeremy bargained with him and secured our fare for 8,500 Ksh, about 120 USd. Entering the cab, our driver introduced himself as Charles, and we took off. Charles was a very friendly man who spoke English quite well. As we sped into downtown Nairobi, he began talking to us about life in Nairobi. Our first introduction to Nairobi driving was Charles bombing down the median in rush hour traffic, swerving and dodging his way between cars and pedestrians. Explaining to us that good taxi drivers must “find the best line”, he would push his little Fiat to the max, narrowly missing bumpers by inches, accelerating and braking, swerving and honking. Deeper in the city, Charles said that we needed to stop to fill up with a little petrol. Car jackings are quite frequent, he explained, and taxi drivers kept little fuel in their car to prevent the jackers from getting to far. I was already pretty perturbed about the driving in the city, and this comment did little to subdue my fears. “Charles”, I asked, “have you ever been carjacked?” He replied “I had a gun put up to my window not too long ago. I just drove into the car in front of me to draw a crowd, and he left.” Hmm, I thought. I probably should have notified the embassy that we would be traveling here. Night began to descend on us as we exited the northern end of the city, driving thru the slums. Charles sped up and we drove through the countryside. The first major town we passed was Embu, the rice capital of Kenya. Fields stretched out into the darkness. As we passed numerous police stops, Charles explained why such measures were in place. Kenya had been overburdened by neighboring wars in the past fifteen years: refugees from Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and the Congo had been pouring into Kenya, and with the refugees came weapons and crime. The police stops were used to prevent armed bandits from boarding taxis and matatus (public busses) in Nairobi and holding them up once they got to the country side. Hmmm, registering at the


LAND OF CONTRAST embassy would have been a really good idea. As we took the road north out of Embu the road became progressively poorer. Potholes would appear out of nowhere and the little white Fiat would swerve. Barreling down this road, Charles turned around at the wheel and looked at us seriously. Mt. Kenya Park Gate He told us that he was going to try and stay under 100km/ -Jeremy Roop hr. “I can go over 100km/hr, and we might get there sooner. But we might also die. I don’t know if I could miss the potholes at that speed. Would you like me to go faster? I would prefer not as I would rather be alive.” What amazed me most about this rather frightening statement was that he was not joking. He was honestly asking us if we wanted him to go faster. “No” we said, “an alive arrival was much preferable to being dead.” Jeremy and I collapsed on our respective beds at the Transit Motel and pulled the mosquito netting over ourselves. We lay just laughing for a couple of moments, nervous anxiety slowly dispersed from our bodies. Death had been cheated for at least one day in Kenya, but good God, we thought, if it was this scary just getting to the damn mountain, how the hell were we going to survive the rest of the trip? The morning of July 12th dawned, and the sky was grey. It had rained the night before and the humidity was high. We walked in the dining room and sat down for breakfast. The server and manager of the restaurant brought us out papaya, eggs, sausage coffee, toast and tea. We asked to be introduced to Lawrence Gitonga, the director of the Mt. Kenya Guide and Porter Association. We were told that Lawrence was out, but one of his top guides, Tony, would come over and talk to us. Now, before we left, we had estimated that we would need about 320 dollars a piece. As Tony sat before us, and wrote out the cost for a porter, transportation to the trailhead, park fees, and a tent rental for the porter our hearts dropped. We would be a hundred dollars over our budget. Jeremy and I held a conference and decided that we would no longer be able to attempt a new route, we just wouldn’t have the funds. Moreover, we might have to walk to the park gate, a 23 km jaunt through the bush. Explaining our situation to Tony, he told us not to worry about the extra money. He told us that there was


LAND OF CONTRAST an ATM in Meru, a town about an hour and a half away and that we could settle our debt once we came back off the mountain. Tony arranged for our 4-wheel transport to the trailhead at 11:00 am. Quickly packing, we brought our gear outside where a 1952 Landcruiser was parked in the parking lot. This was a truck that I could tell had been through a lot. Operation of the vehicle looked pretty questionable. We threw our gear into the back, and drove into Choguria. We picked up gas and some bread, and then drove up and entered the forest. I had thought that the worst of the driving was behind us. I generally pride myself on being a pretty calm person under pressure, but the stress was starting to build up. Due to the rain the night before, the road was wet. Our driver, a crazy man with a gleam in his eye, kept the truck in a perpetual powerslide up the road. We would slide and spin up a few feet, tachometer going higher and higher, before the tires caught, at which point we would be thrown to the other side of the road. We repeated this process over and over. We eventually reached a point where this aggressive power sliding was no longer working. The driver stopped the car to put on chains. The chains were oversized for the tires, and had to be tied on with twine. Now the car chewed its way up the road,; lack of friction no longer stopping our progress until one of the chains flew off. The man that rode in the back just to help the car get unstuck had to jump out of the moving car, grab the chain, run back uphill and jump back into the moving car. I think that on-jobaccidents are pretty common in Kenya. As we climbed higher and higher, the mist be- Jeremy approaching came thicker giving the drive an overtly eerie feeling. Camp I Cresting a ridge we saw three white guys standing by -Joe Forrester the side of the road and a car mired in the mud, struggling to try and climb a short hill. Pulling upside the stuck car, a man approached our driver. In an Australian accent, he began yelling at our driver. “You assholes and your chains! You’re tearing up the fucking road and now we can’t get out. You’re gonna tow out my fucking car.” This dude was pissed but he made one really big mistake. When you are in a predominantly black country that recently fought for its independence from white colonial


LAND OF CONTRAST powers, you shouldn’t order someone around. Especially when you are white and they are black. “I’ll pull you out if you pay me,” our driver replied calmly. “No, you are going tow me the fuck out because that is what a gentleman would do”, screamed the Australian. The Australian then proceeded to let some air out of our front tire and then ran back to his vehicle. He was able to pull in front of our Rover and block our path as he kept screaming. Our driver, support man and porter had had enough. Grabbing the machetes from the back they jumped out of the car and charged the driver. I was stunned and I was sure that I was going to witness someone get butchered in the bush. As they charged the car with the machetes, the Australian and his friends quickly changed their tone. After two very tense minutes of wild yelling in Kiswahili and machete brandishing we passed the stuck car. Tempers were still high as we continued up the road, deeper into the mist. The road became progressively more wet, and the driving more dangerous. We nearly flipped when the tires caught after spinning in the mud. Our radiator overheated on one steep section, but we kept driving with steam billowing from under the hood. Later, after registering with the park warden, we said goodbye to the driver and started hiking with our porter, Franklin. I didn’t know it at first, but Franklin would become one of our best contacts in Kenya. For the time being however, we just hiked up the old four-wheel drive road to the road head, our campsite for Looking toward Mt. Kenya the first night. Jeremy and I crawled into our bivy -Joe Forrester sacks as the mist surrounded us, and we drifted off to sleep. When we woke up in the morning, the mist was gone and we dried our bags in the sun as we ate breakfast, Nutella and Peanut Butter on white bread. The hike for the day would take us up to 12,000ft, to Mino’s Camp. We slowly ascended out of the burned willow brush and up to the high desert. The emerald green valleys spread out below us; the only large plants were the large lobelia plants that look like a Joshua tree with a yucca on top. The hike took us about five hours, and we arrived at a ramshackle hut about 3 p.m.


LAND OF CONTRAST That night we sat around for awhile, talking with Franklin about politics and school, as well as life in rural Kenya. What struck me as most interesting was our discussion with Franklin about Osama Bin laden. So much of the American media is focused on the World Trade Center that I sometimes forget that bin Laden was also behind the bombings of the US embassy in Kenya. Franklin reminded me that he also had a reason to hate that man, and that many Kenyans feel the same hatred towards him as Americans. As we fell asleep in the Mino Hut, I could not help but think that it is quite unfortunate that one of the common feelings both Franklin and I share is hatred towards Franklin, Joe and Jeremy with the Lenana, Nelion and Batian (L to R) a person fueled by hatred. Once again we awoke to clear skies; the triple summits of Mt. Kenya were visible. Mt. Kenya is actually composed of three different peaks, Lenana (16,355), Nelion (17,021) and Batian (17,058). Most people who “climb” Mt. Kenya climb Lenana as you can hike to the summit. Batian and Nelion are much more jagged, both require technical climbing. Our goal was to climb the North ridge of Batian, a route that received East African Grade IV+. This is a rather different grading scale, but it roughly corresponds to a route YDS 5.5. We took our climbing gear from our packs, and leaving them with Franklin hiked to the base of the climb at around 15,000 ft. Looking up at the climb that we would be doing tomorrow morning, I felt the usual excitement that accompanies a climb such as this. I find that my hands and feet tingle a little bit and electricity seems to emit itself freely from my body. We hiked back down to Franklin and the packs, and hiked down to our camp at the Kami hut. This campsite was beautiful, Nelion and Batian stood proudly to the west while Shipton Hut was a thousand feet below us in a green valley. We ate a lot of food and tried to go to bed at 5 pm. The beeping of my alarm woke me up at 3:45 the next morning. I slowly got out of my sleeping bag and went outside and woke up Jeremy. He groaned but finally emerged. I sandbagged him on the time, Jeremy didn’t want to get out of bed until 5:15, but he didn’t have a watch so I was the time


LAND OF CONTRAST keeper. We ate our breakfast rice in the dark, and started up toward the climb. Franklin kept sleeping, as he would be guarding our stuff. The sky was still dark when we got the bottom of the route. Jeremy would be leading the first bit and I would follow simuling with the pack. The initial climbing went really quickly. We simuled until the sun came up. At this point we had climbed over 500 ft. I took over the lead, now sans pack, and took us off route a little bit. After down simul climbing we were back on track. We passed a scree amphitheater and were at the base of Firmin’s Tower, where we expected the hardest climbing, by 8:45am. While the vertical gained on the climb Resting Going over Simba Col. is only 2,000 ft, the total climbing distance is much -Joe Forrester longer. There are lots of traverses, and ridge travel comprises most of the last 1,000ft. At this point, I handed the lead back over to Jeremy who started up the Firmin’s tower cracks. When Jeremy asked for a belay, I knew the climbing was going to be harder than 5.5. As he finished his first lead and I was put on belay. There was short hand crack, which normally wouldn’t have been that bad, but at 16,000ft, it was tough. I arrived at the belay gasping and bitching about the pack. We switched over the belay and Jeremy started up the next section. The guidebook had said that this was a section of offwidth and chimney, and we were not disappointed. A 120ft lead took Jeremy up to the final belay. Easy chimney and offwidth climbing usually bring a smile to my face, but Joe leading lower down. these brought a look despair. I am not a small climber at -Jeremy Roop 205lbs, and with the pack on I was unable to fit into the


LAND OF CONTRAST chimney and I had to face climb around the icy offwidth. Readers who know my climbing style might find it ironic that I had to face climb around these wide cracks, but at the time I can assure you that I found it less than humorous. After beaching myself on the tower for awhile, we continued to simul. Jeremy was still leading, and I carried the pack. When I got stuck between a large loose flake and the wall, my legs started kicking wildly in the air in an attempt to build up enough momentum to get over the obstacle. I only prayed I wouldn’t pull of the block. When we reached the ridge we dropped the pack, so that we could stuck in an offwidth on Firmins Tower. move faster. The ridgeline was quite Joe -Jeremy Roop fractured and the traversing took us longer than expected. We got off route again and had some 5.9 climbing to do at 17,000ft. Half and hour later, we summited. The last entry in the summit register was from December, we were the first people on top since December. As we sat on top looking out over Kenya, the clouds began to swirl in, pushing us to descend. The descent itself was pretty uneventful, all the ropes pulled, and we were back in camp by 5:30pm. We hurriedly packed up and hiked back to Minto’s Camp. Tired and dirty, we collapsed in our sacks. The next day we hiked down to the park gate and paid our driver after much bargaining to drive us down to Choguria. After putting our bags in our room, and having a “drip” shower, we cracked a Tusker Lager, popped a Lunesta, and fell asleep. Tomorrow was to be a big day; we needed to go into Meru to use the ATM. Monkeys were howling in the trees and music was playing from the kitchen. After getting dressed we went into the restaurant for breakfast. Breakfast again consisted of 2 eggs, some toast, and a sausage that suggested that the owners had not read Sinclair’s Jungle. After eating we sat around until Lawrence picked us up. We left Transit and began to walk quickly to main town Choguria. The road, being rural, was unpaved and red, garbage burned on the sides. The matatu center sits on the right hand side of the main street as you walk into town. On the matatus are written their names, Rambo, Death, etc


LAND OF CONTRAST and the names very accurately describe how the drivers drive. Up to 22 people are packed into these 14 passenger vans. Seat belt usage is optional. We squeezed into a matatu headed to Meru. The 14 passenger van flew down the road managing to avoid the ditches while swerving oncoming traffic. The countryside was beautiful, small agricultural spreads covered the hills, distinctive palm fronds emerging in rows amidst dense bush. Eventually we reached Meru, a bustling frontier town. After an epic yet stressful attempt to get money to pay Lawrence he led us along the streets to a local café. We went upstairs and Lawrence ordered tea and biscuits. Jeremy Roop on the Summit We had a small triangular shaped pastry called a -Joe Forrester samosa which was filled with ground beef. The food was good, the tea was hot, and we talked climbing for awhile. Everyday in this country seemed to be an adventure. After resting for awhile, we went to our porter Franklin’s house. He had invited us to dinner the next night and we wanted to stop bye and say high. Franklin’s house was a self made wooden house with a small plot of land. He shares the land with his father and brothers, where he grows banana, coke, raises a cow, some rabbits and two small dogs. His wife Josi and his two children greeted us. His son was 8 and quite shy; his daughter was 1.5 and much shyer. Jeremy and I were the first two white people (mzungas) she had ever seen. The final days of the trip began to be less and less stressful as we adapted to Kenyan culture. We ate dinner at Franklin’s house; quite an honor. He arranged for a matatu ride and a taxi ride back to Nairobi, a trip which he accompanied us on. We were thankful as we had just read the day before about a mob of people who had burned eight people in the streets. As we tried to sleep the last night in the Nairobi airports on uncomfortable bucket seats, my body finally began to relax. Our trip to Kenya had been so filled with craziness that I hadn’t really relaxed the whole time. The climbing had been the least stressful aspect of the trip. Listening to John Denver on repeat at midnight when I couldn’t sleep, I came to a few conclusions about our trip. First, the only way to experience a foreign country is to entirely immerse yourself in the culture. You have to be forced to truly accept the foreign


LAND OF CONTRAST way of life in order to fully appreciate the experience. Second, unlike in America where we are constantly in a state of fear due to terrorism or some other media constructed societal ailment, Kenyans accept that life is dangerous but have somehow overcome that. The Kenyans that we had a chance to get to know were very friendly and looked out for our safety. Third, being a generally considerate person can do a lot to overcome cultural and language barriers. Kenya was a unique experience, but one that only strengthens my desire to travel more in the land of contrasts called Africa. -Joe Forrester (‘06)

Joe and Jeremy back at camp after the climb.— Franklin


A SHORT AND WINDING ROAD TWO STUDENTS’ TRIP UP EL CAPITAN -Chris Burwell (‘08) and Rich Brereton (‘07)

-Chris Burwell


A SHORT AND WINDING ROAD Just a few days after the end of 8th block, Rich and I left Colorado Springs for Yosemite Valley. Our plan was to free climb for a week, do some aid climbing on shorter walls, and then queue up for the Nose of El Capitan. Somewhere between the Springs and Tioga Pass, however, we got psyched, and our plans changed. The Nose is busy, and every yahoo chooses it as a first wall, so we opted for the Salathé. Although not much harder, it is longer and less traveled than the Nose, and we wouldn’t need a portaledge. After spending our first few days in the Valley in Camp 4, sitting in a puddle and listening to rainfall on the tent fly, Rich and I were finally able to get out and climb. We linked the ever-classic Serenity Crack to Sons of Yesterday, climbed at Reed’s Pinnacle and explored other Valley classics, but our real objective constantly loomed above us. After about a week of free- Salathé Route, El Capitan - Chris Burwell climbing, we decided that it was time to get ready for our Salathé attempt. I don’t specifically remember when Rich and I decided to climb El Capitan, but I think that a bottle of Jack Daniel’s was involved. Sometime around Christmas 2005 we committed to learning the ways of a big wall climber, and to trying El Cap in the summer. All we had to do was learn to aid. And learn to haul. And buy whatever gear someone would need to spend several days on a wall: such necessities as can openers and portable stereos. We would probably have to start smoking cigarettes too. No big deal. Aid climbing is just trad climbing, but you get to hang on a piece every few feet. My roommate Mike Wejchert (‘08) agreed to teach me the basics of aiding. Joe Forrester (‘06) had taken him aiding once before, and Mike therefore deemed himself a qualified instructor. So we spent an afternoon at the Garden of the Gods, and Mike read a book while belaying me on Kor’s Korner. I taught my newly acquired skills to Rich, and he repeated the ascent. We went to Turkey Rocks and aided a few pitches at the Turkey Tail before a light blizzard forced us to bail. We drove to Zion for a weekend and hiked up to Angel’s Landing to the classic grade V Prodigal Son, only to find the entire cliff closed to protect the canyon’s rare, endangered cliff chickens. The following day ended with a thunderstorm above the crux of Spaceshot (IV 5.9 C2)


A SHORT AND WINDING ROAD and another retreat. In Yosemite, as I learned to use cam hooks through the crux of the Gold Wall (V 5.9 C2), a snowstorm blew in and we bailed again. With a now-formidable Big Wall Resume Rich and I decided we were ready, and packed our bags for 5 days on the Captain. The first afternoon we spent hauling Chris Burwell on the Headwall our bags to the Heart Ledges, having passed the night in El Cap -Rich Brereton Meadow. The following morning we climbed the Free Blast (the first 11 pitches of the Salathé) to our bags and our first bivy 1000 feet above the Valley floor. On the second day, the first few pitches off of Heart Ledges went very slowly, including the infamous Hollow Flake. This feature is well named; the pendulum around an arête and 90 feet of unprotected offwidth and squeeze chimney left Rich feeling as though his innards had been scooped out with a shovel. Moving at a glacial pace, we couldn’t reach our planned bivy ledge, and instead “slept” on a sloping belay stance. On the morning of our third day I woke Rich (a monstrous task that I would never wish upon anyone) and we climbed to El Cap Spire. We were able to fix a few pitches above the ledge, but stopped as the sun set. I had dropped Rich’s headlamp the previous night, and so the length of our climbing days were defined by the available sunlight. We spent our third night of the climb on the spire, probably the most spectacular bivy Chris on pitch 29. in the universe. - Tom Evans Rich onsighted a 5.10+ pitch the


A SHORT AND WINDING ROAD next day, and by late afternoon we made it to Sous le Toit ledge. We found Sous le Toit, described in McNamara’s guidebook as a poor bivy for 1, to be an uncomfortable seat for 2. The next morning I jugged the lines we had fixed the previous day to the base of the Salathé roof, and began my last block of leads on the climb. The roof was airy, and as I aided out the fixed gear, 28 pitches and 2500 feet above the Valley floor, I began to feel like we were going to finish our first wall, and it was going to be El Capitan. I was scared, but I was also psyched. I continued to lead through the headwall pitches, which make up the most aesthetic rock climbing I have ever seen. The top of pitch 31 was the crux, taking several of the smallest astronuts and microstoppers in a row. I reached Long Ledge and Rich led the remaining four pitches to the top. We summited around 6 pm as the sun set on the Cathedral Rocks across the Valley, took off our harnesses, shouldered the haulbags, and began our descent. Following advice we had gotten in Camp 4 from some stupid ass, Rich and I hiked down to the west. The next day, some 13 miles later, we reached the road outside the Valley, and were able to hitchhike back to Curry Village. We had celebratory burritos, and I called my parents to explain why I hadn’t called home in a week. Rich Brereton and I climbed the Salathé Wall (VI 5.11- C2) on El Capitan over 5 days, May 30- June 3, 2006. It was the most important route I have ever done. -Chris Burwell (‘08)


Face Down in the Ditch with a Slice of Humble Pie Trip Report of a Pilgrimage -Chris Barlow (‘04)


FACE DOWN IN THE DITCH Pretty much all I had heard about the Ditch (also known as Yosemite Valley National Park) is that the grades are stout, the days are big, and tourists and mosquitoes run rampant in early summer. These are all true, but mostly extraneous to the Valley experience I now know. As a climber of over a dozen years (and having read every single climbing publication in those years), I knew of the Valley as the Mecca of the rock climbing universe and, as such, was a place I simply had to go. I would be lying to say that I didn’t have an agenda in Yosemite. I wanted to go and do the very best of the Valley. This little climb named Astroman kept haunting me. I wanted, nay, intended, to do Astroman – not just make it to the top, but really climb it in good style. In past years I had weaseled my way out of trips to the Ditch, excusing myself with too long of a drive, not enough money/time, or just that I wasn’t strong enough. After spending much of the spring of 2006 in Indian Creek and with well paying contract work lined up in mid-June, I stewed up a pretty good plan to take a trip down the Ditch with my partner in crime and fulltime road trip bum, Evan Horn. On May 26, I said goodbye to my girlfriend in Boulder, CO and drove to Moab and met up with Evan. We procrastinated the long drive across Nevada by spending a day “training” at Indian Creek, which left two oozing gobies on the back of my hands and a few on my knuckles as well. I would love to claim these wounds as my Achilles’ heel. The next morning Evan and I drove 18 hours across Utah and Nevada on a highway not arbitrarily called “the Loneliest Highway in America.” There were desolate roadhouse casinos, swarms of giant grasshoppers, and sand dunes and salt flats. Evan passed a good three hours with a soap opera-style account of the life and times of the transient NOLS instructor, his rant induced by a Bookoo energy drink. I got about five words in edgewise and became quite jealous that caffeine wasn’t coursing through my veins to the same effect. We crossed the northern Sierra Nevada Mountains, relieved to finally see some topography after the flat, fast, and seemingly endless Great Basin, and turned south through rolling California wine country. We passed out on a small dirt pullout just outside the western entrance to the park with the hum of cars on the highway while visions of El Cap, Half Dome, and golden granite danced in our heads. Evan woke me up by throwing sticks and pinecones. We crawled back into the car, entered the park, and held our breath as we turned each wooded curve, expecting to see the shimmering walls of El Capitán. We didn’t hold our breath very long; we soon realized that it was another forty miles of slow winding roads before we enter the Valley proper. An hour later, we slowed to a stop beneath the cleanest, steepest, most inspiring wall I have even seen. No words or pictures can truly portray the utterness of El Capitán. The feature is staggering; Evan and I responded with lots of holy shits and banging on the dashboard. My hands started to sweat and stung the still oozing wounds on my hands.


FACE DOWN IN THE DITCH After spending a good hour or so driving around lost in the valley floor, we finally arrived at the Ahwahnee parking lot and hoofed up the fiveminute approach to the classic Serenity-Sons, a link up of the threepitch Serenity Crackto the five-pitch Sons of Yesterday. When we got to the base, we saw none other but Madaleine Sorkin (aka Mad, of Moonlight Buttress fame) leading the second pitch. We yelled our hellos and excitement to be in the Valley at the same time. We promised to meet higher up or after climbing, and then she and her Evan Horn on the Wall -Madaleine Sorkin partner climbed on. So here was the moment: my first pitch in Yosemite. The wall was beautiful, white granite. The line was striking – a thin finger crack arching in several different directions over three pitches. But the first pitch started as a slabby, slimy wet, pin-scarred mess – not quite what I’d expected. Some of the scars were big enough for three fingers. The climbing was relatively moderate but challenging to avoid getting my fingers and toes slimed. Halfway up, the crack dried, steepened, and basically became really good. The rest of the route was excellent with splitter cracks, a tenuous and well-protected tips crux through a bulge, and long pitches on perfect rock. We quickly reached the top, still wanting more. We rapped down with plenty of time to spend wandering around the Valley, buying supplies, and meeting up with friends (Mad (‘04), Chris Burwell (‘08), and Rich Brereton (‘07), specifically). The next day we climbed the Freeblast, the first ten pitches of the Salathé Wall, on El Cap. Again, the climbing felt solid and reasonable, not the brutally sandbagged, body and ego crushing stuff we’d expected. At the top of the Freeblast, we met Chris and Rich (who were hauling their bags in preparation for their send of the Salathé) on Heart Ledge for a celebratory beer (for what still is the furthest off the ground I’ve ever consumed alcohol – about 1000 ft). The four of us rapped down fix lines in the sunset. Now, there’s a part of the Valley experience that no one really talks about. Everyone’s heard of Camp 4 and its legendary status in climbing history. I certainly can’t argue with its reputation and its importance as Ground


FACE DOWN IN THE DITCH Zero of modern rock climbing. Unfortunately, this is not the Camp 4 of present. Currently, Camp 4 is a mosquito-infested, double-wide tent filled swamp that bears more resemblance to a trailer park than Valley dirt bag training ground. And, it was full. The result of this is that many Chris Barlow waking up on the wall.— climbers, Evan and myself included, chose Madaleine Sorkin to partake in what amounts to little more than a game of cowboys and Indians with the park rangers. This involves high-level surveillance and reconnaissance of suitable poaching sites, secret organization and planning (“No officer, I was just heading off for a late evening bouldering session at the base of El Cap.”), and employment of various camouflaging and discreet operations. In other words, we sneaked into the woods after dark to sleep instead of paying for camping. I don’t really endorse being a law-breaking patron of federal lands, but, hey, when in Rome . . . . We woke up the next morning in an undisclosed location and began our first rest day in the Ditch by heading to Camp 5 (I’d tell you where it is, but I’d have to kill you). After a drawn out, slow-cooked breakfast of burritos and scrounging coffee in Curry Village, we began an aimless amble around the bear boxes and vicinity, perusing the guidebooks in the climbing shop and not so discreetly making fun of tourists. Around 11:30 or so, we ran into a bedraggled, slightly incoherent Madaleine. “We didn’t really sleep . . . we moved maybe three times,” she mumbled as she pulled her fingers against some tangles in her hair. “I can’t believe we found the rappels.” “Wait, what rappels? What did you climb?” Evan asked. “Uh, I think we climbed Astroman.” “You think?!” I became a bit impatient. This was beginning to seem like yet another of example of Madaleine’s brutal modesty – avoiding any definitive answer to climbing one of the most legendary and intimidating free climbs in the world. “It’s not even noon. You climbed Astroman this morning?” Evan added. “No. We started yesterday morning.” Through the haze of Mad’s exhausted delirium, we managed to piece together the story. She and Ross, her partner, had climbed Astroman (V 5.11c


FACE DOWN IN THE DITCH and a pretty stiff sandbag for you climbing numbers geeks) the previous day. Topping out as darkness fell, they got off route on the descent and spent a very chilly, very thirsty night in a rocky, uncomfortably close-quartered hole under a boulder. Instead of descending the North Dome Gully, they found the Royal Arches rappels (a miraculous discovery based entirely, at least as they claim, on good fortune and Ross’ extraordinary sixth sense). Madaleine slept the rest of the day. I watched as Evan spent the afternoon trying to get a date with an Australian girl who worked in the café. In our wanderings around the Valley floor, Evan and I also stumbled into Lee Brinckerhoff, another CC alum and we decided to climb together. He wanted to do Astroman, and it did seem like the obvious choice. We made plans, racked up, and went to bed. I didn’t sleep that well. Much of my climbing life, over 13 years by now, has been oriented toward this climb and others like it. I felt myself starting to ignore those uncertainties, my doubts, that I had contemplated earlier. I ignored them to focus all my energy toward doing Astroman. We woke in darkness and strolled quietly along the path to the turnoff up to the base of the east face of Washington Column. By the time we arrive at the start of the climb, the sun was in full force on the wall. From our stance above the third class approach, we could see the whole climb. The wall was steep for a long way, about 1200 feet to be particular about it. I wish I could say that, as I stared up the long corners and cracks and pieced together the route and its famous features and pitches, I thought about the climb’s vibrant history. I must confess, however, that most of my energy was consumed with being intimidated by the steepness, the self-imposed importance, and whether or not I would fit through the Harding Slot. We started climbing in full sun (the whole East Face thing). Evan led the first pitch, low-angle 5.7 to 5.10- fingers in a corner. The next pitch, the ‘Boulder Problem,’ is considered the technical crux of the route. It’s thirty feet long with small stoppers, tips locks, and greasy feet. The three of us dispatched the pitch in little time. Like the previous routes we had done, our success on this one pitch maybe instilled in us a little too much confidence. Next up was the Enduro Corner, 130 feet of overhanging thin hands, fingers, and then an awkward chimney to finish, all of it glimmering in 80 plus degree sunshine. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the oozing wounds on my hands, maybe it was all that self-imposed significance, or maybe it was just those sandbagged Yosemite ratings. No matter how much I crammed my hands into the thin jams, they seemed to insist on slowly slipping out, and my early confidence began to slip with them. About halfway up the corner, I stalled, my feet started greasing, my fingers opened, and I dropped down the Enduro Corner. With my fall, down came all that built up ambition, bravado, and focus on a very certain goal. One’s ability to push oneself in rock climbing is a


FACE DOWN IN THE DITCH mixture of physical strength and emotional drive. Hanging on the rope, baking on the east-facing wall, I lost both. It’s a good thing we had taken Lee along, if for no better reason than to show how easy those burly 5.11 pitches, one after another, can look. Oh, yeah, I don’t think I fit through the Harding Slot either. Lee took over the sharp end, I swallowed my pride, and we finished the route with daylight to spare. We descended the North Dome Gully without incident, and were back in the valley floor by nightfall. We dropped Evan off to order pizzas while Lee and I went to pick up Linda, Lee’s wife. We were gone no more than thirty minutes. Evan had two pieces left of his two topping large by the time we returned. I fell asleep that night face down in the Ditch with a big portion of humble pie. We rested again the next day, though this time my Valley wanderings were a little hazier from exhaustion and infused with a bit more longing for success. Evan left the next day to visit friends in San Francisco. While hanging around with Madaleine, we figured that we both had something of a score to settle. I could sense hesitation, in both of us, but for different reasons, I imagine. But we had faith in our long partnership and wanted to give such a magnificent climb the best of our efforts. Once again, we woke up in darkness and made the hike to the base. We tried to get to the hard climbing before it was in full sun, but we didn’t quite make it. Madaleine sent the Boulder Problem. I came desperately close to the final hand jam on the Enduro Corner before falling onto a .75 Camalot with burning toes, sweat in the eyes, and a complete pump (I can’t help but give the heat a bit of the blame). We both fell off the Harding Slot. The reward was that we both were feeling good enough to enjoy the Changing Corners pitch, a full rope length of face climbing and all sizes of cracks – probably the single best pitch of rock climbing I’ve ever been a part of. I led the last pitch, a pretty serious 5.10+ face climbing affair with poor rock and copperheads for protection. Mad and I scrambled to the top in the late sun. While it wasn’t a “perfect” ascent, we had done it in good style. We made the hike down the gully by dark. She and I have climbed a lot of routes together, from brilliant sandstone towers to desperate survival climbs in the Black Canyon. Astroman was different. This time it had been more about facing demons, embracing failure as part of the experience, and rectifying our dreams and goals. I wasn’t quite so tired the next day. Mad took me on the dirt bag tour of Yosemite – free coffee at the Ahwahnee, scrounging at the cafeteria. I felt a little freer to embrace the experience of Yosemite. Astroman and all that I had built it up to mean had forced me to reorient again how I approach rock climbing. “Sending” was less important than just climbing with close friends and being part of the community that climbing creates. Evan returned that afternoon. The next day we climbed a long route on Lower Cathedral Rock. Beggar’s Buttress (IV 5.11c) is a few pitches


FACE DOWN IN THE DITCH shorter and less sustained than Astroman but has a slighter higher adventure element and a harder crux pitch that comes at the end of the climb. Evan and I had a lot of success that day, each onsighting pitches that were hard for us. We climbed in good style and came down to celebrate. For the last few days of our trip, Evan, Mad, and I teamed up and decided that our time in the Ditch wouldn’t be complete without flogging ourselves on an ascent up El Cap. We started packing that morning; we jugged fixed lines to Heart Ledges in the dark that night. I learned to haul then, too. Really, I learned everything about bigwall climbing that day and the next two. We relied heavy on our free climbing ability (Evan was the only one of us with any knowledge of real aid climbing) and some sneaky French-free techniques to compensate for our lack of experience and knowledge of systems. The first day went well with lots of excellent climbing. On the second day, we got bogged down. For all three of us, those uncertainties, the exposure, the pressure to move quickly all beChris Barlow hauling. came heavier. Due to the cold refried beans of the last -Madaleine Sorkin night’s dinner, I was also experiencing the most violent, confidence-shattering gas I’ve ever had. There’s nothing less conducive to climbing 5.12 on pitch 23 of a bigwall than being afraid of pooping your pants every time you engage your core. There is also nothing more destructive to belay-stance camaraderie than having to pull out the Wag Bag. We were supposed to climb over the Headwall to pitch 32. We came up a little short. We spent our fourth night at the Block on top of pitch 26, cuddled against each other, our feet dangling over a boulder with another party of three sleeping on the higher end of the ledge. After sleeping little, we woke up to another perfect day and decided to rappel down. A friend of ours met us at the base with condolence beers. We packed up and hoofed it back to El Cap Meadow. We had dinner that night with a big group of Valley locals. Of our company, three had free climbed El Cap (one


FACE DOWN IN THE DITCH had onsighted Freerider); two had climbed Astroman that day, starting at 1 pm. A few others were 5.13 trad climbers. I bragged about sport rappelling and took my pizza with another round of humble pie. Evan and I left the next morning (after scoring free coffee, of course). We parted ways in Moab, both of us back to work as outdoor educators. In respect to my goals and expectations of Yosemite, our trip hadn’t really been a success. We rapped from pitch TWENTY-SIX of the Salathé, but we congratulated ourselves with pizza and beer anyway. I fell – twice – off the Enduro Corner, but Astroman is still one of the best in existence. I didn’t even touch Midnight Lightening (due to mosquitoes, obviously). Regardless, I had made my pilgrimage and shared that journey with some of my closest friends. And I had learned a lot about climbing and its uncertainties and the limited value of goals. The day after we left, I heard through Madaleine that a woman we’d had breakfast with had rappelled off the end of her rope while descending from Arch Rock. She survived but suffered several serious injuries. There are uncertainties we can never understand, and maybe shouldn’t ignore. I’ll admit: even I, after thirteen years, at times can imagine climbing as just arbitrary and stupid. It’s the community, the partnerships, the friends that bind us and make it meaningful and a downright good time, too. -Chris Barlow (‘04)

Chris Barlow and Evan Horn collapsing on the ground. -Madaleine Sorkin


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS 2006 United States Alaska Justin Strauss (‘06), Erik Wortman (‘06) and Tim Barker (‘06) West Ridge Mount Fairweather Alaska Grade 3 The day after our graduation, Erik Wortman, Tim Barker and I were attempting to purchase five weeks worth of food at Fred Meyers in Juneau, Alaska. The drunken extravaganza of eighth block senior year had finally passed and we were about to embark on a long-awaited Ritt Kellogg Fundsponsored adventure into the heart of the Fairweather Range. The ideal trip would involve an ascent of Mt. Fairweather’s west ridge, a short period of climbing smaller subsidiary peaks for ski descents, and an 80-mile glacial traverse of the Fairweather Range back to the Haines Highway. After the complete shit-show of getting all of our gear and food onto a midnight northbound ferry, we arrived in Haines, AK completely haggard. We were quickly told that the conditions were perfect for flying into the Grand Plateau glacier that morning. Drake, our trusty pilot, flew us out in two cycles – round one included Timbo (Tim Barker) with most of the gear and round two consisted of Erik and myself. We were dropped at 8500 ft on the expansive Grand Plateau glacier with a pretty impressive backdrop of Mt. Fairweather’s unclimbed North Face. The rest of the day was spent setting up a base camp and organizing gear for our attempt at Fairweather’s west flank. The route involves a long slog through a narrow, crevasse-ridden and serac-flankedvalley to access a high camp (~13,500ft) in the saddle between Fairweather proper and the West Col. This would be followed by a long summit day traversing Fairweather’s steep west ridge and descending via the same route. We woke early to beautiful weather and began the long, two-hour skin to the base of the narrow valley. As we began climbing through the valley,


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: ALASKA clouds began to build and soon we were engulfed in a swirling mass of white. The decision to back off was made pretty abruptly given our lack of visibility and we prepared for a quick descent to the base. At this point, we heard the sound of fracturing ice and looked up to see the clouds disperse as an enormous serac collapsed and initiated a massive avalanche that came barreling directly towards us. I think we all decided we were pretty much dead and each made separate decisions to “point ‘em” towards the valley floor. Fortunately, the giant slide banked up against a small knoll (which we were initially standing on) and turned towards Justin Strauss approaching the West the other side of the valley leaving us alive and Col. –Erik Wortman scared shitless. Without a word spoken, we skinned down valley and set up camp only to spend the rest of the day watching numerous seracs collapse and send enormous avalanches into the valley that was our proposed route. The next morning we woke very early to begin our trek through the now dreaded “valley of death.” All morning, we skinned at an alarming speed - crossing over the 200-meter wide toe of avalanche debris from the previous day’s slide, crossing a number of thin bridges over extensive crevasses, and watching slides roll down the North Face. At about 2:30 PM, we were about 1000 ft below the saddle and our much anticipated high camp; however, as we watched a halo develop over Fairweather’s summit, we were once again engulfed in another cloudy mass – this time with eighty-mph winds and blowing snow. It should be noted that Mt. Fairweather stands only 15,300-feet-tall but rests a mere fifteen miles from the ocean. This makes it a beacon for horrible and fast-paced weather patterns. Given the conditions, we had no choice but to bivy below a crevasse on the avalanche-prone slope. We spent one of most horrifying nights I have experienced listening to avalanches roll down around us. As morning rolled around (nobody slept much) we were greeted with good weather and four feet of new snow. The last 1000-ft of climbing was very difficult trudging through waist-deep snow that was episodically interrupted by patches of 50 degree ice. Upon reaching the saddle, we were extremely relieved and spent the remainder of the day eating and enjoying the stunning views.


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: ALASKA Summit day started at 3:30 AM with absurdly cold conditions – it took us over two hours to get out of camp because our gear and hands were so frozen. Within one rope-length from camp, Tim fell into a crevasse and we spent the next three hours only moving about 500 meters from camp because we were poking around the two large crevasses that formed the bulk of the ridge we were supposed to follow. All of our feet were in pretty bad shape because of the lack of movement, but we decided to continue our climb. Four to five more hours of climbing deep snow, steep ice, and knifeblade ridges left us on the summit of “Madame Fairweather”. We snapped the token summit shots and quickly began our descent only to reach our tent about eleven hours after departing that morning. Upon settling in, we found that Tim had full thickness frostbite on at least seven toes…yet another ridiculous obstacle. We called our pilot Drake and arranged for a pick up at base camp the next morning and spent the next couple of hours treating Tim’s feet and going over our plans. Amazingly, the next day was uneventful and we managed to ski down the “valley of death” unroped and meet up with Drake. Tim was immediately flown to Juneau for treatment and Erik and I were picked up later that evening (we chose not to attempt the traverse because of the dicey downclimb of the Grand Plateau icefall). This concluded one of the most absurd adventures anyone of us has ever embarked on but left us all awaiting the next chance to climb another peak… -Justin Strauss (’06)

California Ben Lamm (‘01) and Mike Gerbec (‘01) Dana Plateau, Toulome Meadows III 5.9+ Mike and I climbed the 3rd pillar of the Dana Plateau in Tuolumne this summer. I don't know why it's called a pillar, seems more like a wide arête, but it was super cool. You climb down before you climb up, which is nice 'cause you finish at your pack and comfy shoes. This was important to me at the time because I was climbing in some new shoes that I got because they were cheap and I didn't know they would bruise my toes until my toenails were blue all over. The last pitch of the route has some of the coolest 5.9+ climbing anywhere. It is dead vertical with lots of layback flakes and a variety of jammy cracks separated by large mantles facilitated by huge jugs. The second to last move is a dynamic toss from a bomber hand


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: CALIFORNIA jam to huge jug. (Thanks to Mike for hanging the rope). Then you literally mantle onto the top of the Dana Plateau. Depending on your line some of the lower pitches are a little run out. I was unhappy for 30 feet or so on some slabby, slightly loose, shallow (but 5.8) water-groove-style cracks. That probably says more about the effects of city living than anything else… -Ben Lamm (‘01) John Schmid (‘04) and Geoff Christensen (‘04) East Buttress of Middle Cathedral-Northeast Butress of Higher Cathedral Linkup Middle and Higher Cathedral Yosemite National Park IV 5.9 This past summer Geoff Christensen (’04) and I headed out to Yosemite for a week to crag and try to top out some new formations. On our last day there we realized that we had never gone to the Cathedrals and checked out what was there. We decided it would be fun to attempt the East Buttress of Middle Cathedral (5.9), then scamper around and down the Cat Walk and climb the Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral (5.9). It may not be the Nose and Freerider in a day, but this everyman's linkup is tons of fun. A 70-meter rope allows you to link most of the pitches, and the climbing is interesting and very exposed. The only thing better than the climbing on these routes are the breathtaking views of El Cap. -John Schmid (‘04)

Geoff Christensen on NE buttress of higher cathedral -John Schmid



Colorado Emily Parker (‘07) and Elena Mihaly (‘07) The Naked Edge Eldorado Canyon III 5.11 The Naked Edge is a familiar name in the Colorado climbing scene. I think I first saw it in a movie at the Telluride film festival when it came to CC. The climbing looked phenomenal and the exposure rather dramatic. But it’s 5.11. That’s hard. I filed it into the “maybe someday” folder of my brain, along with things like Thailand, El Cap and getting a job. Now here I was a few years later, sitting beneath the base of the very same route. Rich was half way up the first pitch and his brother Jay was dutifully belaying. Elena and I were racked up and ready to follow them shortly after. “So we’re team Brereton,” Jay said, “What are you?” “Team bitch power.” answered Elena. “Umm… I was thinking like Team E,” I said. “Like for Elena, Emily and estrogen.” Jay added. I wanted to downplay the fact that we were both female, as though it were nothing out of the ordinary, but the truth is that most women you see in Eldo were following their husband or boyfriend up something well below his limit. Even Elena, who had accomplished countless long and difficult routes in her career, admitted that this would be by far the hardest route she had done with another girl. For me it would simply be the hardest route I had ever done. The five pitch Naked Edge starts part way up the wall, so we decided to do the first two pitches of T2 to get to the base, making a seven pitch day. Elena and I both struggled a little with the steep start to T2, making us a little uneasy about the upcoming harder pitches of the Naked Edge, but we found the thin fingers and delicate stemming of the first pitch of the Edge to be much more in the Team E style. Pitches two and three are relatively mellow. The fourth and fifth pitches are the crux. The fourth pitch consists of precarious face moves leading to a chimney followed by a few committing moves to the anchor. Elena styled it in her typical grace, calmly moving past the fixed piece above which a potential fall had been described as “ankle breaking.” I followed her and reached the anchors just as Jay was leaving. We cooled our heels for a little while to give Jay some time. We sang “Country Roads” and talked about the advantages of brown pants as Elena racked up for the final pitch. After an awkward begin-


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: COLORADO ning sequence, Elena disappeared around the arête. She emerged a short while later with a big smile, “I made it.” An easy slab led her to the anchor, where I could no longer hear her. I fell a few times in the first few moves and quickly became frustrated and tired with the difficulty of getting back on the climb. With persistence, however, I eventually moved on around the arête to the ever so welcome number one hand jams. I was welcomed and congratulated when I reached the top, but hardly had much time to feel proud of myself before we packed up the rope and began the long and steep decent. We reached our packs and took in the feeling of putting real shoes back on and enjoyed the full body exhaustion that follows a good full day of climbing. -Emily Parker (‘07)

Michael Wejchert (‘08) and Nathan Brand (‘10) Glass Park December Pikes Peak WI4– M3 Nathan Brand and I went to climb on the north face of Pike’s Peak before Spray’s “Golden Webbing Awards” on Saturday. It turned out to be one of the more fun days of winter climbing I’ve ever had. We dropped down into the bottomless pit relatively quickly, and spotted that telltale glistening we had heard about from two other CC ice climbers. Nathan, being a freshman and new to the alpine scene, rewarded me with boundless enthusiasm tragically rare in partners these days. [“Why the hell would we get up that early just to be cold?”] We had a blast motoring up to the bit of ice that looked most promising. I anchored my freshman with a single pin and glanced up greedily at our little difficult section. Unfortunately, it turned out to be too Peruvian for my tastes: after climbing up unconsolidated, steep snow with no pro, I finally got a “stick” as the short pillar vibrated and a dull trickle of water greeted my tool. I glanced up. The whole thing was detached. Fortunately I am smart, and opted for the mixed/grass climbing option to the right. I felt the weight of my ancestors in the Tatra as I got farther and farther from my #1 Camalot and more and more weirded out by unprotectable grass climbing, popular in ex communist/Slavic countries for its pointlessness and danger. “Help me now, Kurtyka, you bastard,” I quavered out loud. “Yoo got it, Wejchert!” came Nate’s Minnesota voice from below. I smiled and edged towards a potential anchor. Nate took the direct start which led to good snow, and soon we were on easy ground again. I kicked steps in


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: COLORADO perfect snow/ice for about five hundred feet, reminiscent of good ol’ Huntington’s ravine climbing, and hiked up to the car, where candy bars and the soothing sounds of the Angry Samoans waited. We drove back and did all sorts of things to celebrate that evening. Although not hard, I simply had a blast! -Michael Wejchert (‘08) Rich Brereton (‘07), Adam McKinley (‘07), Nate Popik (‘07) 5/7/2006 Scenic Cruise Black Canyon of the Gunnison One week after a weather-forced retreat less than halfway up a Grade IV at 4PM, I decided I was fast enough for Grade V, especially sharing a rope with Nate “Pocket- Rocket” Popik. On Saturday May 6th, Adam McKinley, Popik and I pushed an ageing Subaru to the North rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison for an attempt on the Scenic Cruise V 5.10+. Finding the North Rim Campground packed full of both tourist landyachts and ramshackle climber trucks (with telltale Japanese make and stickercovered cap), the team spent the requisite night dreaming ominously and woke before sunrise. We stumbled down the Cruise gully with a bear of a Boulderite man and partner hot on our heals to find a team just beginning the first pitch of the Cruise. Roping up, we began to simul-climb the opening pitches as the sun hit the wall. After 3 pitches we relented and let the Boulder grizzlies slouch past. The Scenic Cruise jogs right where the original Cruise line continues straight up, climbing three parallel pitches and then the notorious Pegmatite Traverse back left to rejoin the plumb line. We found this infamous pitch to be the business of the whole route. (Despite the Williams guidebook’s description, which claims that this pitch is “not that bad,” and that the “hard climbing is well-protected,” Popik found the climbing to be scary, and the guidebook information to be completely inaccurate.) The overhanging 10+ dihedral (the physical crux) that followed proved strenuous but mentally much less taxing. Popik to his credit did try to up the ante, cautioning me to bear in mind CC alum Chris Barlow’s (04’) broken back which he sustained by falling from the very ground I was now grappling with. This passage behind us, circuitous route finding and traversing linked crack systems and we made steady, plodding progress towards the rim. McKinley met us on top in the dark with his trademark mixture of exasperation and enthusiasm, and led us to camp where beer/food/bed awaited. -Rich Brereton (‘07)



Dave Hoven (‘06) and Joel Irby (‘06) 2/16/2006 Bridal Veil Falls Telluride IV WI5+ On the 16th of February 2006, Joel Irby (‘06) and Dave Hoven (‘06) set off to climb the famous Bridal Veil Falls in Telluride. On the approach we both decided that this was one of the most impressive formations we’ve seen in Colorado. The climbing went well, although Dave was suffering from what seemed to be some variation of the whooping cough, coupled with some fiery diarrhea. All in all it was the best ice route either of us had ever done in Colorado, and we were blessed with some downright beautiful scenery along the sidewalks of Telluride, and I’m not talking about mountains. -Dave Hoven (‘06) Rich Brereton (‘07) and Nate Popik (‘07) 9/11/2006 Pervertical Sanctuary III 5.10c Rocky Mountain National Park The first Saturday of the new academic year found Nate Popik and I slogging up the interminable approach to the Diamond on Long’s Peak. Popik and I planned to camp in the Chasm Lake basin and climb Pervertical Sanctuary (III 5.10c, 6 pitches) on Sunday. Our climbing day dawned cold, windy and clear. We soloed the North Chimney approach, 500 feet of easy 5th class scrambling, in twilight, and began Pervertical about an hour after sunrise. I immediately felt the strain of 5.9 climbing above 13,000 feet, and we slowly progressed past the first three pitches. The crux 4th pitch was a striking finger and hand splitter, clocking in at a very sustained 5.10c. The crack succumbed to Popik’s methodical style while I shivered at the belay. We had lost the sun, and the clear day had given way to swirling clouds. I followed Nate’s lead and struggled up the offwidth and fist crack above. By this time the cold had deepened and the clouds threatened to release. Shouting over the wind, we decided on going downward rather than upward, and I prepared to rappel to Popik’s stance.


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: COLORADO Popik had the extra rope at the lower belay, so I crafted a brilliant improvisatory plan. Nate would take me off belay, I would pull the rope and toss it back down, at which point he would tie the ropes together and I would make a double rope rappel. When I tossed the rope, the wind took it like a snake charmer and wafted the precious cord 30 feet to the north, where it snagged behind a rare solid flake. Holding back sobs, I cut my beautiful brand new Edelweiss and did two single rope raps, leaving the first of many stoppers halfway down the fifth pitch. Now it began to snow. Whiteout conditions prevailed for 20 minutes, enough to scare the living shit out of our intrepid team, but quickly abated as we continued our descent. We reached Broadway Ledge in the lingering dusk and settled on the North Chimney as the most reasonable single-rope descent back to Mills Glacier and the Chasm basin. I remember unintentionally “glissading” down the steep Mills, as well as slurping small puddles of snowmelt from boulders. The highlight of this exciting de-proach was surprising an amorous couple mid-coitus. Well into the night we collapsed our dehydrated, altitude-withered carcasses into sleeping bags and slept through Monday class. Nate’s grades suffered as a result. -Rich Brereton (‘07)

Eric Daniels (‘09) and Joe Forrester (‘06) Independence Chimney, III 5.8 C1 (First Clean Ascent) Independence Monument As a freshman climber who grew up in Connecticut, a climbing road trip across the West was a dream come true. I was lucky enough to accompany Joe Forrester (‘06) on my very first climbing road Eric “Pancake” Daniels on his first trip in the west. We aid pitch. started in Colorado and -Joe Forrester ran from cold weather and snow all way to Red Rocks with stops in Colorado National Monument, Castle Valley, Indian Creek and Zion. This trip opened my eyes to a whole world


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: COLORADO I had never seen . Our first day was my first grade III climb, Independence Chimney on Independence Monument. The first pitch was my first aid lead, C1 and tedious. After much bounce testing and a short 5.8 section I was at the first belay. The rest of the climb went smoothly, a few fantastic chimney pitches and a long summit pitch with chopped holds up the last pitch Otto’s Route. This landed us atop my first desert tower with a gorgeous view of Colorado National monument, and began my developing love of the desert and its many beautiful towers. Days later, after a few days cragging in Valley of the Gods in Navajo country, we ended up outside Las Vegas, Nevada at Red Rocks. The juxtaposition of such a beautiful park next to America’s permanent carnival is certainly bizarre. Here on what seems to have been the coldest day of the trip we woke up at the crack of dawn and hustled towards the Ginger Cracks Buttress. We assumed the day would warm up as Joe worked his way up the first pitch. The climbing was stellar, one amazing pitch after another. But as we got higher and higher off the deck the wind only got colder and stronger. I remember huddling against the rock at each belay hoping for a little bit of warmth before the next pitch. The climb was fantastic (but cold) and yielded a gorgeous summit view. Following the climb and the trail run back to the car we came to realize that both other teams we came in with that day had bailed off of their respective routes from the cold. Only Joe and I summited that day. We worked our way back through Castle Valley and climbed Honeymoon Chimney on The Priest. Three great towers in the desert was a great break. -Eric Daniels (‘09)

North Carolina Joe Forrester (‘06) November Invisible Airways Looking Glass Rock, NC III A2 Having finished my first semester of medical school, I felt that I really needed to get out and do some climbing. On Friday after my last final, I packed up my car and drove down to Asheville to meet up with Madaleine Sorkin (‘04). Madaleine had agreed to take me free climbing, and we both looked forward to climbing some of the eyebrows that make Looking Glass so famous. The first day, we climbed Tits and Beer, a 5.9 that involved some fun bulges and perplexing eyebrow climbing. The next day we went on a voyage,


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: NORTH CAROLINA climbing the Odyssey, 5.11a. The highlight was finding the raps, a discovery that had eluded us the day before. That night Madaleine left to go the Red, and I stayed around as I wanted to do some aiding on the North Face. On Monday morning I awoke to snow, but I hoisted my gear and hiked into the base of the climb. Invisible Airways is a striking line, a laser overhanging splitter. I hadn’t aided on granite in a long time and I was interested to see what would hold. After reaching the top of the first pitch, I hauled up my bag and my ledge. I had originally wanted to spend the night on the wall, but I was having second thoughts with all the snow and wind. I quickly re-racked and started up the laser corner. I had heard from a friend that the aiding was pretty straight forward; there were a lot of fixed heads. He mentioned though that it would be smart to pack some bird beaks, just in case the heads had blown. I was pretty thankful for that advice high up on that second pitch. Apparently, the heads weren’t set for 200+ lb aiders; my body weight blew most of the fixed heads. I took a few falls, but the beaks and blades held. I arrived at the top of the pitch in the setting sun. I fixed lines, and hiked my ledge back to the car. The rest of the climbing was great; I was alone on a wall in the winter. The wall overhands something like 20ft, and ice chunks would come winging off from the slabs above. Peregrines would occasionally swoop in to see my progress. It was a great climb to wrap up my first semester of med school, plenty of time for reflection. -Joe Forrester (‘06)

Utah Joel Irby (‘06), Dave Hoven (‘06), Joe Forrester (‘06) and Kyle Davis (‘06) 3/6/2006 Original Route Summit of Standing Rock Standing Rock Monument Basin III 5.11a On June 3rd 2006, Kyle Davis, Joe Forrester (‘06), Dave Hoven (‘06) and Joel Irby (‘06) climbed the 350 ft. Standing Rock, a tower located deep in Canyonlands National Park in an area known as Monument Basin. The summit was gained in


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: UTAH four pitches of excellent exposed climbing on Cutler Sandstone. The crux of the climb is a 5.11c boulder problem (which can be easily surmounted by pulling on draws) at the beginning of pitch 3. It was the last climb of our trip and that evening we sat and enjoyed a beautiful sunset as some of us indulged in bean/spam/cheese/corn burritos. - Dave Hoven (‘06) Phil Armstrong (‘07) and Kevin Brumbach (‘07) Colorado Northeast Ridge Kingfisher Tower IV 5.8 C2 On a beautiful Thursday of second block break 2006, Kevin and I arose in Onion Creek to make the short drive over to the Fishers. Neither of us had really aid climbed before, and so we thought that the Kingfisher would be a good first go at it. Armed with a massive clean aid rack, lots of water, gas station muffins, and a few PBR's we marched in from the parking lot. Soon enough we found ourselves at the base of the climb, wondering why the hell we wanted to try this anyway? Nevertheless, after racking up and starting the first pitch we started to get into the groove. Following lots of grunting and swearing about wearing tennies in the chimney I arrived at the top of pitch two, gaining a better view of the valley. Next came the real aid climbing. Kevin led the next two pitches, neither of us sure what would come with the next placement. After several dicey moves of free climbing over questionable, body weight only gear, we arrived at the base of the Moenkopi caprock. After somehow squeezing past the overhang, we climbed to the summit of our first real Fisher tower. Elation besieged us, and we decided that maybe aid climbing was not so bad. After a few celebratory beers in the parking lot we headed towards Moab to purchase yet another. We soon discovered Utah does in fact only sell 3.2% beer and food must be purchased in accompaniment. Chips and salsa were the order. -Phil Armstrong (‘07) and Kevin Brumbach (‘07) Kylie Manson (‘08) and Elena Mihaly (‘07) North Face Castleton Tower III 5.11 At the end of October, during second block break, Elena and I climbed the North Face . We started around 1 or 2 pm and, being the end of


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: UTAH October on a North facing route, were in the cold shade all day. The first pitch, wide hands in a right facing dihedral, was amazing and was especially challenging that day as our muscles were mostly frozen. Elena, Chris, and Caroline sent it with style. I had a bit more trouble and got lots of encouragement from all the people rapping down on top of me. The second pitch went well over the thin roof and onto a nice ledge. At the second belay, Chris, Elena, and I hopped around keeping warm while Caroline finished the third pitch. Chris' toes were as toasty as possible under Elena's warm farts. Elena, the little gnome in Wejchert's down coat, was singing in perfect key. I was working hard keeping Elena's feet warm against my chilly belly, and the sun was slowly setting behind the bluffs. I followed up last with my headlamp. Elena set up a 3-1 to haul me up the final ten foot chimney and I joined the others on top. All the stars had spread over the valley and the coyotes had begun howling in the distance. We rapped off in the dark, got lost on the hike down, and made it back to Onion Creek by 10:30pm. -Kylie Manson (‘08) Joe Forrester (‘06) and Dave Hoven (‘06) 1/6/2006 North Ridge Monster Tower Island in the Sky III 5.11c Joe Forrester (‘06) and Dave Hoven (‘06) climbed this 650 ft. tower on the first of June 2006. The climb was done in only 5 pitches by linking the 2nd and 3rd pitches and the final two pitches. Linking the last two pitches resulted in heinous ropedrag which, along with the extremely high winds, made the summit pitch somewhat spicy. We summited at the same time Joel and Kyle summited the adjacent tower, Washerwoman, giving us some great photo opportunities. We very luckily made our rappels down without getting our ropes stuck, watching as Joel and Kyle suffered a less fortunate fate. We napped at the base of the tower as we waited for Joel and Kyle to finish their descent then headed back to camp. -Dave Hoven (‘06) Joe Forrester (‘06) and Kyle Davis 5/29/2006 North Face (Pale Fire) Moses Tower


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: UTAH IV 5.8 C1 Kyle Davis and Joe Forrester (‘06) climbed North Face on a hot summer day in May. This was Kyle’s first aid climb and he wasn’t disappointed. It was long, and we ended up belaying at a few stations that we probably didn’t need to. The most memorable pitch was when Kyle had to do his first 5.10 crack climbing. We ran out of water 2 pitches from the top, and it was a hot and dry summit. The summit was beautiful; we could see Dave Hoven (‘06) and Joel Irby (‘06) on the East Ridge of Aphrodite. The rappels went quickly, but Kyle vomited on the last rappel. He was pretty beat after one hell of an intro into what the desert has to offer. -Joe Forrester (‘06) Dave Hoven (‘06) and Joel Irby (‘06) 5/29/2006 East Ridge Aphrodite Taylor Canyon III 5.10c On May 29th Dave Hoven (‘06) and Joel Irby (‘06) climbed the tower Aphrodite via the Northwest Ridge. On the summit we found an awesome summit register in which there were only 22 previous entries. It was no surprise that there were not more ascents of the tower seeing as the climbing was not at all spectacular, but still worthwhile. We got our ropes stuck on the way down and Dave, much chagrined, lost the RPS (Rock Paper Scissors) and had to climb the first pitch again. -Dave Hoven (‘06) Joe Forrester (‘06) and Jeremy Aslaksen February and March 2006 Sundevil Chimney Fisher Towers VI 5.9 C3-C4 On 5th block break Joe Forrester (‘06) and Jeremy Aslaksen attempted to climb the Sundevil Chimney on the Titan. The first pitches saw me take C4 fall (not too much fun) and a subsequent hauling of 40’s. The hauling made the rest of the climb that much more enjoyable. The climbing was beautiful, strong Cutler that was vertical to overhanging. This was a very welcome change from the never-ending series of bulges I had encountered on West Side Story on Cotton-


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: UTAH tail tower last August. As we arrived at the end of the 5th pitch, a snow storm moved in dumping over 3 inches of snow in an hour or so. Due to the rather fragile nature of the Cutler, we fixed ropes and retreated. A weekend later, Jeremy and I arrived back at the Fishers, ready for the final push. In about 5 hours we climbed up the rest of the Sundevil, the most memorable moment being a 35 ft. section of 5.9 free climbing above a sawed off pin hand-placed in mud. This climb was particularly rewarding for me (Joe Forrester) because this was my second attempt at this line. The first time had been my sophomore year, when Chris Thayer (06’) and I had tried the Sundevil fueled off canned dog food. The can looked like stew but was only half the price! -Joe Forrester (‘06)

Canada Will Gadd (‘89) 10/12/2006 Yamabushi Mt. Yamnuksa, 300M, 5.13a Start right of “Balrog, follow the line up through the big roofs. In about 1999 Raphael Slawinski and I started work on a new line on the last buttress of Yamnuska without a route on it. The reason there aren’t any routes on this area of the wall is obvious: It’s really steep, generally overhanging, with a maze of large roofs to negotiate. It’s also relatively crack-free, meaning a climb would require extensive bolting. Our progress was slow for the first five years; the route was hard, and establishing it with “ground up” style took a lot of time, about a day for each pitch. The process of hanging off hooks or lousy pitons to drill was mentally taxing, so we would generally get about a half pitch done every year. We did try to rap-bolt the route to speed our progress up, but were foiled by the very steep rock—it was too difficult to find the line on rap, and we were hanging too far from the wall anyhow. The route is also much harder than any other multi-pitch route I’ve done, and we were only fit enough to do the movements each Fall, then it would snow, oh well, next year, repeat for five years. But in 2006 I had an exceptionally strong rock year, and felt fit enough to get the job done, plus I had a motivated partner, Cory Richards. It took 11 more trips up on the wall, but in the end we finished off what is likely the hardest multi-pitch line in the Canadian Rockies. The climb-


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: CANADA ing is very sustained (five of the eight pitches are 5.12 or harder, and even the 5.11 pitches are involved), and the sometimes friable rock adds to the excitement. It took two attempts to climb the route free from bottom to top in a day, which is the style I like. Some small nuts are helpful for reducing the runouts, but in general it’s a bolted “sporty” sport route. I hope it becomes popular; it’s a very fine long day of climbing in a spectacular environment. All belay stances are bolted and at “hands free” stances. P1: 5.10c, 60M Climb the shield right of Balrog, easy scrambling across the ledge (skip the anchor, that’s for rapping), up and left to a semi-hanging stance. Long slings reduce rope drag. P2, 5.13a, 25M. Right and up to the big roofs, get motivated and climb ‘em! (note that two ropes are required to rap from the top of this pitch, a single 70M rope will be hanging in space…). P3, 11d, 40M. Up perfect grey rock to “lunch ledge,” the only ledge on the climb. A bit run reaching the ledge but not so hard. P4, 12b, 35M. Fun climbing on excellent rock to a semi-hanging stance under a roof. This is the last stance where rapping is straight-forward. With a single 70M rope the ends will just reach Lunch Ledge. P5, 12b, 30M. Three different fun cruxes. This pitch was very scary to clean on lead, some of the bolts are off-line and were used to avoid dying while sending down huge blocks. P6, 12b/c, 30M. Strenuous and gymnastic climbing up overhanging dihedrals to a baffling crux move before the belay. Down-clipping would be required to rap from here, even with two 70M ropes the ends hang too far out from the wall to reach back in. Downclipping works OK. P7, 12c (?), 35M. Just when you thought it was over…Very technical with small holds. P8, 11c, 40M. Surprisingly hard, the first seven pitches take a toll. Some history: 1999: Will Gadd and Raphael Slawinski bolt the first pitch. 2000: Gadd and Slawinski bolt a bit more. 2001: “ reach Lunch Ledge. 2002: Gadd and Kevin Wilson bolt a bit of pitch 4, sort out pitch one. 2003: Gadd and Slawinski clean a bit and feel weak. 2004-2005. “ rap-bolt the upper two pitches. They think those pitches will be easy 5.11. They are wrong. 2006: Gadd and Richards spend 10 days cleaning and bolting. Kevin Dyck also puts a day in, as does Sarah Hueniken. Gadd finally does a complete “no falls” ascent on October 12, leading every pitch with Josh Briggs jumaring.


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: CANADA “Yama” is Japanese for Mountain, “Bushi” for monk. The Yamabushi in Japan are warrior/monks who train with extreme asceticism; they run a marathon a day for 60 days straight, eating only small amounts of rice. Plus the name has “Yam” at the start, which is what locals call the cliff. -Will Gadd (‘89) Elena Mihaly (‘07) and Jeremy Roop (‘06) Lotus Flower Tower Cirque of the Unclimbables V 5.10 I still have vivid dreams about climbing the Lotus Flower Tower. Most often I’m two thirds of the way up, methodically reaching for the next perfectly shaped chicken head, moving my feet up to the next foothold, my eyes continually gazing at the sight below: over 1,500 feet of granite slab, spilling out from beneath me like a metamorphic tongue from the heavens. What usually pervades my dreams is our second attempt at the Lotus Flower Tower rather than the first. There is nothing idyllic or dream-worthy about waking up at 3 in the morning, hiking up a slimy boulder/scree field to the base of the tower, jugging up two pitches of saturated fixed lines, climbing two dripping wet, horribly scary pitches, getting hailed on (while wearing cotton pants), and then bailing. Perhaps the reason that most of my memories of our trip to the Cirque of the Unclimbables resurfaces in my dreams is because the whole journey seemed so surreal. The idea to climb the Lotus Flower Tower stemmed from one of my many moments stirring around the Mountain Chalet hoping that the staff would a) offer me a job, or b) give me a discount for being an income-less student, or c) get sick of cleaning my drool off of their glass display cases and offer me a free Camalot if I would just agree to leave quietly. On this particular occasion, I was looking at the book Fifty Classic Climbs of North America by Mark Kroese. At a whopping $21.95, it was out of my price range, so I would go to the Chalet whenever I wanted to fantasize at having the talent, time, courage, or money to do any of the climbs in the book. Somewhere in the middle of the book I flipped to the page with the Lotus Flower Tower on it. The route description had something about a continuous twenty five hundred foot crack system covered with chicken heads. While this attracted me in it of itself, the picture was the real hook. Like that strange black spot you see after looking at the sun, the magnificent image of the Lotus Flower Tower left an elusive blur in my mind. When I was younger, I thought that black spot was a punishment for disobeying all the adults who told me not to stare at the sun, and that if I


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: CANADA did it enough times I Chopper in the Cirque—Elena would go blind. Similarly, I felt that staring at this enlarged photograph of the Lotus for too long had to be a sin of some sorts, and if I looked to long I would surely go blind. It was just so perfect, as if it was formed from the inners of the Earth for the sole purpose of climbing. My climbing partner Jeremy and I started formulating a plan to climb the Lotus Flower Tower that summer. Unfortunately, the Cirque of the Unclimbables is not exactly the most easily accessible of climbing destinations. First of all, we had to get ourselves up to Watson Lake, Yukon Territory, Canada – approximately 2,281 miles on paved road, and 300 miles on gravel roads. We had two options of getting into the Cirque from there. Option one was the most appealing, involving a helicopter ride for a negligible $2,000 each way. Option two was to hike through the pathless, bear-infested bush for four to ten days with 100 pound packs, and then hop in the kayak that one supposedly has been portaging the whole way, somehow make it alive out of some class 5 rapids, dodge the thundering 300 foot Virginia Falls, then leave the boat and hike up the most horrifying scree slope you will ever encounter to Fairy Meadows, the base camp for the Cirque. Option one seemed the only viable path for us for several reasons. Most importantly I don’t even weigh 100 pounds and probably could manage neither the heavy pack nor the requisite kayak. And secondly, neither one of us had set foot in a kayak before. So, we needed some serious monetary support. In came the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund, by far the coolest grant one will ever encounter in the whole world. In the spirit of Ritt Kellogg, a graduate of Colorado College in 1990 and a devout climber and mountaineer, the Ritt Kellogg Memorial Fund helps Colorado College students “promote imagination, challenge and personal growth in their own responsible and conscientious pursuit of wilderness expeditions”. We were generously granted $2,400 from this board, $500 from the President’s Discretionary Fund, and $1,600 from the American Alpine Club. A note to all of you Colorado College climbers who may be reading this, applying for these grants took nothing more than a little time, energy, and good writing skills, something all of you have if you got ac-


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: CANADA cepted at Colorado College. Oh, and a little previous climbing experience. So go for it! On the way up we locked the keys in the car in Montana, and called AAA after shooing away a drunken homeless man who insisted on using his pocketknife and a coat hanger to break into my back window. The car broke down in a City Park in British Columbia where we were sleeping for several hours, and we called AAA and had the car towed. The windshield got cracked by a flying piece of gravel on the Alaska Highway. And finally, to add insult to injury, 50 miles of gravel road away from our destination, we got a flat tire. Luckily, my trusty little Honda Civic has a spare tire that is the approximate the size and stability level of a tricycle wheel. The last 50 miles took about two hours. But the fantastic views from the helicopter ride into the Cirque and the fact that Jeremy did 98% of the driving made the whole odyssey Jeremy Roop leading off. worthwhile. -Elena Mihaly I won’t describe the Cirque too much for two reasons: One, words can’t describe it, and two, you should just go there yourself. You will learn that the location is truly one of the most spectacular places in the world, and upon climbing the Lotus Flower Tower, the memories of that day, (or two if you’re not the swiftest of climbers,) will be with you forever. -Elena Mihaly (‘07) Althea Rogers (’06) Mt. Bryce NE Ridge-Bryce Traverse Canadian Rockies IV 5.6 In the last two weeks of September I headed up to the Canadian Rockies with two friends from home, Will Wetzel and Avery Briggs. Having climbed there the summer after my freshman year I was eager to get back to try more. To leaf through Dougherty’s guidebook is an overwhelming experience with more challenging routes and alpine terrain than could be covered in a lifetime. We were drawn to Mt. Bryce because of its remoteness when compared to other peaks which can be reached from the Icefields Parkway. It has three summits which is why the NE Ridge is termed the traverse, crossing all three


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: CANADA summits. Taking the Rice Creek logging road approach we were able to drive about 11 km. From there the road deteriorated too much to keep driving and we began the 8 km walk into the south basin, facing Watchman Peak. We began from a bivy at the col below the ridge and it took a little over an hour to reach the base. The ice on the base of the ridge was bomber and clean though we soon discovered that the ice above was not the same. Avery, Will and I decided to solo the route until reaching the 5.6 section of rock. Will had forgotten his harness at the car and didn’t seem excited by the idea of being tied to anyone with his makeshift harness of cord. Perhaps the Canadian Rockies reputation for bad rock was started by someone who climbed Mt. Bryce. Upward ground was gained by dry tooling, hooking onto rocks which didn’t pop off. The entire ridge was covered with a foot of powder which made already insecure placements even more so. The 5.6 section of the ridge was a gray band of relatively good rock. Instead of climbing up the prow I thought we could solo up further if we went left onto the face a bit, which proved to be a bit more difficult than the normal route. Belayed from a small alcove, I led up the 40m pitch not finding protection until 20m up. Had I followed the prow I might have found the fixed pitons placed there. Although the NE Ridge Toward the Summit—Althea Rogers does not see many ascents each year, most of the fixed pro was still in pretty good shape. We reached the first summit about two hours after climbing the rock pitch. Slowed by the coating of snow and my detour we decided not to continue on across the middle and western summits. The descent was interesting due to the fact that good holds used on the way up were simply not there, having been knocked off by another climber. Down climbing took longer than usual because of the snow, and we made use of every rappel station. We spaced ourselves out much more on the ridge after I got smacked by a rock, breaking its fall with my pack. We soloed down the rest of the ridge without any trouble and then ran back across the glacier toward the tent and food. Mt. Bryce is a magnificent peak which is seeing some extreme changes due to warming. We had originally hoped to do the North Face and


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: CANADA now having seen it I realize that there are significantly more rock bands across the face than in the topo of Dougherty’s Selected Alpine Climbs. Many ice faces in the Rockies are dealing with similar problems and the Park Rangers are pretty helpful with getting up to date information on conditions. -Althea Rogers (‘06) Joel Irby (‘06), Dave Hoven (‘06) and Mike Wejchert (‘09) 3/24/2006 Lower Weeping Wall Banff National Park IV WI5 Joel Irby (‘06), Dave Hoven (‘06) and Mike Wejchert (‘08) climbed the 600 ft. lower weeping wall on March 24th. We did the climb in four long and excellent pitches. We rappelled down the right side on bolted rap anchors and met Susan Hoff at the car around 4pm. It was a wonderful way to end our spring break adventures in the Canadian Rockies. -Dave Hoven (‘06)

Mexico Dave Hoven (‘06) and Joel Irby (‘06) 11/16/05 Yankee Clipper El Potrero Chico, Mexico IV 5.12a Joel Irby and I (Dave Hoven) woke up at a record breaking hour (8:30am) to climb these 15 pitches of bolt clipper’s paradise (5.12a, IV). The view from the tiny summit was amazing, and we simul-rapped all the way down. We also left our busted Nalgene bottle at the Cactus God Altar which is at the top of pitch 10 or so. -Dave Hoven (‘06)


CLIMBS AND EXPEDITIONS: MEXICO Dave Hoven (‘06) and Joel Irby (‘06) 11/20/06 El Potrero Chico, Mexico V 5.12a On beautiful November 20th of 2006, Joel Irby and I (Dave Hoven) climbed the spectacular Time Wave Zero. We began climbing by 7am and reached the summit by 3pm. Although simul-rapping cut down the time on the descent, the ropes continually got stuck in yucca and cacti causing some minor frustration. The single 5.12 pitch comes at pitch 21 making it damn near impossible, however the bolts are close enough together to cheat through the crux. -Dave Hoven (06’) Dave Hoven (‘06) and Joel Irby (‘06) 11/25/06 Paguvi El Potrero Chico, Mexico This seldom regarded Mexican gem ascends the north face of El Torro, Potrero’s highest peak. Joel Irby and I (Dave Hoven) ventured up this mysterious route with a half rack of cams, nuts, tri-cams and some quickdraws. The extra gear came in extremely handy on the first 9 pitches which were protected by 23 year old jimmy-rigged bolts that were dangerously run out (sometimes only 1 or 2 bolts per pitch). From pitch 9 to the top the route was well protected with newer bolts, however the climb ascended a grueling 700 foot squeeze chimney that left us sore and exhausted. Unfortunately the real adventure was yet to come. The scramble from the top of the chimney to the summit was a ferocious battle with Mexico’s relentlessly vicious plant life. We managed to reach the summit at around 10pm and took another 6 hours finding our way back down the south side of the peak giving us a round trip of about 24 hours. Although this climb is not mentioned in the newest Potrero guidebooks, regulars at the park know about it and it is sure to be a classic some- Walls In Mexico -Dave Hoven day. -Dave Hoven (‘06)



Letters, Stories and Thoughts November 20, 2006 Dear Joe, Thank you for taking the time and energy to start the CC Alpine Journal. The idea is perfect, yet I wonder why it took so long for someone to come along and motivate all of us?! Maybe it’s because we’re all out climbing - if not mountains, various other challenges in life. It seems to me recently that life is quite like climbing, very cyclical in nature – up and down, up and down… I had a wonderful day at Cadillac Crag yesterday with Pete Mortimer and a few of his friends from Boulder. We were commenting on how nice it is to be able to go cragging until it was just too dark! The work and family responsibilities obviously intrude as we grow old. Maybe that’s always why I enjoyed alpine climbing so much, because I could basically use the length and nature of the route to free myself of any real time considerations. Although, I must admit, I do not always fully commit to that mindset. At first, climbing was just intriguing, but it soon became obsessive. What happened to my stereotypical college fun? It was absorbed by the mountains – either climbing, or shredding bumps and powder. You know, if I combine the two activities, I could honestly say that I was spending 200 days a year either climbing or skiing. I guess that’s one way to get educated! Despite this, my resume in these areas doesn’t even compare to the athleticism and tenacity of today’s climbers and freestyle skiers. Come to think of it, it really doesn’t even compare to the legendary CC climbers who came before me. I guess that’s why the CC Alpine Journal is such a worthy endeavor, because it allows guys like me to be able to commune with the legends of our past and future… I can’t tell you how much pleasure it gave me to recently receive a call from Phil Armstrong (07’) asking about ice conditions on the Peak. I literally was parked on Mesa Drive earlier that day looking through binoculars at Glass Park in the Bottomless Pit, absolutely sure that the second pitch was fat, and wondering about a third pitch, which I have never seen formed. In early October I was ready to leave Barr Trail for a solo blitz up to the Pericle, thinking maybe I’d solo Free & Easy and if not just go for a mountain run. But instead I was phoned by Mike Houston, an old Springs local who played a large role as one of my climbing mentors. I told him I could wait for him if he could still go, and next thing you know we were leaving Barr Trail at 11:30am with a single 8mm rope and 12 pieces of gear. We started climbing Free & Easy at


LETTERS, STORIES AND THOUGHTS about 3:30pm, and thoroughly enjoyed the perfect 5.8 finger crack on the second pitch which is 1/2” for 120 feet. Much of the exhilaration came at the top when we looked over and saw Wet & Wild formed as fat as could be, and wished we had our bivvy gear and tools and the next day off work. Of course, we didn’t, but at least we made it back to Barr Camp before dark, enjoying a nice Ramen dinner prior to the slog down to our cars. I tried to get up to Wet & Wild the following weekend, but it was after our first big dump, and the wallowing in the Bottomless Pit did us in – along with the pancake breakfast we couldn’t refuse back at Barr Camp. When Phil called me for beta, I told him about everything that had been going on (or going off!), but expressed my concern for whether the toll road would be open. He responded that he had called and spoken with the rangers and that the road was opening at least to the top of Devil’s Playground the next day. I thought, “Finally, I have a live one here”; I’ve just been dying to share my love for the Peak with the next generation of CC climbers, yet haven’t been successful, until now. Phil absorbed the information I was spewing over the cell phone like a sponge, and I was sure there would be an epic adventure the next day. I could not commit to joining the team as I claimed to be working, but really I think I just wanted to chase girls at the Ritz in response to my recent divorce! Well, I have to recapture some of those stereotypical days, right? The next day I spoke with Phil and he gave me the story of his first alpine ice adventure on the Peak, getting a rare and virgin ascent of Glass Park, after descending the Rumdoodle Ridge, which I told him not to do! He therefore didn’t have any beta to share with me on the Corinthian Column routes. But as expected, Glass Park was fat, and even a third mixed pitch was in for whomever claims it, and alas, Wet & Wild, which hadn’t formed in maybe 12 years, was completely gone. So, just like the climber, up and down, the ice forms up, and then falls down, and maybe we’ll get another chance at it in 5 or 10 or 15 years. So who will be ready and willing then? Obviously this is not a question for the faint of heart, but certainly a question for anyone who springs from the CC Climbing Community. And as for me, I am on the up and psyched to get out - whether chasing shadows in the Black, or chasing girls at the Ritz! So thanks again for getting this started, and please pass on the word to look me up for anything. Best Regards, Bosier Parsons ‘95 Colorado Springs, Colorado (719) 494-4968 cell


LETTERS, STORIES AND THOUGHTS A Shot In Rifle On May 24th, 2005, myself and three friends, among roughly 480 other individuals, found ourselves to be the victims of a massacre. It was a mistake. Made to dress in funny, monochromatic robes and rigid, square hats, our numbers were called, we were handed a leather bound piece of paper, walked to the edge of a cliff – and were swiftly booted off the edge into an abyss of unknown depth. We found ourselves holding our noses and hoping we hit water. Our families and friends were there to watch. They even cheered when our names were called – some cried. No, not tears of sadness, but of joy. And we were good people, each and every one of us. We broke no (major) laws. We did our homework. We didn’t hurt anybody. We were confused. Terrified. What was this heinous display? College Graduation. You and your friends are drowning in the vacuum of formless space. You have a liberal arts degree, a B.A., and no undying desire to wear a suit and go to work five days a week. You’re a twentysomething: the post-college but pre-life denizen, the darling of the sitcom writer, the target of marketers, the hipster, the backpacker, the gopher of the corporate world, the analyst, the gogetter, the lazy bum, and the lost soul waiting for merely an epiphany. You’re a mistake maker, a learner. And you like to go rock climbing. A lot. What the hell do you do? Unwilling to succumb to traditional security or stasis, our answer was to grasp for purchase in a world we actually knew well. We would try to pull off a summer entirely devoted to rock climbing. Then, out of desperation, seemingly idle words and honest utterances of affirmation we made it come true. Myself, Mason Baker, Daniel Mirsky, and Andrew Neuman made our half-baked dream into glorious reality. And it worked. Mostly. Maybe it was the best mistake I’ve ever made. I don’t know. Sure, the dwelling we called home had one piece of furniture. Yes, every crevice in the kitchen was filled with an amalgamation of gross. It was also infested with bugs. If I left a crumb of food in my bedroom a line of ants would, within minutes, stream along my floor. A glut of large black beetles meant they would appear in odd places – the refrigerator, the clothes dryer, piles of clothes. Silverfish – like spiders with Captain America’s speed and even more legs – would periodically flash across the stained carpet in my room. This was disconcerting because I grew an arachnophobia while in Rifle, mostly due to the six black widows (swollen abdomens and red hourglasses readily visible) I found living in cinderblocks outside the house. It was like the fucking grim reaper hanging out in the front yard. Who knows how many more there were? Aren’t we, homosapiens, meant to be at the top of the food chain?


LETTERS, STORIES AND THOUGHTS And yes, I can say that that summer, none us “found” ourselves. Well, that is, in anything but some ridiculous situations. Mason, our retail representative at the Glenwood gearshop, would respond to questions about technical outdoor apparel with answers such as, “It’s nice how fuzzy it is, isn’t it?” The same was interviewed by the Glenwood newspaper and was quoted as saying that “tanning” was one of his favorite hobbies. Neuman, whose day job was short order cook at the local golf course, went to the bar with his portly, middle aged manager and ended up in a nightcap with a Rifle native and Dominos delivery girl whose name differed from a famous brand of cognac by one letter. And his manager had a near miss with (yet another) case of infidelity and ended up sleeping on the cot he kept in the back of his restaurant. Still another musketeer found himself in another kind of ridiculous situation with his superior at work. A number of times. Yes, Dan wrecked my car, putting it out of commission for six weeks, during which time I felt trapped. Then, destiny of destinies, I picked my car up from the body shop. I was elated. I went to work. Eventually it came time to drive home. We were pleasure cruising. My car was fixed and floating down the road, the windows were down, the music so loud we felt it in our guts. Up we went on route 13 past the turnoff where I always turned off to go climbing. The unknown. “Oh, to heck with it,” I thought to myself, “where there be dragons!” Or fucking kamikaze deer, as it turns out. I was looking at a peculiar sign when the animal appeared in my headlights. The sign was a night speed limit posting which was different from the day speed limit. I’d never seen one. Strange. When I looked back to the road I only had time to veer to the left, whereupon (inexorably) Kamikaze Deer jumped right in front of the quickly moving, one-ton projectile flying at it and was thrown eight feet to the side of the road. My car! That (effing) deer. The thoughts came in that order. I’m sorry. I love my car. It gets forty miles to the gallon and gets me places. And that deer was dumb. I hate that deer. All of this and I haven’t even mentioned the climbing. Haven’t even mentioned the fact that the town we called home was 20 minutes from the best limestone bolt clipping in North America. In a two mile canyon where much is chossy and, rock-wise, little is aesthetically pleasing, the people who developed routes here uncovered some brilliant gems, and the highest concentration of hard lines in the hemisphere. The blocky, at times seeping, always cryptic limestone lends itself to the coolest climbing I have ever done. Your body learns how to get into funky positions. You learn how to pull on slopeyunderclingy-sidepulls, taking them from above your head and pulling them down to below your waist. How to read the rock because there’s so much chalk everywhere that it has basically leveled the playing field. How to kneebar. You become a better climber. Mostly, though, Rifle made us stronger. Wholebody strong. We got



The Rifle Boys (L-R): Dan Mirsky (’05), Mason Baker (‘05), Alex Lowther (‘05), Matt Neuman -Andy Neuman

wholebody exhausted at the end of days in which we would warm up, burn a project thrice, take refuge from summer heat and humidity in the mountain reservoir down the road, then go back and climb ‘til dusk, sipping PBR kept cold in the creek. The four of us all got into what was at that point the best shape of our lives that summer. A dim climber who modeled underwear on the side said to me one day, “Man, what happened? Dan mutated this summer,” because Dan had just sent his fourth 13c in as many weeks. Which is the thing about incorporating Rifle into your daily routine (which is just what it became – routine): you’re in the best shape of your life and every day you go out you’re only getting stronger. It’s a little bit exhilarating, looking back. We were happy with our day to day, our twentysomething rockclimber version of a routine. Get up, eat breakfast, go rock climbing, go to work, maybe get a drink, perhaps some karaoke, go to bed. Get up the next day, repeat. Toss in a rest day; odd characters coming to shower in your house; a philosophy professor giving a lecture on artificial intelligence in your living room (complete with overhead projector and handhouts for 20 curious rock climbers); the occasional college-style kegger (but with good beer this time), a Beirut table on the porch, a dog to chew your shit up and life was just


LETTERS, STORIES AND THOUGHTS really – good, for lack of a better word. It’s an ordinary word, and that’s just what it became. We were ordinarily good. Which is huge. On May 24th we were kicked off of a cliff. Hold your nose and hope you hit water. Falling through space, we grasped onto a nebulous idea, a bunch of words and nods of affirmation which suddenly and surprisingly turned into reality; and have now turned into history. We did not find ourselves. We didn’t find ourselves anywhere but at a climbing area with some of the best climbing in the world, integrated into a community with some of the most bizarre people you could want to meet. We found ourselves having fun. Found ourselves doing just what we wanted. Going up, and coming back down again in a pointless cloud of Sisyphusian contentedness. And that’s all rock climbing really ought to be about. I’d do it again. I think we all would. But I don’t think we can. It was a moment and place in time and space and it was unrepeatable. The end of the summer came. My mind and body began to be beat down, and one day I packed my shit and left. Driving east through Glenwood Canyon, I emerged, my life in my car, the sky open again, into the wider world outside of the Western Slope. On to the next mistake. -Alex Lowther (‘05)

69 Colorado College Alpine Journal Volume 1 2006

Dear Readers, We hope you really enjoy this journal. Mike and I started this with the hope that we could keep the journal free for all alums and current climbers. While the journal this year is electronic and therefore cheap, our hope is to make it a print journal next year. If you want to help, please send us check, credit info or money order. Mike and I are doing this whole journal pro bono; all of your donation will go towards shipping and funding for next year. Email me at if you are interested or have some ideas for funding. Now that the subtle pleading for funds is out of the way, on to the fun stuff. Our goal is to unite the WHOLE Colorado College climbing community. If you know of some climbing buddies that haven’t got the journal, and would be interested, please feel free to pass a copy of the journal along. Email me at with their contact info, and I will contact them and see if they want to submit a story or receive a journal in the future. We really want to hear about your sick sends! Please continue to send in your stories and photos. We have already started receiving submissions for next year’s journal and they promise to be as exciting as this year. You can send your stories and photos to Just make sure to tell me who took the photos and what is in them. Finally, if some of you alums start to get all teary eyed and reminiscent about your years at CC, please send us your thoughts. There is nothing more motivating to current students than reading about some “elders” adventures in the mountains. While we love to hear about climbing exploits, stories about climbers engaged in other “exploits” are awesome to read as well. Also, if anyone would like to contact any of the authors of the stories, email me and I will put you in touch. Once again, we really hope you enjoy the journal. It has been a great honor to put together so many incredible achievements and we really appreciate all the words of support and encouragement we received. Mike and I are already looking forward to next year’s edition of the Colorado College Alpine Journal and we hope you are too. Happy Climbing, Joe Forrester 720-284-2317

Colorado College Alpine Journal - 2006 Edition