Sunday, September 19, 2010

Quick trip to Chile

Although the weather is getting quite winter like here in the NW, I fooled my body completely last week with a last minute, short trip down to Valle Nevado in Chile. It happened like this:

The phone rings while I am sitting on my couch resting after throwing myself at more climbs over my head. Its Mike Hattrup from K2, skiing legend, childhood idol, and my contact at K2 skis.
'What are you doing in September?' Me: 'Climbing, why?' Mike: 'Want to go skiing in Chile for a week? We'll foot the bill."

Ummmmmmmmmm, YA!!!!! Who wouldn't? So there it goes, we all rallied and spent 5 days ski touring in the Andes, in the Valle Nevado ski area slack country.

I will spare you with blabber, and make this more of a photo post. Basics were this: lowest snow in 15 years, hit a rock on every run, blown away by the mountains there, no jet lag, lots of sucking wind at altitude, winter camping with a stove with no lighter, lots of Chilean Red wines, friendly people.

Here are the photos.

Aconcogua from the plane at sunrise

View of the Andes halfway thru the 65 switchbacks up to the ski hills

Valle Nevado backcountry skiing

Searching for the wind filled lines

Looking for the deep snow with El Plomo (5400m) in the background

Graham gets some September recycled powder

Sunshine ski touring

The Incas summited these glaciated peaks over 500 years ago, with their 8 year old children and then left them on the summit as sacrifices. Puts 'mountaineering' in perspective. This is a replica of the 'mummy' of that 8 year old boy that was found 40 years ago on the summit.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

If at first you don't succeed

Ironman and the Turret loom behind camp

You know the rest of the saying. Sometimes it hurts to say it, but you can say it with me right now. “Try, try (try, try) AGAIN!” This is kind of a basic tenet of alpine climbing, or maybe all climbing really; actually, life itself. So what am I trying to get at here?

If you followed my last post, it was a video from the a trip I took to the Adamant Mountains in 2008, a recap of some attempts, successes and failures from a great 10 days in the mountains. A lead in to climbing there again this season. And we did climb there again this year…

July 13th we (Craig and Jeremy) decided to drive to the Golden, BC to pack and prep to fly into our glacier camp at the base of some amazing summits. Camp would be a 10 minute walk from 2 unfree-climbed 600m alpine big walls. Drool.

But for the few days leading up to our departure, way too much time was spent looking at the weather models, trying to figure out if we had any chance of some long awaited BC summer high pressure. For details I can’t really get in to (let’s just say extenuating personal circumstances of a team member) we decided to give it a try anyway, and by the morning of the 14th we were waiting to fly in from a random logging road, and watching the black clouds prevent our passage.

Back to Golden where we spent the next 4 days hanging out, watching the weather and waiting to fly in to the mountains. Before we know it life got complicated, the weather sucked, and we were hauling ass back to Squamish to at least go rock climbing at home, and salvage a bit of work while we could.

Sorting and packing for 9 days on the glacier

Flash forward now to August 5th, and it’s time to try and fly in again. This time, it’s not just us, but a total of 11 people, aka ‘Alpine Man Camp 2010′. It is a huge crew of our friends, so we are pretty psyched about hanging out in some amazing mountains with all of them. Once again the forecast looks iffy for a few days after we get in, but we are optimistic about some good weather for the later half of the trip; we have 9 days, so hopefully half of them might be good.

Andrew shows off his secrets for waiting out storms in the tent

We know that at the very least, the day we fly in will give us perfect weather, and by 10am we are racked up at the base of the north face of the Blackfriar for Craig and my 4th attempt at free climbing this 600m wall. Everything is going well for us, except the time. We get so high up on the face, into new territory for us, but it’s 9pm and starting to get dark. The 4 more pitches of unknown and dirty terrain are going to take us at least 5 hours to climb and descend. Our packs are just a bit too light and fast – no bivy gear, extra food or water, and besides, we still have 8 more days on the trip. So we decide to wrap, and figure we can start climbing at 5am on the next attempt instead of 10am. Seems logical, right?

Pitch 1 of the north face of the Blackfriar

Well, the next 5 days prove us wrong. Welcome to the hours of time blending together; I still can’t discern what we did on what days during that period of time. Fog, rain, and snow all collaborated to keeping us in the sleeping or cooking tents non-stop. The saving grace was hanging tough with some really good friends, so jokes, stories, and philosophizing were the themes of the times. “Fester fiesta 2010.” We would fire up the satellite phone to get weather forecasts, only to go further into depression. It just wasn’t going to happen on this go-around, and by day 5 we realized that when the weather got good, we needed to jump on that opportunity to actually get out of the mountains and not be stuck there running out of food.

Jeremy losing it in the tent after at least 100 hours of non-stop tent time

Finally the weather broke enough for us to escape, and we fled the glacier as fast as we could, so we could regain our sanity outside of the confines of our tents. Oh well, at least I know what I might be trying to do again next year!