This spring two of my buds went over to Nepal to climb a new line on the south face of Annapurna, and decided to warm up with a quick trip up the North Face of Teng Kang Poche. I was over there a few years ago trying that face, we were rejected due to poor ice, danger and perhaps a lack of understanding about how the Himalaya worked. Make that a definite lack of understanding about the biggest mountain range in the world.
Ueli Steck just emailed me--he and Simon Anthamatten sent the face in three days, alpine style. A PROUD send and likely one of the bigger hard routes in the Himalaya. Congratulations to both of them!
Now I don't feel obligated to one day go back. It's a weird sense of relief mixed with respect and pride for my friends, and a bit of, "Dang, wish I'd done that!" They did the line in the very best possible style, something we didn't think we could do in the conditions we had. More likely, we lacked the commitment to gamble as hard as Ueli and Simon, as well as the outrageous fitness the Swiss are running (I saw that fitness last fall when they were living in my basement for a few weeks, yeah!).
There are moments in life when things are right for going big, and I'll always feel a little regret that I couldn't create such a moment with my team in Nepal. On the other hand we didn't die on the face, and it's a beautiful spring day here in Canmore. These are the things we balance as climbers, and I firmly believe it's better to run away and keep climbing for a long time than to push when the vibe isn't there. It does make my decision from years ago feel "right" when Simon and Ueli do such a good job, somehow this just makes sense to me. The line has been tried a lot with all kinds of tactics, to see it get done in the best possible style is very cool. It also confirms that my initial dream of going at it fast and light was possible; I started to think of other alternatives given the dangers we saw, so better for it to be done well the first time in my mind.
Now go big on Annapurna Team Swiss, but always leave a little room so you can come back to Canmore and beat around here with the old guy one day in the future.