Tuesday, February 03, 2009

One down, two to go

February 20th edit: Not so secret anymore

For the last three weeks I've been hard at work with some friends on a new long mixed route. It's sick--long, hard, cool ice, wild place. On Friday we pretty much got it done, but we need to go back and sort a few things out to call it legitimately done. Leaving ropes and gear strewn all over the place does not constitute a successful ascent in my opinion, we need to clean our mess up. I'll post up once that's done, but I thought I'd share a few experiences on the route:

When I drop a tool I expect that it will stay dropped. As we rapped in the near-darkness I tied an orange Fusion onto a white 80M rope and lowered it toward the snow (the route overhangs so much that you're not anywhere near the route!) so I could see if the end reached. Normally I'd know it reached 'cause I'd rapped from the same stance before, but part of the rope was still hanging over my head 'cause it was attached to another rope that was very stuck somewhere farther up... I saw the tool land on the snow, turned around to help my bud start to rap, and turned around again to see the tool hovering in mid-air like some sort of bad science fiction horror movie. A few rocks swirled around with it; rocks! I have never seen rocks get ripped off reasonably flat ground and levitated into the air before! Later I read the historical weather from a weather station on a ridge close to us; the wind was gusting to over 160K (100MPH). We were in the lee, and the wind roaring up the face was still strong enough to cause chaos. I've never felt wind like that in the lee before, it was kinda frightening.

My partner rapped first, and I helpfully clipped my pack onto his harness so clearing out the belay cluster would be easier. Unfortunately the Fusion on the end of the rope managed to get stuck into something way off to the side, which resulted in some fun antics to get it unstuck. I watched my partner get blown through about a 100-foot arc and slam into the wall with two packs on, it wasn't good. His knee should heal soon, sorry about that!

The crux pitch is long, hard, and aggressive. Lots of lockoffs, front-lever style tension and general giving it all-out. I've been training for this route and another one for months, but it still took everything I had to get it done. Every lockoff, every one-handed deadhang from my tools and every front lever I'd done at the Vsion played a part in keeping it together on the redpoint. I was skipping clips, breathing like a horse and wobbling like a drunk when I finally reached the ice. I had to stand there on the vertical ice for ten minutes before I could swing a tool. I haven't been to that state of climbing in a while; where you decide that falling doesn't matter, clips don't matter, all that matters is GOING UP. The training, the psyche with my partner, it was all there in spades and worth all of it.

Now we just have to get the stuck ropes unstuck (actually, I think there are no less than NINE up there) and the other bits down. We ran from the base in the dark in a totally disorganized state as we were terrified of the rocks that were getting blown off the route, or maybe off the ground and then up and then down on our heads, it didn't matter which if one hit us. I watched a heavy 70M static stream directly up past my belay at one point that day, it sure was wild!

More on that route later, there's some unfinished business up there to clean up.

I'm off to Japan tomorrow for the 5th Japanese Cup competition, a show, a clinic, etc., back on Monday. Seems bizzare to go so far for so short a time, but there are two more routes here in Canada I'd like to finish up this season so the clock is fully ticking. One of them is a ski-plane ride and a long drive away, the other is right off the road... It's good to have projects, we'll see if they go down. And my friend Andreas Spak just emailed me from Norway--they're having an EPIC season there, the photos from one of his new routes might just drag me over there in March if I can still swing my tools...

The season is ON!