East Face of the Moose’s Tooth Alaska

September 23, 2014 - Leave a Response
Dave doing some ski

Dave Allfrey doing some ski maintance. The East Face of the MT and the Bears Tooth is directly behind him.

Base camp was a nice flat 3 mile ski to the face

Base camp was a nice flat 3 mile ski to the face

Dave

Dave enjoying the sweetness!

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Here I am loving life and getting into some spice!

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Dave putting some of his Yosemite off-widthing skills to the test

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We were forced to retreat due to thin conditions. So we consulted Caption Jameson to console our souls.

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We will be back!  Yarrrr!

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Free Climbing

September 23, 2014 - Leave a Response
Alien Roof, Yosemite Valley Photo by Steven DeTray

Alien Roof, Yosemite Valley

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Thailand

The Big Baby, Indian Creek.  Photo by Timpson Smith

The Big Baby, Indian Creek. Photo by Timpson Smith

The Red Zinger Yosemite Valley.  Photo by Steven DeTray

The Red Zinger Yosemite Valley. Photo by Steven DeTray

Photo by Steven DeTray

Photo by Steven DeTray

The Battle of Native Son

September 23, 2014 - 5 Responses

I haven’t updated my blog in quite some time, but recently I quested up El Capitan in Yosemite Valley and experienced one of my of hardest battles to date.  At this point in my climbing carrier I have a pretty thick black book of potential partners.  It is hard to choose just one, because each partner will bring a unique and special experience.  The wall I had my eye on was Native Son which sits a few routes to the left of the Zodiac on the right side of El Cap.  Native Son is an advanced route and receives a solid grade of A4 with many pitches of sustained, dangerous, and run out climbing on the steepest part of the wall.  I like steep routes since it makes big falls safer and hauling easier, but on the flip side it can make retreat very difficult.  On Aug 26th after fixing 1 pitch and hauling bags, Andy Hoeckel and I begin hiking out of the El Cap Meadow at 6am.  The night before Andy and I got pulled into a party at the SAR sight and ended up drinking Tequila until midnight thus starting our hike with a proper Jim Bridwell hangover.  Andy is my go to big wall partner for hard and scary routes; he is hard working, tough as nails and never complains.  Andy with 6 years of YOSAR experience knows his systems well and can untangle any mess or cluster that may come up on a big wall.  Andy is also a total brother and I kept joking to friends in the valley that Andy could pick me up from the airport, we could pack for the wall, complete the wall and unpack from the wall and never speak a word to one another all the while having a great time, but we decided not to run on club mute and hoot and hollered all the way up the wall!  On the third day, the climb went from a casual trip up the hill to a full blown fight for our lives!  When things got hairy up there, I was really happy to be with such a great partner.

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Andy just moments before his second big whipper!

Andy was leading a real deal A3 pitch which was predominantly copper heads and hooks.  There were only 2 cams on the whole pitch!  I was belaying on the porta ledge when suddenly I heard Andy yell for his life!  “Ahhhhhhh”  he had clipped 4 copper heads in a row on a sideways traverse and was standing on a hook, off the hook he reached for an old piece of fixed tat on a rivit.  The tat blew the hook bent open and Andy went flying upside down for a 25 footer and was caught by a large copperhead.  “Yaaaaggghhhh” I yelled up to him, “Yeee haaa dude way to go for it”!!!  Andy was moaning and groaning and holding his head.  “I really hit my head hard” he said.  I yelled up “just chill for a min dude”.   Andy immediately reached for a cigarette and tried to smoke the pain away.  “Dude it really hurts” he said and “ I feel nauseous”, oh shit I thought this could be bad.  “Lower me down” he said, “can you get up to the rivet brother, I would rather not lower ya on a copper head”.  “No” he said and he started to dry heave, I lowered him back down to the ledge.  Being a paramedic I immediately began to assess him; I determined he had a mild concussion.  He did not lose consciousness; his pupils were equal and normal.  He was doing math and carrying on a normal conversation.  He did have a bad headache though so I decided to stay on the ledge and keep an eye on him for the next 2 hours.  “Well” I said “Ammon McNeely kept going and he had fluid coming out of his ears”!  This did little to ease Andy’s shell shocked nerves.  We had already climbed the steepest pitch on El Cap the wing and going down was going to be a massive challenge.  I was most worried about a subdural hematoma (brain bleed), but after a full assessment I really felt he would be OK, Andy decided he wanted to continue.

Skiy setting off into the Coral Sea

Skiy setting off into the Coral Sea

That night I top roped back to his high point and then finished the pitch and made camp higher up, I insisted he take it easy and to try and keep his heart rate low while cleaning to avoid building any unnecessary intracranial pressure.  The next morning I led another stellar A3 pitch that brought us to the golden finger of fate.  The pitch off the belay traversed 50 feet to the right.  Andy was a bit shook up from the day before but decided he was ready to get back in the action.  He took the rack aggressively and quickly and efficiently moved through the traverse, watching him climb I knew he was back in the fight.  As Andy left the porta ledge belay he clipped his lead rope through a weighted and locked locking carabiener that was holding part of the weight of the haul bags,  from where I was sitting the rope went up to the anchor and then bent at a 90 degree angle.  I was mid bight in my late day lunch when suddenly Andy was airborne.  “Yaaaa dude you’re the man, taking big whipers on the caption” I said! Then I looked at the rope where it was running through the anchor and shit my pants.  “Andy” I said” we have a problem”, “what” he said “did I forget the tag line”.  Then he saw the rope, “AHHHHHHH dude get a jumar on the rope”!!!  The rope had totally deshethed where it ran through the locker and two entire feet of core were showing.  Though all the core strands were in perfect shape the sheath was totally 100 percent blown!  Luckily a perfect crack was sitting right next to Andy so he put in 3 cams and unweighted the lead line.  I immediately threw him the other end of the lead line to tie into and then he threaded the tag line through this new anchor and he rappelled until he was plumb under me.  He prusiked up to me his voice trembling, “I can’t believe this” he said, the look in his eyes said it all.  It reminded me of a dramatic scene from the WW2 movie Saving Private Ryan or Platoon.  Andy had stared death in the face twice in two days and his nerves were in tatters!  We sat there in disbelief and shock.  The rope is one link of a climbers system that you put 100 percent faith in to.  When that link is breached it is a very unnerving feeling.

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Yikes!

“How much usable rope do we have left I ask”?  Andy pulls the rope in and measures it out.  Our 200 foot rope is now 150 feet.  “Shit” I say “we still have a 160 foot A4 pitch ahead”.  We are 4 days into your 7 day climb.  We are 8 pitches up the steepest route on El Cap and we still have 8 pitches to go.  Going down is as much of a challenge as going up!  We realize we don’t have enough rope and decide we must go down.  Andy calls his girlfriend who in turn awesomely starts sending us topos for all of our descent options.  “Well” Andy says “we made it off the Great Trango Tower in Pakistan so we know what to do”.  Suddenly I feel very lucky to be in this pickle with such a solid bro!  My intuition won’t let me stop thinking about how we might still be able to climb onwards.  I use the granite in front of me to make a chalk board and start crunching systems.  We could rope solo every pitch, but that will take forever I think to myself.  Think, think, think, I keep telling myself there has got to be a solution.  Suddenly it clicks!  “Andy I know how we can continue” I say.  Andy grudgingly responds with “ya”. “ Lets cut the bad part of the rope out, then tie the good two parts of the rope together with a double fishermans”. “Then we can tie a figure eight on a bight right next to the double fishermans”.  “The leader will clip the figure eight into two locking carabieners on his belay loop and secure the screw gates with duct tape”.   “Coil the extra 50 feet of rope up and tie it to the leaders harness”.  “We belay and climb normally until we reach 150 feet”.  “At which point we can switch the figure eight tie in to two clove hitches and rope solo the last 10-20 feet”!  I can tell Andy is unsure of this hair brain skeem, with his nerves fried I am afraid he may just shank me with his wall knife and get the hell out of this war zone!  But Andy being the big wall warrior he is says “lets continue”.  Two days later we top out simultaneously with big wall master Tom Morrow who is making a big wall reunion tour with his buddy Noah up Virgina.

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Top out crew!

On the summit to our absolute delight friends Josie, Geoff, and Timpson meet us on top!  They bring us treats and help us carry our gear down.  At the bottom of the fixed lines half way down the descent Yosemite Shaman Mash Alexander meets us with pizza and coconut water!  The love I feel for my friends and the El Cap top out joy I feel make for one of the best days of my life!   The camaraderie I feel on this climb is unlike any I have felt in all of my climbing experiences.  This is what makes climbing so special, it presents challenges that allow our souls to be exposed, it allows us to see what we are made of.  To see what our partners are made of.  Native Son allowed Andy and I an opportunity to work as a team under stressful conditions and required us to adapt and overcome to succeed.  The happiness I felt at our ability to work through adversity was as sweet as the summit itself!   I prefer to climb harder climbs on El Cap because I prefer elements of uncertainty, and I also like to walk the tight rope of fear and adrenaline.  I like to see how calm I can remain in the eye of the storm.  I imagine it’s similar to surfing  big waves, walking on the edge is an incredible feeling of joy, exhilaration, creativity, and love.  There is an element of truth through action that I cannot achieve otherwise in life.  This climb also reified that big wall climbing is an adventure, the incidents we endured could have occurred on any El Cap climb.  In my 30+ routes on El Cap only a few have had incident.  This climb was a harsh reminder that overconfidence and complacency is something I must always seek to overcome and keep in balance.  The big waves are meant to be surfed, surf safe friends!

Great Trango Tower 2011

December 2, 2011 - One Response

Taxi in Islamabad

I begin typing Pierre an email and can’t believe what it says.  “Dude don’t stress I know you’re in Islamabad already, but we still don’t have Pakistan visas or plane tickets.”  Its days before we are scheduled to leave and the Pakistan embassy in LA is being a real pain in my side!  Suddenly the phone rings, “hello I say”, “yes is Mr Skiy there.”  “I say yes this is him.”  “Yes Mr. Skiy your visas are ready for pick up here at the consulate.”  “Ahggggguuuuuu I yell out!”  “Andy!!!!!!! We got em, were going to Trango!”  My dad drops us off at the airport with 8 haul bags and two double porta ledges.  My stomach is doing somersaults, what in the hell are we doing going to Pakistan I think to myself.  The politics in this part of the world are challenging and the US Pakistan relationship is strained to say the least.  But the mountains draw us and our sense of adventure leads us to this wild country at any rate.  Upon arrival in Islamabad which is the capital of Pakistan, I realize we are along way from home.  All the women wear long robe like dresses with head coverings.  As a young man like myself I’m not supposed to talk, wave or even make eye contact with a women under 40 years of age.  The men all ware the native Pakistani attire, which is similar to a pair of pajamas, but really comfortable in the heat, I discover this first hand after I have a set custom-made to fit my long gangly frame.  Our tour operator meets us at the airport with a big smile.  Karrar Hadrid who runs Saltoro Summits trekking and tours will be our host.  Karrar does an awesome job taking care of us and ensuring our safety!  We pile all of our haul bags into the smallest taxis I have ever seen.  Andy who is 6′ 6″ has his knees crammed up into his ears!  We strap our haul bags on top and head to the hotel.  Our guest house is nice and fairly inexpensive, I like the place instantly because of the armed guard with a shot gun out front!  We meet Pierre here and begin to sync our minds into a strong team.  The flight to Skardu cancels 2 days in a row, and I began to worry we may have to take the Karakoram highway.  Images of Taliban and bandits fill my mind.  When we finally fly out on the third day we are thrilled!

Skardu

Once in Skardu we check into the K2 hotel which is run by the Pakistan Ministry of Tourism.  A beautiful hotel that looks out over the Indus river.  At 3o bucks a night it’s a steal.  I am expecting flocks of western trekkers and climbers in Skardu, but when we when stroll through town we are the only westerners.  We have 3 days to buy food and supplies for the expedition so we begin the exhausting choir first thing.  Walking the streets of Skardu the people are nice enough.  Though be it a bit strange to be the only westerns in the area, I feel a bit vulnerable.  There was no mistaken us, three big white guys each of us over 6 feet tall!  At the K2 hotel we meet our Sirdar (head porter) Ishmal, our lead cook Ali, assistant cook Shakeel, and guide Sajadd.  It’s mind-blowing to meet with them and discuss our trip plans!  I am grinning ear to ear, I have waited my whole life to be going on a proper expedition and am esctatic with all the small steps required to make it happen!  We have meetings, hash out details and finally set sail in 3 jeeps to Askole which would be a 6 hour jeep ride on a single lane dirt road with 1,000 foot drop offs to either side.  Once in Askole we camp in an area with tall walls to secure our equipment.

The town of Askole itself is surprisingly very remote and primitive.  Imagine a house that is 50 feet by 30 feet built of old stones and mud.  The animals live in the lower portion and the humans live in the upper portion.  No electricity, no plumbing, no running water.  Folks from India apparently settled this area a thousand years ago, and from the looks of things have not really changed much since than.  A pastoral society, very connected to the land and their animals. ” Should we buy the goat.”  I say to Andy and Pierre.  “How much is it?”  Andy asks, “its 250 dollars I say.” ” What” Andy says “are you joking, we could eat gold-plated fillet mignon for that.”  “No way he says.” “Oh wait I think I did the math wrong” I say “its 150 dollars for a goat.”  “Well that sounds better” Andy says but it’s still a lot, Pierre agrees its alot but dang it will taste sooooooo gooood!  We decide to buy the goat, about an hour later a Pakistani holds the goat over the fence and drops it in our compound.  Mey mey mey the goat skeels as he lands on the ground, he looks square at me and we lock gazes, wow I think that’s my goat!  Cool I have never owned a goat before.  Then he runs off.  As it turns out, we are required to hire a goat walker.  To our utter disappointment the goat manages to chew through his rope and escapes.  So I highly suggest buying a goat chain if you ever purchase a goat on your trips!   We began our 3 day trek in the next day.  Covering about 10 miles a day, most of the trek is flat or gently rising.  The landscape is littered with 6, 7, and 8 thousand meter peaks.  Walking amongst  giants is what keeps going through my head! We are walking along with 58 porters, holly crap I never would have guessed it would take so many porters but we need 55 gallons of fuel for our cook stove.  Ya not real efficient if you havent guessed, but they burn HOT, HOT, HOT!

Base Camp

We finally arrive at base camp 3 days later.  Its nothing like what I would have expected, a sandy beach!  We walk around bare foot and frolic in the sun!  From here we will need to move all our gear 1,000 feet up a gradual talus slope.  Pierre and Andy are excited to start moving loads and on our first night start the process.  I meanwhile decide to take a long nap, I’m tired!  It took us 2 weeks to get from the USA to base camp. The next 3 weeks are devoted to choosing a line, and moving all of our equipment to the base.  I would like to climb a new route on Great Trango.  We have brought with us a 120 bolts and a bosh annihilator that I have rigged to charge with solar.  After many hours of hewing and hawing we realize that new route development will be to dangerous due to falling ice and snow from the summit.  The only safe place to climb on the East face of GT in my eyes is along the Norwegian Pillar.  Upon realizing this I shift my attention to several other peaks in the area.  I voice that I want to establish a first ascent.  My two comrades have only Great Trango in mind, they very badly want to get to the summit.  Being outvoted 2 to 1 we collectively decide to have a go on Great Trango via the Norwegian Pillar.  The route is a 4,400 foot big wall with 3,000 feet of glacier to approach.  The summit of Great Trango will be just over 20,000 feet!  From the glacier we fix 600 feet of rope on what is reminiscent of the manure pile in Yosemite.  Low angle and coarse rock puts a core shot in one of our ropes and several holes in our haul bags.  Avalanches regularly rip down a gully just to our left.  We have 7 haul bags, and two double porta ledges!  From the top of the manure pile we must navigate 2,000 feet of steep crevasses. We move at night across the avi gully to ensure the snow stability is solid.  The avis run down from the top and run down a chute of sorts like a giant luge course, so we run across these avi tubes like squirrels crossing the highway!  This and the next 1,500 feet prove to be some of the hardest physical climbing.  Moving all these haul bags at 15,000 feet is totally exhausting.  We finally get all our bags to a solid high point and return to base camp.  We have been on the move for 24 hours!  We return to base camp and end up waiting out a storm that lasts almost 10 days.  We try to entertain ourselves, but its hard to be away from our family, friends and girlfriends.  We have a lot of time to think about why we are here, and the constant edgyness of what it may be like to be on the wall at 20,000 feet.  The Norwegian Pillar takes the obvious buttress to the summit in the middle of the face.  August 2 its 6:30 in the morning the sun is shining and the sky is splitter blue.  Shakeel and Ali our cooks prepare a pancake breakfast with tea and coffee.  It feels weird to be leaving our friends.  The month of August will be Ramadan for them, so they will only eat during hours of darkness.  Shak and Ali became our Pakistani brothers, and its nice knowing they will be watching over our stuff and us!  I am the last one out of camp this morning.  With Young Buck blasting in my ears I start the long hike.  I have a dream the night before that Karl Tobin and I are starting a 100 mile endurance mountain bike race,” slow and steady” he tells me, his words keep running through my mind.

Atop the fixed lines we pull up the 600 feet of rope and cross the gully.  We finally reach our stash of haul bags and dig a snow ledge for our tent.  It takes us 12 hours to reach this point from base camp.  We stay here for 2 nights, enough time to find the start of the route and move our bags the last few hundred feet to the proper start of the climb.

First pitch of the Norwegian Pillar

On Aug 4th we start climbing the Great Trango proper by way of the Norwegian Pillar.  We will be attempting the third ascent of this classic route.  The sun is shining and morale is high as we move our way up the rock.  On Aug 6th Andy and I climb a thousand feet of perfect Yosemite splitters.  5.10 hand cracks and 5.9 off widths constitute the climbing, awesome climbing and awesome weather make for an awesome day!  The following day we haul our big load up these lines.  It takes 16 hours to make the hauls, we have to haul 4 separate loads up each length of rope, brutal work.  We figure we haul the equal of 3,000 feet on this day.  To top it off after hauling all this, one of us needs to climb another OW pitch.  Me being the only Scott Parry trained solder gets nominated to get er done. We finally got to bed at around 11:00 o’clock that night.

The next day Pierre takes the lead, its storming now but he happily takes the lead, he is used to climbing 0n the Troll Wall in Norway so this weather is home sweet home to Pierre.  Pierre rates the pitch A3.  The next day the storm clears, Andy and I climb 3 more pitches.  The storm is starting to move in more and more at this point.  Pierre and I head into ever worsening  weather the next day.  I manage a A3+pitch hooking in a waterfall at one point.  Pierre racks up for the crux pitch A4, its now fully sleeting and water is running down the pitch.  He makes one move and is like screw this.  We descend back to camp and wait out the storm awhile, at 4 in the afternoon Pierre and Andy head back up to tackle the crux pitch. Pierre spends 3 hours on the pitch and they descend back to camp.  I have hot meals ready for em! Pierre is totally psyched to have led a A4 pitch in such a remote setting!

Enduring a storm at 17,000 feet

Andy than goes on the next day to lead another A3 pitch.  The storm hits in full force now.  Its like winter in North Dakota, blowing snow and temps in the 30’s.  Burrrrrr.  we take shelter in the ledges for 3 straight days while the storm batters the wall.  On Aug 14th we decide it’s a lull and decide to move camp, its my birthday so I have no qualms about being active.  We make the move with hopes the weather will hold.  Boy oh boy are we wrong!  The temps drop and the sky’s unleash hell!  We have another long day in cold and wet conditions.  Pierre and I both frost nip our finger tips, and Andy and Pierre both frost nip their toes.  Woah, we really need to be careful here.  Frost bite is a serious concern.

We auger into your new camp at 17,000 feet.  A full hanging porta ledge camp.  The storm is not looking to let up anytime soon.  We decide that we need to keep moving regardless of the weather if we are to make a solid attempt on the summit.  So in full winter conditions we trudge into the aid climbing.  Progress is slow with icy cracks and hard modern-day aid climbing.  We are averaging 1 pitch a day.  Fortunately we are well protected at this point on the wall and do not feel threatened by falling ice and rocks.  I belay Andy on an especially icy pitch.  “How does it look Andy”, I can tell he is frustrated with his big bulky gloves.  “F#@, s@#, g#$$” a stream of profanities comes spewing out of his mouth.  We are really being tested here I think to myself, 3 hours later Andy lowers down after finishing the pitch and says “well the only thing worse than that pitch is the next one!”  Oh boy I think that is my pitch, slight dread fills my head, but at the same time I look forward to meeting the challenge of tomorrow.

Porta ledge camp at 17,000 feet

The weather finally clears and we move camp up yet another 1,000 feet.  Our camp is positioned 3/4 of the way up the wall just below a snow ledge.  We have perfect blue sky days and are filled with hope that we may actually get to the summit of this bad boy!  We continue to push the ropes higher.  Just as Pierre lets out a howl of joy from pushing us past the technical ice climbing that separates the lower buttress from the upper 1,500 feet of  climbing, I get the bad news from Amanda my girlfriend on the sat phone.  The weather will not hold, in fact we have 3 more days of clear weather before another storm is gonna hit us.  Andy and I talk it over and over and over.  “It doesn’t look good” Andy confesses, “I know I don’t think its a good idea to continue I say”.  We have 9 days worth of food left.  As I see it, it will require 6 days to summit and 3-4 to descend.  Nine days in total.  So with this approaching storm we are looking at going without food for 7-14 days to pull off the summit.  We are already at a 1,500 calory a day diet and I am loosing weight daily.  We decide to turn the ship around and head down while we still have good weather.  Still today I don’t regret making this decision at all.  The storm ends up lasting for weeks and we more than likely would have succumbed to frost bite if not worse.  It was extremely hard to pull the plug and go down after so much hard work and the never ending logistics that are required of a trip of this magnitude.  We should have taken food for 45 – 50 days.  One more haul bag and we could have waited out any amount of weather.

Our descent goes smoothly, Andy runs the show.  He rappels with three 200 foot lines, than I lower all the bags in one massive bundle using a redirected ATC and passing a knot using a load releasing hitch.  We put all of our Yosemite Search and Rescue skills to the test.  We even devise a tyrolian traverse over the avi gully, and also a guiding line to safely move the bags on the very steep glacier.  On our second day descending we put in a 19 hour day to reach the relative safety out of the way of the glacier.  It was hard to look up at Great Trango and have to walk away with out the summit, but it feels good knowing that we will in fact escape with our lives and all of our fingers and toes.  In total we spend 22 days on the wall battling storms and high altitude.

Ali and Shak meet us with big grins and hugs.  They are very happy to have us back, and they prepare a big meal, they have been hiding a bottle of coke for our return, man does it taste good!  The porters come the following day, and we leave base camp and head towards Askoli.  It feels good to be heading home after such an epic adventure.  Once in Skardu we end up having to stay at the K2 hotel for 7 days since we will need to extend our visas in Islamabad, and the government offices are closed due to holiday.  It turns out to be a real nice readjustment period back to civilization.  We eagerly eat plate after plate of hot food, trying to put back weight that we lost on the climb.  We are in desperate need of hot showers since we have gone 2 months without.  Unfortunately the showers are cold in Skardu, so we have a quick scrub and try to get the stench off our bodies.  Additionally the end of Ramadan is going on, in the Muslim culture the last day of Ramadan is celebrated with a joyes meal with friends and family.  Skardu is bustling with the giddy feeling of an upcoming holiday.  Parents buy cookies and gifts for there kids, it feels alot like Christmas!

“The weather is to bad to fly” Pierre says aloud.  “Guess that means we have to take the road ey” I say, “yup exactly” Andy says.  we load up the rented Toyota mini van and head out on a 20+ hour drive to Islamabad.  An amazing drive through the heart of Pakistan!  I feel like I am in a national geographic adventure  special the whole time.  Pot holed roads and vast amounts of gravel roads constitute the drive.  The road is surprisingly sparse with traffic.  I feel pretty safe the whole drive, check points are never a problem.  Our guide suggests a short cut.  “Why not” we all agree.  We spend the next 4 hours driving far into the rural hills of Pakistan.  Amazing views but a we bit vulnerable is how I would describe the shortcut.  At one point we did not pass another car for about an hour.  We climb high over a mountain pass at about 15,000 feet!  After the shortcut we pass through the town of Abbottabad where Osoma bin Laden was killed.  I nice rural town is how I would describe it.  Once back to our guest house we finally got our hot shower!  I take about five the first day.  Karrar met us and takes great care of us.  We request meal after meal of Dominos pizza and McDonald’s.  We finally fly out 4 days later and happily make our way back the good ol USA!

I would sum up my experience in Pakistan as an amazing adventure.  It was fascinating to see first hand the people and the culture.  The media gives the country a lot of bad press, some of which is true.  But they forget to mention that 95% of Pakistanis are good hearted people trying to make a living and raise a family like the rest of the world.  They forget to mention how much peace the Muslim religion preaches.  I think a trip to trek or climb in Pakistan though a bit sporty is well worth it.  Once in the mountains on the Eastern portion of the country it is very safe.   I will definitely go back to climb in the Karakoram another day!

The Trango massif

Nose in a day

December 9, 2009 - 2 Responses

Eric and I prepping for the NOSE

Eric stopped me at the construction zone.  He was working as the flager that day.  “I’m in” he said.  My heart raced the instant the words came out of his mouth.  Both excitement and fear super charged me.  It was only the year before that Eric and I had to be rescued off El Cap.  Eric had misjudged the pendulum swing off the boot flake 1500 feet off the ground.  Resulting in a broken wrist,  a broken rib and a loss of consciousness.  Yosemite Search and Rescue heroically short hauled us off via helicopter.  After the accident I lost my luster to climb for almost a month.  I felt sick to stomach with the constant visualization of seeing one of my best friends almost die before my eyes.  The accident reminds me constantly of the ever present dangers that I take as a climber.

Eric made an amazing recovery and was climbing 5.13 6 months after the accident.  Now its mid August and Eric is psyched to push the limits yet once again.  “Why don’t we warm up slowly, and gradually get faster on the Nose” I suggest.  “No way” Eric sais “lets go for it”.  I do not argue, “OK I say lets do it”!  I woke up early on a warm August day.  It is 3:30 in the morning and my eyes are sleepy.  The coffee slowly awakens me.  My i pod pumps motivation into my blood.  My friend Anton happens to be visiting, he awesomely decides to escort us to the base all the while blasting good ol heavy metal Danzig.  At 6:00 in the morning while we hike up to the base we all look up at the Nose with total ah.  32 pitches of rock climbing stand before us, or 3200 vertical feet.  My stomach does somersaults, being rescued once is OK but being rescued twice wold look really really bad.  Its comforting to know that I will be marching back up the mountain with Eric.  We cast the curse a year ago and now we are back to break it!

“Do you want me to slap you?” Anton suggested.  “Why not dude, I could us a wake up call.”  Anton winds up like a mad man and brings down a huge hate maker.  Smack, “dam dude you almost knocked me out I say.”  “HooYa OK now I am ready to go,” I say to myself.  I start my watch and start sprinting up ward.  I finish my 8 pitches in 75 minutes.  I hand off the lead to Eric who blasts off like a lighting bolt.  Eric takes us to the top of the boot flake very quickly, placing only 8 cams in total.  From here, I take us to camp 5 which is another 10 pitches higher.  At this point the fatigue starts to set in 6 and half hours from starting.  A bit like jogging for 6 and half hours.  The top is in sight though. ” Lets keep it up,” I say “we are getting close.”  We pull ourselves over the top at 3:12 in the afternoon.  9:12 min after we started.  As I run to touch the Nose summit tree I see Anton.  “Holly crap,” I say Anton” good to see ya”.  “Need a cobra,” he asks. ” Hell ya I need a cobra,” I say.

On the Water Front

November 2, 2009 - Leave a Response
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Just prior to take off

“So we gonna climb a route” Ammon asked me.  My mind freshly awakened from the skydive we had just completed suddenly registered what had just been asked.  “Hell ya I wanna do a climb” I said in response.  The route would be On the Water Front   .  It had been a dream of mine to climb with the Big Wall master Ammon McNeely ever since I began aid climbing.  Ammon has more speed records on El Cap than any one person.  I was psyched and ready to really go for it.  We racked up the night before at the El Cap bridge.  Drinking Cobras and carefully choosing our equipment we slowly prepared for the mission.  Beaks check, copperheads check, hooks check,  BIG FREEGING BALLS CHECK!  We got a nice early start around 8:15 in the morning.  No sence in starting to early we both agreed.  The route On The Water Front would be a second ascent.  It sits right of the Zodiac and had yet to see a sub 24 hour ascent.  We blasted swiftly from the get go and found ourselves hours from the top only 12 hours later.  Strung out on beaks and a little scared I said to Ammon what could possibly go wrong.  Ammon responded with a “you could take a big whipper”  in his usual pirate tone.  This did little to calm my nerves, but further fueled my charge upward.

We pulled ourselves over the summit block 17 hours after starting, hence making the first 24 hour ascent of the route.  It was 2:00 am and I could not have been happier.  We passed out right in the rocks and slept like babies for several hours before making the quick hike back to the El Cap meadow.  It was a good day to be alive!

Reticent Wall

November 2, 2009 - One Response
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The mad dog getting in the A4 zone

My mind obsessed with one climb for over a year.  The Reticent wall.  A route on El Cap that navigates the New Dawn wall.  Just saying the word Reticent not only evokes fear in me, but also raises the question why, why risk so much for so little.  Does Neil Armstrong feel his risk to be the first man on the moon is justified.  Did he do it for ego, or was if for the pure adrenaline infused experience.  What were his intentions?  I ask myself these same questions.      The answer never came and still the climb burned in me to attempt.  My partner would be my old aid climbing ace in the whole Andy Heokel.  Andy has a work ethic like a mad Ukrainian factory worker.  Work hard complain little, express no fear.  The perfect partner for a scary climb.  Unfortunately Andy decided to bail on the project after fixing 4 pitches due to some personal issues.  Now the hunt was on for a good partner.  I asked everyone I could think of.  Finally to my good fortune a man among men answered the call of duty.  Dana Drummond AKA “the mad dog”.  Mad dog usually a free climbing master that walks up any free climbing challenge you put in front of him to include slab, off-width, face, and crack climbing.  The guy could free solo the Empire State Building if he set his mind to it. The Reticent is not a free climb, its an all out new school aid route.  Usually relying on small hooks, copperheads, and bird beaks to slowly move up on.  The mad dog always up for a good adventure eagerly decided to sign up.  I knew if any body could get er done it was him.  Dana would sign up for one of the hardest routes on El Cap but with one caveat, that his girlfriend Heidi could join us. ” Shit” I thought to get the mad dog on board I would drag his entire extended family up the wall.  As it turned out Heidi was an awesome addition to the team.  She was a real champ up there often jumaring way out in space thousands of feet off the deck.  Her energy helped ease the constant edgy mood that the Reticent provided.  We averaged two pitches a day with every pitch being 200 feet in length and never easier than A3 and many pitches being A4 and new school A5.  When we finally topped out 7 days later a good friend of Danas Mark Postal greeted us on top with a big smile and a back pack full of cold beer.   A perfect top out on a perfect Yosemite day.  We had endured a climb that the three of us will remember for the rest of our lives.

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Dana and Hedi enjoying a scenic belay

Adventure in the desert

November 2, 2009 - Leave a Response
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Lost in a sea of sandstone

On the first of March 2009 Kyle Dempster and myself headed out on a three week climbing road trip.  We made our first stop in Dinosaur National Monument to do some bouldering.  From here we slowly made our way to Zion via Castleton tower and Indian creek.  With our free climbing thirst quenched we decided to try our luck on a sandstone aid climbing test piece.  The forbidden Corner.  It would be the third ascent of this classic A4 line put up by Barry Ward and Walt Shipley.  Big wall legend Barry Ward had told me stories of this masterpiece many times over as his proudest ascent.  This coupled with the skull and cross-bones on the topo had me shaking in my boots.  I would have never considered this route a possibility.  But my good friend Kyle always one to think bigger than most, simply said “why not”.  His fearlessness is contagious and pretty soon I was signed up for the hardest climb of my life!  We tackled each pitch with fearless abandonment and soon found ourselves on the top!  Take home lesson on this one is that we are much more capable than we ever let ourselves believe.

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Kyle pysched

Sea of Dreams

November 24, 2008 - Leave a Response

How in the world are we going to get all this stuff up the mountain

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