Friday, December 27, 2013
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Old, but New... The full stories from down South with Video! Hope wemake it down for expedition 2015
Here are the write ups that we wrote for the American Alpine Journal for the North and Central Tower of Torres del Paine. Some of the Plate Tectonics article was shortened and the Central Tower just had a small blurb in the Journal. So here are the full versions.... Try to watch the videos as well, I know they are a bit lengthy. But with that Length, you get a good idea of the dynamics of the situation.
Laters! And Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
I'm sorry, but the videos will only play on a PC. No mobile devices... It's the music I used in the videos. So when you get home, grab a seat and watch a vid! Thxs
I'm sorry, but the videos will only play on a PC. No mobile devices... It's the music I used in the videos. So when you get home, grab a seat and watch a vid! Thxs
Plate Tectonics VI, 5.12 C1- East Face of the North Tower of Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Jan. 9-23, 2013
21 Pitches, 3000ft, 15 days capsule style
F.A. - Amy Ness, Myles Moser
Amy Ness and I began climbing the East Face of the North Tower of Torres del Paine on January 9th. We planned for 12 days on wall for an all free, capsule-style ascent. What we encountered during our 15 days vertical, was the most grueling, fatiguing and mentally exhausting climbing we have experienced, thus far. Ten days of fantastic weather shined on us, but with good weather comes rock-fall, ice-fall, mini avalanches, and things that want to be pushed out of memory: the chopping of ropes, meteor showers of rocks, head shots from above and the slow destruction of our portaledge.
The climbing was a wyde variety of techniques and features. It starts at the toe of the buttress with a seahorse-shaped flake 30 meters above the glacier (just to the right of a giant left-facing corner, capped by a dark roof). From here, the wandering climbing begins. The route asks you to traverse dikes, slam splitters, pull on crystal pods, climb delicately and at times crank-down. The quality of rock transforms the entire way; from great, to terrible, to unreal, to bullet-hard and sharp.
We rode pillars that were earth bound, dodged ice chunks, dropped some rock on one-another, cleaned, flailed, whipped and discovered travelers from the past. We found a Chilean Route named "Hasta Chonchi" by Francisco Parada, Felipe Gonzales Donoso. It was attempted twice by the same team where terrible weather plagued their first attempt, and illness ground-struck their second. We know "Plate Tectonics" crossed their route twice and linked into it for a pitch and a half. At our pitch eleven, they called 5.9 C1, we free climbed at 5.12 and for half of our pitch twelve, which we free climbed at 5.10. From pitch 13 onward, the climbing gets wild! We cut hard right out of an always dripping, seeping, giant alcove, bee-lining it straight for the headwall.
We worked the "Gateway Pitch" (13) for a day and a half, placing three bolts and fixing three pitons. We set our high camp here for the rest of the journey and battled the pitch. This 45 meter section consists of 5.11, 5.9, 5.12, 5.11, 5.12 and 5.11 climbing. Once completed, hanging on the anchor we stretched our heads back and gazed up at the headwall. The coarse, slammer, overhanging cracks that were about to make our hands bleed, loomed above.
Day 12, pitch 14, had us in the middle of the headwall. Supplies were low and the rationing had begun far below this point. We talked about how much time the "Gateway Pitch" had cost us, but we knew we had to be close to the cumbre. Pitch 14 went at 5.11 C1, two meters of horizontal C1, that we know will go free on the "Golden Rail" just under the crystal pods; a perfect transfer into a .75" splitter that cuts through a roof. The summit at this point had become more important than working the pitch, so we decided to press on. We talked about freeing this section on our descent, but we had no idea what kind of work may lie ahead. We fixed 70 meters up a fantastic 5.11 off-width, a gem of a pitch with all kinds of surprises. We descended into the jet-black night down our fixed lines. No headlamps to help guide us, as we twirled and spun down the overhanging wall, only to collide into the anchor once the rope ran short.
An early rise had us jugging 160 meters of fixed line above our camp, for our final summit push from pitch 15. Of our six remaining pitches to the summit, the first two were 65 meter rope stretchers with constant 5.10 climbing. The next four pitches were a sea of never-ending summit blocks that meandered around to the south-side of the prow to the final summit cube. By pitch 18 we had dumped all nonessential gear at the belay and begun simul-climbing (pitons mark belays). We toped out in a full-blown whiteout. The camera flashed red, one photo was taken, then it died.
We began our descent in a howling wind, bolting and pitoning the rappel anchors. The interesting thing about the towers is that the summit is only halfway...the descent, as always, is the most dangerous part of the climb. While driving a piton and waiting for Amy to rappel from 70 meters above, the rock let loose. I had been yelling intermittently " Off Belay!!!" while setting the anchor. Rocks the size of cars filled the low glow of the sky, exploding into smaller pieces. I sucked myself against the wall for protection, only to get a direct shot in the helmet by a football-sized rock. "Amy!...Amy!...Amy!!!" I start yelling with no response. I quickly fixed one end of the double rope rappel and began jugging the fastest seventy meters I have ever ascended in my life. Screaming for Amy, while jugging, a multitude of thoughts were rushing through my mind. Just under the ledge, by thirty feet, still yelling for Ames...I hear it... "Myles!!!" I see her face, she is not hurt... My body begins to dry heave, wanting to expel the terrible thoughts that drifted in those seventy meters.
Luckily, she hadn't been able to hear my calls of "off belay". She was sitting in a ball at the anchor below the overhang when the first colossal block exploded just in front of her...where she could have been rappelling. She had called down to me with no response, and then saw the knot between the ropes begin to move back and forth...The lack of water and food over the last several days, made her think it was an illusion, a dream. She got up quickly and started moving in order to gain her wits. That's when I came up, and explained that it was real...and that the wall was angry.
By the time we arrived at the fixed lines, once again we had been overcome by darkness and cold. At our last double rope rappel, we pulled and pulled as night fell upon us... the ropes were stuck. We descended the fixies to our camp without touching the wall, knowing that one of us would have to return to finish pulling the lines.
Day 14, the clouds had dropped and consumed our portaledge. We were stranded 2,200ft above the ground in another day's whiteout. With a break in the clouds I ascended three pitches, to retrieve our stuck lines, rappelling and pulling, leaving nothing behind. Our last remaining food a "Sopa para Uno" packet and a handful of instant potatoes were stewed with a raspberry tea bag. The constant, obnoxious drip that leaked over the shrapnel-protecting roof of our bivouac, finally gave life. The cold had frozen the drip into thick sheets of ice that coated our portaledge. We melted ice-sheets for liquid and stomached a terrible stew for dinner.
The next morning, the sun was shining just enough to make us move. We packed the bags, soft goods into one, hard goods into the other. Then, we let the pig fly! Escorting the hard goods down with the first person, we slowly began our descent. We made a total of 19 rappels, the top half on Plate Tectonics before switching to the existing rap route set by the Chilean Team. Finally reaching the ground, the glacier looked like a war zone with granite chunks and shards all over. We moved our exhausted bodies and equipment as quickly as possible to escape the area of impact.
We came to find out that a record heat wave had swept over Patagonia, many successful ascents were seen from the Fitzroy Region, to Valle Cochamo, along with Valle del Frances and Valle Silencio of Torres del Paine. We were fortunate enough to be part of the weather window in Valle Ascensio, we just happen to feel the tower shift and move the entire time.
We fixed 12 pitons and drilled 18 bolts. Only the handful of pins and bolts along with cord and rappel rings were left in our wake. The end of pitch 6 could use another anchor bolt or piton, if anyone dares to go up there...
Torres del Paine, Patagonia
February 27- March 11, 2013
Amy Ness and Myles Moser
As I write this, snow falls onto our portaledge for the eighth straight day. The wind sounds like a locomotive as it rips over the crest and bends around the wall, relentless and bone-chilling. Snow flurries from hundreds of feet above break free from the four-thousand foot Goliath and slam upon our golden pyramid at all hours of the night. Our tiny capsule which sits, open and exposed on "The Shattered Pillar" is slowly being buried by the snow, forcing an early rise each day to begin the excavation process. In these eight days of sitting and waiting for a break in the weather, we have seen the sun for just two hours. Each rise of temperature and glow of heat, we crack the frozen zipper of our tattered, tapped and glued rainfly, shoving our heads out to check the sky, only to be disappointed. Like clock work, by late afternoon, the storm hides as the nonexistent sun shifts to the westside of the cirque, leaving us in the frigid shadow waiting for what's to come. The upper dihedrals begin to thaw with the remaining light, dropping sheets of verglas which turn to daggers as they explode, whizzing past us to the left and right, somehow missing the one spot we chose to hang. The weather from the Central Tower attacks with a vengeance as it tries to rid us from its flanks... We are caught in the worst storm of the season.
Our goal was to establish the second free route on the east face of Torre Central, or as we like to say, "go for a wander". Fully equipped with battered lines, twenty days of rations, seventy pounds of water, a full El Cap rack and a portaledge hanging on hope, we stormed the Tower. We lived in our Advanced Base Camp for three days, three nights; our ledge hung four feet off the ground, 15 minutes from the wall on a small formation called the "Lunatic". By the second day we had climbed five pitches of fantastic free climbing allowing 300 meters of rope to be strung up the wall. By the third day we were committed, moving capsule-style. We established Camp One in an area which, by morning, we designated unsafe. Moving one pitch higher under a giant roof, we created Camp Two. Staying there for two nights, we continued to fix lines to the top of the Shattered Pillar. Once again, finding great climbing with easy protection.
Day four, we hauled to the Pillar's end and set Camp Three. The next morning (day 5) we awoke to a fire in the sky, the most impressive sunrise either of had ever seen. We were itching to rope up for what looked to be the first crux... The pitch was wild! Clean cracks to an airy, flowing traverse brought me to an extremely strong stemming operation with a classic RP finish. The bolt was dropped in and the piton was slammed, we called it 5.11.
Amy immediately jumped in the portaledge for warmth. Her feet were frozen blocks from belaying. I guess I hadn't noticed the temperature change that occurred while climbing and swinging the hammer. Something was brewing, but we couldn't see it. Ames followed the pitch to the belay and jumped on the reins. Ropes were stacked and she was on her way up the next killer looking section, pitch 13. That's when the ceiling dropped and the cold became quite present. The mud she was about to dig out of the seam was freezing and the snow had begun to fall. We decided it best to let the system pass. So, from sixty meters up, we headed back down to our high camp. By dark, to quote Steve Schnieder, "the Patagonia Tempest" was rocking our world. At first, the storm was a relief, as our water supply was running low. That would soon change.
Two, three, four days crept by. We would wait, we had the supplies and the excitement. By day six, we were captives of the Giant. We did the calculations and the rationing began. White-outs and blizzards all day and night were bombarding us. Several times the skies cleared and the stars were ablaze. We would tuck into our sleeping bags telling each other "Tomorrow we press on! It will be clear!" Then, as if it knew what we were thinking, it would hit us even harder. Day seven, a week. We managed to keep our heads, but the six foot by three foot portaledge was twisting our spines and the lethargicness was making us weak. It was time to make a move, we could not afford another storm higher on the wall.
With a break in the freeze I jugged to our high point to retrieve the equipment and pull our fixed line. Meanwhile, Amy shuffled items in the ledge for the pack job. Just like before, the Giant decided to keep us. For twenty hours the wind roared like we had not heard before and the flurries broke once again. We resumed our crammed positions for one more night.
Day eight of the storm and the twelfth day on the wall, we cut open the frozen water jugs and sent the mondo ice chunks soaring. We sat waiting, with all the stuff-sacks packed, intermittently taking turns to do chores outside. By late afternoon we had our bags ready for the toss and watched as they flew to the glacier 1,500 feet below. One landed under a hanging serac, the other was safe, the portaledge... a direct shot into a crevasse.
We did a total of six rappels to escape the tower, four of which were 300 footers. Each time, we dodged the frozen, steel cable of a rope as it came flying past. Once on the ground we recovered both haulbags and easily fished the ledge from the ice. No fixed lines were left and only pre-existing rappel anchors were maintained. Hastily crossing the terrible, crevassed glacier covered with false snow bridges, we returned to our Base Camp at Campamento Torres in the dark. We were greeted excitedly by the Guadalaparques who had been watching the show and had become worried when the thermometer in camp dipped down to negative five degrees Celsius.
We were taught many things from this expedition- from tactics to equipment changes. We now realize that March is a little late in the season for Torres del Paine and have come to respect the validity of the saying "Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in morn, sailors take warn!" We have also learned what it is like to have a vendetta with a Giant, making us climbers walk "A Fine Line of Insanity."
Monday, November 18, 2013
Climbing and fear adhere to a delicate balance. I do not climb because I am an adrenaline junkie, but because I like to keep the fear I feel when I'm climbing controlled. At some points it is a thrill, but only if something has gone wrong.
On this particular climb, I was being safe...or at least I thought I was. Placing a cam right before the crux roof would allow me to make the moves with confidence before I could relax and place another piece. But, as fate has it, things did not go to plan. In retrospect (which can be a dangerous game in itself),there are several reasons why my cam came out, but for these purposes the real lesson to be learned, is that I had trusted it. I remember thinking before falling...it's okay, it will only be a 8 ft fall, and then after some difficulty, letting go. This is where the slow-motion plunge takes place. My feet are out ready to take the impact of the wall as I come past the roof, but then, I watch as the cam rips out of the wall and I keep falling, looking far to the right where the bolt is clipped another 15 ft below-I knew things were going to be bad.
The next thing I remember is hanging at the end of the rope yelling at my partner to lower me. Luckly, we were on the first pitch, and even more luckily, I had fallen on a 3/8" bolt. I was instinctively cradling my left arm. Of course our new rope was twisting into giant knots as I was being lowered, and when I arrived at a small ledge about 6 ft up, I was taken off belay because of the chaos. Needless to say, I tried to walk, promptly falling down the slab onto my arm...I guess he was telling me to stay still! The minute my harness was off I started running down the trail, from that moment my pain had to take a back seat and allow my mind to be clear, amazing how powerful shock can be. Just get to the store, and get to Doug.
I had worked at the Portal Store for years at this point, and never quite understood the comfort it provides to those who epic on the mountain...now I do. They knew things weren't good the minute I entered the building. The Thompsons, as always, kept their cool. It was as if we were talking about the preparations for dinner, rather than my obviously broken arm. It wasn't time to let go of this guardian of shock that had been with me since I got on the ground...there were still things to do before I could let go. Myles showed up after pulling the rope and stashing the gear to me laid out in the front seat of the car, insurance cards in hand, ice bag on, in the middle of a hypnotis session with the old guy.
As much as I love my town, don't go to a small town ER if you get injured in the mountains. Or if you do, go somewhere else once you are stabilized. The breaks in my ulna and radius were small, and maybe could have been set and left to heal. I should have known when they let me walk out of the hospital with the IV still in my arm! In the few days I waited to get into the ortho in Mammoth, it was too late to reset my bones. What was supposed to be a 2 hour surgery and 1 plate, turned to 5 hour surgery and 2 plates, and some of the most intense pain I have ever felt. Days of nothing but sleeping and narcotics had me feeling like the walking dead; it was time to start moving.
I'm not a very good injured person: I hate laying around unless I am physically exhausted and I don't really like being taken care of in an obligatory kind of way. In fact, the last time I was injured I got frostnip on my knees from crawling through the snow to the Ashram with a plaster caste and crutches. Needless to say, I was itching to get moving. Having Doug Robison as my rope-gun, I spent many weeks in tuolomne meadows doing the classics with my brace and single tape glove... I just wanted to be outside with my friends climbing, anything. Going to my awesome physical therapist and quiet crusher,Julie, we were both surprised by the increased range of motion and strength that climbing was bringing back. A few weeks of shameless toproping, and it was time to get on the sharp end.
In 6 weeks, my climbing hadn't degenerated so much in strength, but in confidence. I didn't want to fall...especially on gear. I started sport climbing, which I hadn't done much of in the last 5 years. Then I began to lead on gear things that I might have soloed in the past, placing each piece meticulously. Each time I went out, I increases the difficulty a little bit, and then sometimes a little bit more. As I stated earlier, I don't want to feel fear when I m climbing, I want to feel focused. Soon though, I was confidently leading what I would have in the past, regaining the trust in my ability to place equipment that will keep me safe. I thought I was going to be scared forever, that it was going to ruin my enjoyment of climbing things that push my limits. Instead, the experience made me a better, safer climber, and one who enjoys it even more.
I love climbing. Honestly, I don't think I can get enough of it! Appreciating it at different levels throughout my life is what gets me through. Just as quickly as I regained my head, my body started fighting back...tendinitis. The timing was good, however, I had gotten my quick fix of fall climbing and was heading back home to see the family for Thanksgiving. I had decided that sooner was better than later for getting the hardwear out, so three days ago (11-14-13), I went under, yet again. To my surgeon's credit, he was amazing, which made the decision to rid my body of titanium really easy. But now I sit again, waiting for the few weeks until I am frolicking on the rock once more:)
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
It had been months since our last adventure together. Many obstacles this summer kept us away from our usual escapades, mostly the fault of the 2 plates and 22 screws that were used to stabilize my wrist after a winger in July. We were yearning for it. The first snow that covered our mountains and brought bone-chilling temps up high, had almost disappeared, but we knew it wouldn't be long before the next one.
We had already climbed Bastille Buttress once a few years back, and truthfully, I was a little intimidated to return; I remembered it being difficult and exposed. But, after months of recovery during the Sierra's prime rock-climbing season, I was craving 15 pitches on white granite with my favorite partner.
We got to the base and began climbing around 9 am. Myles took the first few leads to get us into the sunlight, dancing up the rock. The climbing was surprisingly easy, and the granite amazing! A few years of running-out easy terrain gave me a confidence I didn't have when we last climbed the route. One, two, three pitches were done...we were flying. Then, it was my turn: a 5.7 traverse with zero gear took us to the bolt ladder. Myles followed me up the ladder trying to free it on TR...for the first attempt, he got pretty close. Finally, we had arrived at what I had been waiting for: the 10c " killer finger crack". Myles had led it last time, but I was feeling it! Slick orange rock forced me to keep my toes in the crack most the way, it was euphoric.
Snowy slabs made up the western side of the north ridge which we had descended with ease before, but with one working headlamp, tennies, and approaching darkness we were convinced to try something new.
We began rappelling trees down a gully on the east side of the buttress. We were moving as quickly as we could, but soon blackness overcame us. I hooked a few slings together to attach myself to the ropes while Myles descended with the light...it was the only way I could find them once he disappeared.
Bivying wasn't an option, as I had to teach in Bishop at 8am the following day. Anyway, we knew it was too early to give up hope of reaching the comforts of beer and a warm bed!
We got to the ground after something like 10 rappels...so we thought. After running in sand, thinking it was over, the cliffs showed up. Myles tossed a rock down in order to hear where it found it's rest- a ways, for sure! Luckily, we heard the creek and knew we were close. A little zigging and zagging the hillside and we found our old trail, heading back on familiar territory. We reached the car at around 9 pm...four hours after topping out.
Lessons learned: always bring a back-up headlamp ( duh?), always carry more toilet paper than you think you need, and always give a route another go every few years, just to stay on your toes:)
Side Note: This was the first time that Amy and I had roped up together since her accident this summer. She had been repeating Skid Marks IV, 5.11A0 in the Whitney Portal that a friend and I established a few years back, when a 35 to 40ft fall left her with a broken wrist and for sure a sore spirit. She worked hard and pushed herself even harder to regain what she felt like she had lost. Being on the wall with Ames once again, was incredible, our rhyme and rhythm seem to always be in sequence in the vertical world. Being a couple and climbing the high/ wild terrain that we enjoy, sometimes I can't help, but feel a "worry" or a "fear" for my Bug that is climbing above.... Yet on this one, the time that we had spent not tied in together created a pure Ecstasy once the line was between Amy and I. We "blocked" out our climb in groups of 3 pitches each... it was awesome to watch Amy cruise with a solid confidence and fire her crux pitches with nothin', but stylie!