|Posted on April 13, 2013 at 12:30 AM|
From April 5th to 7th Ben Erdmann, Jess Roskelley and I climbed a new route on the Citadel in the Kichatna Range, Alaska. You can find a slide show from the trip HERE.
Our new line follows a series of ice runnels to the left of the ‘Supa Dupa Couloir’ established in 2003 by Mike ‘Twid’ Turner, Stu McAleese and Olly Sanders. Our initial plan was simply to repeat the ‘Supa Dupa’. However, Twid mentioned the possibility of a potential new line to the left of it when we e-mailed him about beta for the Kichatnas.
Paul Roderick of Talkeetna Air Taxi dropped us off at the base of the east face of the Citadel around noon on April 4th and after a quick inspection of the route we were convinced that we should go all in on the line to the left of ‘Supa Dupa’. We began the climb just after midnight less than 12 hours after landing on the glacier.
Initial snow and ice pitches in the couloir led up to a very steep corner with difficulties of AI5+ and M6+. Jess was the ropegun on these pitches. At sunset we chopped a ledge on a 60 degree ice slope and suffered through a sitting bivy in the cold Alaskan night. We had brought a small tent, but it did not fit our ledge and collapsed on us during the night. Early the next day we arrived at the col, which marks the end of the couloir. From there Ben led several pure rock pitches on the relatively warm south ridge. The first pitch off the col was steep A3. He then climbed the 5.10R crux without gloves and crampons, which was a full 60 meter pitch. We reached the summit ridge that evening, but bivied only a stones through from the actual summit on the east side of the ridge. We once again settled in for a sitting bivy on a chopped ice ledge. After a very uncomfortable night we rappelled down a gap on the west face, which took us to an easy snow ramp that lead directly to the summit. The summit itself consisted of two large granite blocks about five meters high, which from a distance looked unclimbable. Fortunately there was an easy way up on their back side. After a short brew stop, we then faced an arduous descent down the north ridge where our rappel lines got stuck several time, and we had lots of exposed down climbing and also had to rappel off our only two snowstakes. In the last rays of the sun we did one final rappel off a spectre-hook, which was hammered less than 3 cm into an icy crack, but even scarier it was flexing under bodyweight. However, it got us over the bergschrund with one meter of rope to spare and we reached the safety of the flat glacier terrain. We stumbled back into our base camp 70 hours after having left it.
We jokingly named our new route the ‘Hypa Zypa Couloir’ in keeping with the name of the ‘Supa Dupa’. That way the Super and Hyper couloirs of the Kichatnas are located side by side unlike in the Alps. The overall difficulty of our route is American commitment grade VI (corresponding to European ‘ED+’) with technical pitches of AI5+, M6+, 5.10R, A3 and a vertical height of 3700 feet (ca. 1100 meters).
For comparison the 'Supa Dupa Couloir' was given an overall grade of ED4 and the first ascentionists were able to rappel their line. We ruled out the option of descending our line at the col due to the very compact and featureless nature of the rock and the lack of good water ice for alabakov anchors. Therefore it would be an understatement to say that we were committed on the 'Hypa Zypa Couloir'. The ED-grade could be followed by any number as that system is not particularily well constrained, so the '+' is up to the second ascent team to define.
Photos from the expedition can be found here:
Jess on the ice crux
Jess on the mixed crux
The col at the end of the couloir
The 5.10R pitch
On the slope to the summit
One pitch from the summit of the Citadel
Myself on the summit of the Citadel
|Posted on December 12, 2012 at 1:35 PM|
Jess Roskelly and I made a good attempt at climbing Exocet on Cerro Standhart in Patagonia, but bailed close to the top. High temps caused the crux chimney to flow with water and after spending nearly 2 hours in freezing cold water we were both dangerously hypothermic. We simply had to get out of there as fast as possible and get into the sun and put on some dry clothing. Unfortunately, the sun had moved over to the west side of the mountain by the time we got out of the chimney and our puff jackets were also drenched even through they had been in out packs the whole time.
Being hypothermic and trying to rappel off a Patagonian peak is a bad combination and especially on a descent with lots of rock flakes as we experienced. Our ropes got stuck a few times, resulting in lots of prussiking and cursing. I dropped one of my ice tools, but couldn't care less at the time. Back on the glacier the warm weather had resulted in slushy conditions and I broke right through one of the snow bridges. Fortunately I had chosen a nice crevasse to fall into and only fell 4 metres, while other crevasses seemed almost bottomless.
Overall we had a great adventure and will be back for more next year!
Photos from the trip can be found here:
|Posted on August 23, 2012 at 9:25 AM|
Jess Roskelly and I spent a few weeks in Cordillera Blanca this summer. Our original project was to climb the Italien Ridge on Taulliraju, but warm temps made that impossible.The glacier was very broken up and it would be like walking into a labyrinth to find our way through it during the night and way too dangerous during the day. We also had a look at the Fowler-route through binoculars, but it looked similar to the adjacent unclimbed lines, so it was likely just powder snow on granite slabs..
Several lines on the mountain were simply not there anymore, but had been completely vaporised during the last couple of years of extreme warmth.
Our final option was the French military route which we gave a go, only to find a blank granite slab on pitch four that was completely unprotectable.
Having spent nearly two weeks of carrying gear up to Taulliraju and scouting for routes we were a bit disappointed, but we decided to run over to Alpamayo to at least get one peak done. We climbed the “French-Direct”, which was a very straight-forward and easy climb but a real classic.
It was a great experience to visit Peru and I’m sure we’ll be back one day; however we have already made plans for a couple of other expeditions first.
Photos from the trip can be found here:
The French-Direct takes the central runnel in the middle of the face:
|Posted on May 18, 2012 at 4:45 AM|
Jim Broomhead and I spent three weeks in the Alaska range this spring and climbed the classic route ”Ham & Eggs” (TD: 5.9, AI4, 900m) to the summit of Mooses Tooth. There had been a lot of snow this winter, so conditions were not the best and there were many awkward snow mushrooms on the route and much steep, unprotectable snow.
On our first day in the range, we helped in the rescue of a Japanese climber who had taken a bad fall when a rappel anchor had pulled on him. Luckily there was a team of two Americans with a satphone to help as well, because our phone didn't work. It took us a whole night in the middle of a snow storm to get him out on a plateau, where he could get picked up by a helicopter. It is nice to know that a rescue can be done even in the worst possible conditions and we were very impressed with the military rescue team for flying that day.
Jim and I had another few unsuccessful attempts at Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter, but a combination of bad weather, poor conditions and various other issues made it impossible for us to climb this route, which we had attempted two years earlier.
Nevertheless, it was a good trip and we had lots of fun in Kahiltna base camp and met a lot of really cool people, including Slovenians, Koreans, and a bunch of Americans who all helped us waste time, when the weather was too poor for climbing.
Photos from the trip can be found here:
Jim in the Twin Runnels on Moonflower Buttress
|Posted on January 24, 2012 at 8:15 AM|
Last week I climbed in Italy with Ramon Marin. Our initial plan was to repeat the legendary mixed route: ”Mission Impossible” (M11). Unfortunately the ice curtain hadn’t formed so the route did indeed turn out to be impossible. For 6 months I have been training hard with this single route in mind, so it was quite disappointing to say the least.
We then headed over to Cogne to have a look at “X-Files” and “Empire Strikes Back”, but after closer inspection they proved to be very loose and had poor options for protection, so instead we climbed the pure ice route Repentance Super (WI6), which gave 5 pitches of nice ice climbing.
However, we were hungry for some physically hard mixed climbing, so we drove across Italy to the Dolomites to have a look at Grotto di Landro, which was supposed to have some of the hardest mixed lines in all of Italy. This cave is really nice, but all of the routes are sandbagged and hard for their grade.
Grotto di Landro:
Ramon quickly dispatched “Silent Memories” (M9) and I managed to flash it after watching him on it, so the training hadn’t been for nothing.
Me climbing to the first icicle of “Silent Memories” (M9):
Topping out after a series of figure-fours through the short roof section on “Silent Memories” (M9):
The day after we both repeated “Fly in the Wind” (M10+) in a few tries. A crucial hold had broken off at the very last move years ago, so this route was now hard M10+ and thus my hardest route to date.
However, while working the route I realised how contrived big number mixed routes are. In order to get a high grade these climbs needs to cross massive roof where the climbing essentially comes down to how many figure-fours you can do in a row. The less ice the better, because ice makes for solid placements and good rests, so in the end it becomes pure drytooling, which is not too appealing. Thus, although I could probably climb harder than M10+, “Fly in the Wind” is likely my last sport mixed route. I will much rather prefer technical climbing on both rock and ice that relates directly to what one finds in the mountains, so from now on my focus will be exclusively on alpinism.
It is now time to take the skills I got from all the different types of climbing I've been doing for the last 10+ years and apply them to the mountains. I really look forward to pushing myself in the mountains the next few years, because this is what I have been aiming for since I started climbing.
Me topping out on “Fly in the Wind” (M10+), likely my last route of this kind: