Getting enough to eat and the art of dealing with demons.

Had a great day of personal growth and reflection, along with a few serious moments with a great friend, Roger Strong.

Roger, a Seattle native, came up for a quick trip to the Canadian Rockies this week. As it turns out we were only able to do one route together, in spite of having more ambitious plans. More often than not when you make 'big plans' you end up getting a little less so in the words of the great American alpinist Scott Backes "always bight off more than you can chew, this way you don't risk going hungry". These words are so true. Roger and I originally had plans to climb a couple more days but "life happens" and I'm glad we went big on the one day we did have together. To defend the Backes theory we set out on Feb 2nd to do both "The Shadow" and "Riptide"(VI WI7 R, 225m) on the North aspect of Mt. Patterson in the Canadian Rockies. We got up early (4:30) and did the approach in the dark to allow enough time to do both routes. As it turned out, doing the second ascent of "The Shadow" took us all day and we ended up skiing the 50 degree slope below the route in the dark of night with headlamps and 50lb packs; an adventure in its own right.

"The Shadow" is 4 pitches long and we felt it went at M7r. It was first done several years ago in March by Jon Walsh and Caroline George.(See Caroline Ware's account of the first ascent of The Shadow as well as her story on a great trip to the Can Rockies. http://www.gravsports.com/Ice%20Pages%20Folder/Route%20Descriptions/ware_walsh_trip.htm). The line itself will never form the same way two years in a row as it consists of very thin ice throughout. Certainly if the ice was even 1" thicker on the final pitch it would have been way easier. Bottom line, if you are heading up to this route or other tradition mixed lines in the Rockies you better be ready to battle.

In current conditions every pitch was serious. We did get the odd ice screw(mostly 10cm screws but the odd 17cm screw as well. Ninety percent of the climb was protected by rock gear (pins, nuts, and cams from .2"- 4"). Half of the rock gear placements were shit and the other half were maybe OK. As good as a mid sized can in a frosty slippery crack can be.

Roger, a new dad with a beautiful 7 month old baby girl named Maya, is a major bad ass. Roger was the captain of a crab boat in the Bering Sea before becoming a sales rep for Black Diamond in the NW USA. From my experience he never hesitates to suffer and battle on the sharp end. It is intimidating to climb with him because I know if I hesitate on heading up a pitch he would happily take over. When climbing with Roger you must not hesitate. On the other hand if the shit hits the fan, on a serious route, Roger would be your man. The lovely thing is that these are the qualities of all the climbers in my tribe and they know who they are.

Personally, I had some of my own moments that day. A couple weeks ago when Roger and I started to discuss ideas for our climbing trip together I was feeling strong in the head. I was ready to battle, felt confident, and pretty much ready to take on anything. Easy come, easy go. The day before the climb, the more confidence Roger portrayed the more self doubt that sunk into my own head. In truth I haven't been climbing much at all this winter. It has certainly been my slowest winter season since I started climbing in 1994. In spite of the lack of fitness I know that alpinism involves a huge mental component and I was hoping that I would be confident going into the objectives and that I could rely on the last 15 years of experience to come through when it needed to. Attitude and perspective are everything. Fitness and experience are of course essential but without confidence you might as well stay at home. Luckily, climbing usually involves a partner and a good partner with bring out the best in you.

Then I had this seriously disturbing dream the night before the climb. I haven't had a restless night before a climb in a long time. I used to have these as a less experienced climber but more recently have always been able to sleep well before a big, serious day. This night I had several 'interesting' dreams with the final one involving myself, Roger, my wife Marion and a friggin' plane crash! That is not a great way to wake up before a serious day.

All in all I did OK that day but as I climbed through the runout terrain I had way too much going through my head. My wife, my job, the thought of crushing bones. I did give Roger the last final lead, which ended up being the crux on the route. The pitch involved two overhanging offwidth sections with large snow mushrooms that had to be chopped out and ultimately the leader had to take these in the head as they collapsed. This, only to reveal loose rock jammed in the back of the crack with equally grim protection. Roger sent!

Sadly, I do feel that I shed some of the cobwebs in my head but will likely continue the season as a self employed sales rep with an ideal of doing my ACMG full ski guide exam in April. I'm afraid that the next time I get out for a 'real' adventure that I will again have to deal with some demon's. Perhaps, obviously, these 'demon's' are what keeps us safe in the mountains and maybe should be called judgment. As I said earlier, perspective is everything.

Climbing is so rewarding and that is why we all do it. It is the experience of the moment and it is always the lessons and richness of life that in brings once you have a chance to absorb the experience.

Excited for the next adventure.

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Blogger andrew said...

Nice post, thanks for sharing. We all have to deal with our demons!

3:55 PM  
Blogger Lanny said...

Eloquent. Honest. Thanks.

10:29 PM  
Blogger Anton said...

Great work knocking off the 2nd ascent - abviously not an easy accomplishment!!

Very well writen article... you summed up the nature of "hard" ice/mixed/alpine climbing, which applies to each of us regardless of our own definition of "hard" climbing. Its fair say that at each personal (mostly mental) barrier I've broken the same demons emerge, but in slaying them you learn so much about yourself and partners.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Butch said...

you are SUCH a pussy, Bones-- you needed gear, partner and rope for that? I was up there on a quick run from Vancouver the day before you did it. I only had my Mom's old wooden Charlet axe and a pair of leather hiking boots, and I sent that shit after a few hours in the Drake, solo, before I went home to my girlfriend.

J/k, awesome work! I know that experience, tho I have had it only on rock. Sick stuff, R mixed climbing.

6:44 PM  
Blogger akolos said...

Thanks for honestly sharing your experience. It was a great insightful read, that I'll be thinking about for some time...

2:09 PM  
Blogger Jesús Hdez said...

thanks a lot, you have tought me English and climbing.
In Spain, southeast coast, we have a enormous mountains to climb them and I usually do it. Nice to meet you.
Benidorm (Spain)

11:42 AM  

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