Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Alone

For those of you who have felt the need, to be alone and away, you understand. It’s when the confusion, noise, and fuckedupness of the world get to you. You’re drowning in the rat race and chocking on its meticulous bullshit. Or maybe it’s when you get hurt and you feel like you could explode.
I really don’t have any of these feelings, and I’m totally psyched on life’s sweetness, but I have in the past and definitely understand the benefits of being alone. It’s a mental cleanse. There’s a deep healing that comes from being about and away and by ones self. Loneliness it is not, you have your thoughts quiet and clear as the natural world you submerse yourself in. Incorporate wall climbing into your solitude and your brain as well as your body, gain a challenge that both success and failure will bring you to a new understanding about the world and an individual’s abilities.

When I first stumbled on the photo of Tahu Ratum captivation took hold. Then I read the caption, “The West face of Tahu Ratum (6651m) viewed from the Khani Basa glacier. The face is unclimbed and unattempted with the mountain's first ascent coming from the south-east by way of the Tahu Ratum Glacier (in 1977). The centre and right peaks have no name.” I was instantly committed, my heart has found its place and I am going to Pakistan.
I tried to tempt my newly discovered granite sweetness, in the face of my friend Mike Libecki, but it didn’t work. Mike and I had planned a trip to China this summer but due to the Olympics, our permit was denied, security reasons; no rock climbing terrorists or something. Yet another reason to protest this years games. Mike is headed to Greenland for some solo time, he is following his heart and that is why he is my friend and I hold him in the highest respect.
All my life I have heard about the political and military instability of Northern Pakistan. Most recently, the media portrays a war torn world where misguided missiles kill innocent civilians, an area on the brink of full chaos. Yet books I’ve read, visitors I’ve spoken with, and the Pakistanis I’ve been emailing, speak of a beautiful land of towering unclimbed peaks. Shimmering alpine lakes smothered in green grassy valleys. Kind, yet poor, people who are willing to help for their meager daily wage.
I am going to climb and wander, to see and judge Pakistan for myself, by myself. I will be thinking of you all, my friends, and allude to you my discoveries, both location and personal.

Lastly, I want to mention an amazing organization that provides its members with some wonderful benefits. The American Alpine Club has been helping climbers pursue their passions for over a hundred years, and they are helping me with mine! Check out their web site, DREAM BIG, and they will help you get there. www.americanalpineclub.org/

Counting the days
And loving each one of them
Kyle

Monday, June 16, 2008

Addictions

I have an addiction, well actually, I have many addictions but this one is my most recent and involves alpine climbing. It’s the middle of June, the summer solstice is a week away and it’s 90 degrees in Salt Lake. The ice has long since melted, the rivers are full rage, and the hills are as green as another one of my addictions. Any alpine climbing that’s happening in Utah is going to be sitting in front of a television watching home videos of my recent trip to Alaska. Unfortunately this craving could not be subdued with a remote control in hand, I needed to swing an ice tool.
The Utah alpine buzz was a total downer so we packed the car and headed to Nevada. It almost seems fitting that in a state where people are entertained by blue men banging on empty oil drums, whiskey is cheaper than water, and people can loose their entire savings on a little red square, that one can also get their alpine climbing fix in June. Far from the perpetual glow of casino lights and obnoxious blingity-blink-blank-blink chime of slot machines is a sweet little alpine oasis that rises over 8000 feet above the stark Nevadan desert. Great Basin National Park is a mountainous island, it contains Nevada’s only glacier, and supports a spectacular grove of bristlecone pine trees that date to several thousand years. It’s desolate, it’s never busy, and rising to 13,063 Wheeler Peak would satiate our need for the alpine. We hoped.

Hope hadn’t gotten Erin and I too far on our first two attempts at the Northeast Face of Wheeler. Last New Years had been our best effort, making the nine-mile approach ski only to come within a mile of the snowy Canadianesk quartzite face. I remember standing amongst the ancient bristlecone, gnarled and brawny, their resilience to the approaching nighttime cold far superior to ours. It was close to 5p.m. we were worked and the face was far too committing for the level of suffering that we were willing to take on.
However in June the road is open, so we drove on up and made the short three mile approach on mostly dry ground. During every approach, just as the face of intention comes into view, I am reminded of why I climb. Like a child arriving to a new playground, my eyes widen and my pace quickens, I am suddenly less occupied with the trail ahead and fixated on the face looming above in the distance. I trip. My heart races and I am complete, life is simple, pure, exciting, and lovely. Climbing without a topo and a complete lack of route description, as we were, spices the package.
Standing under the face it became obvious our timing was a few weeks late. Sweating in T-shirts was also a good indicator. A large curtain of ice sat plastered to the top of the second pitch and bled downward soaking the first 300 feet of climbing. Maybe higher in the shaded gully/chimney system conditions would be good? And indeed they were… good and interesting.
For most the climb, our ice tools were holstered on our harnesses. Fun 5.10 climbing with crampons and on marginal rock was the norm. With very different climbing styles, I enjoy watching my cousin solve, for himself, the puzzle that is mixed climbing. Switching from free moves to dry tooling, I can observe the solidity and strength in Erin’s climbing, Alaska and a season of ice have taught him well, but we both have much to learn.

And Wheeler would not disappoint. Ice, albeit thin, was found. I overdrove both tools watching sparks smolder between rock and veneer, ahhhhh, reminiscent of the amazing ice season I had just experienced. We simul-climbed the final six hundred foot snow and ice gully and Erin lead the last pitch, whose rock quality resembled stacked potato chips.

Climber or not, everyone should visit Great Basin NP. The scenery, solitude, and incongruity of its surroundings are definitely something to experience. In my opinion, climbing in the park is an excellent outing with the best season being as soon as the road opens (May), or I suppose, anytime you need your fix.

Follow your feelings
Loving It
KD

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Denali

I’ve been having a hard time (i.e. procrastinating) composing my thoughts about our amazing time on Denali and surroundings. So for the time being, or until I log some hours at the coffee shop, here are a bunch of photos that explain our totally bitchin AK adventure!

Molly and Erin enjoyed a very senic, 'not so direct' flight to Kahiltna Base Camp via the Ruth Gorge. I had flown in a few days prior and was excited for their arrival. It's impossible not to be impressed with the relief of the range, especially considering Talkeetna (elevation 350ft) is a twenty minute plane ride. Can you say tectonic collision?

Kahiltna International (7600ft) is just visible on the glacier and under the impressible North Butress of Mt. Hunter mmmmmmm! Big Bro and Lil' Sis getting prept to slog. Our fastest camp pack up was two hrs, slow morning sloggin!

11,300 ft. Gettin ready to hump a load to 14,000ft. Were done with the skis and psyched to settle into camp for our push on the upper mountain. 14,000 kinda marks half way to the summit and the start of the more strenous climbing, i.e. cold and altitude. Mt. Foraker in the background, AK is Soooo beautiful!!!


The trail ahead with the summit far in the distance. And on the right our home for a week at 14,000 feet.


The route from 14,000 climbs up a steep headwall where the park service maintains fixed lines. Then along a knife edge ridge to 17,200 feet. The mile and a half climb took us eight hours and
awarded us with this view-




The journey to the summit took us far above the clouds and high into the purity of lofty elevations. The clean air, even though quite thin, did our lungs well. On the right is the final climb from the Football Field 19,100ft to over 20,000.


Looking at the final ridgeline toward the summit and cellebrating!!!





After some rest and recovery from Denali, Erin and I headed up the Southeast Fork of the Kahiltna to check out the Mini-Moonflower buttress. The route we had planed to climb was occupied by a slow moving two some, so with no topo or route info we 'went for it' on the main face. It was May 19th, three years to the day that my cousin Drew (Erin's brother) had passed while he and I were climbing in Baffin. Climbing with the spirit of our fallen hero, on difficult terrain, and on a beautiful day was the was the perfect culmination of six weeks of climbing in Alaska. In my life, the loss of Drew as a climbing partner is a void that will never be filled. While it wasn’t a perfect fit, on this day, his older brother filled his shoes well. It was truly a joy climbing with you, Erin, an effort that I’m sure Drew is proud. And a day I will never forget.

Pursuing emotional joy
Kyle