I asked my friend Cosmin Andron to share some of his experience on the Cassin last spring.
Solos are always a journey. This one no less so.
"It’s been snowing for days and I am going bonkers at the Ski Hill (NE Fork) camp (cca 2400 m alt.). Tent bound since the 13th of June I start doubting I’d be able to get on the “Cassin” on this trip and I’m getting sure my acclimatization is wearing out by the hour now… I’ve listened my music, I’ve read my books, I’ve weighted my options all the while the snow was incessantly falling…
Then it’s 20th morning and the sun is shining and the skies are clear. Mark, back at KIA, mentioned something about a break in the weather for the weekend and I guess this must be it. I am weighting my options: go light – no tent, no sleeping bag just the stove, my Sirius down jacket and compressor pants and some bars and gels. Or plan for a three days ascent and go heavy: tent, sleeping bag, food, haul line in case I need to pull my bag, some cams and screws in case I need an anchor… It’s all about weight and weighting my options.
I’ve never done the route and weather proved to change swiftly. I may have lost my acclimatisation while doing book-worm work in my tent for the last seven days. Caution takes over the judgment steering and I opt for the heavy option; and heavy it is. "
More of the story here:
Cosmin picks up the story here with the gear list he used and what he might suggest or use himself now listed in the 2nd column..
Before I left for the Cassin Ridge I was worried that I spent too much time (7 days) at low elevation (NE Fork) and that the weather window won’t last longer than that day. I knew the route was long and all I had was a printed topo. I had to make a choice if to go light or go prepared to stick it out. From the info I had (through the grapevine) was that a Russian team did the route while I was in 14000 ft Camp and they spent 4 days on it. I prepared for 3, but I thought luxurious 3 so I can extend to 5 or 6 if needed.
Not knowing what was the condition of the route I took enough gear to protect some pitches if necessary.
I am usually cold so I erred on the side of warmth rather than lightweight.
With such a gear load and bivy equipment my priority was not to move very fast but safe, which meant that I spent a whole day listening music on Cassin ledge, waiting for the night and firm snow conditions. Second day I wasted half of it wandering lost within the first rock band.
In 2010 I started climbing at 4am on 21 June. By 8am same day I was finishing setting up my tent on Cassin ledge and took some photos. I spent the whole day (very warm day) on the ledge listening to music. On 22 June at 12:45am I set off. I am at the hanging glacier early morning. I wasted 2 to 3 hours fixing my broken old Jetboil. I spent 1 hour eating and hiding from the sun. Lunchtime I entered the first rock bad, had a rest near M shape d rocks and spent the next 4 or so hours climbing up and down looking for the route. I joined a pair of Canadians that came up and found the bivy spot with them early that evening. On 23 June I left the bivy spot around 2:30pm (allowing the Canadian team three hours advance). By 9pm on 23 Jun I reached the bivy spot above the 3rd rock band (5350m) and the Canadian pair who were just cooking dinner. They left early morning on 24 June, for the summit. I packed up at 4pm and left for the summit at about 4:30pm. I was on the summit at exactly 11pm.
All in all the bag was quite heavy for what I am accustomed to and I haven’t used quite everything. The pro I used was:
- an ice –screw belay 50 up from the ‘shrund on the Japanese couloir so I can haul my backpack over it. (I fell into the ‘shrund while trying to climb it with my backpack on when the snow collapsed)
- the rope to haul the backpack in the Japanese couloir, and twice while climbing off-route in the first rock band
- the rope to abseil four/five times within the rock bad (used natural anchors)
- camalot # .5 and 60cm dynema sling
I had dual points on my Cyborgs and combined with the heavy backpack and hard ice or crumbly ice I had to kick twice/thrice to stick it. When I climbed without the backpack on, it went smooth. Besides climbing lighter, next time I’d stick to monopoints….
Having a third tool (first time ever) was a good choice. On the last abseil within the first rock band I clipped my Cobras on my ice-clippers and because of the tangle I unclipped the umbilical. I flicked the rope over my right hip, the Cobra snagged and unclipped and tumbled down the pitch and stopped on a shelf. Just then the Canadian pair was coming up so they brought it up, but it was comforting knowing I had another tool in my backpack.
Below I made two lists. In the first one is what I had in June 2010. In the second list is what I would carry now if I were to do it again. I believe that with a partner, with an tweak in gear, in similar conditions and
climbing competently we could do it with two bivis and leading on a single 8.1 Iceline (not recommended by the manufacturer). Trying it alone again, with the benefit of current knowledge of the route and with a lighter pack I believe I could do it without a bivy. In neither scenario I am planning on super fast ascents.
gear in June 2010 if I were to do it again
BD Speed 40L (with lid) BD Speed 30L (no lid)
BD Cobra (pair) BD Cobra (pair)
Grivel leash BD Spinner leash
Grivel Matrix Light hammer Grivel Quantum Light hammer -
BD Cyborg crampons BD Cyborg crampons
Grivel helmet BD Half dome helmet
BD Camalots ( .5, .75,1, 2, ) BD Camalots (.5) BD
BD Express screws (4) BD Express screws (1)
Titanium pegs (4) Titanium pegs (2)
BD nuts (5) - -
BD Neutrino (16) BD Neutrino (6)
BD Dyneema 60cm (8) BD Dyneema 60cm (3)
BD Dyneema 12cm (2) BD Dyneema 12cm
CT Oval locking biners (3) CT Oval locking biners (1)
BD Oval wiregate biner BD Oval wiregate biner
Kong Duck (2) Kong Duck (1)
BD ATC guide BD ATC guide
Arc’teryx M280 Harness Arc’teryx M280 Harness
Beal Iceline 8.1mm (1X50m) Beal IceTwin 7.7mm (1X50m)
Mammut 5mm X 5m- Mammut 5mm (1X2m )
Bivy gear Bivy gear
BD Firstlight tent
Valandre Odin Sleeping bag
Jetboil and small canister ) Jetboil and small canister
Adventure Food – B-fast (3)
Adventure Food – Meal (3)
Adventure Food – Dessert (4)
Powerbars (6) Energy bars (5)
Sweets (100g) Sweets (50g)
Isostar powder (100g) Energy drink powder (50g)
Arc’teryx Rho LT top Arc’teryx Rho AR top
HH bottom Arc’teryx Phase AR bottom
Arc’teryx Gamma Salopette Arc’teryx Gamma Salopette
Arc’teryx Accelero Pullover
Arc’teryx Gamma MX Hoody Arc’teryx Gamma MX Hoody
Arc’teryx Dually Belay Parka Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody
Valandre Syrius Down Jacket Valandre Syrius Down Jacket
MH Compressor pant Arc’teryx Alpha SL pant
Smartwool Hiking Liner x 2 Smartwool Hiking Liner
Smartwool Mt Extra HW x 2 Smartwool Mt Extra
BD Guide (old) gloves x 2 BD Punisher gloves
BD Absolute (old) mitt BD Absolute mitts
Valandre down mitt
Valandre down botties
Arc’teryx embroid cap Arc’teryx embroid cap
No-name fleece balaclava Arc’teryx Rho LT Balaclava
La Sportiva Spantik La Sportiva Spantik
BD gaiters BD gaiters
Salice googles googles
Iridium satphone Spot device
Cassio Pro-Trek watch Cassio Pro-Trek watch
Keymaze GPS watch
iPod Shuffle music player iPod Shuffle music player
BD Mt walking poles (pair)
MSR snowshoes W Rib access to route
Nalgene bottle Nalgene bottle