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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Solo on the Cassin?

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..

Cosmin sez:

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                      

Equipment                                         Equipment                                              

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                 

Foam matteress                                                             

Jetboil and small canister )                      Jetboil and small canister

Food Food

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)

Clothing                                                   Clothing

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

Accessories                                                   Accessories

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

Camera                                                             Camera


Jon Rhoderick said...

Awesome article!
best guest post ever I've always wanted to see a full Cassin gearlist.

Runar said...

Great read!
Is that a BD Quantum I see in the picture with the tent? doesn't look like a Speed anyway.

Cosmin Andron said...

:) Thank you.

The backpack is the previous model of BD Speed :

I got mine in Chamonix in March last year.

The current model is changed and looks like this:

What I did get wrong however was the gas canisters. They were 230g. :D


Runar said...

Thanks for the reply Cosmin.

Quite impressed with what you can fit in that backpack. that goes for you climbing as well ;)

Is the Speed your backpack of choise when it comes to alpine ascents?


Cosmin Andron said...

Hi Runar!

I have been using the BD Speed only since March last year but has become by far my favourite backpack for alpine routes. On the Cassin I took out the internal wire frame and the foam pad.

Initially when I got it I thought it will last me one trip - that thin the material seemed, but i managed to haul it over granite quite a few times and did a yar full of routes with it - wether full or stripped (without the lid as well). I also skied with it.

Before this my backpack for these kind of routes was the 32L Sphynx but I did not like the fact that the lid was not removable. Being used to such I sturdy pack i underestimated the Speed. What I liked in the Sphynx more though was the ice-axe attachment (lower part) and the longer side straps. Put those on speed and you have a winner.

I saw the new Speed and I see some great improvements now. I haven't touched it yet but soon I will :)

Runar said...

thanks for the reply.

Hmm. I might give the Speed another look after reading your praise of it. Always thought a good alpine pack had to have a risible lid to accommodate the fact that I bring more gear to the start of the climb. And the speed doesn't seem to have a floating lid.

Gear choices is hard ;)


Jeremy said...

Hey Cosmin! Just read your post and checked out your photos on facebook. Awesome! One question about your "next time" gear choices: you would seriously forgo the Dually in favour of an Atom LT? You are wearing your Dually in quite a few of those pictures, do you really think the Atom would be sufficient to replace it? Or I guess you figure your big Valandre jacket would be more than enough?