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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Monday, September 9, 2013

How do they do that?...Part Two, Brain on?

At the time, the North face of les Droites was the unquestioned "hardest ice climb" in the Alps.

The first ascent had taken 5 days in Sept of 1955 and was done mostly as a rock/mixed route.
Their original line is rarely repeated today.

In '62 Axt and Gross made the 2nd ascent.

Reinhold Messner established his own line, solo and on sight in 1969.

Today some of the best alpinists in the world still count an ascent of les Droites North Face as one of their better accomplishments.

Few will make an ascent of les Droites without their brain being switched on.

Messner made the first solo ascent, via a new and direct line to the west summit and was back in Chamonix for a late lunch.  All this while using a short axe and a ice dagger for tools and no skis for transportation.

Put that into perspective on Ueli Steck's very public ascent a few winters back.

href="">Ueli Steck Speed Soloing the Ginat on the Droites

In part one of "HowDTDThat" I sent you to the link of a casual day out skiing up to and down from Muir.  Then off to a link where a guy dies of exposure on a similar journey.

The mountains and gravity make harsh rules to play by.  They don't care how "good" you are or how strong.  Fook it up and either will simply kill you in short order.  With less thought or circumstance than you would killing a mosquito.

That is life in the game.   Figure it out early, do it right or die.  That is not being melodramatic or over stating the obvious.  It just is.  Fun as everyone thinks this stuff is...Gravity wins every time if you loose that coin toss.  So you need to stack the odds.

Brain on!  Alpine and ice is all about conditions.  Yes ALL about conditions.  A romp up les Droites in good conditions only takes a few hrs. and some little skill.  In bad enough conditions no amount of skill will get you up les Droites. 

Admittedly it is a lot easier to tell what the actual conditions are (on any climb, any where)  in 2013 than they were in 1967.    But then people still die on Rainier and Mt. Hood every winter.  And in avalanches world wide. 

How do you avoid climbing in the afternoon storm?  Or on wet rock high on a mountain?  Or falling into that unseen crevasse?  You simply wait for good/better conditions.

Sure what you use for gear and what you take and consume for food and hydration are important.  Take too much or too little and things can  be unpleasant.  But nothing is going to define a trip like the weather or the actual physical conditions on the climb.

If you question that..think of a fun rock climb in 100F+ heat and bright sunlight and the same rock climb in low 70's temps, shaded and a cool breeze just barely blowing the air around.

Think about the difference in your strength and endurance in both conditions.

Brain tell me?

Case in point...

A couple of seasons ago, mid winter, a local from the Chamonix valley climbed up and DOWN Les Droite and was back in town in time to pick up his kid from school mid afternoon.  "We were in the first bin up with him that day, perhaps even more impressive was that it was delayed and didnt even get to the top of the grand montets till about 9.15 a.m."

And the end result of bad conditions in the same climb:

Between 1955 and today we have gotten more fit as climbers.  Or at least have the ability to get more fit with less error and time waisted.  No question the tools and gear we climb with is better today.  You have to wonder why everyone isn't back in Chamonix  for an early lunch from an ascent of les Droites.

If I were to hazard a guess it is the conditions on route.  And that everyone has some control over.

If buying a house or running a business is all about location, location location.  Alpine climbing is all about condition, condition, condition.  More here:




Josh Allred's Blog said...

What is that pack Ueli is climbing in? Looks like the same one Colin Haley uses in this video.

A 22 Liter pack with a removable lid and the ability to strap tools. Cant find one that I have fallen in love with yet.

Dane said...

Steck uses Mtn Hardware packs. Haley Patagonia which are often custom one offs. Production Patagonia packs will be available next spring.

Unknown said...

Please Mr, it's LES Droites, not LE Droites. Sorry for ennoying with that, as a french it just bothered me.
Nice thought about this point, as usual.

Dane said...

guilty as charged :)