Following Hermann Buhl

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nopantsben

climber
Topic Author's Original Post - Jan 23, 2013 - 12:11pm PT
You know when it's warm inside, you watch the snow fall through the window, the lights of the cars outside as they drive by, the TV is brimming,you're lying on a couch, wine in hand, and all you can think of is how much more intense it would be if you were cold, hungry and miserable?
Some misconception you must have been born with, for you can't remember when this didn't happen to you, pulls you outside?

Luckily, I have a very good friend, a best friend, Hansjörg, that is always up and ready to help me get cold and miserable. We did so in Baffin together last year, and this is the story of our training session for exactly that, pretty much a year ago.
There is wall, called Kristallwand (crystal wall) a stone's throw from a skiing resort in Ötztal, an hour or so from Innsbruck, that had caught Hansjörg's interest. At first, nobody wanted to go, I was busy with school, and so not much happened. When Hansjörg gets really excited about something, the usual reaction of most of his friends is, trying to find someone else than yourself to go with him. I was psyched.
The rumor was that Hermann Buhl had tried to climb the wall in summer, but didn't get past the slabby first section. Everyone that had been close to the wall talked about horrendous rock quality and a lot of rocks of all sizes at the base. We were going before winter was over.
Kristallwand. The snowy section on top of the rock face is invisible.
Kristallwand. The snowy section on top of the rock face is invisible.
Credit: nopantsben
We packed a bunch of crap into 4 bags, strapped two onto each of us, added a portaledge and approached the wall like christmas trees on snow shoes. It wasn't long until we hated ourselves for not taking skis.
Credit: nopantsben
A three hour hike, the first half up a skiing slope, put us at the base. Three hours from a tourist village with a couple hundred drunken apres ski people that are waking up with a headache, we felt like we were in a remote place. The wall looked, above all, blank. The first mixed section turned out to be scary, unprotected M5 or so that Hansjörg led. Compared to the walking, the hauling was alright.
Getting of the ground.
Getting of the ground.
Credit: nopantsben
We got a small flat section, and our guesses, that there could be no line up the center, turned out to be right. We decided to start up the obvious dihedral, and Hansjörg went up in climbing shoes to free climb.First, he had to navigate some snow, which turned out to be more complicated and time consuming than excpected because the snow was apparently covering a big hole. An old pin, that we later identified as Buhl's came right out when Hansjörg pulled on it on the first few meters of the dihedral. New terrain was above.
getting to meat of the wall.
getting to meat of the wall.
Credit: nopantsben
It took a while to navigate the choss as well. Every time Hansjörg managed to place a piece he warmed his fingers and feet a bit, and climbed further up.
the dihedral
the dihedral
Credit: nopantsben
It was cold, and from what I saw, it became apparent to me that we would have to find a way into the center of the face, because further to left of the dihedral the rock seemed to be more compact and solid while the dihedral was crumbling.
Miraculously, Hansjörg found a ramp that was going to take us left and set up an anchor.
I was getting dark as I finished cleaning. The next section looked very much unclear, because the ramp was not connecting to another feature. With 20 bolts, we weren't going to put up a ladder...
It had started to snow.
done on day one
done on day one
Credit: nopantsben
We got inside the portaledge and started to unpack our freeze dried food, the sleeping bags, and our stove.
I got back outside to get some snow to melt, when Hansjörg said,

I don't think the stove is working, Ben

I can hear him as I write this. I was like, what? He must be kidding. I finished getting snow and got back inside, expecting the stove to be burning in front of a grinning Hansjörg, but no. I looked at our freeze dried food and the stove in disbelief. We looked at it more closely and realized two parts were missing. We frantically searched the ledge, and the bag the stove had been in. F*#k f*#k f*#k.
We found one piece in the bag. How had it come undone? We put it on, but it wasn't working. What was missing was some kind of net that slows down the gas so it can catch fire. We had half a block of cheese and bit of cake, tomorrows breakfast, the rest was dried food. For drink we had a little less than a liter of cold tea. We hadn't drunk all day and had about half of that before trying to make the stove work.

mcgyver? you there?
mcgyver? you there?
Credit: nopantsben

We tried cutting up a little piece of cord and using it as our "net", the result was we almost put the ledge and ourselves on fire before the fire went out.

The cheese was gone quickly.

We worked on it some more. It dawned to us that we were being shut down by such a classic occurrence like a broken stove.
Cold tea does not do any good to freeze dried food. We were out of water and almost puked.
After a stormy night, what the hell was up with the weather anyway?, we were at least going to see how the climbing would unfold.

Credit: nopantsben

I went up the ramp, putting away the snow, but after struggling for about half an hour or so, I gave up. I'd placed two useless bolts off the ramp because I hoped that I could continue up a feature, which both times turned out to be too loose to use. I didn't take a fall. I felt weak and tired and fed up.
At least the weather had improved. We retreated into the portaledge. I decided to give it another try, and climbed 3 or four meters higher up a loose crack which soon ran out. From there you'd either free climb or drill. Cold, hungry and in boots, I chose retreat, this time for good.

looking down from the "high point"
looking down from the "high point"
Credit: nopantsben

We rappelled. We shouldered everything, it constantly slid down, we lay down in the snow, and took turns pulling the portaledge behind us. Yeah, we suffered a bit.
It was worth it though. While I went back to classes and the library, Hansjörg finished the route.
It's called the Music of Chance.
MH2

climber
Jan 23, 2013 - 12:17pm PT
Thanks for that.
Marlow

Sport climber
OSLO
Jan 23, 2013 - 12:17pm PT
Great story. My best guess is that even the gods are laughing ... respectfully...
Don Paul

Big Wall climber
Colombia, South America
Jan 23, 2013 - 12:18pm PT
Thanks for the TR, I always like to read them. I just read another one about a Himalyan traverse, a really serious link up of 8000 m peaks, and their lighters didnt work. They couldn't melt snow and spend two days descending with no water at all. These things are fun to read about but I'm glad it wasn't me!
Donald Thompson

Trad climber
Los Angeles,CA
Jan 23, 2013 - 12:27pm PT
Great little report. Perhaps Buhl was the third man on the rope?
Well written with just the right amount of words. The placement of photos and text was spot on.

BTW Otztal is where Otzi the Iceman was discovered.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ötzi
nopantsben

climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 23, 2013 - 01:49pm PT
thanks! i just noticed i didn't make this a [TR] - type post. Well, maybe it encourages a discussion about how we have a go at old goals in our backyard, that were somehow forgotten in the last 40 years and are now climbed, or not climbed ;)
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Jan 23, 2013 - 02:49pm PT
AWESOME!!!

McGyver? You there?

BWA HA HA hahahahaaaa!!!

Gak, we've all been there bro. Two reasons I've always hauled more heavy food.
1) I hate broken stoves.
2) One of the few things I hate more than a broken stove is fire around all that nylon.....


Thanks for the TR!!
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jan 23, 2013 - 03:44pm PT
Badazz for sure and well written. Not too many splitters in that rock,eh?
What the hell kind of complicated stove was that anyway? Ya should have taken
a Svea. :-)


telemon01

Trad climber
Montana
Jan 23, 2013 - 05:44pm PT

wow, a climbing thread. Cool!!
MH2

climber
Jan 23, 2013 - 05:51pm PT
Ya should have taken
a Svea. :-)



Yes. How can you manage such great imaging but such poor stove-ing?
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
Jan 23, 2013 - 05:53pm PT
good stuff.
guido

Trad climber
Santa Cruz/New Zealand/South Pacific
Jan 23, 2013 - 06:09pm PT
A Buhl Pin? Now that would be an all time treasure! Do you have a photo of the pin?

Thanks for the report.

steveA

Trad climber
bedford,massachusetts
Jan 23, 2013 - 06:09pm PT
Hey Ben,

I'll take the mosquito's over your epic adventure!

I sit by the fire when it's cold out.
nopantsben

climber
Topic Author's Reply - Jan 24, 2013 - 12:13am PT
it wasn't the stoves fault, which was a jetboil. we found the missing piece in hansjörgs gear box later, if i remember well. the stove definitely does not work without it...
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