Topic Author's Original Post - Nov 8, 2009 - 08:30pm PT
Been seeing a lot of hype in the German-Austrian media surrounding an upcoming expedition to Cerro Torre to do the mountains supposed first free ascent. Well, unfortunately for the folks involved on that trip, David Lama, Red Bull and company, Cerro Torre was freeclimbed as far back as 1986, by none other than Michael Bearzi and Eric Winkelmann, via the mountain's west face, the Ragni di Lecco route. At the time they climbed with leashes on their axes, but they did not hang from the icetools with tethers (sp?) or on the icescrews in the middle of pitches. The references are Mountain 119 p.12; R+I 15 p.42-51; and AAJ 1987 p.212. In 2005 Frenchman Bruno Sourzac did the first leashless free ascent. Likely others have followed since, particularly last year (2008) during those two weeks in December when so many folks climbed the west face route.
For what that is worth, but mostly hoping to remember and honor Michael, who unfortunately is no longer with us.
Mike's brother James (BRZ) was a neighbor and friend when Mike and Eric climbed the Torre. As I recall they skied in across the continental ice cap - I might be wrong about that though. I had the pleasure of seeing Mike's slide show to James and their parents when Mike was visiting. It was cool getting the inside poop and sharing a couple of smokes with Mike. Yeah, it was leashed but no hangings - Mike was very understated but he definitely made a point of saying that. He had high ethics.
That was my second Torre show after seeing Bridwell's show in Mammoth a few years earlier.
Rolo, send the folks at Red Bull a note with the history of the hill. Tell them that they are a bit late. But there is still time for the first nude ascent while singing "God Save the Queen" In the time the possers need to get a friking job.
Marv, read more carefully. The statement was that they did not hang from tethers (as in, tied or clipped in and taking your hands off the tools), not that they did not weight the leashes at all. It's definitely a quantum step up in difficulty from taking daisy-chain (tethered) rests to weighting your arms continuously throughout the pitch (well, unless you scam clever leg-wedges or stems between icicles as one does). But that's legitimately a "free" ice ascent; it's all BS hairsplitting after that. If wrist leashes aren't free, then the fancy shmancy hook grips aren't free either. Or for that matter a curved tool, or what about a patterned shaft? How patterned? Anyone who iceclimbed from the straight 70 cm axe era through to today knows empirically that abandoning the daisy-chain type tethers was a real leap up in commitment and difficulty, and is by far the best boundary line between non-free and free in ice climbing parlance. Ice and M is all aid anyway; a special, difficult, and sometimes radically committing type of aid, but regular old aid just the same.
Thanks for the reminder about Bearzi.Understated and high standards defined that guy.I was climbing the Ophir ice hose with Mike in the winter of 1980. The days were short and we were about 1/2 or 2/3 of the way up, below a 200'ice head wall. It was getting late and I thought that we might have to rap back down. It was 4:00 when mike got up to the belay and took one look at his watch and said to me "you know I've been having a lot of trouble with this watch lately. It's probably really around 2:00, and then turned his watch back 2 hrs, which effectively green lighted the upward path. Half way through the pitch it became pitch black. Mike had our only flashlight(a small throw away light we had bought at a gas station earlier in the trip) that he held in his mouth. Mike had to put in a hanging belay because he ran out of rope before he ran out of ice. Seeing that little glow flickering way up on that ice cliff is one of my favorite climbing memories.
Ice climbing isn't rock climbing. It was always OK to hang off your tools or even tie them off to place pro or rest. Putting in protection and using it for upward progress was considered aid. Anything else was/is just splitting hairs.
Bearzi wrote some really good stuff for Rock and Ice including the Patagonia stuff and a particularily memorable article on doing the Andromeda Strain in Canada.
Mike Bearzi told me a few years after his and Erics free ascent of the W face that some euro-bloke tried to claim the FFA, saying " we didn't even use our jumars!" Mike told me, we didn't even take Jumars to south america!
I climbed with Mike a lot, and can say he was as honest and true as they come, to himself and anyone else.I miss that guy immensely.