"Under the Influence" Alpinist 3. Can Someone Post It Up?

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Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Original Post - Dec 6, 2018 - 09:21pm PT
I'm very keen to read the article 'Under the influence' by Scott Semple.

It first appeared in Alpinist Number Three.

A big thank you to anyone who can help


Cheers!
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 6, 2018 - 09:55pm PT
interesting puzzle, Alpinist 0-12 are all bigger format, 9"x12" (23cm x 33cm), than my utility scanner platen...
I have to go to the bigger scanner (which I don't usually use for magazines)

donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Dec 6, 2018 - 09:58pm PT
Gotta ask Avery...what’s with your obsession with the Canadian Rockies? I appreciate your contributions and I realize the the area has been underappreciated but, hell, you’re from New Zealand...just wondering.
By the way, Angela and I are in Fox Glacier...four more days in NZ!
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 6, 2018 - 11:58pm PT
I was obsessed with the NZ alpine environment (As a climber and amateur historian) for twenty years. Then I got tired of it. My interest in the Canadian Rockies started when I 'joined' supertopo. That's around twenty years after I retired from climbing.

I hope your having a great time in South Westland.

By the way, Ed, I approached Scott Semple directly for info on the climb but, unfortunately, he wasn't in a position to help.
ionlyski

Trad climber
Polebridge, Montana
Dec 7, 2018 - 08:58am PT
Sounds like you two aren't going to get together for that dinner after all?
Hope your trip has been great Jim.

Arne
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 8, 2018 - 12:08am PT
Scott Semple (at anchor), Will Gadd (rapping) and the ...
Scott Semple (at anchor), Will Gadd (rapping) and the noble art of backing off. Despite having done all the hard climbing, the team's efforts end above the crux cliffband on their first attempt.
Credit: Kevin Mahoney

The east and north faces of Howse Peak.
The east and north faces of Howse Peak.
Credit: Brad Wrobleski

Gadd and Semple seconding Pitch 2 on the first attempt. The first few ...
Gadd and Semple seconding Pitch 2 on the first attempt. The first few meters of the pitch had fallen off, forcing Mahoney to drytool up the ice, after fifteen meters the ice thickened enough for screws. The upper part of the pitch (shown) was the only "re
Credit: Kevin Mahoney

Gadd and Mahoney at the top of Pitch 4 on the first go-round. Pins are...
Gadd and Mahoney at the top of Pitch 4 on the first go-round. Pins are hammered into a roof providing a hanging belay.
Credit: Scott Semple

Mahoney on the midway traverse. On the first attempt, the team unknowl...
Mahoney on the midway traverse. On the first attempt, the team unknowlingly retreated six meters from a possible bivy site on this ledge system.
Credit: Scott Semple

Gadd on thin ice, Pitch 13. Never one to take the easy way out, Gadd a...
Gadd on thin ice, Pitch 13. Never one to take the easy way out, Gadd abandoned the lower-angle gully for a steeper, more aesthetic exit onto the ridge.
Credit: Kevin Mahoney

Credit: Ed Hartouni

Since when are summits back in? Semple en route to the top of Howse Pe...
Since when are summits back in? Semple en route to the top of Howse Peak.
Credit: Kevin Mahoney

Credit: Brad Wrobleski


Mission accomplished, Gadd readies for the descent. The east face of H...
Mission accomplished, Gadd readies for the descent. The east face of Howse Peak has been in climbers' sights for over twenty years. In 1999, the M16 crew ended their route description with "No bolts!" The Howse of Cards team ended theirs with "No bolts, n
Credit: Scott Semple

Under the Influence
Scott Semple


I was sitting at my desk, tapping at the keyboard, when my roommate Will came downstairs.

"Hey, what are you doing Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?" he asked. The spark in his eyes was bright.

"I'm supposed to pose some handstands for Brad on Wednesday and go climbing with Colleen on Thursday. Why?"

"I had a look at Howse yesterday, I think we should go up there."

My hands stopped hovering over the keyboard. I slowly started to grin.

Every climber who has driven by Howse Peak in the Canadian Rockies has looked up and wondered. Several fantastic ice lines spill over the imposing cliff band that bisects the east face. Below the cliff band are a hundred meters of snow and two pitches of engaging ice. Above, two prominent gullies allow access to the ridge, and from there the summit.

Over four days in March, 1999, Scott Backes, Steve House and Barry Blanchard climbed a new route on the east face of Howse Peak. Their line, M16 (IV WI7+, A2, 1000m), included pitches of WI6, WI7 and WI7+. Hose described his experience on the crux as "being in a different place." Backes and Blanchard put it on a pedestal of forty years of combined alpine-climbing experience, and the team trumpeted their feat in every publication that would give them ink, including the 2001 Canadian Alpine Journal (CAJ), in which Blanchard wrote a ten-page feature article.

At the time, I skimmed the article, but then put it aside. The photo of Scott Backes on the fourth pitch might as well have been of Neil Armstrong on the moon. But I was intrigued by the photo caption: "M16−twice as hard as M8!" It made my lip curl.

Even though the route didn’t top out, M16 was held up as the ideal of hard alpine climbing in North America and soon became the bright light for the dark-colored glasses of the Brotherhood, a colorful, brooding fraternity of alpine climbers. Sometimes described as a "mutual admiration society," the Brotherhood loves climbing together—and loves writing about it just as much. Phrases like "sissy-assed bolt things," "sponsor-hungry FNGs*" and "Talk - Action = Zero" are standard fare.


*F*#kin' New Guys


Will waited for me to answer. I tried to synthesize three years of thought in three seconds. Twice as hard as M8. The Pitch. WI7+. The hardest lead Barry had ever seen in the mountains. The Brotherhood’s brightly burning torch.

"I’ll reschedule," I said.

I first met Will Gadd in Marble Canyon in the winter of 2000. I’d been swinging tools for a year and was wasting a lot of energy in the infamous X position. No magazine, how-to book or video described anything similar to the way Will moved. I remember thinking, "He’s doing it wrong." A couple of pointers from Will that day corrected my perception of how to climb steep ice. In March 2002 I put Will’s tips to good use and beat him in the Canmore Ice Climbing Festival speed competition. Later that month we enchained Polar Circus (V WI5, 700m), The Weeping Pillar (V WI6, 350m) and Curtain Call (IV W16 125m) in thirteen hours

Kevin Mahoney arrived in Canmore in late November, 2002 Kevin is a talented climber from New Hampshire who has done a lot of climbing in Alaska—-a lot of it hard and a lot of it fast. He did the second ascent of the Slovak Route (a.k.a. the Czech Direct) on Denali with Ben Gilmore in 2000. Later on, he’d had to stomach unprovoked criticism from the Brotherhood after Scott Backes, Steve House and Mark Twight did the third ascent in a sixty-hour push. When Howse Peak was put on Kevin’s plate, he dug in.

We had three potential objectives. The "magic line" is a 250-meter smear that leads into the leftmost gully of the upper pyramid of Howse Peak. The ice never touches down, and overhanging drytooling is the entrance exam. It remains unclimbed. Option two was a steep line to the right of M16. Option three, M16.

We planned to be on the face for three days. Gear and food were carefully laid out on the garage floor.

"What do you guys think of the rack?" Will asked.

"Let's leave some pins," I said. Kevin looked at Will.

I hate carrying sh#t. I went back in the house and looked at the M16 route description again. "Rack: Full set of cams, full set of stoppers, ten to fourteen pitons including six knifeblades, ten to twelve ice screws of all lengths including stubbies, jumars, etriers and ‘No bolts!’"

Fine then. Big rack. Steve House had told Kevin that they left most of it on the face getting out of there. We’d probably need it too. I grudgingly grabbed my portion—the screws, half the draws, a few pins and ten eight-mil self-drives with ultralight hangers—and threw it in my pack.

When the shopping list grew to include bolts, I considered not going. I knew that if we placed a bolt up there, I’d hate it as much as Barry and Kevin Doyle hate the bolt Kevin placed on the Andromeda Strain. Taking bolts seemed as silly as standing by a puddle while the Brotherhood drove a bus toward it. But I had never been a proponent either way, so why the sudden burst of righteousness?

I put the bolts in the very bottom of my pack. In my mind I was the guardian and could decide whether or not they came out. Over the next three days, I would entertain the idea of accidentally dropping them. I hated them as much for their weight as for the credibility they would rob from us if they were placed. Fifteen minutes of tap-tap-tapping was all the motivation the Brothers would need to shout to the rooftops.

Three years in the mountains had taught me how to move, but growing up in a wheat field hadn’t prepared me for an 1100-meter face. It would have been impossible to explain to relatives in Saskatchewan. Climbing was what you did to get up the ladder to the loft of the barn; winter was for riding a toboggan behind a snow machine; camping was done out of an RV with beers in a nearby cooler. As we approached Howse Peak, though, neither Will nor Kevin showed any hesitation, so neither did I.

By midday on day two, we were above the lower slopes and had climbed two time-consuming pitches of horrendous snow/ice. My education was in full swing. I had learned that getting up at an ungodly hour is a good idea, that my favorite piece of gear is a ringing baby angle and that if you wanna eat, it’s a good idea to bring a bowl and spoon.

As we followed Kevin's tracks toward the crux cliff band, I looked up to my left and saw it: the mighty M16. I stopped plodding and scanned it like the Terminator looking for Sarah Connor. My hands didn't tremble, but my brow knit so hard I've still got the wrinkle. What was WI4 on the first ascent was now a clear varnish of verglas over black limestone. The WI5 pitch was partially hidden behind rock. And way up there, high in the sky, was The Pitch. Barry had said that there were, perhaps, ten men in the world who could have led that pitch without breaking it, without falling. I wondered if any of them lived in New Hampshire, or Canmore.

I grabbed the rack from Kevin and moved farther up the slope. Option number one, the magic line, reminded me of donut glaze. Probably brittle. Definitely screwless. Some other time, I thought. Option number two, the steep 120-meter smear to the right of M16, loomed over us. The first half was thin, a meter wide and ended with a vertical curtain before sneaking in behind a pillar. The pillar poured from an overhang and stood proud for five meters. Above, the smear continued and stopped below a groove.

I pounded in a big angle and a Spectre and nested them to two crappy stubbies. I took a photo of my handiwork, as much because it was the first Spectre and tenth piton I had ever placed as for the fact that it would have held a fall.

Kevin and I decided the new world order of winter grading while Will went up on pitch number three. For Will, the "F*#k that, I'm sending," element runs deep. After an hour and a half, he was stemming between the rock and the pillar, trying to get a belay in compact, black limestone. The gear was decorative at best. I waited for my moment of truth. "Send up the bolts!" would force me to make a decision. The ring of a piton delayed my conflict. Will climbed higher, arched his back and pounded pins into the roof. He finished it off with a screw into the vibrating pillar.

The advantage of climbing with equal partners is that everyone can lead every pitch. The disadvantage is that everyone wants to. From the bottom of the middle snowfield, it looked like the disappearing ice and the groove would be the crux. No one mentioned it, but the pregnant silence was enough to say what we all were thinking.

"I wouldn't mind leading the next one," Kevin said, as he and I simulclimbed up to Will's belay. I piped up. "Me too!"

Other climbers benefit from divine intervention. God knows who should be on the sharp end so He puts all the hard pitches on the appropriate blocks. We weren't similarly blessed, so we did it the old-fashioned way. We all said we wanted it, but Will had most of the rack, was tied into both ropes and tends to be quite assertive.

Kevin belayed, and I, being most qualified from experience, sorted Will's belay cluster. The rope fed out quickly while there was real ice to swing at, but soon slowed to a creep. Kevin and I talked for awhile about how stubbies had ruined mythology, but stopped as the shivering worsened and our legs went numb.

In late October 2002, before Steve House jumped in his car to make the long drive from Mazama to Canmore, his well-caffeinated fingers initiated a cyberdiscussion on whether or not sport mixed climbing would have any impact on alpine climbing. By the time he parked his white CRV in front of Barry's place, in-boxes across North America were full. Response ranged wide. Mark Twight wrote convincingly on developing "mental muscle." Geoff Powter started his hilarious, Hastonesque contribution with, "Everybody sucks but me." Michael Gilbert quoted Shakespeare. And Steve signed his original e-mail with "T - A = 0."

We dangled there under the roof while Will led a seventy-meter pitch of detached snow/ice into a mushroom-filled rock groove with no good gear. He faced twenty-meter falls and battled for two and a half hour, so I had some time to think.

As much as I didn’t want bolts with us, I wouldn’t have been on Howse Peak without having clipped hundreds before. Like most M-climbers, several seasons of clip-ups had steepened my learning curve and restructured my perceptions of winter terrain. "Steep ice" had become an oxymoron, verglas was a welcome tool stabilizer and burning through eight picks a season had made me comfortable with the funky, the thin and the wobbly.

There is another perspective, one championed by the Brotherhood, that looks through the eye of the hurricane. A climber is defined by how calm (and functional) he can remain in the face of danger. The "lethal art" argument cites bushido, the warrior code of the samurai, as its foundation. Piolets are traded for katanas, crampons for tabi boots. The severity of the consequences determines the value of the action.

But the lethal art analogy has two major flaws. First, the jeopardy of battle is a function of the skill of the swordsman. The greater the skill of the samurai, the more skilled his opponent must be to be considered deadly. For me, 5.11X may be the gateway to enlightenment. For Leo Houlding, it’s piss. Dangerous and hard are no longer synonyms. Second, before samurai went into battle, they trained for years in dojos with wooden swords. A controlled environment allowed them to hone their skills until they were adequately prepared for battle.

Human development has not changed. Sophistication of technique only happens in an unthreatening atmosphere. Applied properly, bolts and the crag environment are the dojo of the twenty-first century. Above all, if fair-means climbing is the goal, both the mental and physical elements must be trained to ensure genuine progress. Avoiding one undermines advances in the other. A lopsided climber is either withered by mental atrophy as his biceps bulge, or, as his biceps shrink, he is doomed to repeat the same dangerous pitches year after year. Climbers of the future will wield both swords, the wooden and the steel.

"You think too much," Kevin said.

Very true, I thought.

"HHNNNAH!" Will yelled.

"WHAAAT?" Kevin screamed. No answer.

"HHNNNAH"

"OFF BELAY!" Kevin yelled, but kept him on until the ropes starting moving.

"Jesus. Good work, Will," I said as I neared the top of the fourth pitch. We were right; the ice ended below the groove. A curious hold that resembled a deck of cards was a key part of the crux drytool sequence. Will had had to clean mushrooms out of the groove as he went. His last gear was more than ten meters below. The groove continued with marginal gear for twelve meters to the belay. As I got close to him, I could see that he was whole-body vibrating. There wasn't any espresso, Nicorette or Red Bull within 200 kilometers, so I assumed he was hypothermic.

"D-d-dude. You k-k-kept your p-p-pack on?" Will said.

"You're sick," Kevin told Will as he clipped in to the belay.

"If I never have to lead something like that a-g-g-gain," Will said, "I'll be hap-p-py."

We spent the next hour shivering as Kevin led off into the night. "Don't climb anything you can't down climb," I said as he took off. Will was soaked from drytooling through the steep snow mushrooms, and I wanted my sleeping bag.

Knowing that the traverse ledge was so close made for a difficult decision. What we thought was going to be a low-angle snow groove was surprisingly steep. The top of the snow groove was sheltered from the pounding spindrift, and a magical combination of wind and water content had plastered thirty centimeters of powdery fluff to 5.7 rock. After a valiant effort at technical wallowing with no end in head-lamp sight, Kevin made the right call and came back down.

I thought of Barry's M16 article from the CAJ. "I worked the stove in agony, knowing that retreating would relegate the greatest pitch I'd seen in twenty years of alpine climbing to the catacombs of history." Barry, Scott and Steve decided to continue through a savage storm to salvage Steve's pitch. When a twelve-meter cornice blocked their exit onto the ridge, they turned to descend. On the way down, Barry was hit by a falling snow mushroom that ripped his pack from his shoulders. Blinded and disoriented, Barry thought he was tumbling down the face. "In reality I was snap-tight to my leash, rag-dolling in the surge and hanging from Scotty's beautiful bent and overdriven piton."

I had no idea where Will's pitch would stand in the annals of alpine history, but I didn't want to throw it away. I've belayed him on M12 and seen him fly up seventy meters of rotten WI6 in twenty minutes. Pitch four just added to the list. I didn't want the risk and effort to go unrecognized. But the first tier of Abraham Maslow's psychological hierarchy of needs stresses food, shelter and warmth. The later it got, the more our focus shifted from making a statement to decreasing the gap between wanting a sleeping bag and being in one.

"That's definitely the hardest pitch I've ever seen alpine climbing," Kevin said in the truck on the way home the next day.

Will and I started to laugh.

I ran into Barry outside his house as I walked downtown to get groceries.

"Hey, how's it goin'?" he asked.

"Good. Whatcha been up to?"

"Oh, doin' some safety and instructional work on a commercial. You?"

"Not much," I said.

I didn't say we had just tried Howse. I didn't say I'd taken a photo of M16. I'd seen The Pitch, but I hadn't been on it. The idea of saying "we tried" felt lame.

I ran into him a few days later at The Summit Café.

"Hey, man! I heard you were out impersonating an alpinist!" Barry said with a good natured smile. "Cool! I didn't know you'd been up there when I saw you the other day."

I tried to read into the grin, the Santa-Clause-meets-Beelzebub laugh and the big belt buckle that says "Bubba." Me: a speed ascent, a link-up and two new mixed routes in the Bugs. Barry: the first ascent of Andromeda Strain, the North Ridge of Rakaposhi, the North Pillar of North Twin, the West Ridge of Everest, the Nanga Parbat epic, a solo of the north face of Kusum Kanguru, the Infinite Spur on Mt. Foraker, Striving for the Moon on Mt. Temple, the North Face of Howse Peak in 1988, M16 in 1999. Cowboy boots. A long mane that starts gray and ends black.

"And I heard about the bowl," he said, with a nerve-racking chuckle.

I laughed too. I was proud that a bowl and spoon had never occurred to me.

"I use a cut-off, plastic bladder," he said. "Everything collapsible: bowl, cup, fuel bottle, everything."

"Cool. Thanks for the beta."

Turning around nagged at me. Were we justified or just uncomfortable? With a blazing furnace and a full fridge, I soon forgot the uncertainty, the shivering and the run-outs.

"I'm starting to wonder if we should go back," Will said, obviously on the same page.

I quickly wrote a long e-mail with the reasons we should go and the strategy we should us: "The face has no line to the summit (or the ridge for that matter). Snow conditions are great. The ice up there may never improve. We know exactly where to go, where to belay and what gear to use. We can break pitch four into two to lessen it physically and mentally. Most importantly, if we don't go now, time could erase from our minds the subtle details that'll make us fast. AND: bolts. I don't think we should take them. I'm not getting infected, but I think that comparisons will invariably be made−and it would be all the ammunition 'they' need."

I lied about not getting infected. Discussions with Barry and Steve had done more than unclench my fist. The wall had cracked, and I was curious what was on the other side. If a dragon guards the treasure, it's less likely to be stolen. Take away the dragon and it's no longer treasure.

Will wanted to be off the face early Saturday at the latest. He was in the running to win a local indoor-bouldering series and didn’t want to miss the final event.

"I’m not bailing for a bouldering comp," I said.

"By that time we’ll either have succeeded or failed, so it won’t matter anyway." Unless we end up bivying a pitch below the summit on Friday night, I thought.

We left the bolts behind at 5:30 a.m. on December 5. A few hours from the truck and we were across the lake and up the glacier, snugging up harnesses and snapping on crampons. Stopping meant shivering. Despite a solid approach, my hands were numb. Alpine climbing sucks, I thought. We barely spoke.

On our first attempt the first pitch consisted of dry, detached snow/ice. Crampon placements were academic; tools had to be equalized. Seven days later it was worse. Every tool tap knocked something off, and every tested tool sheared. After nervously fetching around trying to find a decent placement (while I wondered how much stretch there would be in two, twelve-meter lengths of 8.1-mil half rope if he fell), Will did what any modern mixed climber would do: he made a well-placed swing, and the wobbling curtain sheared off. Behind the ice was an arching M7 torque crack that led into a series of positive edges. You could almost hear the, "Oh yeah! Drytooling!" that echoed inside our skulls. All three of us exhaled at the same time.

The torque crack was harder and steeper than the crappy ice we had climbed a week earlier, so we defaulted to the necessary evil of hauling packs. I climbed up, clipped into Will’s anchor, untied and took over belaying. Will clipped the packs in, grabbed the free rope and shot up the slope to Pitch 2. For the snow, we abandoned the simulclimbing we’d used on our first attempt and soloed instead.

Judging from Barry’s slides, the second pitch was different than it had been in 1999. Steve had climbed the left-hand of two smears. We only had one option: the top of the right-hand line flowed into the bottom of the left. The ice, like that on the first pitch, was thinner and more detached than a week before. Rock gaps−where we had kicked off the ice on rappel−required some drytooling and long lock-offs to pass. Will made short work of it. Kevin and I seconded the pitch together, lifting out Will's handful of pieces along the way. With Kevin above me and my tools in some decent ice, I frontpointed a rock edge and gave the detached plate a normal kick at its anchor point. The pool table-sized sheet Will had been hanging on ripped off and tumbled down the slope.

We moved up the middle snow slope, and Will untied as Kevin and I kept climbing. Will volunteered to be the bivy architect while Kevin dealt with the "ice" pitches three and four.

"You mind if I take the next one?" I asked.

"No, go for it," Kevin said.

The best pitches blend challenging climbing with runout, suspect gear. It's a magic margin where the first line of defense is movement skills and protection offers a questionable backup. The closer the pitch can come to the line without going over it, the more rewarding it is. I place eight pieces in seventy meters; three of them would have held a fall. Intermediate tool placements and long lock-offs were required between better sticks.

It started to snow. I gritted my teeth and started belaying Kevin. Failing once is educational. Failing twice makes for a good reason to smash a television. My hips and back had just started to protest as Kevin arrived. "Nice work," he said.

We had discussed breaking up pitch four. I told Kevin I didn't care, but secretly hoped he'd cut it short. Will was content never to lead that pitch again, but both Kevin and I were chomping at the bit.

Kevin Mahoney just keeps going. He swings, scratches, and if it's good, pulls. And swears. We both suffer from strain-induced Tourette's Syndrome. When the going gets tough, the tough curse. I grinned while Kevin condemned the terrain.

Like the week before, the rope fed out quickly while there was real ice to swing at, but soon slowed to a creep. I pulled my parka zipper tight around throat and curled in to belay. Down below, a frequent powder cloud burst from inside the snow slope. Will was doing his best impression of a golden retriever going after a gopher. I shifted from one side to the other, letting one leg recover while the other went numb.

Kevin yelled from the upper anchor after an hour and a half. The snow had stopped, and light spindrift cascaded over the entire wall as I rapped down to the Hound Dog Hilton. Kevin crawled in shortly after I did: a skinny half rope hung from each pitch above. The perfect spindrift machine−loose snow, light wind and the shallow backside of Howse Peak−went to work all night. We brewed, ate fat, and Will and Kevin went to sleep. I put a hot water bottle between my legs and "new sleeping bag" on my list.

I led out in the early morning black and moved onto the first anchor to clean the line and claim some gear for the upper pitches while Will and Kevin continued up. We were reclimbing pitches three and four, trailing Tiblocs for self-belays. It was fast, but how much of a belay it offered I wasn't sure.* Halfway up the fourth pitch, I waited. The orange warmth I had envied the day before was, for a few minutes, mine. I looked down to the spot on the road from where I had looked up many times. Note to self: "Do more alpine climbing."


* The Tibloc is an ascender intended for emergency use only and is not designed to catch falls. The use of a 10-mil rope minimum is recommended if there is any risk of a fall.−Ed.


"Off!" Will yelled from above.

When I got to Will, he was on belay and ready to go. I clipped one piece, passed the gear and started cleaning the anchor to rap status as he left. By caterpilling, we moved almost as fast as simulclimbing, but setup our rap anchors ahead of time. Will took over from Kevin midway up the exit gully, and I from Will for the finish.

Instead of groveling through the cornice in the main gully, Will had chosen a steeper, more direct line to the left. When the M16 crew was in the gully in 1999, they said the cornice overhung by twelve meters. They had gone as far as they could to salvage The Pitch, but faced with the cornice, they turned around. Months later, Steve House wrote an article about the climb in Rock & Ice. His final words were: "We finished the route. None of us are wanting."

The final pitch was a rock groove covered in deep, faceted snow. My frontpoints sunk through sugar until they caught on rock. I stood up and dragged tools and hands through snow until they snagged. I found a couple of decent pins on the way and bashed a nut into a flaring crack just before the cornice.

A weakness broke the smooth elegance of the cornice’s underbelly. I punched at it with a tool and the snow powdered away, revealing a one-meter hollow. I groveled my way in, stemming with a foot on rock and my opposite hip on a wind-packed blob of snow, then punched a hole in the ceiling and stuck my head through. Suddenly, I wished I had my sunglasses. The sun glared off of snow, black limestone and the thick cloud that filled the Howse River Valley below.

I was on a narrow prow. On the other side thirty meters of air dropped into the next gully. I squirmed out of the hole and stood on top, plunged my axes and started walking down toward the clouds. "CLIMB WITH ME!" I screamed back down the hole. I kept the ropes tight as Kevin and Will seconded the last pitch.

We summited at 2 p.m. Five hours, fifteen rappels and a thousand plunge steps later, we were boot-skating across Chephren Lake, eerily looking through the ice by headlamp. Will and Kevin chattered like two twelve-year-old boys talking about the new girl in class. I smiled and thought about the scalding shower and the clean sheets that were waiting for me at home.

Climbing isn't a performance art, but talking about it is. My impression of the importance of our route, Howse of Cards (VI M7- WI6 X, 1065m), grew out of the number and scope of the congratulations we received. E-mails from climbers I'd only read about and comparisons to famous routes I'd never seen made me wonder: Would we fall into the same trap that previous parties had? Howse Peak Lesson #4386: "Beware the intoxication of an adventurous accomplishment."

Howse Peak was spectacular, inspiring—and less than I expected. After the fuss over M16, I expected to be convinced that WI7 existed, to see God or to shatter my mind and run away in terror. I learned more in five days of climbing than I have in whole seasons, but at it most basic, the route had been a fun, challenging project with two friends. Surprisingly, I didn’t discover the meaning of life and I didn’t burst into flame. I just smiled.

I ran into Barry several times in the following weeks. Christmas parties and a self-congratulatory slideshow conspired to put us face to face. "At any other time in my life I would have turned around," he said one night about the blizzard they had climbed through. "And you know, there’s another meaning to M16."

I raised my eyebrows, tightened my grip on my beer bottle and leaned in to hear.

"The only way you get a guy over forty to climb hard," he said, laughing, "is by putting a gun to his head."

Will and I made it to the bouldering comp on Saturday. I felt like a zombie: content and useless. I paid more attention to the spandex landscape than to the subtleties of crimpers. Will did well enough to win the series overall.

"I’m up next," I said to an over-eager fifteen-year-old, butting in line for problem number twenty-five.

"Do you mind if I go?" he asked. "I wanna send it before the time’s up."

My lip curled. He fell off. I sent the problem; as I snagged the final hold, I looked down.

"DO YOU KNOW WHERE I SPENT THE LAST TWO DAYS, KID?" I imagined screaming into his young, cocky face. "YOU DON’T HAVE A CLUE!"

I smiled. I felt like an alpinist.
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 8, 2018 - 12:55am PT
Many thanks Ed.

I know only too well how long this kind of thing can take.

Reproducing quality articles like this is, for me, what Supertopo is all about. Long may it last.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Dec 8, 2018 - 03:19am PT
Thanks, Ed - I enjoyed reading that from the safety of my chair. :-)
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Dec 8, 2018 - 03:42am PT
"The only way you get a guy over forty to climb hard," he said, laughing, "is by putting a gun to his head."
Definitely under the influence...

Good job, Doc. Thanks.

Happy Cowboy

Social climber
Boz MT
Dec 8, 2018 - 05:55am PT
Thanks Avery and Ed for the interesting post. I remember first hearing of House peak from George Lowe after his ascent in the early 70’s with Jock. I worked at a small shop “Timberline Sports” in SLC that he was a part owner in. He described a variety of climbing that was very involved, often on cross, and he loved it. I was 10 years younger but remember it as an important feat in George’s Alpine legacy.
telemon01

Trad climber
Montana
Dec 8, 2018 - 06:24am PT
thanks for posting all that great content Ed!
Sewellymon

climber
.....in a single wide......
Dec 8, 2018 - 07:48am PT
Tremendous read. Thanks Ed (and Avery!).

Larry Nelson

Social climber
Dec 8, 2018 - 09:03am PT
Thanks Ed, for your post of the article.
Ed Hartouni

Trad climber
Livermore, CA
Dec 8, 2018 - 10:39am PT
from the seventh edition (1979) of The Rocky Mountains of Canada South G. W. Boles, R. Kruszyna, W. L. Putnam, pages 390 and 391


4. NE Buttress,
Aug 1967; K Baker, L MacKay, D Vockeroth.
Follow S shore of Chephren Lake to E moraine. Move W across glacier and scramble up 300m of easy ledges to grey bands. Climb up several pitches to white bulge, traverse right and downwards 60m; then up 60m of good cracks. Up scree ledges to base of large gully, gain gully from the left, climb it, then exit left on ice and gritty slabs to ridge. Follow separated ridge 450m top of yellow band, move 60m right on scree ledges, then up a break in black rock (some aid used). Go 10m right, then climb a yellow chimney (5.7), bear right to airy ridge. Climb 120m of good rock then up and right to exit gully. Follow corniced ridge to summit; 1125m, 5.7, A1, bivouac, 20 pitons necessary (2 must be thin) and assorted nuts (CAJ 53-36).
Variant; J Glidden, G H Low.
Below yellow band, traverse S into central gully of E face. Ascend 90m to top of yellow band (very rotten) and traverse back to right (N). Climb black slabby face, then broken grey rock, keeping just S of buttress crest. Where angle eases climb towards crest. Near summit ice mushroom may force move to S of crest line again, with summit attained by chopping through cornice. Bivouac likely; ice axe and crampons necessary. Cable crossing at Mile 51 on highway (CAJ 57-84).

Credit: Ed Cooper
Ghost

climber
A long way from where I started
Dec 8, 2018 - 11:13am PT
My interest in the Canadian Rockies started when I 'joined' supertopo. That's around twenty years after I retired from climbing.

Avery, if you are interested in the climbing history of the Canadian Rockies, you should pick up a copy of "The Canadian Mountaineering Anthology."

It was Bruce Fairley's idea, and he was the lead editor, with Moira Irving co-editing. She died early in the project and I came aboard at that point. We gathered what we felt were the key stories that would represent the entire history of Canadian climbing. Everything from the first climbs in the Rockies, right through to the present (1994 was the present, then).

It's readily available through Amazon (used or new -- get a used copy of the original hardback if you can find one).

Cheers
Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 8, 2018 - 02:03pm PT
Thanks for the tip, Ghost

Avery

climber
New Zealand
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 9, 2018 - 02:19am PT
Here's a few more photos from the climb.

Credit: Gadd/Semple/Mahoney
Credit: Gadd/Semple/Mahoney
Credit: Gadd/Semple/Mahoney
Credit: Gadd/Semple/Mahoney
Credit: Gadd/Semple/Mahoney
Credit: Gadd/Semple/Mahoney
Credit: Gadd/Semple/Mahoney
Credit: Gadd/Semple/Mahoney

Thanks to Will Gadd
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