Trip Report
Ben Horne Memorial Climb - Evolution Traverse (Car to Car)
Wednesday September 4, 2013 10:51pm
Ben Horne

Ben was no ordinary guy. He was passionate, driven, and multidimensional. Aside from climbing mountains he was a graduate student at UCSD, ran ultra-marathons, loved music, traveled the world, and believed in god. I was lucky to meet Ben back in 2011 while we ate at one of Talkeetna’s restaurants. I was trying to re-gain some of the weight I lost on Denali, and he was trying to fill up the tank before flying onto the glacier himself. Back then I was more into peak bagging, which I had picked up a year and a half before climbing Denali. On the sharp end 5.7+ was my limit, and sleepless nights preceded any climb that had more than two pitches. It did not stop Ben from proposing we exchange emails and climb something in the future.


Ben, parents, and his silver belt after finishing Western States 100 run


Ben after climbing Mt. Whitney from Bedwater! Photo by his friend and partner Andre.

When Ben got back from Alaska, I emailed him my resume. It was headlined by the Regular Route on Fairview Dome (grade III 5.9) – longest trad climb I had done until then. In rock climbing, a grade III route would take most parties half a day, a grade IV route would take a full day, grade V usually would take more than a day, where as a grade VI would take competent climbers multiple days to complete. He proposed we climb Dark Star V and Sun Ribbon IV – two long classic and tough routes on Temple Crag. Ben was different than majority of people I had climbed with. He believed in, “the idea of magnificent failure rather than a mediocre success.” Climbs that he was after did not involve guaranteed success. I thought it was a bit risky to attempt two long 5.10 routes with a inexperienced climber, but we had a great time and succeeded on objectives. His rock climbing skills were honed and his endurance seemed unlimited. Often he would solo terrain I would have trouble leading and would give me a belay from above. That outing left me wrecked, but got me excited about climbing technical mountain faces instead of easy scrambling to bag summits. Next week I went after North Arete of Bear Creek Spire and led the 5.10 variation on it. “Maybe Ben will climb with me again after all.”


Ben crack climbing in Indian Creek

Even though we were not best friends, relatives, or neighbors, Ben’s beliefs and actions in the alpine influenced me in many ways. Maybe he was not Alex Honnold or Chris Sharma to your average mainstream climber, he was not only a friend, but also a big inspiration to me. We often would chat and I came out to his last run before he left for Peru. Like everything else he was after, his last ultra was a real challenge - Western States 100. He recorded his fastest time for a 100 mile race, which earned him a silver buckle. When he was overdue from his climb I had no doubt he would return safely; he was the strongest climber I knew, it would be impossible for him to get hurt. Unfortunately after several days of search Ben’s and Gil’s bodies were found. They climbed a new route on one of the mountains in the Cordillera Blanca and due to a collapsed cornice plunged to their deaths while descending. I could not accept this outcome but after a few days of resistance my emotions took over and for the first time in years I cried.


When climbing was fun. On the Golden Triangle


First rays of sun

Picking a Climb

Since Ben made a difference in my life I wanted to dedicate a climb to his memory. Ben went after big objectives, so I wanted to dedicate a big route to his name.
The Evolution traverse was one of his favorites. He attempted to climb it in a push during summer, before succeeding on a multiple-day first winter ascent (read about what it meant to him). This climb was also significant because its first ascent was done by Peter Croft – climber who Ben looked up to. Supposedly it took Peter three attempts before he completed the ridge traverse in fifteen hours. After multiple people climbed the route and posted their reports online it became much more popular and regarded as the "TO DO" ridge traverse in the United States. Even though there were a few camp-to-camp ascents (which still take three to four days car to car – one to approach, one to acclimate, one to climb, and one to hike out), the majority of people take a day to approach, three days to climb, and another day to hike out . Estimated total round trip stats are 34-35 miles with about 15,000-16,000 ft of vertical elevation gain, all at high elevation with much of it at 13,000 ft.


Looking down the first 5.6 crack


Looking back at Mt. Darwin's summit block

A year or so back I wondered if it is possible for a human to climb the Evolution traverse car to car. I heard of an attempt that took 18 hours to complete first three peaks of the traverse. Back than I did not consider climbing it solo, and did not even dream about a car to car ascent. As time went by my curiosity evolved into a strong desire to try it. During my last two weeks in Peru I became fixed on this goal. Since I had not climbed this route I tried to find as much information about it as possible. I spent my free time obsessing over every segment, wondering if my body could handle so much exertion, if exposure and technical difficulties would be too much for my abilities, debating about gear, number of calories, amount of water and clothing I should carry. I must have sent a hundred emails to my friend Michelle, and even though she patiently answered the truth is no one can prepare you for nine miles of ridge traversing. There are a few major landmarks, but aside from those each climber must find his own path.

Inner Battle

My logic told me I had no business attempting to solo Evolution Traverse car to car. For one, I had never hiked much over 20 miles in a day and never gained more than 10,000 ft. My solo experiences are limited to soloing Tenaya peak, Emerson, Laurel Mountain, and an outing to Wells Peak where Michelle and I soloed the majority of the route we found. On the other hand, earlier this summer I did onsight Positive Vibrations on the Incredible Hulk and knew there were mortals who were able to complete the Evolution traverse camp-to-camp. On top of that all I had to do was hike in and hike out, which is only about 25 miles with 5,500+ feet of elevation gain. People can tolerate physical exertion that is much more impressive than that. Hiking is my strength, and in addition I was acclimated after climbing several 6000 M peaks in Peru.


View of Darwin from Mt. Mendel


For some reason I took I dive on the way to Darwin..my back was MUCH worse than my hand.

What stopped me from finding an easy way out was pure excitement and deep desire to climb. I wanted to get on this route for a few years. I did not have more than two days to try it with a partner, and I was not willing to wait for another year. Even though I had no idea if my body would break down, or if fear would force me to quit, I decided to take it one peak at a time and go for it. From the second I stepped out of my car I felt good about it because my mind was in the right place – driven by excitement, not by negative events in my personal life, and not by desire to impress others. In addition, this was a good setting to connect with Ben and see what his favorite climb was like. He wasn't going to come in person, but I expected him to be around in spirit. Before the climb I knew thoughts of Ben's 100 mile runs and winter ascents would help me fight my own insecurities and self-doubts.


Ben loved Polemoniums, so I made sure to find some


I met JD in Peru and we briefly talked about how possible c2c of Evo would be.

The Climb

As someone from the Bay Area it always seems like my climbs begin right after work with a fierce two-hour 5.10R traffic pitch. Around 9 PM I arrived at the trailhead. Even though I had time to catch a few hours of sleep, I couldn’t do it. I lay in the back of my car with my eyes closed but my inner battle raging:

“You could get a full night of sleep and run up Emerson. You can’t do Evolution, why are you even considering it?”
“Look at people who onsight solo the ridge – Alex Honnold, Matt Samet. Who are you? You are an internet wanker.”
“Evolution Ridge is 9,000 ft of technical climbing; you have done that maybe twice in your life but on trails!.”


Summit block of Mt. Darwin



Ridge seen from Darwin. It goes straight for a ways, than turns right, and hooks back towards me. Smoke on the left.
Around midnight I had enough and decided to depart earlier. By 12:30 am I was hiking up the trail. I felt good and kept my hiking speed up all the way to Darwin Bench where I arrived three hours and fifteen minutes after leaving my car. Stuffing my mouth with food I filled up my containers with three liters of water and headed up Mt. Gould. Traversing over false summits took me time, but I knew they were there and did not get ticked off by their existence. There were a few rappel stations, however I was able to find decent down-climbs. At a high point I found a summit register and signed it. From Gould the route finding becomes more complicated and you have to pass around a few gendarmes on the way to Mt. Mendel. My goal was to be on the summit of Gould at dawn so I could see the path to Mendel more clearly, but since I was ahead of the schedule I couldn't complain!


Classic view of the Golden Triangle


View of Haeckel from a smaller peak prior


Climbed up this orange wall to begin NW ridge of Haeckel - super fun!

When I got to the first headwall I found the 5.6 crack people mention in most reports. It is one of the key landmarks on the route. Through the majority of the Evolution traverse it was not difficult to route-find since the route usually follows the crest. Even when things looked desperate the climbing did not get harder than 5.7 or 5.8. On my way to Mendel I climbed two more significant hand cracks. One of them was mentioned as “5.9” in the first Pullharder trip report, and the other was much harder than the other two. Since I did not hear about anyone climbing the more difficult crack on previous ascents, I was likely off the easiest path. Final down-climb into a notch formed by Mendel Right ice couloir, a big step across, and I was minutes away from the summit of Mt. Mendel . By than the sun was hitting Mt. Darwin and I was able to re-warm my hands. The Majority of scrambling to Mt. Darwin was rarely harder than class 3. But on one of the down climbs I managed to sprain my ankle. And on another down climb my foot slipped on loose rock and with elephant’s elegance I fell on my back. It took my breath away and I felt blood underneath my shirt. It took some time to recover and after I remembered “honey badger don’t care,” I continued my journey.


Haeckel from 13,332. Smoke all around.


13,332 from below


First chossy down climb from Darwin

I took a small food break on the summit block of Mt. Darwin. Aside from being a cool scramble, it has great views of the ridge.The traverse to peak 13,332 is considered the crux of the Evolution traverse by many. After completing the climb I would like to disagree and note the crux is the size. Difficulties keep you engaged all day. The only cruiser sections were from Mt. Mendel to Darwin despite a 5.8 down climb, and from Haeckel to Wallace. Every other section had climbing that demands concentration. In addition, the last three peaks on the traverse take much longer to complete than I expected.


Looking Back at Mendel, Darwin, 13,332 and Haeckel (left to right)


It was great to actually witness this

I was able to down-climb the first 5.8 loose chimney from Darwin but decided to rappel the second. I rappelled twice more on my way to 13,332. Highlight here was the golden triangle, which was as cool as online photos show. Area of a grey slab provided a bit more excitement, and a crack/chimney I took up as I neared the summit gave me a fine dose of adrenaline. The climbing was exposed and the holds were solid. From the top of 13,332 I took no breaks and headed straight for Haeckel. I had plenty of water and decided to keep to the ridge which continued to deliver. Good granite with easy scrambling got me close to Haeckel’s NW aręte. By then I was hitting a wall and stopped for a break. While eating and drinking I checked out the ridge ahead. I was stunned. It looked incredibly long and there seemed to be no way I could finish it, at least not in the same day. By my time estimates I was doing very well and I reminded myself to take it one peak at a time. Next up was Mt. Haeckel! Its classic NW aręte was an easy climb and did not take long to scramble. Route finding here was incredibly straightforward. To my surprise a hand-hold broke as I was climbing up the orange summit headwall. Since I am a chicken at soloing I was testing holds and maintained contact with three points when it happened. It saved my life.

When I got close to topping Haeckel I came up behind another climber and according to his words, “scared the sh#t out of [him].” Turned out it was Patrick- a climber I met on one of the trips with Bay Area Mountaineering meetup group. Taking only a few photos, and exchanging a few words I hurried towards the next peak. Here I saved some time by traversing easier terrain to the east of the crest. Finally I got a small break from exposure.


Huxley


Cool handcrack on Huxley with light fading. Curvy crack seen above it.

On top of the next bump after Wallace I found a summit register and assumed it was Fiske. In reality Fiske was a long way away and took much more time and route finding than I expected. The sustained nature of scrambling on the crest was also a surprise since the crux was supposedly behind me. After a deep notch and some jaw-dropping climbing on the ridge I got closer to Warlow. By then I was really annoyed that in front of me were four distinct peaks and I did not know which ones I had to summit. To avoid any post climb remorse I topped all of them. While signing the register on top of Mt. Warlow I took off my harness and placed it next to me. I took out a snack and accidentally pushed the harness into a crack. It got pulled right in by the weight of my belay device and my hand did not fit far enough to rescue the damn thing. After a round of cursing I continued towards Huxley – last peak on traverse. The sun was nearing the horizon and I decided to jog. With improved pace I climbed majority of the peak in daylight getting past a cool hand crack. Right after a hand-crack there was a curvy fist crack that had me pulling a few difficult moves with incredible exposure. Soon after that it got dark and I wasn’t able to enjoy a beautiful sunset from the top. However I did enjoy the rest of the climbing, which was not at all easy.



When I reached the summit and signed the register I noticed it took me just under twenty hours to get here from my car. Even though that sounds like a lot, to me it was a major victory. From here I only had to hike out. It was another fifteen to sixteen miles with about 2000-2,500 ft of elevation gain, most of it on good trails. Since first ten miles took me just over three hours, and I was planning to jog the down-hill terrain I was expecting to return around twenty four hours after leaving. I totally under-estimated how fatigued I was. On my way down from Huxley it was painful to contract and extend my leg muscles. On the John Muir Trail I made okay time, but as I climbed up to Darwin Bench I was moving at a snail’s pace. Turtle’s pace at best. In this report these sections earned only a few sentences, but at the time each step felt like an eternity. I felt like a zombie and even though I had no doubts I would make it back to the car, I was not sure if it was going to happen in the next millennium. For some reason climbing up to Lamarck col felt better than a long walk through Darwin Bench and the subsequent canyon. Every step was painful and in addition to muscle soreness I developed a pressure spot on my heel. This last stretch to the car was a real battle. Seven hours after starting my descent and twenty seven hours after leaving my car I stumbled back. I took off my shoes, dirty clothes, ate a banana and collapsed in the back of my car. After tough outings Ben liked to use a 0-10 “haggard scale” to determine how wasted he was - here I was a solid 9!

Around 11 AM a man knocked on my window to see if I was okay.
“I guess I missed my alpine start! Will take a rest day!”

The Drive back to the Bay Area was much safer with me getting adequate sleep. In order to obtain adequate nutrition I stopped by Jolly Cone for a milkshake and burger. It was a dream come true and for the next few days I felt on top of the world. Then I remembered that other thing I wanted to climb…


Burgers in Bridgeport are good!

Evolution Traverse:
Total: 34-35 miles with 15,000-16,000 ft of elevation gain. 27 hours car to car.

Epilogue:

I would like to re-assure you that Ben deserved every single compliment in this report. He was an exceptional human being. His “never give up” attitude helped me complete my climb, and no doubt will help me on other ascents in the future. I would like to thank his parents for doing a great job raising such an inspirational person.


Ben after climbing Gannett peak

Also, I want to mention that while we praise those who are no longer with us, we often forget those who are. I would like to thank; My parents and friends for support. Michelle Peot for being a good friend and tolerating my obsession with Evolution traverse. Gleb, Bryan and Maxim for all the work outs, eat outs and climbs we have done together! Amy for teaching me to crag! Chad for Birch mountain traverse, hope we have many more like that in the future! Burchy for being a goofball. Anastasia for climbing ice with me! Alix for always being psyched! Last, but not least to Hamik for tolerating my gas, all the suffer-fests, great time in Peru, and finally for correcting mistakes in this report! You all help me grow as a human and inspire me in many ways. But I don’t want to do any other “in memory of” climbs, so PLEASE stay safe.

Even though it took me 27 hours to do this traverse car to car, I believe it could be done much faster. Now that I have done this route I can probably shave off at least a couple of hours myself. I thought it was a great test of overall mountain fitness and I wouldn't be at all surprised if well-rounded mountain climbers make yearly ascents of this ridge car to car. However, it is a beautiful location and if I am back to climb it again I will make sure to spent at least one night camping on the ridge!

In my blog I linked multiple TRs and posts Ben made about his outings. And not only that. Check it out:
http://vividrea1ity.blogspot.com/2013/09/ben-horne-memorial-climb-evolution.html

  Trip Report Views: 4,751
Vitaliy M.
About the Author
Vitaliy M. is annoying gym climber from San Francisco.

Comments
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Comment on this Trip Report
snowhazed

Trad climber
Oaksterdam, CA
  Sep 4, 2013 - 11:02pm PT
thanks man

rock on
klk

Trad climber
cali
  Sep 4, 2013 - 11:19pm PT
nice pix.

the darwin chossdown looks awful.

c2c from sea level? pretty rad.
matlinb

Trad climber
Albuquerque
  Sep 4, 2013 - 11:22pm PT
I enjoy all of your TRs, but this one was the best. Thanks!
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Sep 4, 2013 - 11:26pm PT
Wow, proud Vitaliy!


A great feather in the cap of a great season for you & a very fitting tribute to your friend.

I'd ask you what specific training you did but I think it's obvious- climb lots of big sh#t & avoid outdoor bouldering & sport clipping!

Well done!
Marshall

climber
bay area
  Sep 4, 2013 - 11:27pm PT
really proud, man. thanks for sharing this.
harpo

Trad climber
South Lake Tahoe
  Sep 4, 2013 - 11:31pm PT
Nice report V, I read your Peru reports with pleasure but this one was the only one I could sort of relate to as I am more familiar with the terrain you passed through. You have come a long way since I sold you the ice tools, I think that was your first pair? BTW I think I still have your pillow from our ice climbing trip in the garage.
ontheedgeandscaredtodeath

Social climber
SLO, Ca
  Sep 4, 2013 - 11:47pm PT
Wow. Great tribute to your friend.
ruppell

climber
  Sep 5, 2013 - 12:05am PT
Well done. The whole report reminded me of this quote from Theodore Roosevelt:

"Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those timid spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."
Ian Jewell

climber
  Sep 5, 2013 - 12:24am PT
very fvcking cool , poignant , and inspirational

i have been lately, and am currently in desperate need of this kind of inspiration.

know that by doing this and posting this, you honor your friend in yet another way , by providing hope and spark and life to people you don't even know who happen to really need it.
Ron Anderson

Trad climber
Relic MilkEye and grandpoobah of HBRKRNH
  Sep 5, 2013 - 12:37am PT
SALUTE to Ben and YOU Mr V...
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Sep 5, 2013 - 12:44am PT
Ian, I hope so. Ben inspired me to be better, and I hope to touch others in a similar way with own actions. Hardest part about it all was getting up and starting. I was really intimidated.

Training? To be honest I did not feel in the best shape. In Peru we carried a lot of weight, but through short distances. I was not in my Sierra day-hiking shape. If I was I would have a lot more gas left for the hike out. Also, I actually gained some weight in Peru (WTF?!). BUT, I was used to high altitude and I bet had some extra RBCs in me after 7 weeks there. That must of helped.

ruppell, that quote is great. Will use in the future!

Harpo, we should ice climb this winter. I lost your email, but now I can contact you through ST!
RyanD

climber
Squamish
  Sep 5, 2013 - 12:49am PT
Hey Vitaliy, one more ?

Something that wAsnt included in the TR,
What did you bring for gear/food?

Thanks

Ry
limpingcrab

Trad climber
the middle of CA
  Sep 5, 2013 - 01:26am PT
Daaaang
The Chief

climber
Laughing at all you libo angry ass blinded Sheep
  Sep 5, 2013 - 01:29am PT
Nice Job Kid!!!


IAN!

How you doing these days old amigo????? Still doing the gig I hope.
micronut

Trad climber
Fresno/Clovis, ca
  Sep 5, 2013 - 01:53am PT
Proud day Vitaliy. Its been fun to watch you mature as a climber and writer. An ascent like this is the cumulation of thousands of jams, crimps and slopers stacked on top of eachother over countless days on the stone for you over the past few years. Thats a world class send you just pulled off. Thanks for sharing it with us. I really look forward to hanging out someday.
Have a great Fall season.......and go check out the Leversee Offwidth Near Balch Camp thread......maybe you should come to Fresno in November.


Scott
Degaine

climber
  Sep 5, 2013 - 03:37am PT
Great trip report and fantastic photos! Dare I write inspiring. Thanks for sharing.

I'm sorry about your friend, my sincere condolences.

Cheers.
kaholatingtong

Trad climber
Nevada City
  Sep 5, 2013 - 09:21am PT
some beautiful alpenglow and others nice pics here in a badass TR, cheers.
Delhi Dog

climber
Good Question...
  Sep 5, 2013 - 09:43am PT
Excellent.

Good on you for celebrating and remembering your bud(s) in such a cool way.
A fine friend you must be.

Thanks for sharing.
marty(r)

climber
beneath the valley of ultravegans
  Sep 5, 2013 - 11:36am PT
Sea to summit--what a fitting tribute!
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Sep 5, 2013 - 11:43am PT
Holy schnikes. Props to you Vitaliy. I'll have to take some time to write another post later entitled "Why this is so rad," cause there's a lot. The initial motivation, the resolve, the mental endurance, physical endurance, dealing with the injury, sending the harder bits....it goes on. Feeling a bit miffed about you making my Peak Life Achievement from earlier this summer feel flaccid, however ;-) Kidding. Sorta. nah I'm kidding - this is really inspiring. Psyched to read it again and go back and read some of your recent Peru TRs too.

Visionary stuff happening in the hills this year. I talked to a couple guys recently who tried to link the Evolution traverse with the full Palisade Traverse on the same trip. They might have done it, too, if they hadn't awoken part way through the Palisade and realized "wait a minute, all this crap after Sill is a hideous choss pile...why are we here?", and bailed.


Congratulations. Until substantiations emerges for the rumored 18h ctc time, you are the new proud owner of the FKT!
Alois

Trad climber
Idyllwild, California
  Sep 5, 2013 - 11:49am PT
Great trip bro, and a great tribute to a good man and one hell of a climber. Cheers.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Sep 5, 2013 - 12:02pm PT
Something that wAsnt included in the TR,
What did you bring for gear/food?

That's a secret! jk

For food I brought a Naan and a banana to Darwin bench and ate that before starting. Also ate in the morning before starting, and like 4 hours before that. I tried to over-eat/over-hydrate a bit to have enough calories to burn.
In a zip lock I mixed 2 packets of instant oatmeal, instant chocolate, instant coffee, and some raisins. Had that just before Haeckel. Gave me a big energy boost.
Also had one naan with cheese and one naan with nutella for later. And a variety of bars/energy gels (brought too many), didn’t eat much on the way back.
3 L of water
For gear I brought a 40 M cord for rappelling
1 alpine harness (which is in a crack on the summit of 2nd to last peak)
1 non locker and 1 belay device
1 dyneema draw with a carabiner (my bail gear)
For clothing I had a down sweater and skipped bringing a shell (risky but forecast was favorable and I didn’t want ANY extra weight)

Thank you for so many positive comments!

Steve B, your trip report was great, it gave me more motivation because you guys seemed like mortals and did it camp to camp. When I hear about Alex Honnolds and Peter Crofts I can't really relate, but when other people do big things it gives me hope that it may be semi-possible. I was stepping way out of my comfort zone on this one though.
franky

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
  Sep 5, 2013 - 12:07pm PT
You realize the evolution traverse is supposed to be fun, right?

Nice job. I've always wanted to do that thing car to car but I've never been confident I could do it in an acceptable amount of time for me psyche.
t-bone

climber
Bishop
  Sep 5, 2013 - 12:08pm PT
Wow. A few years back I didn't think a day ascent would be possible, except by maybe a pro-level ultra-runner.
Thanks for the inspiration to up the ante!
grubs

climber
  Sep 5, 2013 - 12:15pm PT
Hey Vitaliy- what day did you do the traverse?
I soloed it (from Darwin Bench) on Saturday Aug 31st. I only opened one summit register on the whole thing, on one of the unnamed peaks between Wallace and Fiske, and saw your name with the simple comment "Beautiful". That comment has much more meaning now that I know more about your journey to that spot! My comment was "What peak is this??", as like you, I did not expect the two or three "bonus peaks" thrown in before you get to Fiske!
I didn't bring a rope and I never left the ridge for water, which overall cost me a lot of time I think, it ended up taking me 21 hours camp to camp, with the death-walk back up to Darwin bench sucking up something like 3 hours. I can't imagine how you were able to continue all the way over LaMarck Col after that!!

Nice job and thanks for the TR!
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Sep 5, 2013 - 01:01pm PT
Nice to be known as the punters that make the ET look attainable. Thanks for that. ;-)

Aaron and I were theorizing how a 21h C2C is possible. Maybe not by us, but someone will do it, probably before next fall.

A key piece of beta I left out of my TR - you can bypass the second class 5 section (5.8-5.9 crack) on Mendel by downclimbing slightly left, traversing a few hundred feet, then reattaining the ridge.

Eerie starcrossing - my partner Aaron was in South America same time as Ben & Gil, and picked up some helpful beta from them for his own summit objectives. Sorry again for your loss and kudos for memorializing Ben with this excursion.
grubs

climber
  Sep 5, 2013 - 02:16pm PT
Stevee B-
You guys rocked it and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! I read your TR just before I left on my trip and it psyched me up big time. Personally I'm glad it saw so many ascents in the past month- testament to how awesome it is! More folks should get out there, but nobody should underestimate its difficulty just cause some of us non-pros managed to pull it off! I bailed on 3 attempts over the last 10 years due to things like weather, fatigue, and intimidation, before finally getting it right this time round.
splitclimber

climber
Sonoma County
  Sep 5, 2013 - 02:34pm PT
super sick V.

thanks for sharing the adventure
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Sep 5, 2013 - 02:47pm PT
Grubs, I did it 1.5 weeks ago. Those 4 peaks really annoyed me. Not only was annoyed that my tired body had to do more elevation gain but one of those cracks swallowed my harness! And I agree it is a major outing, and should not be under-estimated. There are many TRs to prove that. Have to confess, I was REALLY intimidated by the thought of it before starting. Than when I was actually on it I took a break before Haeckel. Looked at the ridge ahead and got even more intimidated, "no way I can do the rest of it today, IT IS SO LONG!"

Nice to be known as the punters that make the ET look attainable. Thanks for that. ;-)

Aaron and I were theorizing how a 21h C2C is possible. Maybe not by us, but someone will do it, probably before next fall.


Not punters, you guys were also inspiring to me. It is nice to see other humans do things, and than think to yourself maybe there is a slight chance I can also do it. Since when Croft or Honnold do something big, I don't even consider it. Can't relate to their level.

In the end of my TR I mentioned I can see it fall to 22 hours c2c within the next few years. I am pretty confident I can do it in under 24 hours now that I did the route. But since there is so much other stuff to do, and I am not an ultra-marathon runner, I do not think I will want to go through the effort of actually trying. Or maybe I might, who knows what will seem fun in a year or two. I know Sean (who holds the current CA 14ers record) is interested in doing it c2c. He did multiple sections of it already and tried a c2c ascent once last year (linked in my TR), but with other three people. I can see him getting it in 22 hours. Next time I am on it it will be a multi-day outing and hopefully more enjoyable. Even though, Franky, I am not sure if it will be much more enjoyable with a pack and over 4 days. This outing was REALLY enjoyable till I hit the 2nd to last peak. I realized sun was gonna go down before I made the summit of Huxley. Than after the darkness fell it wasn't enjoyable. For some reason worst of it was the walk from JMT through Darwin Bench. Lasted forever. Getting up Lamarck col was much better than that, which is kind of weird.
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Sep 5, 2013 - 04:10pm PT
Just joshin' about the "punters" thing. Of course, the coolest of all things is when a trip and TR inspire others to get after it. Always rad, rad, rad to see that. Wholeheartedly agree, Evolution has enough of a natural barrier that it can welcome much more traffic, and its so so worthy.
Oh man that walk from JMT to Darwin benches was miserable. Due to wearing Gandalfs a size too small, I had a blood blister completely separating my big toe toenail from the toe and was a pathetic cripple all the way back. Had the toenail removed from my very infected toe a few days later and am only just now getting back on my feet.
michaeld

Sport climber
Sacramento
  Sep 5, 2013 - 04:29pm PT
Congrats Vitals!
cultureshock

Trad climber
Mountain View
  Sep 5, 2013 - 07:02pm PT
Awesome tribute!! Ben continues to be an inspiration!
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
  Sep 5, 2013 - 07:16pm PT
EnduroChoss.
Impressive but scary, too.
SeanH

Trad climber
SLC
  Sep 5, 2013 - 09:37pm PT
Nice job Vitaliy.
Leggs

Sport climber
Made in California
  Sep 5, 2013 - 09:49pm PT
Vitaliy, this is such a wonderful tribute... I was misty eyed reading it, not gonna lie, while being in awe, all at the same time.

Thank you for sharing...
murcy

Gym climber
sanfrancisco
  Sep 5, 2013 - 11:26pm PT
Wow, remarkable adventure and great TR. Be careful out there!
mucci

Trad climber
The pitch of Bagalaar above you
  Sep 6, 2013 - 12:30am PT
Looks like a standard jaunt for you V.

Bravo.
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
  Sep 6, 2013 - 09:41am PT
Super!!! One of the fun things for me on ST has been following your amazing progression in climbing.....keep it going!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Sep 6, 2013 - 11:23am PT
Oh man that walk from JMT to Darwin benches was miserable. Due to wearing Gandalfs a size too small, I had a blood blister completely separating my big toe toenail from the toe and was a pathetic cripple all the way back.

I had some 5.10 warhawks that I got for about 45$ on REI Outlet site. I have to post a before and after photo of them. But anyway, they were fairly tight. So I developed a pressure spot on my heel and couldn't work out for a week and a half. I ate well though. When I climbed at the gym yesterday it was semi-embarrassing. :(

EnduroChoss

No way. For 9 miles of ridge traversing it is surprisingly good for most of the way. Those that 'alpine-climb' at the Hulk would find it loose, but people who like alpine stuff would think it is very solid.
Josh Higgins

Trad climber
San Diego
  Sep 6, 2013 - 01:00pm PT
Thanks Vitaly! Great read, and you did Ben Proud! Way to be inspired, and turn that into inspiring others. Huge props!

Josh
grubs

climber
  Sep 6, 2013 - 01:23pm PT
Vitaliy it's interesting that the mountain ate your harness, because the mountain also tried to eat my headlamp. Shortly before I got to Mt. Darwin I had to take my helmet off to squeeze through a narrow slot. It was just getting light so my headlamp was still on my helmet, and as I pulled my helmet through the slot behind me the headlamp popped off and disappeared down a bottomless void. I cursed and yelled, and asked the universe why it was punishing me. I could not even see the headlamp down the dark hole through which it had plunged. I tried to squeeze into the seemingly bottomless pit but could only get to my waist. After trying several different positions (including head first) I finally found an orientation that let me squeeze through if I completely exhaled (and fought off feelings of panic). The hole widened below and I chimneyed down about 20 feet before reaching the bottom. After some searching I recovered the headlamp, and with some effort was able to squeeze back out of the hole.
Apparently that ridge has an appetite for critical gear!
Stevee B

Trad climber
Oakland, CA
  Sep 6, 2013 - 02:23pm PT
Not.choss.at.all. Have you been to the North Cascades?
mpmoody

Mountain climber
Alamo, CA
  Sep 6, 2013 - 03:00pm PT
Vitaliy, great tribute and a lofty goal/accomplishment. Well written - congrats.
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Sep 7, 2013 - 01:18pm PT
V, a strong tribute to Ben H,
Alpinist mag quality writing!!!
Thank you!!!
Impaler

Social climber
Oakland
  Sep 7, 2013 - 03:21pm PT
Vitaliy, that's bad ass! I didn't think it's even possible to do Evolution car to car! You continue to impress me! The camp to camp traverse took me 19 hrs by itself and next morning I was closer to 10 on the exhaustion scale and still had to hike out. Still the most destroyed I've been in my life.

Next time you do something like that save some weight by leaving the harness, ATC, chalk, and climbing shoes at home (not sure if you even had the shoes with you). My strategy is to hang the short rapell rope (I'd bring a 20 or 30 m 7 or 8 mm cord) and downclimb with my hand on the rope at all times. If the downclimbing is too hard I'd would just climb down the rope hand over hand (with my feet on something). It sounds dangerous, but is pretty easy to keep things 100% safe.

Have you done the minaret traverse yet?

Vlad
Roadie

Trad climber
Bishop, Ca
  Sep 7, 2013 - 05:59pm PT
Jeesh V, you've come a long way since we met on Goode! Was that just a year ago? Awesome job man, I'm impressed. Sorry for your loss. Steve
RP3

Big Wall climber
Twain Harte
  Sep 7, 2013 - 10:46pm PT
a truly beautiful tr. thanks so much
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Sep 8, 2013 - 12:34am PT
Read it twice now. Legendary. Lot of heart.
Jaybro

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Sep 8, 2013 - 08:22am PT
Большое сбасибо!!
Very cool, that is one i really want to do, when my trailing running and climbing mojo coincide at the high end.

Anyone with one of those grateful dead Lithuanian Olympic basketball teams shirts ('84?) is okay with me!
snowey

Trad climber
San Diego
  Sep 8, 2013 - 06:43pm PT
Wow. Great Trip Report. I was on the winter evo traverse with Ben and I agree that he was a great guy. He was always looking to share what he had and was an inspiration to us. I remember specifically on that trip he even shared his toothbrush (normally, I wouldn't bring a toothbrush on an alpine ascent but with multiple days of climbing the hygiene was appreciated.

hamik

Mountain climber
Pasadena, CA
  Sep 9, 2013 - 01:34pm PT
There are at least two things about this trip that make me super proud of you. First, you had the imagination and gumption to even dream about such a huge objective. This trip was more than a couple of rungs up the ladder of your climbing progression, and it takes character, confidence, and major cojones to tell yourself you can skip all those rungs at once. Second, you didn't let those annoying naysayer voices keep you from starting in the morning. It's easy to accomplish something when you use the "if that wanker can do it, so can I" logic, but it's much, much harder to work past the "if it took Alex Honnold most of a day camp-to-camp, then it's retarded to try it car-to-car" logic.

I hope my awful eating habits weren't too contagious in Peru! I think I have a habit of making people around me fat... there was that time I introduced my ex to Nutella, for instance, and she gained 10 lbs in a couple of weeks.
briham89

Big Wall climber
santa cruz, ca
  Sep 9, 2013 - 01:42pm PT
Very proud
Powder

Trad climber
the Flower Box
  Sep 9, 2013 - 06:40pm PT
One of the most incredible things about your TRs - every time when I think I've read the best, you top it... again! (I do read > : )

Thanks for sharing this amazing journey.

Great tribute and what an accomplishment!!
So touching and beautiful.

And I, too, hope you won't ever need to do another "memorial climb." Happy & safe climbs! ~_~y
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Sep 12, 2013 - 03:06pm PT
Vitaliy it's interesting that the mountain ate your harness, because the mountain also tried to eat my headlamp.

That mountain range is hungry I guess :)

Impaler, I did not bring rock shoes or chalk. Approach shoes that I had did a pretty good job I thought. 5.10 warhawks I got for about 60$ from REI outlet site. Really want to do Minaret traverse as well. Have not done it, or any other traverses aside from Matthes. If you ever need a partner for that LMK!

Hamik, your eating habits did rub off on me. I have no idea how you maintain yourself in shape! I got some of the weight off though already. Will work back into shape soon I hope!

This trip was more than a couple of rungs up the ladder of your climbing progression

lol that's for sure. I could see day-hiking one of those peaks, or doing the traverse with a partner camp to camp or in a few days. But putting it all together was hard to wrap my mind around. Glad I did it though.
le_bruce

climber
Oakland, CA
  Sep 17, 2013 - 06:21pm PT
The more info you glean on this traverse, the more TR's from other parties you read, the more impressive this send. I mean damn.
NutAgain!

Trad climber
South Pasadena, CA
  Sep 17, 2013 - 08:14pm PT
Super!!! One of the fun things for me on ST has been following your amazing progression in climbing.....keep it going!
+1

I have a funny sense of "I knew him way back when he was a peak bagger" from standing in line forever next to you at some Mountain Hardware sale when I first met you. I was thinking "sure I'll take this dude out on some 5.7 to 5.9 stuff in the valley" like I would be the cool big kid showing you the ropes. But knowing how my own extreme cardio weakness held me back, I expected your beastliness would serve you well when you committed to climbing. The first time I had that "whoah he's getting serious" experience was reading your winter 3rd Pillar of Dana trip. And you've just been gunning for the stars on an awesome trajectory.

By your commitment and passion and ongoing dedication to push your limits, you have experienced so much and developed so much in such a short amount of time. It really is inspiring to see.

And, as your climbing achievements have grown your online persona has matured a lot too. Kudos for all kinds of positive growth dude.

And this is a nice tribute to a spirit that inspired you, and I'm sure his family and others who were close to him will appreciate it quite a lot. They can follow the spark of energy and life from person to person who has been directly or indirectly touched by Ben.
Jerry Dodrill

climber
Sebastopol
  Sep 17, 2013 - 08:13pm PT
I totally agree, le_bruce. Having been up there now, its even more impressive of an effort. Way to go Vitaliy!
David Wilson

climber
CA
  Sep 17, 2013 - 08:12pm PT
I'm so impressed with this send Vitaliy - all those potatoes in Peru made you a strong boy. Great job !
JakeW

Big Wall climber
CA
  Sep 18, 2013 - 09:50am PT
Nice job!

I did this sometime around 2003? I don't even remember when. Partly as a meditation on my buddy John dying on Picture Peak a few years before. He was doing a recon of the area/backpacking so we could someday go back and do the traverse together.

My CTC time was about 29 hours. I started with my friend Aaron who unfortunately had to bail from Darwin because he was hacking up his lungs.

I think this could be done during daylight by someone truly acclimatized and fit. However long it takes ultrafit people to walk/run 35 miles. We weren't really that fit, carried a rope and rack we never took out of the pack, and smoked just a bit more than the average athlete does.

I was blown for at least a month afterwards.

I believe it may be more enjoyable and fun to camp out there since its much radder than any civilized lands.

Do I still have the fastest known free ascent? ;)
mcreel

climber
Barcelona
  Sep 18, 2013 - 07:10am PT
Thanks for the TR. I suppose that parts of it were difficult to write, but those parts are what makes it a special read.
shit tooth

Trad climber
Bozeman, MT
  Sep 18, 2013 - 10:12am PT
That was an amazing tribute to your friend! Consider me inspired!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Sep 18, 2013 - 11:21am PT
Thanks again guys.

NutAgain! of course I remember that Mountain Hardwear sale. And I owe you for letting me buy that blue jacket. I wear it almost on every outing. I had to patch several dozen holes by now, but I love that thing. Being addicted to all kinds of climbing helped a lot. If I could change one thing about it, it would be getting in a better day-hiking shape. In Peru we just hauled big loads, but not for long distances. So by my Sierra shape, I felt a little out of shape. Anyway, there are no regrets for sure! Will try to do more rock climbing now and get ready for next season in Sierra!

JakeW, it was also like meditation for me. Wish this kind of meditation did not trash my knees for weeks LOL.
JakeW

Big Wall climber
CA
  Sep 18, 2013 - 12:04pm PT
Yah totally. One of my knees was ruined. Hurt so bad on the snail crawl up the hill to Darwin Bench. Was a recurring problem for me for years afterwards until I was taught that it was actually a hip problem...too tight. Cured it by stretching my hips once in a while. I don't think I was in shape enough for the quest to be a healthy endeavor.

I'm so psyched you did this and find it interesting that you had similar spiritual love motivations. Another guy I know also did a memorial traverse of it this summer, but chose to camp and enjoy. I felt so much power and motivation out there and knew it was John sharing some mortal energy he no longer needed.

Although that energy vaporized once off the ridge. I kept falling over asleep and awaking shivering. If I hadn't been cold I would have slept well into the next day, in the grass on the shore of the lake below the last peak, which I sprinted the last bit to, fell down on my knees by, and lapped out of like a thirsty bear for who knows how long. Once slightly hydrated I leaned back into unconsciousness.

Modern day vision questing.
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Sep 18, 2013 - 12:55pm PT
Sounds oh so familiar. I camped there twice before. Once to do Mt. Darwin via west ridge (3rd class) in my first year of mountaineering/climbing (2010), other was in 2012 for Right Mendel couloir. Both times I enjoyed the scenery etc, but hated hiking over the col with my pack.
Mt. Darwin from the approach
Mt. Darwin from the approach
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Darwin and Mendel
Darwin and Mendel
Credit: Vitaliy M.
Max on Mendel Right
Max on Mendel Right
Credit: Vitaliy M.
After a trip to Peru all the following weekends were two day, so I did not really have a choice to camp this time. Either I do it, or wait till next year. For those who do it camp to camp it is (ONLY) 20 extra miles of hiking with 6000 ft more of elevation gain to do a c2c outing. Since I knew it would be a perfect outing to dedicate to Ben, and push own limits I decided to do it. But of course it makes sense to camp! What REALLY sucked is that I drove in after work and was able to sleep for only about one hour, if that. Was too nervous to sleep, so laid there for 4 hours before starting. Would be great if I lived near by and had a full day of rest before.


noriko nakagawa

Trad climber
the bubble, co
  Sep 20, 2013 - 02:34pm PT
Glad I could be of help/moral support, Vitaliy. Obviously you didn't need the beta. Congrats!

-Michelle
Big Mike

Trad climber
BC
  Sep 20, 2013 - 03:39pm PT
Wow V! Wow.

Awesome trip report. Amazing photos and story. I highly suggest you submit this to Alpinist as i think they would be very interested in it!!

Thanks,

Mike
WanderlustMD

Trad climber
New England
  Sep 20, 2013 - 10:17pm PT
Right on man!
Vitaliy M.

Mountain climber
San Francisco
Author's Reply  Nov 13, 2013 - 02:31pm PT
Obviously you didn't need the beta. Congrats!

To be honest you were right about "stay on the crest" being all you need. Well, that and a few markers like the 5.6 hand crack and sharp ridge after Darwin.

Mike, not sure if Alpinist would publish this, but sure would be good tribute to Ben. And probably somewhat of a good story too...I just purchased AAJ 1998 and saw Galen Rowell's entry. He attempted the route with Croft on the FA but dropped from the ridge after 5 peaks. Said his hands were burning after the amount of climbing that was already done. If Galen had enough after first 2/3rds, it shows how much out of my comfort zone I had to step out to complete it. With extra 20 miles or so that day.
FRUMY

Trad climber
Bishop,CA
  Nov 13, 2013 - 04:20pm PT
Nice
Sketch

Trad climber
Not FortMental
  Nov 13, 2013 - 04:35pm PT
Inspirational. A great tribute to your friend.
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