Trip ReportKatharsis (Troll Wall, January-February 2015). The last wall of the Big Wall Alpine Trilogy
When we went to Baffin Island, in 2012, couldn’t find a third person for our team.
On the way to Great Trango Tower, in 2013, The Third resigned just before the departure.
In 2014, when Yeti and I were developing plans for the Troll Wall mission, we didn’t seek for another person. We found ourselves as a team of two, transformed by a series of big wall visions.
First was Polar Sun Spire, Superbalance !
Aspiration number two became Great Trango Tower, Bushido !
Touching those walls bestowed a sense of the supernatural.
We could then only have a restless vision, alpine big wall spellbound.
A winter climb on Troll Wall became Katharsis !
This is a trip report about Katharsis, Superbalance Team and some haiku by Matuso Basho.
Tuesday, 20.01.2015, the base of the Troll Wall, good weather and good snow conditions.
Yeti and I walked up to the base of the Troll Wall inspired to climb in a single push, decided not to fix ropes. We packed judiciously, carried what we thought was needed. We left behind the complexities of replenishing supplies and equipment, and the possibility of rest days back in the hotel. With a simple consciousness we embarked.
I remembered a quote from Joseph Campbell, “If the path before you is clear, you are probably on someone else’s.”
In this climb we were looking for something arduous, something beyond our normal limits. Aiding on Troll Wall in winter was not disappointing. We were truly challenged.
Hauling day was like a rest day.
The frozen winds of spindrift were upon us, like guardians of the big wall. Defiantly, I yelled out “Yee Haw,” and the spindrift kept trying to muffle me, so I yelled again, and again. This was an environment far departed from a sunny October climb on El Capitan.
Thursday, 29.01.2015, above Camp II
After a few days we found ourselves synchronizing with the intrinsic rhythm of the big wall, and realizing our smallness. Yeti accidentally dropped his Gore-Tex storm jacket, and said, “We’ll be fine.” Later that day, Yeti and I did not exactly coordinate the pouring of boiling water into my cup, my hand was burned. OK, maybe I had my cup tilted. Aside from the occasional disturbance, we practiced everyday routine, with the extraordinary wall on one side and a great space on the other.
Each time we hand drilled bolts or rivets, we felt the cold bit also pierced our hearts.
When losing hope, we hammered beaks.
Because of a last-minute online buy, and a mistake in delivery, we had a one-person fly for a two-person portaledge. We improvised.
Life on the wall was accompanied by the sound of crampons crunching against the rock, the hammering of beaks, the work of hauling pigs. All was permeated by the joy of climbing.
Yeti on the first meters of A4.
At the bottom, it turned out the handle of the hammer cracked and broke in two, a souvenir remains.
When we returned to Andalsness, a small town near about 10 km from Toll Wall, we celebrated our success with Bjarte Bo, who has climbed walls including Polar Sun Spire or Great Trango Tower. Bjarte asked what was the hardest to do on the wall. The hardest thing was to get our asses out of the portaledge every morning, in order to honor the rule: Climb every day.
Daily freeze-thaw cycles effectively soaked our gear so we were either wet or frozen. Staying warm in these conditions and maintaining high mojo was one of our challenges.
This is basically my corner in the portaledge, or to be more precise, this was my pillow. The white stuff, yes, it’s snow.
During cooking, a rain of condensed steam was dripping on us from the fly. I regularly burned my sleeping bag. We were then suffering from fume inhalation. Making an attempt to breathe fresh air, and avoid vomiting, we stretched our necks to get our noses outside the rain fly. It might have looked weird, if anyone was there to see a portaledge on Troll Wall with two heads popping out.
Emerging every morning was a measure of mojo levels. We weren’t always up for yelling “Yee Haw”, but even when we couldn’t scream we went out, and up.
On Wednesday, 4th of February, we received a text message warning that Hurricane Ole was approaching, which included winds of up to 160 km/hr and temperatures feeling like minus 32 C. The weather forecast gave us three climbable days.
After Yeti dropped his jacket, we had to ask ourselves whether it’s possible to climb Troll Wall without a storm shell. The answer was “yes” at least for Yeti. Again he earned his nickname.
Troll Wall is a cold wall.
Troll Wall is a steep wall.
Friday, 06.02.2015. That day, we knew the text message warning of Hurricane Ole was accurate. The day before Ole, conditions turned into madness, but because we managed to get the top of ropes, we carried on climbing.
Climb every day and yell, “Yee Haw!”
If you would like to test your determination, drop your Gore-Tex storm jacket off of Troll Wall in winter. Yeti said, “We’ll be fine,”
I had my storm shell, so that was an easy day for me.
“We’ll be fine.”
Hurricane Ole came on time so that was perfect for two days of reading and relaxing.
After the “rest” we continued and climbed nonstop straight to the top.
Monday, 9.02.2015, 15:13
The next morning, we had high mojo even though at night we were awakened by the sound of avalanches.
We rappelled quickly.
We hoped all of the avalanches have already come down…
We wanted to be in the forest at the base of the Troll Wall already.
Share the mojo…
The wall was behind us.
Katharsis (VI, A4, M7) Troll Wall (1100m/3609ft), Romsdal, Norway. 27 pitches, 19 belay bolts, 9 rivets.
Single push with no fixed ropes. 22.01 – 09.02.2015, 18 days including two rest days during Hurricane Ole.
A memory taken from the peak.
[Click to View YouTube Video]
When the trip report of the first ascent of Superbalance on Polar Sun Spire, was published on SuperTopo, a comment was added by Neil: “How can you possibly live a normal life now? Was it even possible to return to civilization without some sort of massive culture shock?”
The evening following our descent from Troll Wall, Bjarte stopped by our hotel in Andalsness. Over a bottle of good wine, Yeti and I discussed and shared with him the joy of Katharsis. The next morning we were on our way back home chatting about Troll Wall and our Trilogy.
We remembered Pete Takeda has said, “Conquering big walls strengthens character, and besides, it’s so wonderfully nonsensical.”
If I were a poet, I would write a haiku, inspired by Matuso Basho. Perhaps I would start with these few words: “From the walls, learn of the walls.”
What have we learned from our Big Wall Trilogy? We are still trying to figure it out and we have realized that it may be a long process. Now, we can share some of the principles we discussed on the way home. They worked, and we will try them again like a big wall mantra…
1. Climb in a team of two with no support, no trekkers groups, no photographers or filmmakers. The Superbalance Team works as a team of two.
2. Climb in a single push with no fixed ropes. Once you’ve left the ground, go to the top.
3. A beautiful line is worthy of a hard climb and a big effort. Discover and rejoice in the beauty of the route, it is already written and waiting for us.
4. Climb every day. (Hunker down during hurricanes.)
5. Climb with total commitment and partnership
6. Respect the wall and avoid or minimize drilling. We can always do better.
7. Share the mojo. Share a story, topo and help others to climb. When inspired or when needing inspiration, yell out in the best voice, “Yee Haw.”
Remaining trip reports of the Big Wall Trilogy:
Superbalance, Polar Solar Spire, Baffin Island:
Bushido, Great Trango Tower, Karakorum:
A story by David Allfrey about missing the Great Trango Tower:
We are very grateful to wonderful people and companies for their support and encouragement, they are essential to our projects. You rock guys!
Thanks very much to Patagonia, Zamberlan and MBC Ltd., from Regan Facebook
Thanks very much to Millet, Camp and Zamberlan, from Yeti Facebook
Special thanks for help in editing to Earl.
See you in the Valley, guys
Recent Trip Reports