Canada 2013 trip. Day 3.
by Buster Jesik
"Nauseating thoughts of falling, avalanches, and hurtling ice were transformed into amazement at the infinite complexities, subtleties, and variables of alpine climbing that occasionally combine to create such extraordinary experiences."
With the help of Rob Owens, Steve Swenson and Steve House the Alpine Mentors crew spilt into three small teams and headed to different objectives today. Steve House and I paired up to have a crack at French Reality on the famed Stanley Headwall. French Reality (145m V, M6 WI6+) turned out to be one of the best and most gnarly days of climbing I’v ever had! Rob Owens and Steven Van Sickle went to a route called Coire Dubh and Steve Swenson, Marianne Van Der Steen, and Colin Simon went to the nearby classic Nemesis.
The first leg of our French Reality adventure involved in skiing up a 30-35 degree gully while being cautious of avalanche conditions - the thought of having to ski back down a real ski run in mountain boots with packs lingered with me for the rest of the day. After we sent the approach gully, we made a wild traverse around the corner to the base of the route. A 200 meter exposed steep snow traverse above a cliff, with the occasional catastrophe bolt every 40m or so. While the traverse is “only” steep snow, a fall or small avalanche (without the rope) would result in certain death!
Steve led the last two ice pitches including a delicate and fragile pillar, only about a foot wide at the base! Drop knees, heel hooks, and other “rock climbing techniques” got us up the steep and wild ice. I began to see and feel the pieces come together. Fear was replaced with confidence. Nauseating thoughts of falling, avalanches, and hurtling ice were transformed into amazement at the infinite complexities, subtitles, and variables of alpine climbing that occasionally combine to create such extraordinary experiences. Despite 15 years of personal climbing experience, days like today make me feel like I’v only begun to scratch the surface.
Tired but psyched after the most sustained mixed / ice route I’ve ever done - we were pleasantly surprised with an enjoyable ski out, even in our mountain boots!