Thursday, August 21, 2008

East creek jamming!

The day after freeing Doubting Millennium we took a rest day. Our friends (Ines, Jon and Chris), on their way to the Becky-Chouinard, joined us for a little morning jam at our home. The Mandolin was on fire!!

The next day, the weather went rotten... we came back down off the mountain to give you more exclusive news...

Chased by lightning

The night was quiet, almost too quiet...We reached the summit of the Minaret via a new direct finish. The sky looked clear... We were psyched to keep going to the summit of South Howser Tower. 

A few hundred meters of simulclimbing brought us from the top of the Minaret to the summit of south Howser, just before midnight. Our psyche turned to fear when we saw what was coming towards us from the other side of the mountain. A big black zeppelin flashing and roaring was approaching fast...We rushed down as fast as we could, and started rappelling down the Minaret.  The storm was faster than we were and all hopes of survival were lost when our ropes got stuck. We decided to sit on a small ledge (500m from the ground) to await our destiny and pray that being electrocuted by lightening would give us mutant powers. Our fear changed to ecstasy, when for the second time today, we noticed that a thunderstorm was passing right next to us. We just sat back and watched in awe as we admired the best lightning show we've ever seen. The lightning struck hard down below in the valley and started a forest fire.  

We climbed back up, got our ropes and continued our rappels. Once on the ground we still had to walk back to base camp... a full 50m away!

 1:30 am, after almost 20h of climbing we were back at east creek base camp ready for a jamming session...


Check out the lightening picture we took from the ledge!!! (picture 1)

Picture 2: Cumbre!

Picture 3: Nico feeling the stress during the rappels.

Picture 4: Sitting ducks on a ledge, waiting to be fried

Doubting the millennium

Black line is Doubting the millennium 5.12 600m
Green line is the variation we climbed last week : Millennium escape 5.12- 600m

One rivet and 3 copperheads to protect the crux... Snowflakes started falling down, a thunder storm was coming in... Maybe it's time to go down?
After having climbed a new free variation of Doubting the Millennium last week, we were psyched to try and free the real line of Doubting the Millennium (an old A3 aid route) which we  knew would be harder, but a more striking line. This time we decided to get an alpine start, to give us more time to tackle the crux. So with the help of the full moon we were on the wall at 5am, and by noon we were in good timing, just below the crux pitch, a thin crack going straight up from a 4 pitch corner leading to a good ledge. Suddenly the weather changed and in no time a big thunderstorm started coming closer while Nico was aiding the pitch.  For fear of being struck by lighting Nico rushed to finish the pitch and started rappelling as fast as possible. Just as we were about to pull the rope we noticed that the storm might just miss us and even though it didn't look very stable we decided to hang around a little longer... There was tension in the air but we decided to go back up... we stressfully worked the crux pitch threatened by strong winds, black clouds and lightening in the distance. Surprisingly the bad weather kept its distance giving us enough time to redpoint the pitch.  Then the sky looked less hostile... or so we thought... We kept moving towards the summit...

Lost Feather Pinnacle

To test Sean's back one last time before trying something long and hard we decided to try to open a new route on a neighbouring spire called  the "lost feather pinnacle". We choose a beautiful dihedral system leading into an intimidating black roof. We were surprised to run in to bolted belays on the first part of the climb, but after the crux pitch we found no trace of human beings. So we don't know wether we finished a new line or freed an existing aid route, but the climbing was exceptional!! 7 pitches of incredible quality! Some of the more memorable moments were when Sean pulled on a big flake which started moving and cracking and Sean nearly shit in his pants. Or when Nico approached the big black roof which was wet and prayed for our only number four camelot to be wide enough for the crack... Luckily it was and we could finish the route fisting and grunting like a grizzly bear in heat. 
A five star route!  

The big dihedral.

Below the black roof.

Summit picture.

Fingerberry jam

Sean woke up one morning and could barely move because of a terrible pain in his back. Carrying heavy backpacks, long days of climbing, hauling, hanging belays, who knows the cause... We ran back down to Golden for a couple of days rest, food, hot shower and the Chiropractor. Feeling a little better we headed back up and fixed the back on a crack named "Fingerberry jam" (5 pitches on the pigeon feathers). Amazing climbing! Thanks to Topher Donehue for this visionary line!  

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Bringing the sunshine back to the Bugaboos

It's raining and snowing hard outside our tent.... little lakes are being fired down from the sky, days without end... 
there's only one way to bring the sun back... you know it needs to be done...
(please feel free to look at other posts while this video is playing,...
be aware however that you might miss out on some crucial facial expressions)
This is just a small sample from hours and hours of jamming.

New posts below!

New free route on the Minaret

The rope drag was pulling me down as I was starting to sketch out in this flaring chimney, my foot gently leaning on a big loose block. I could hear Nico shouting something. What's he going on about? Time to put in some protection...I looked at my harness: not much left, I must have done almost 60m... I put in a terrible looking green alien and try to pull up slack to clip it... I just need 10 more cm... Nico's shouting is as clear as blue sky now: "End of the rope!!!". Oh shit, trouble... I need to down climb to a lower ledge... "ROCK!!!" I yell from the top of my lungs as the loose block throws itself into the void and I start sliding down the chimney... I barely manage to stop myself as I see the chunk of granite ricocheting off the wall straight towards Nico... "ROCK! ROCK!" Miraculously it missed him by mm's....
Flaring cracks, fiddly gear, offwidth, hollow sounding granite stalactites, splitter hands: the ingredients  to the free route (probably new) we climbed on the Minaret. An all free variation of "Doubting the Milenium"... There are still a lot of files on our desk at the office.... 

Daily hygiene

Daily hygiene is always our great concern. To our younger fans: don't forget to wash yourself every day! 

More very exciting news coming very soon! 

Views from East Creek

We moved our base camp to east creek... What an amazing place! Check out our tent under the Mandala boulder! We're mostly on our own here at east creek... everybody else seems to be in the first valley (Appelbee) but fear not! Rumors have it that some friends might be joining us soon... we hope they bring their instruments . Sitting in the tent all day waiting for it to stop raining and snowing can make you go a little mad...

More Becky-Chouinard

Conditions were pretty alpine... we've never seen conditions like that at our local crag Freyr in Belgium.
I would like to take this opportunity to say hello to all our friends in Freyr, hopefully there having a good season and not drinking too many beers at the Chamonix bar without us. Cheers!

Sunday, August 10, 2008


It was snowing hard as we approached the summit, digging and swimming through deep snow and rock. We'd just climbed the Becky-Chouinard route with Chilean Juan. He's been up here in the Bugaboos for weeks now and is almost a local.  "Look at me, I'm an Alpinist" I shout down at Nico. We're obviously a lot more confident on the mixed grounds of snow-ice and rock than we used to be. 
"Alright guys lets take a victory picture!" Nico screamed through the wind. The three of us gathered up and hugged  on the summit of South-Howser, while Nico held the camera as far away as possible to take the picture. Suddenly bzzzzzz....Just as he was about the press the button, we heard some thunder rumbling in the distance and we started to feel electricity in the air. Sean having the longest beard could feel it the most... like trillions of bees going through his beard... "We need to get down fast!" There was so much snow up there we couldn't find the rappel stations... We were running all over the summit like chickens without heads digging in the snow. Quickly we threw in some nuts and started to abseil down. Luckily from there on we found the rappel stations...and as we started lowering we knew our chances of getting hit by lightening were diminishing. Needless to say we were happy to be alive when we hit the glacier.  A fine adventure and great fun with Juan! Unfortunately we didn't get that victory picture....

Lee's first experience on a glacier...

An exciting moment when Lee (in his tennis shoes without crampons) had a little slip on an icy slope... Nothing to be alarmed about...