Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Back west side!

We have now been back for a week, and i think its time to post a few images from the trip..... We had a great time, even though with 20 days on the glacier we had 5 days of climbable weather, We all got to no the inside of our tents pretty well. Massive thanks to Johnny boy Baker and Adrien for all there hard work and laughs, its not always about the climbing... its also about the people you choose to spend the time with that makes the experience memorable.
Hot Aches are going to be filming us in the Alps this summer as well as on our next expedition, to produce a film on "Alpinism" highs and lows, behind the scenes if you like! so watch this space as we are not done yet!
                                            More tea DJ Baker!!!
                                             Bracey on the Sugar Tooth Traverse
                                               A Rare Sunny day in the Ruth.
                                                   Bracey route finding in the ming on the Sugar Tooth
                                              Helliker on the Sugar Tooth, in a Brief Sunny moment!
                                               Baker finally loses it, send the men in white coats!!!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Homeward bound

Matt and I are back in our camp in the Ruth Gorge. Yesterday we made a traverse of the Sugar Tooth and hoped to carry on in the footsteps of Freddy and Renan who have probably by now made the first traverse of the Tooth skyline traverse. We abseiled off from the Sugar/Eye Tooth col after the weather deteriorated and had received a forecast suggesting stormy weather incoming. As it turned out the skies cleared and the pressure stabilised but we just made the call on the information we had at the time.

It's been a fun two weeks in the Gorge but we are now out of time and will start our journey home. More thoughts to follow.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Time to descend

Adrian and I have long finished camp festering. Its too cold. Little sun equals no power equals text blog only. At 5pm Bang on schedule the radio sparks up: "John, its Matt... We're on the summit of the Sugar Tooth and can't see a damn thing. Plus it's snowing."

I give him the forecast which is promising cloud and precipitation plus a full on meltdown at the start of the week.

I guess they take 5 mins to discuss through the options and the radio comes back to life: "Jon here Johnny- we're coming down - get the kettle on."

With his 400mm lens Adrian spots them a little later- tiny dots dots descending an ice colour that runs from a notch left of the summit. I take a look and see one dot of a person abb to another on a belay below a spur of rock in a sea of ice. I imagine them shoulder to shoulder pulling ropes through working hard to set up the next abseil.

I light the stove and wait...

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Here we go now!

1am. Adrian and I boot up, unzip the frozen tent and sneak out into the cold Alaskan night. It’s not dark! Just the mountains in battle ship greys and blues; in Dartmoor speak its still dimpsey. We cook up a cheesy muff and Starbucks Pike Place coffee and then shoulder our Osprey Mutant packs, tie off coils and skin off up the glacier.  An icey wind is rushing down off Denali.

We have to beat the boys to the col on the ridge below the Sugar Tooth – an Alaskan version of Skye’s Clach Glas and Blaven, but pumped up on steroids. Ade’s aim is to film them from above and then moving on upwards in their quest to traverse the ridge of the Moose Tooth Group.

I follow some wands through the crevasses – they lead to a blind alley and a series of collapsing snow bridges. I switch to intuition and head off out left and follow a spine like lateral moraine. Its steep, icey and we move fast over good ground, the sun climbing and signs of life surfacing back at our camp way below us.

At the steep ground we dump our skis and switch to crampons and axes. It is Adrian's first time using these tools and with an 800ft 50 deg snow slope it is a veritable shove in the deep end. We tie the rope between us very short and I poon my way up tractoring away. Ade shouts: They’re here already!   But we get to the col, belay the rope to a granite spike and Ade springs the cameras into action as Jon and Matt sprint up and move on through, scratching their way up a mixed ramp and out of site around the cathedral buttress above us. It is like being overtaken in the French Alps.

Ade gets his shots and we descend. At our skis we watch for the others above us and see them moving fast 400m above. So far so Good.

Back at camp we fester, watch an avalanche charge down Blood From A Stone on Mount Dickie and dream of climbing the unclimbed Laser Line - a sabre cut runnel of ice that drops vertically from the summit to the glacier for a clean mile. In my mind its got be the cleanest, most awesome climbing objective on the planet.

We keep watching The Moose group of mountains, but cloud has been building all day and they soon disappear into cairngorm type clag. Not good. The recently arrived Mountain school students disappear into their tents. A flurry of snow falls and we look down the gorge to see dark clouds building…

Friday, 18 May 2012

Rhythm is a mystery

K-Klass in their 1993 house hit wondered about the power of rhythm:

I cannot begin to understand the things this feeling does to me, the feeling takes the lead and controls meÉ

Even in this land of ice and granite there is rhythm. With modern life we see planes fly in, drop climbers off, tents go up, tents go down, planes come in climbers fly out.

But as we spend more days out from Talkeetna we get in step with the Rhythm in the mountains. Catabatic winds warm up and cool and rush up and rush down the glacier, it is if the mountains are breathing throughout the day. Snow falls, builds up into lung busting depths. Then the sun cooks it down to form a tough carapace that provides a wind polished surface of ivory pewter. Its then like walking on a giant crme brulŽ. I see Gaia even here, we are all one and indivisible.

In the afternoon snow heated slopes wake the mountain and the granite grumbles around us sending down cascades of blocks and stones, ice and snow. We watched the serac at the top of Mount Bradley crack in the afternoon sun, sweep down the route Spice Factory and blast its way across the glacier towards our camp. Mount Bradley had got out of bed the wrong side that morning. Looking on we think we are spectators, but really as John Muir said: We are not going out into the mountains but we are going in. And as time passes we are going in deep.

Yesterday Matt and Jon went out into the mountains and came back. It started off as a 4.30am alarm from my iphone like a U-Boat preparing to dive. I slid silently under the waves of down and pretended to hide until my own self-inflicted depth charge roused me up and out. I hate mornings moaned Helliker hunkering in the Megamid gulping coffee and trying his best to ignore the minus ten deg c temps.

After coffee they both look razor sharp as the ski off for their climb. Adrian and I disappear back to our pits and follow a little later towing a pulk for a two night bivvy to watch them on their chosen route. It's an awesome wall. As Adrian and I pick our way through sagging snow bridges we watch the two struggle as the arcing sun transforms ice to water and cascades down the cracks they are climbing. In the bright-day-light it looks Dark-in-bad. As K-Klass sing - Rhythm can be dangerous.

We soon hear on the walkie-talkie the right decision and they abb off and we ski back to camp. Our rhythm repeats itself as the evening wind rushes past our tents - coffee, cook, eat, banter, coffee, bed and fart ourselves to sleep. This morning we are back on form with sorting gear, drying gear and packing gear, a new mixed objective in sight - Jon says it going to be an integral traverse of a big ridge.
IÕm handed a coffee and its time to go off-line, drink the java and watch the mountains deep in the Denali range. We are moving to the Alaskan rhythm of alpinism. Move your body to the Rhythm.


Thursday, 17 May 2012

Round 1

Myself and Jon are Back in BC, we left this morning at 5.30am to try a route on the West Face of London Tower. We had already sashed our haul bag and ledge at the base of the route the day before, so this morning we got suck straight into the climbing.

As it turned out we decided to descend due to the fact the rock was poor in places, with loose gravel and verglassed rock first thing this morning.

The route quickly turned into a waterfall as all of the snow patches above melted down on us. We where soaked through, as was all our gear. So there was no point in battling on.

We will try and dry out our gear tomorrow and come up with a new climbing plan, if the weather allows.


Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Listening to the sixth sense

In the world of alpinism there is so much going on behind the scenes. Having been shut down for eight days with constant bad weather, we finally have good weather with us and although we are desperate to get climbing it is time for careful contemplation. There are a lot of unstable snow slopes with significant avalanche hazard, huge cornices, and on most of the faces it's very difficult to read the conditions.

After our recce mission yesterday down towards the Lower Ruth Gorge, Matt and I still had some doubts about possible lines to try. Hence today we took another day to check out an idea of a new route on Mt Bradley that we had noticed two years ago. The line is climbable for sure, but conditions are less than ideal. We took a look at the initial snow cone, which is heavily loaded at present and a bit spooky.

Shortly after arriving back at our basecamp in the afternoon the sun hit the summit slopes of the West ridge and a sizable avalanche ripped down the 1000m less option to think about then.

After a quick chat we have now decided to focus our energies on a line on the 1000m West face of the London Tower. Its going to be a fun adventure with some cool looking mixed climbing, followed by a bit of big walling, and then more mixed above. With the funky conditions it feels right in our heads to go for this line and its always so important to listen to your sixth sense.

We also have some new friends in camp after a day of being the only people in the Ruth Gorge, a mate from New Hampshire, Freddy Wilkinson has flown in with Renan Osturk and they are hoping to have a shot at the 'Tooth' skyline traverse. They came down to our camp with a rucksack full of beers and we had a good catch up.

Spirits are high and it's good to finally have a cool objective to focus our energy on. We will probably take all our kit down the glacier tomorrow and hope to get a really early start on Thursday.

Bye for now,