Friday, April 29, 2011

No More Second Guessing - An Introduction

I was perplexed for a moment, Graham was below at a hanging belay and I had climbed until he had no more rope to give me. For several minutes I dug down to the wall through sugar snow looking for some feature to attach an anchor to. After several minutes of digging I found a steep sheet of granite with no cracks. The headlamp light faded down the fluted when I looked in Graham's direction. The pitch had started with a mixed section and then I had sprinted through this first unprotected snowfield and I was looking for any anchor. To follow this pitch Graham would have to pendulum 40ft to get on-line. I resumed digging. After digging out ten cubic meters of snow I found a flake in the rock. I quickly placed marginal pieces in this, and not knowing how securely it was attached to rest of the wall, I backed up this "C+" anchor by digging my heals into a stance. I held both lines with my hands; Graham was on belay.

Like this one, the most memorable moments of last year's trip come to mind from time to time as I go through day to day life twelve months later. They are not the reasons Graham and I are compelled to go back, they are bi-products of the stress, concentration, good and bad fortune that comes with navigating long, complex alpine terrain. Rather, we are motivated by the stories of other climbers on these steep faces that inspired us to go the first time. Like them, we hope to participate in a worthwhile project that adds something innovative to the history of alpinism and exploration of the region. Each year, we chose a new mountain feature that will test of our abilities and provoke our desire to see person go up that line for the first time.

The Alaska Range is magnetic and compelling but it is as formidable as the Sahara. After several decades of climbing in the range there remains much to be explored. Each peak has unique characteristics that give it distinct allure and personality. Graham and I have four weeks do some recon and pick objectives that are suit our abilities. We are stoked to be back.

For the month of May 2011 Mark Allen and Graham Zimmerman are returning to the Alaska Range under the team name Pirates of Rad with aspirations to explore this year’s condition on the massifs of the Kahiltna Glacier. The Kahiltna is home to some of North America's largest alpine faces belonging to Mt. Hunter, Mt. Foraker, Denali, among others. Mark and Graham have had great success in the past (see Verticulture post The Ruth Expedition: Field Updates) and are looking to forward to getting after it again. Follow their trails here on Verticulture and more detailed information on

NZAC and MEF Support, THANK YOU!

Mark and Graham are super psyched to announce that they have received support from both the Mout Everest Foundation and the New Zealand Alpine Club's Expedition fund for this trip to Alaska.

They send out HUGE THANKS for the support and look forward to coming home with good stories beta and reports.

If you are a Kiwi (or Aussie!) you should very much consider joining the NZAC, they are super motivated (and successful) in getting fellow countrymen into the mountains.