Alpine Club of Canada

ACC CAJ 2019 - Sneak Peek - MAs Vision

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The Canadian Alpine Journal 2019 11 possible it would be an absolutely spectacular line, and I was instantly excited to try it. Brette and I started making concrete plans. Back in El Chaltén, the forecast has managed to withstand the Fresco Bar hype and actually mater- ialize into four days of high pressure accompanied by a huge spike in temperature. Brette and I are at base camp in Noruegos, sipping electrolyte tea and arranging our gear for the next morning. e rime- capped summits of the Torres tower a thousand metres above and Cerro Chaltén dominates the other side of the valley, fiery in the evening sun. Over the past two days, we have watched the Torres transform from ice-plastered sentinels into kilometre-high waterfalls—their east faces streaked with running water like black tiger stripes on golden granite. ere are several teams at base camp, and we've all waited an extra day in the hope that it would allow the faces to clean themselves of enough snow and ice to climb them. Although everything is wet, we've luckily chosen the driest objective of the crew, and we go to bed psyched. Bob Marley heralds the morning, singing to us from my phone's speaker at 1:30 a.m. after a surprisingly good few hours of rest. I go through the automated motions of coffee brewing and breakfast prep while Brette takes down camp and secures our things. We navigate the glacier by headlamp, following behind our friends on their way to attempt a differ- ent route. We veer right toward Egger and holler a final monkey cry to our compañeros as we approach the bergschrund. We've climbed the initial pitches before, so we aren't so affected by the running water and the dark. Brette confidently frees the first four pitches of Titanic, her headlamp like a rocket in the dark. I take over at first light where our route veers left on new terrain. It's an incredible 60-metre pitch of run-out vision questing on flakes. I look around the corner and up at 100 metres of perfect hand cracks that take us into the crux corner system. It is still morning when we arrive at the crux pitch. It looks hard—a shallow left-leaning cor- ner with a laser-thin crack in the back. Perfect for Brette's little hands! e crack peters out higher up, and it looks like it might be hard to protect. We session it as though we're cragging in Squamish. e unclimbed granite crumbles under Brette's fingers and toes as she contorts into the corner. She runs it out slightly, striking the perfect balance between pump and protection, and sends it on her third go. I only get to try it once, but still manage to climb it cleanly on second, pulling through with an assortment of small cams and wires piling up on the rope at my belay loop. We high five and continue up the wall. e day is going well. A few pitches higher, I top out the mental crux, a long pitch that starts as an off-width and transitions into steep 5.11+ face climbing with large runouts between fiddly gear. e terrain above looks far easier, and we're only a few pitches from our bivy. Suddenly panic in Brette's voice gets my atten- tion while she's climbing up to me. She's saying something about her boots detaching from the haul bag. I curse under my breath and finish hauling the bags to see what's going on. ere's definitely no boots, only a frayed nylon tab flapping in the wind. A distinct gloom hangs over us when Brette gets to the belay. We pull out the camera and complain to it. e two of us struggle to concede our plans for the summit, but we realize that there's no way that Brette will be able to climb through the upper ice pitches in rock shoes. e pitches are traversing, so she won't be able to jug them either, never mind the likelihood of freezing her toes. Even the glacier at the base might present a huge challenge. It seems absurd that something so stupid could sabotage our attempt, but at least we're not injured. I feel deflated. All of the energy and psyche I have poured into this route vanishes. I fully expect Brette to want to go down, so I let her know that it's OK, but she refuses. Instead she takes the rack and starts climbing, determined to make the most of the good weather. I chuckle to myself, impressed with her tenacity and excited to keep exploring the beautiful terrain above. After a few more pitches, we reconnect with Brette Harrington watches the evening sun set behind Fitzroy and Poincenot. Photo: Quentin Lindfield Roberts Read the rest of Quentin's story in the 2019 Canadian Alpine Journal. Add it to your membership or purchase it online at: www.alpineclubofcanada.ca/store

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