Alpine Club of Canada

Summer2016Gazette

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An unclimbed (?) mountain in the Monashees : yours to discover! photo: roger Wallis, 2008. unclimbed mountains. is was enormous fun! Looking for a line, pushing the lead up unknown rock or ice and snow; endlessly deciding between alternatives; getting scared, dealing with loose rock, wet lichen, with run outs that didn't end with a belay, or with crevasses that shouldn't have been there, and then, of course, getting down. No satellite phone, no radio, the nearest Greenlander village 50 kilometres away via open boat with an unreliable outboard engine. In 1961 there were only three of us, and for three months, just two. Not a place to make a mistake, but a place where one learns judgement very quickly. Returning to the UK and the Alps was, in some ways, an anticlimax. Even making the third ascent of Zero Gully on Ben Nevis in 1963—then one of the world's ice climbing test‑pieces when climbed with alpine axes, bendy cram‑ pons and no ice screws—and numerous ascents of major ice faces in the Alps, well, it just wasn't the same as those Greenland mountains. In civilization you knew other people had climbed the route; if they could, you could. For the next four summers of geol‑ ogy‑related work I was off to the glaciers and peaks of Spitsbergen and the wild interior of East Greenland. Each peak a first ascent. ese climbs were not as by roger Wallis W e all have our preferred niche in the ever‑expanding range of mountain activities. Mine is making mountain first ascents. Like many, I am endlessly amazed by the audacious and awe inspiring ascents made by the "10 per cent", whether on boulders, sport or trad rock climbing, ice or mixed routes or on mountain faces. ese climbs demand ultra‑fitness, tech‑ nical proficiency and total commitment. But what if you belong to the 90 per cent? ose of us with limited time, geog‑ raphy, technical ability and fitness who wish to attempt something interesting but within their comfort level. For some of us, mountain first ascents are that niche. First ascents are mountaineering as exploration. It matters little if your chosen mountain is easy or difficult, if your route is straightforward or complex. is pursuit captures the joy of adventure; of using your skills to journey into the unknown, of going where no one else has been. e outcome is always in doubt— that's the fun! Years ago, when I lived in the UK, one's climbing life began by working up the tick list on the local crag. en you graduated to bigger crags, and on to the Alps. Little crags, big crags, the Alps— they all had guidebooks, even in the 1950s. Pity none of the alpine guidebooks were in English, but not to worry, they had sketches and one understood the grades: AD, D, TD. e Alps had footpaths, huts, and a well‑used vaie normale down from the summit. It was all straightforward. In 1960 I went to South Greenland to the amazing granite spires of Tasermiut Fjord. Not a single mountain had been climbed. It was a revelation of what mountains could be. No huts, no paths, no steps on the glacier, no guidebook, no topographic maps, no people. Silence. ere were mountains in front of you, and choices. Which mountains to climb? And by which route? I spent six months in Tasermiut Fjord and my job—conducting fieldwork for my geology PhD—was to climb Climbing Rocks! The joy of mountain first ascents Roger Wallis approaches the summit on the first ascent of Pt. 3,370 metres in the Latus Pass area of Yukon's Saint Elias mountains in 2003. photo: paul geddes

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