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The North Face of Nuptse: Willie and Damian Benegas

Dispatch 10


Note EverestNews.com is covering this expedition, along with numerous 8000 meter expeditions this Spring 2003 exclusively.

Dispatch 10 Base Camp: So far, this has been our greatest day yet in the office.  Although the sun hit camp at 7:30 am, we were feeling a little lazy, and didn't motivate until 8:45 am. After taking a look at the weather, we decided it would be a perfect day to start climbing our route.  Everyone is calling it the Crystal Snake.

At the beginning of this trip, we had originally thought we would try to climb this climb pure alpine style.  Now, after consideration of the weather and the time-  oh, let's just be real!  I know that we like to pursue "the art of suffering", but the lower part of the Snake is 2000 feet of HARD climbing.  There is no possibility of setting up a tent once we begin our climb, and a portaledge is also out of the question.  We will have no choice but to use bivy sacks.  In most other situations, this is not a problem, but our route starts at 20,000 ft.  Instead of starting the climb with an alpine start, we decided that it would be best to fix the first 900 feet of the rather imposing face.

The temperature was perfect, and at 9:30 am, we geared up, left C2, and headed back towards our Nuptse camp.  On the way, we crossed paths with many Sherpas and climbers.  "Hey guys, are you going back to BC?", they all asked.  "Not today", we proudly answered back.  "We are going to start climbing the Snake!"  Once we reached our Nuptse camp, we roped up, gathered some gear, and continued going up to the base of the route. The bergschrund looked like a gigantic fence, ready to protect the Snake from any intruders.   Then there was little me.  Lucky, or unlucky (I'm still not sure which), the first pitch was to be lead by me.  As  I started climbing this huge overhanging wall that was hard as steel, I imagined it was like I was a small insect, picking on the tail of the snake, and she was irritated with my attack.  

By perseverance, or either by stupidity, I managed to reach the 1st belay.  Being a new route, the ratings aren't yet established, but after the first pitch, Damian and I decided to start the process.  Our rating system has 3 levels of difficulty: 1.  No problem; 2.  Toilet paper is required after the leader reaches the belay; 3.  At least 2 adult diapers are an essential part of the gear used by the leader.

This first pitch, as well as the following next 3 pitches, all scored a number 3 on our rating scale.  When I reached the top of the 4th pitch, I discovered a strange little cave.  At first I thought it might be just big enough to hold a pair of twins, but that was just an illusion, because it turns out I barely fit in to it myself.  But at least now we have a good belay station, that will keep Damian safe from all of the dinner size plates of ice that I sent down straight at him each time I strike the ice with my tools. 

In truth of it all, we had a really productive day.  For the moment, our Snake tolerated having a pair of mosquitoes on her back, with only a minimum complaint.  After fixing 4 pitches of rope, we rappelled back to the base, and then headed back in the direction of the tent. But the Snake was not going to let us get away with having it that easy.   When I arrived to the tent, Damian was about 40 feet behind me.  After I dropped my tools and backpack, I turned around and looked back.  Surprise!  All I could see of Damian was his head!  The rest of his body had disappeared into the glacier.  He had been following along in my footsteps, but maybe he had eaten a few more cookies than me lately, because he broke right on through into an unknown crevasse.  He was fine,  and I ended up laughing so hard that my stomach hurt for a long time.

Yes, this was a fantastic day in the office.  We came back down to BC from there, and we will rest for the next day or two.  If the weather holds, we will depart on Monday the 12th to head back up and get ready for our final attack on the Crystal Snake of Nuptse.  Of course, that is if she will allow it! Willie  

 

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