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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
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