Thursday, August 4, 2011
Thursday, June 16, 2011
The film is expected out this autumn...
Monday, May 30, 2011
all the filming. The boys have captured some truly epic shots on the
North Buttress and I have some pretty amazing ariel shots of the
face.... even found an awesome clip I totally forgot about with Matt
doing some comedic posing in his bright orange Patagonia
Onezie......Al and I have been pissing ourselves laughing all
Otherwise, both my big toes are still numb. I have been joining Al on
his afternoon bouldering sessions and have found myself totally
overwhelmed by the colours and textures of the countryside. Not being
able to wonder around on the glacier as freely as I would have liked,
I have now been pushed into sensory overload, the grass blowing in the
wind, the fertile landscape, the grazing sheep, the tiny shadows
created by the evening sun on rough texture of the grit stone.... the
warm countryside wind blowing through my hair (he says while Al is
furiously rubbing his hands together trying to generate heat).
Watch this space.....for updates regarding the film.
Dave aka. Pap
Thursday, May 26, 2011
For anyone interested in technical details we gave the route the follow grades:
Alaskan Grade 6 (M6, AI6, 5.8, A2). Although the climbing is significantly harder and more sustained than the French Route and the 'Moonflower Buttress'. It would be great if a strong team were to repeat our line and eliminate the aid in the future. Bivouac's are hard to find and I expect it would go all free at hard M7 and 5.9.
Here is a photo of Mount Hunter's North Buttress with our line drawn on:
Saturday, May 21, 2011
It takes me a while to write down how the 6 days on the wall made and now makes me feel, but i will start and as it sinks in as to what we have achieved I will write more. The most important thing for our success was that both myself and Jon where in the same head space, the dream, the commitment, the vision, the drive to succeed on a new route of this scale, and the ability to know totally what each other where needing and feeling, we didn't need to communcate this by word but just by the friendship we have and by the pull of the rope. The climbing was hard, dangerous, scary, but beautiful and it took everything we had in our minds and arms to be successful. The last 36 hour push to the top off the North Buttress and the 38 abseils later to the base off the wall, where like an out off body experience I have never witnessed before. Pushing through the super bad weather felt like we where always in complete control but at the same time fully wasted, we where not on our own, not like some "God" looking over us, or anything like that, I don't believe, but just that, we where not on our own, i can't explain it. nuff said! The route is the hardest and longest climb of my life so far, and there are many stories which i will tell you about over the next few days and weeks of the 6 days on the wall. but for now one stands out...after descending back to the glacier after the route, both wasted at the base, hardly able to move after poor food for 5 days and 36 hours with no food and 1 litre of water we lead in the snow as our body systems shut down now knowing that we where safe, we could see the Dave (Pap) in the distance skinning as hard and as fast as he could towards us, big rucksack and toeing a sledge, thank god, he's bringing us a warm drink and a load off food from Base Camp, cheese, bagels, salt crackers, beef jerky, fruit bars, peanut butter all things that we had been craving on the route and needing to eat to get us back on our feet and down the 1.5km to our BC. He showed up smiling as always and handed us a tiny fun size Snickers each, oh and one for himself and a cold icy half litre of dirty water. Thanks Pap.
Pic 1: Matt gets a tough wake up call on pitch one, day 2
Pic 2: An amazing pitch space walking on the 'Moon.......'
Pic 3: Day 4, we join the Moonflower route- Matt enjoying the 'Vision' pitch
Thursday, May 19, 2011
After our previous recce the first day on the wall went smoothly and things were going to plan. That night was less so as we realised the perils of hanging our portaledge on a 60 degree ice slope. We were awakened by the bang of the ledge as it suddenly collapsed and transformed into a hammock! On day two we faced many uncertainties with finding a way through some very complex and steep terrain full of overhanging snow mushrooms. Matt fort hard leading all day and finally got us in position below the steepest rock band of the climb at about 2am. By overcoming these difficulties our confidence grew and for the first time ever I started to think that we might have a small chance of getting up this climb! Day three was steep and scary.... thinly iced slabs, overhanging cracks, loose rock to aid climb up, a pitch of vertical ice and more. We finally got to bed at 6am! Day four we joined the Moonflower route and our new route was on- we just needed a little luck with the weather. Day five it snowed and wind blew.....
After being trapped in the ledge all day at 9 pm we sensed a slight lull in the storm and could see glimpses of the sun through the clouds. We were both thinking exactly the same thoughts...this might be our one and only chance so lets take it. With no food left there was no point in playing a waiting game. We quickly packed a stove, spare gloves, warm jackets and a minimal rack. Our goal to reach the top of the Buttress, 500m and 13 pitches of climbing above us. In reality knowing the chances of success being negligible. Two pitches later the snow started up again and we were battling hard against forceful spindrift. The cold was almost unbearable but some how our optimism and unwillingness to give-in was winning through. In a dream like state of exhaustion we stood at the top of the face at 5am, few words were said, with no comprehension of what we had just achieved. We just knew we had to start abseiling with haste. 38 abseils and 14 hours later we were back on the glacier and collapsed, having been awake for 36 hours. We have named the route 'The Cartwright Connection' in memory of my good friend Jules as it was his vision to attempt this line.
Pic 1: Loving the ledge!
Pic 2: Jon hanging out with the haul bag
Pic 3: The portaledge before the storm hit
Pic 4: Jon battling steep mixed terrin, day 3
Pic 4: Finally at the Cornice Bivi, 5am on day 6
Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Best of luck to the boys... fingers crossed everyone.
While writing this, I got a call from Matt. Seems like wind wise it is not as bad up there, just getting little doses of spin drift blowing in now and again. But it might have something to do with being tucked away in the spot they have chosen, seems pretty sheltered. (See previous blog posting with picture, at least I hope the entry made it up successfully.... seems like loads of posts have not been successful, the satellite signal keeps dropping now and again without warning.
Anyway, although this wind, weather and climate is pretty hectic at times, I cant help but enjoy just sitting out in the elements being pelted by the wind and snow and feeling numb in my face and hands... and having a big grin on my face. Thinking, what an awesome job! Would not traid it for anything in the world.
All thanks to my target shooting days when I was practicing to be a sniper.
2. No more vacuuming or sweeping...just let it melt.
3. You get to wear sunglasses 24/7... and that has to be cool.
4. You dont need a fridge or a freezer. The perfect location for a Fosters Beer advert... "Always best served chilled"
5. You can wear a black bag over your head and there is nobody around to take the piss out of you.
Otherwise, on the home front. It is currently dumping snow at a fair rate down here. but my solar charing system is a cable and a half away from my tent, so in the true spirit of laziness, I am currently sitting out in the snow, under a black bag typing this entry. Why a black bag you ask? Well...like I said... in the true spirit of laziness ;)
Well done boys!
Anyway, so far everything is going according to schedule, their plan it to carry on hauling everything up today to the third ice field and then spend the night there. Tomorrow, the plan is to continue up to the top of the face and then all the way to the summit of Mt Hunter. The Summit is not essential in claiming a new route on the North Face, but weather permitting, they have always intended on doing the full summit for that "feel good feeling". The weather report is for 40mph SE winds tomorrow, and while the face North Face is protecting them from those winds at the moment, when they walk up and onto the ridge and head to the summit they will be in the line of fire... so fingers crossed they can realise their dream for the full assent.
I thought I would give you a break from my MS Paint skills with the mountain, and treat you to a close up of my cracked nose...;) Yes that is snot, but my nose is too sore to actually clean, so I figure I would just leave it there for your enjoyment.
Monday, May 16, 2011
David: "Hi Matt, yes I can hear you, whats going on, on your side"
Matt: "I thought you said their was no forcast for Precipitation"
It seems like Matt had just had about half a ton of fresh snow avalanche over him of which most of it he swallowed.
But otherwise, I have just had a fantastically informative and entertaining long radio call. Tonight is the first night that they have not been climbing for ages or totally knackered. It is about 9pm and they are all snug in the porta-ledge cooking up a storm. I was asked what I was eating for dinner...Rotelle Pasta with fried up onions and garlic, tinned peas, tinned beans, tinned carrots, tinned tuna and some tomato sauce sprinkled all over stuff with cheese..BASTARD! Matt shouts over the radio... he says they would do anything for a bowl of that right now... I suspect that both Matt and Jon are sick of their chicken Pot pie bagged boil meals.. Seems like Matt even drew the short straw as Jon also had mash with his pot pie...."Bastard!" I hear again! "How come I dont have mash with my pot pie" Jon laughing in the back ground.
So it seems like tonight has been the best place for pitching their porta-ledge... it is actually hanging tonight rather than being on a slight slope like the previous nights. Apparently they where all shitting themseleves last night, or should I rather say this morning when they actually got to sleep. It seems like their porta-ledge collapsed on them and totally sandwiching them amoungst the straps. They could hardly move to see what was going on and they where wondering if their anchor points had bailed on them and they where about to plumet to the bottom of the mountain.... Well it all seems to be ok, they made it through the night and are now based one pitch below the 3rd Ice band.
It has been snowing a great deal over the past 6 hours and winds are forcast for 35mph tomorrow... so will see how they get on with making it to the cornise or to the summit... all dependent on wind and snow and temperature... you get the picture...
Anyway, on reserve battery now so no time for spell checks.... apologies
And dont tell me you have not thought about it before. This is the second expedition I have been on where the entire group/ majority have already decided who is being eaten first if the food runs out.... Yes you guessed it.... they always chose me.... Why do I look so juicy and tender?
PS... no word from the boys yet... it is only mid day, but the clouds are blocking the view of the buttress so cant even follow them with the binos.. will drop you a message later when I get word.
Anyway, so far so good. Well keep you all posted.
So as one would expect we have our own communal/ kitchen area, the office/ charging station with desk and all, our toilet area (housing those miniature barrels I mentioned earlier) and driveway, an outside entertainment/ BBQ area (used on those lovely summer days) and like every home, we also have a southern and western Snow Block Quarry.
The reason for the quarry's is we built our enclosure using snow blocks cut out of the lower firmer snow. Using a snow saw and a couple snow shovels, dozens of cups of tea and we where quickly able to fashion up our own castle... great day out for the whole family...
Our communal area/ kitchen is mostly submerged into the snow, with a trench for our legs and a higher surfaces along 3 of the sides which act as a counter top and a bench chair...we have used a kinda fly sheet with 2 vertical poles as a roof and it is overall very cosy.. and having a snow countertop is brilliant, you can store and clean your knives just by giving it a quick stab, pots and cups of hot coffee or tea just sink into the countertop... so after a couple days, it needs refurbing as it just looks like a block of swiss cheese. Perhaps a sheet of thin ply wood would work better for a long stay. We have of course sheets of wood for the gas stove, otherwise we would have melted a hole right through the glacier by now..
Drinking wise, we have to melt snow, a lot of snow, luckily we have 3 gallons of white fuel which seem to be working well for the time we are here. Also lucky that white fuel does not freeze either...haha
Toilets wise, the national parks board have issued everyone with a small barrel called a CMC (clean mountain container) which I suspect is purely because people where sick of saying pooh barrel. Basically, it is just big enough for 1 operation, so if you fancy a number 1 and a number 2 at the same time..forget it.... you have to pinch your number 1 until it is safe enough to stand up and release the number 1 valve.... it is a guy thing.... I am sure you all know what I am talking about. After discussing this barrel down in the village with the locals, one also mentioned that perhaps issuing barrels in sizes like you do clothing might also be a good idea. (There are some hefty Americans and really miniaturise the barrels, making it look like they are relieving themselves into a Coke Can.)
Washing.... well if you are talking cutlery, plates and pots.... we just using a paper towel, so if you are a micro biologist, you can probabaly still find samples of food on everything from day 1... If you talking washing your body.... well we are kinda applying the same principles... but with wet wipes, Nobody has actually washed their hair (otherwise you would just end up with brain freeze).... the boys did have a shave the day before they went up, but after inquiring, they said they wanted to look good for each other in the porta-ledge. Obviously this is not some homo-erotic thing, but I can see their point, being crammed up together on a tiny suspended platform for so many days, having some respectable looking chap within your immediate vicinity would be alot more appealing than having a competitor for the hairiest man of the mountain award sleeping right next to you.
Walking around, well we are on a glacier so you have to ideally walk around in pairs, all roped up carrying cravas rescue gear. Or if you like me, all on your own, you can wonder around this enclosure and wait for people passing by and ask them if they can take you out for a bit of a walk....
To keep warm, you basically have to put everything on that you own.... the temperature and sun exposure is brutal and if you not freezing you are getting sun burn/ snow burn, your lips, nose and skin starts to crack, your finger tips crack, some of my didgits have lost their feeling for a couple hours (even when you are warm and cozy)... getting used to hotaches (it is a regular thing).... getting kinda addictive now... like going out to get yet another tattoo. (Not that I have any tattoo's, just saying they could open little hotache centres all over the country where you stick a limb in a blast freezer while having a cup of Java or something and enjoy the after effects driving back home or something)
So think that is enough for now, I am writing this while my camera is occupied with a time-laps, but as soon as it am finished, I am going to take a picture of this pooh barrel and post it on the blog.
Sunday, May 15, 2011
Otherwise all is good here in BC.
Pic 1. Arrow indicating where they are setting up camp for the night.
Saturday, May 14, 2011
So being the cameraman filming Matt and Jon and their attempt on Mt Hunter, I have to be around all the action, this morning had me rushing on ahead to the start of the route. I wanted to get a couple specific shots, one was a brilliant low angle shot of the sun just peaking over the mountains, contoured snow landscape as a foreground, the North Buttress in the back ground while the boys walking past on their skis, snow being picked up by the light wind... sun light flairing into the lens.... whooo... a camera mans dream....mmm..this of course didnt materialise like I had planned as the sun only showed itself about 20 seconds after the boys had walked passed and out of shot...grrr. What a lot of effort for nothing. There I was face planted in the snow, rolling around with my skis still attached....looking like a total muppet and had nothing to show for it.
So we are now at the base of the route, and after prepping the biggest rack of gear, getting strapped up with all that lovely sharp ice climbing equipment and readying the porta-ledge and haul bag for its journey, Matt and Jon headed up on their amazing adventure. Matt wearing some crazy new bright orange Patagonia outfit (which although looks like some prisoner outfit, it looks amazing on camera and can be seen from miles away) and Jon being a bit more reserved in his choice of clothing, (blue and green). Both giving a short message to camera and then heading up the face... I was filming them on their first 2 pitches from down below, dodging chunks of snow and ice hurtling towards me, Luckly I had Al Lee's massive wide angle lens on the camera, so perfect for hiding behind to protect my head from projectiles :)
I soon made my way back to our ice fortress to phone TAT (Talkeetna Air Taxi) to book some fly bys to film the boys on the route... they where planning on making their first camp at the top of the Prow (1/3 of the way up the face) and the plan was to catch them on that part of the face as it is pretty dramatic..... plane was booked.... 2.30/ 3pm..... only problem was, I didnt have a watch.... so now I am trying to figure out time based on sun positions based on sun rise, lunch times, the time-lapse footage I have been doing and the daily 8pm radio weather update and radio trivia quize game played amoungest everyone in the mountains.... pretty cool actually, time for everyone to connect with each other. (had cool radio chatter today discussing a troublesome route amoungst other climbers..) Anyway, point being, is I got down to the main BC and air strip by 2.10.... how is that for estimation.. :)
Until this point I had not been able to see the boys on the route as it can only be seen from higher up on the glacier... but based on the discussions with Matt and Jon, they would be on the Prow and true to form.. that is exactly where they where.. making really good ground, Jon was some 20 meter higher up with Matt in his lumo orange getup and with all the haul bag and porta-ledge. The only problem was, it took 4 passes on the plane to actually find them, and despite booking the plane for 30min the pilot only had enough fuel for 15min and only got 2 useble passes.... The best and most scary part of the whole adventure, was taking the door off and strapping myself in my harness, sitting on the plane floor and had my legs dangling out the side.... my gosh the wind was so cold... not only did my hands become totally numb but my eyes where watering and the air inside my lungs felt like it was being sucked out of my body.... WOW.... what a crazy fun experience.. Anyway, got a couple cool shots, some lovely arial footage of the area, but on the next flyby, will make sure the pilot has a full tank.
So tonight and for the next 5 or 6 nights, I am on my own here at BC and cooking for one really is not that much fun, I am being tempted by the massive slab of cheese, the tinned fruit and green and blacks chocolate bars.... that would easily sustain me for a week :) all the fresh veg is gone (despite the frozen onions, oh yes, frozen onions don't make your eyes water.... tip for all you budding cooking enthusiasts), but now I am just left with frozen tinned veg which is really rubbish....got to spoon out all the melted carrot and bean water after is has melted and spoilt all the other ingredients in the pan....
It is now 9.30pm ish....the sun has set about an hour ago and the temperature reads -15 deg C... in about another hour or so it will prob be -20 deg C.... it has become the norm for night time (thank goodness there is no major wind yet) so here I am shivering away tying this blog, yes you guessed it... my boots are frozen again.... Anyway, just had a radio call from the boys who are still in the setting sun higher up on the face, they are chilling in their porta-ledge above the Prow, making a brew...I could hear the JetBoil stove firing away on all cylinders..... what a comforting sound these stoves makes when you are faced with such low temperatures.... think I am going to put a brew on the boil now too.
More blogging action to follow.... got so much to tell, from how I have solved the frozen olive oil problem, our solar charging and sat phone blogging setup, Matts down booties that I have pinched for the rest of the week and these stupidly small barrels everyone is issued for poohing in and of course international mountaineering clothing trends and lots lots more.... stay tuned.
Pic 1. Boys on the wall.
Pic 2. The Plane.
The weather has been absolutely fantastic sofar, blue skies and no wind, but the boys are climbing higher up and in the shade so could be a totally different story up there.... There are some light clouds rolling in with more clouds and more winds expected over the next few days.
Assuming of course my last super long blog update was successfull, otherwise this one would make little sense... had problems last night uploading as the signal kept dropping out. I have my informants, so if not, I will repost it.
Pic 1. Time-lapes action with tracking, panning and tilting.... wow... what you can do with a tent peg and a piece of string...:)
Thursday, May 12, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
After lunch Matt and I went for a short ski tour up the glacier to stretch our aching legs and also to get a view through binoculars of a crucial linking pitch above the 'Prow'. We gained some useful knowledge for route finding and can't wait to get back up there after a wee rest.
Dave Reeves has been busy doing lots of time-lapse photography and filming- this place must be a photographers dream. Though the hardest task for Dave is the constant charging of batteries on the solar pannels as he's taking so many pictures and film footage.
Pic 1: View from our camp towards the North Buttress of Mt Hunter
Monday, May 9, 2011
Today was a day of relaxing and sorting out climbing equipment for our planned recce mission tomorrow. The forecast is for cloud and 20mph NE winds, but we have decided to try and climb up the lower part of the face to check out conditions. We will abseil down before the forecast evening storm comes in. For Wednesday we are expecting quite heavy snowfall along with 60mph northerly winds, so will be hunkered down in camp until the weather breaks.
The long range outlook is good for the end of the week so fingers crossed!
Pic 1: Jon and Matt sorting the biggest rack this side of Yosemite
Saturday, May 7, 2011
Firstly, first major issue, convincing the pilot of the plane to change the whole safety start up sequence in order to film some cool close up external shots...... no chance. Next major issue was putting my gloves in the bottom of my pack for when we arrived on the glacier... then crawiling around in the snow with my t-shirt and my dog-eared trekking trousers.... took a while to get feeling back into all things attached to my torso.
The next fun was the sledging up a hill.... now, I cant ski, but all of a sudden, I am clipping my hiking boots into ski's and hauling a heavy sledge up a hill.... WHAT a MISSION.... talk about 2 steps foward and 3 steps back... took me like an hour to climb about 25m in height gain.
So we're now at the top of the little hill and have set up our BC. that was pretty cool..... while the boys went back to get the next load, I was digging the largest hole of my life... but we now have a BC that puts the main BC to shame.... like tent city now... :)
Last night was freezing, could have put on a warm jacket but was using it as a pillow... and did'nt fancy using the sat phone hard case as a pillow and just froze all night instead...
Oh yes... a piss bottle. the first time I have used one, pretty interesting using it, but well worth it in the cold. But woke up this morning and had like a litre of frozen piss staring at me.... (was using the warmth of the bottle to warm my hands up, but that did'nt last long)
SO now I am wanting to walk around and take pictures of the lovely sun rise.... BUT my boots where frozen and could not even put them on. Geeee... can things get any worse..... Yes they can..... while stumbling around in boots that felts like 6 sizes to small, I was setting up the solar panel which...yes... you guessed it... all the terminals had frozen too.... :) easy problem to solve, right? yeah you just suck on the terminals and melt the ice.... SHOCK...!!! its a 12Volt supply stupid! hahaha
Breakfast time, boots have melted and my feet are slowly thawing and started feeling happy that I could walk around without pain, when all of a sudden I was hobbling around in pain... the boys where laughing their heads off... yes ... Hotaches..... WOW... had it on my hands before but when you standing on your feet and get it...different story completely..
Tonight, I am going to find another pillow and actually wear my £360 down jacket and wear every item of clothing I own. I am going to sleep with my piss bottle and the boots... not quite figured out what I am going to do with them... perhaps one of the boys has space in their sleeping bag for my boots...
Dave (The Pap)
Friday, May 6, 2011
Beautiful crisp and sunny start this morning and hopefully we should be flying into the mountains within the next hour! We're all really excited and can't wait to get climbing.
Pic 1: The Talkeetna River
Pic 2: Checking out our new ledge in the comfort of Talkeetna Air Taxis' shed
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Arrived here in Anchorage, not sure if it was yesterday the day before
yesterday or today! We woke up at Earth B&B all still pretty jaded
after the long trip over, we have spent the day sorting gear, doing
food shopping and most importantly drinking large amounts off
capuccino, before un packing and then re packing to get the equipment
sorted for the taxi ride up to Talkeetna in the morning.
Pic 1. Stopover in Minneapolis
Pic 2. Matt having his daily fix.
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Watch this space....
Monday, April 25, 2011
Today we had another session at la Balme (Arve Valley limestone) getting slicker at aid/big wall techniques- not our normal style but we are going prepared for all eventualities.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
1) Endurance - running/road cycling
2) Resistance- circuit training/weights/hill reps
3) Climbing specific- bouldering/dry tooling
Yesterday we went for a climb together on the North face of Les Courtes in the Argentiere basin, which was great fun and it really helps with mental preparation to be climbing together in the weeks proceeding an expedition. We soloed the Swiss route in 1hr42mins going at a steady pace (av. heart rate for Jon 150bpm) and then down-climbed the NE face back to our skis.
We also had a day rock climbing in the sun at Balme this week. We used the day to practice different hauling systems as we may end up taking a haul bag on Mount Hunter due to the sustained technical difficulties we foresee.
Recent evenings have been spent getting all our logistics sorted, and we have also received some good news from the British Mountaineering Council in that they have offered us an expedition grant.