If you look up an established route in a climbing guidebook you’ll get an idea of how many pitches and the length of each, what permanent bolts or other hardware (fixed gear) might already be there, and what kind of gear you will need to haul up the mountain with you.
Once all the mysterious gear was organized and strapped to bodies (mostly to the body of our fearless leader), the work of keeping us all more or less safe began. This was my first multi-pitch climb so I was totally intrigued by the various do-hickeys and how they were used (expert rock climbers, forgive anything completely stupid I may say and, yes – I know they are not called do-hickeys).
All the way up the slope, Fabio bounded ahead, stopping occasionally to set more rope traps (yes, yes – I know that’s not what they are called either…). As he went, dragging the climbing ropes behind him, he clipped them in as he placed draws and kept going until the ropes stretched between him and us were basically used up. Along the way Anne played out the slack so if Fabio fell he would only crash backwards as far as the last piece of protection he had placed.
Meanwhile, gear continued to be placed up above us. When Fabio reached the end of the rope then he set up an anchor so he could belay us, taking up the slack as we climbed up to join him. Sometimes belay anchors were located on a luxurious ledge so we could all stand with feet more or less level. Just as often, we had no space to maneuver and sort of perched with screaming calves on the rock, hoping the next section would go quickly so we could move on again. (By the way, if you click on one of those smaller images you can enlarge it and click through the gallery…)
And that was the pattern for several hours – Fabio led the way (while Anne belayed, something my injured elbow really didn’t do well), set gear, and established a belay anchor so we could follow him up. We repeated the process about ten times (I was going to keep a very accurate and precise log detailing each pitch but confess I totally lost track after about four or five…).
Eventually, we reached the top (actually, eventually came pretty quickly – we moved fast and made it up in under four hours). Every time I turned around and looked back as we reached a new resting spot the views did, indeed, got better and better as more and more of the lakes below appeared.
At some point Anne and I failed miserably in our attempts to free a nut from the crack (refer to earlier comment about how hard those little suckers hang on) so Fabio had to climb back down to retrieve it and then climb back up to join us.
To be continued… I’ll leave the climb at this point and continue in the next post because the worst part of the whole expedition was the bit AFTER we had reached the top and somehow had to get back down again…