Category Archive 'Mountaineering'

23 Feb 2015

Climbers Heard Screaming on Ben Nevis

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combgully
Comb Gully where Christopher Sleight was climbing

BBC:

In recent weeks, we’ve seen some of the best ice climbing conditions in years in the west of Scotland, especially on Ben Nevis.

Day after day of gentle freeze-thaw cycles have created vast swathes of thick, sticky ice of the best quality – choking gullies and dripping improbably over steep buttresses.

The corries of the Ben have been busy with climbers seeking out these incredible conditions, and a few days ago I joined them, setting out with a good friend to climb an ice route called Comb Gully – a gully high in the corrie that’s bounded by the Trident Buttress on one side and the steep walls of Tower Ridge on the other.

The ice was perfect and we were climbing well. I was on the the crux pitch – about 10m or so of very steep ground – and I had my back wedged against a rock wall as I placed an ice screw when I heard the first scream.

It started indistinctly, slightly muffled, but quickly came sharp into focus. It pierced through the mist – the most visceral, awful sound.

People talk about bloodcurdling screaming and for the first time I understood. That noise sent a stream of cold blood around my veins and chilled the back of my neck.

My first thought was simple but terrible: I was listening to someone who had just watched a loved one – not simply a climbing partner, but a loved one – fall to their death. There was so much pain and loss in that dreadful noise.

I froze for a moment, barely breathing, still perched on that vertical wall. I wasn’t in a secure position, hanging off a few millimetres of metal hooked into the ice. At that moment I just wanted to be gone – off the climb, off the mountain.

This screaming had brought home to me the possible consequences of getting something wrong, of making a mistake. That was honestly what I’d thought I’d heard – the consequences of someone getting it very wrong and losing their life.

But there was no way to make a quick retreat – the fastest way out of this gully was up. I finished the crux and secured myself to three solid ice screws and brought my partner up.

We discussed the screams, trying to work out where they had come from, speculating on what might have happened, and agreed we needed to finish our climb as quickly as we could.

We completed the final, easier pitch, and ended up on the Ben Nevis plateau in the mist, in complete silence. …

A brief search close to where we finished our climb revealed nothing. We headed down to Fort William.

I later spoke to another climber I knew who had been on a route in the same corrie. He had abseiled off his route and gone to investigate, but found nothing.

Other climbers did the same. Nobody could find evidence of an accident and the police said no-one had been reported missing.

So we don’t know who was screaming. We don’t know what happened to them. We probably never will.

Complete story.

15 Sep 2013

Ice Climbing

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The gif constitutes the last 8 seconds of a 1:08 video.

Hat tip to Gangman.

11 Jun 2011

Alex Honnold: Solo Free Climbing

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Caution: Watching this video produces strong sensations of fear.

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Wikipedia bio

31 Jan 2011

Scots Climber Falls 1000′ and Survives

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Telegraph story.

07 Oct 2010

Kurt Albert, January 28, 1954 – September 28, 2010

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Though Albert claimed to have strong feelings about climbing safety, one famous photograph showed him, clad in lederhosen, dangling from a precipice by one hand, while brandishing a stein of beer in the other.

German climbing legend Kurt Albert succumbed to head injuries suffered in a 60′ fall from a climb equipped with permanent technical aids.

Telegraph:

Kurt Albert, who died on September 27 aged 56, invented the “redpoint” or free style of climbing – in which the ascent is performed without technical aids.

He developed the idea in the early 1970s on expeditions to the Franconian Jura mountains, when he would paint a red “x” on each piton he could avoid using for a foot- or handhold. Once he was able to complete a route avoiding all of them, he would paint a red dot at the base of the climb so that others could have a go. Albert’s “redpoints” sparked the development of the sport climbing movement and the term “redpoint” is used as a measure of performance.

Albert marked new redpoint routes from Patagonia to the Karakoram and from Greenland to Venezuela. In Alpinismus (1977, with Reiner Pickle) he recalled that “we managed to apply the red dot even to some climbs where pitons had previously been considered essential. Handles and steps appeared that had never been noticed before.”

His more audacious feats include the first ascent of “Eternal Flame” on Trango Tower (6239m) in Pakistan’s Karakoram Range – one of the finest big-wall rock routes in the world. He completed the climb in 1989 with Wolfgang Güllich, managing most of the route free, but using aids for a small section; it was a feat which marked the beginning of the craze for free climbing on high-altitude peaks. It was left to Albert’s compatriots, Alexander and Thomas Huber, to redpoint the climb last year.

Albert’s other pioneering climbs included the first ascent of the aptly-named “El Purgatorio” up the North Pillar of the Acopan Tepui in Venezuela (2006), and the “Royal Flush” on Mount Fitz Roy in Patagonia (with Bernd Arnold, 1995). The newly-opened route was named “Royal Flush” for a reason: statistically a climber in Patagonia will have only two to three continuous days of good weather before violent storms make the ascent impossible. The route up the 1,400m North Wall is one of the most difficult in the world — and Albert always considered the climb to be his most important.

Kurt Albert was born on January 18 1954 in Nuremberg and started climbing, at the age of 14, with a Catholic youth group in his local Frankenjura mountains. He soon progressed to more challenging climbs, such as the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses and the North Face of the Eiger, which he climbed aged 18.

A turning point in his life came in 1973 during a trip to the Elbsandstein in Saxony, where he met climbers who were more interested in pushing the physical limits of rock climbing than in conquering peaks. From then on the ascent became the main challenge, and the more craggy and vertiginous the route the better. As he explained to an interviewer, he liked his climbs to be 80 per cent rock face. Trudging through snow held little appeal.

Albert was not a typical fitness fanatic. He liked strong coffee and cigarettes, and confessed to being “lazy” at home. His commitment to redpointing, however, extended to his mode of travel to and from base camp. He considered it a point of honour to get to the rock face which he intended to climb using “natural”, non-mechanical means of transport and using no advance supplies or porters. …

He died from injuries sustained after falling 18 metres from the Höhenglücksteig via ferrata in Bavaria.

The scene of the accident is featured in this unrelated YouTube video of the Höhenglücksteig:

24 Nov 2008

Scary Footpath

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Built in 1901, and currently in considerable disrepair, this walkway, called El Caminito del Rey, serves as an entrance to Makinodromo, the famous climbing sector of El Chorro in Spanish Andalusia.

Wikipedia:

The walkway has now gone many years without maintenance, and is in a highly deteriorated and dangerous state. It is one meter (3 feet and 3 inches) in width, and is over 200 meters (700 feet) above the river. Nearly all of the path has no handrail. Some parts of the concrete walkway have completely collapsed and all that is remaining is the steel beam originally in place to hold it up and the wire that follows most of the path. One can latch onto a safety-wire to keep from falling. Several people have lost their lives on the walkway in recent years; after four people died in two accidents in 1999 and 2000, the local government closed the entrances. However, adventurous tourists still find their way onto the walkway to explore it.

The regional government of Andalusia budgeted in 2006 for a restoration plan estimated at € 7 million.

6:26 video.

10 Aug 2008

11 Deaths on K2 Tie Record For 2nd Worse Himalayan Climbing Disaster

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K2 – More Dangerous than Everest

Freddie Wilkinson, in HuffPo of all places, gives a climber’s inside perspective on the recent K2 tragedy, critiquing some mainstream media accounts in places like the New York Times and National Geographic.

Roughly thirty people left the high camp in the predawn hours on Friday, August 1st, bound for the summit. The climbers were counting on the use of fixed ropes, set by an advance team of climbers. Delays quickly ensued when they realized that the fixed ropes weren’t strategically placed in the most difficult sections of the climb; more ropes needed to be leapfrogged from below. A Serb climber fell to his death and an aborted body recovery cost more time and took the life of a Pakistani porter. While some decided to return to high camp, as many as 17 climbers summited. The catastrophic serac avalanche caught the first climbers descending from the summit, sweeping several more climbers (the exact number has been variously reported as 3 or 4) to their deaths. Five to six more climbers perished who were stranded above the Bottleneck couloir at the time of the avalanche.

11 Jan 2008

Sir Edmund Hillary, 1919-2008

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Edward J. Halliday, Sir Edmund Hillary, Auckland Museum, oil on canvas, 1955

Sir Edmund Hillary, conqueror of Mount Everest, (for whom the junior senator from New York was not named) has died at age 88. New Zealand plans a state funeral.

The Australian obituary & video.

AP story, slideshow, videos

Hat tip to Dominique Poirier.

24 Jun 2007

China Building Highway to Mount Everest

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The Chinese government has announced the planned construction of a blacktop highway to Everest base camp to facilitate the carrying of the 2008 Olympic Torch to the summit of the highest mountain in the world.

AP:

China plans to build a highway on the side of Mount Everest to ease the Olympic torch’s journey to the peak of the world’s tallest mountain before the 2008 Beijing Games, state media reported Tuesday.
Construction of the road, budgeted at $19.7 million would turn a 67- mile rough path from the foot of the mountain to a base camp at 17,060 feet “into a blacktop highway fenced by undulating guardrails,” the Xinhua News Agency said.

Xinhua said construction, which would start next week, would take about four months. The new highway would become a major route for tourists and mountaineers, it said.

An official from the Secretariat of the Tibetan government, who declined to give his name, confirmed the project was planned, but refused to give any details. Tibet and Nepal are the most commonly used routes up the mountain.

In April, organizers for the Beijing Summer Olympics announced ambitious plans for the longest torch relay in Olympic history—an 85,000-mile, 130-day route that would cross five continents and reach the 29,035-foot summit of Everest.

Taking the Olympic torch to the top of the mountain, seen by some as a way for Beijing to underscore its claims to Tibet, is expected to be one of the relay’s highlights.

26 Aug 2006

Everest Rescue Video

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National Geographic has a video of American Everest climbing team leader Daniel Mazur discussing his May 26, 2006 rescue of 50 year old Australian author Lincoln Hall from a narrow ridge 28,000 feet high on Mount Everest.

Hall, disoriented and suffering from cerebral edema, was abandoned to die the previous day by Russian expedition 7 Summits Club leader Alexander Abramov. Thomas Weber, a partially blind climber with the same expedition, making the ascent to raise money for charity, died the same day.

BBC report.

Ten days earlier, David Sharp was left to die on the mountain by 40 climbers who passed by the striken climber in the course of their ascents.

24 May 2006

40 Climb Past Dying Climber on Everest

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The 2006 climbing season on Mount Everest, with 9 dead already, seems likely to overtake the previous 1996 record of 12 fatalities. This climbing season featured a new kind of record as well, however, with reports of 40 climbers proceeding past a dying British climber on their way up.

Washington Times:

Mark Inglis, an amputee who conquered Mount Everest on artificial legs last week, yesterday defended his party’s decision to carry on to the summit despite coming across a dying climber.
As his team climbed through the “death zone,” the area above 26,000 feet where the body begins to shut down, they passed David Sharp, 34, a stricken British climber who later died. His body remained on the mountain.
Mr. Inglis, 47, a New Zealander, said: “At 28,000 feet it’s hard to stay alive yourself. He was in a very poor condition, near death. We talked about [what to do for him] for quite a lot at the time and it was a very hard decision.
“About 40 people passed him that day, and no one else helped him apart from our expedition. Our Sherpas (guides) gave him oxygen. He wasn’t a member of our expedition, he was a member of another, far less professional one.”..

About 200 people have died on Everest since the first expeditions in the 1920s. The corpses are stepped over by climbers traveling the most popular routes.

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first climber to summit Everest and a representative of a different era, condemned their action.

The New Zealand Press Association reports that Edmund Hillary has questioned the actions of Mark Inglis and others on the night British David Sharp, 34, died. “In our expedition there was never any likelihood whatsoever if one member of the party was incapacitated that we would just leave him to die,” Hillary, told the Otago Daily Times today.

Hillary said people have completely lost sight of what’s important and that the difficulties posed by operating at high altitude is no excuse. “I think the whole attitude towards climbing Mt Everest has become rather horrifying…people just want to get to the top, they don’t give a damn for anybody else who may be in distress and it doesn’t impress me at all that they leave someone lying under a rock to die.”


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