More fall out from rock fall

Some years ago a friend of mine emailed me an article out of a Canadian climbing magazine. He knew I had climbed Vinson in Antarctica and thought I would find this account interesting. I did. This guy experienced and epic climb. At one point he was in his tent, in his sleeping bag and was worried that hypothermia was going to kill him. At some point in his story something he said sounded oddly familiar. I don’t remember if it was an incident or person. I pulled out my Vinson climb file and started comparing dates. That was when I realized I was on the mountain at the exact same time. In fact when he was experiencing his epic life and death struggle with the cold I and my two climbing partners were 25 feet away celebrating our summit success with a massive helping of Stove-Top Stuffing. I finished the story to see if I had appeared anywhere in it. My chief concern being that I might have been saved by him during this amazing adventure and didn’t know it. Fortunately I am my team mates never made an appearance in this amazing adventure.

It isn’t that climbers “puff” more than any other group. I bet it is fairly common across the board for lots of sports and endeavours. However it reminds one that when you are listening to climbing stories you really have to consider the source. Yesterday I wrote about the rock fall danger we are experiencing here this year. While I was typing this I heard some guy describing being constantly peppered by small rocks going to C3. I did not give it much credence because I didn’t know the source. However I have since seen or heard from several people who I know to be straight shooters. All of these people are younger, stronger and more experienced in the mountains that I am. When they say something I take it very seriously.

All of these people have, at least for now, pulled back. They may eventually decide the risk is manageable for them if we do not get snow up high but risk is a function of capabilities and that weighs heavily on any decisions I make. So for me the decision tree goes like this. Will I climb if the rock fall risk remains the same? No. I was sitting next to someone in the tea house yesterday who was missing a digit or two and had some additions to his face that were not planned with care. A good reminder that you can carry around a reminder of bad decisions for all to see.

With that decision made then the next question is one of timing. This is a function of time. Sufficient snow up high is probably a two day event. After a snow like that you need two days for the fresh snow to consolidate so as not to avalanche off. Then you need two days to fix from C3 to C4 and two days to fix to the summit – this is assuming low winds after a significant storm. Adding it up that is an 8 or 9 day sequence of good things happening. When I start to count backward from the expected arrival of the monsoon snows at end of May then it would appear that if we do not have a significant snow event up high by 15th or 16th of May there will not be an opportunity for me this year. I won’t even need to wait that long because we get a forecast out 4 or 5 days in advance that is pretty accurate. This coming week is crucial.

The one thing that I keep in the back of my mind is how lemming like climbers can be. In fact they are more like lemmings than lemmings. If a few get a bright idea it could turn into a stampede. Human nature I suppose. It is always a bad sign when a decision made yesterday is changed today when the only fact that has changed is the time has grown shorter. I am comfortable with what I have decided. Now we sit and wait.