Monday, 29 December 2014

This is this

         "Well, this is this and that is that." : An utterance often used at cramped belay stances, generally to confirm with one's partner that you are not unclipping them from the anchor.
          I don't remember the first time I heard the expression, but it was most definitely with Jonny Red, a longtime friend and climbing partner with whom I've shared many a memorable mountain mission. Apparently we were low on blood sugar because we laughed the snot right out of our nostrils.  By virtue of being here today, we must have made it down ok, but this brings me to another incident involving JR when "this was not this and that, was not that"
          Low blood sugar was again a factor, and we were rolling in to hour 21 after making the first free and complete ascent of the 1000m West ridge of Cerro Innominata a "small" tower in the Fitz Roy massif.
Pitch 8 (of 23) West Ridge, Innominata Photo: Jon Walsh
          With only a few rapelles to go I voluntarily unclipped from the anchor to procure some booty from a nearby crack.  I no longer love booty hunting like I did in my twenties but back then my rack was paltry and my bank account close to nil (these days my rack is far from unimpressive).  
          Scrambling a few meters up and left from Jonny, I reached the abandoned gear, plucked it from the crevice and promptly slipped, beginning a full body grease down an icy goulotte towards a big dropoff and guaranteed death...
           Luckily, my nut tool was still in hand and I remembered from Freedom of the Hills (or was it the Rose and Crown?) that it could be used to self arrest.  So hard did I dig it in to the slope that it bent to nearly 90 degrees and was rendered useless.  By a miracle I hung up at the lip of the abyss and jacked on adrenaline pounced back to the station.  Jonny, who was by then mid-rapelle, didn't even hear my yelp.   Clipping into the security of the anchor I inspected the plunder consisting of a wire gate carabiner and small Wild Country nut and thought to myself: "this... is this..."

             A bout of Slovenian "Alpine Style" drinking in the relative safety of
Campamiento Madsen

Clockwise from left:
Andrew Querner (Lensman) Jacob Schmits,  Jonny "Red" Walsh,  "Big" Rok Zalokar,
Aljaz Tratnik (seated),  Katzo "the dancemaster",
Rok Sisernik (We miss you buddy) and Katherine "the Razor" Fraser (seated)

Waiting....with Andrew Wexler
Photo by: Andrew Querner