Route 6, WI5+, 350m

Ricka and Martin had showed us pictures of a great looking freestanding pillar they had observed the day before. Carsten and I have newer climbed a completely freestanding pillar so we got quite excited and decided to give it a go.

Carsten on the short and easy approach to the amphitheater on the right containing the spectacular freestanding pillar.

After the wedding the very short approach (20 min) also seemed very appealing!

Hans below the freestanding pillar (right) and the partly freestanding curtain (left).

On the approach Carsten got more and more excited about the pillar. I really looked climbable as the cauliflower base was quite big. The vertical part of the pillar was thus quite short (~15 m) and he thus volunteered to lead it.

Ricka and Martin's picture of the freestanding pillar that inspired us to go to the amphitheater.

Carsten had done a lot of progress since his serious accident on Bourgeau Left two years earlier, but I was still quite surprised about this offer. However, I thought it would be great for him if he could do it - and frankly I could use a bit of psychological relaxation by climbing second on such a hard pitch. Thus, I grabbed the gear and lead a great WI4 pitch up to the base of the pillar.

Hans leading the WI4 pitch to the base of the freestanding pillar.

I made the belay on the right backside of the pillar and got quite surprised as I inspected the pillar from this angle. It was rather a thin curved curtain than a real pillar. In addition there was a crack line at the junction between the curved curtain and the cauliflower base. I was NOT going to lead this thing, and although it would be fun to climb it as second, I expected that Carsten would reach the same conclusion.

The thin and cracked freestanding "pillar" from the right backside. Suddenly it didn't seem appealing at all...

Carsten also got disappointed when he saw the cracked "pillar" and we quickly decided to rappel and try the curtain on the left of the amphitheater instead. This time Carsten lead the WI4 pitch up to the base of the curtain.

Carsten leading the WI4 pitch to the curtain. He made his belay behind the pillar on the right.

He made his belay behind the pillar on the right side so he would be protected from falling ice. When I came up to the belay I took a close look at the partly freestanding curtain from the back. It looked much better than the "pillar" and I thus decided to give it a try.

Martin leading the curtain the day before we climbed it. I took a line ~5m to the right of his line.

Martin had told me that he had climbed the middle part of the curtain, which at that time had been raining with water. It didn't seem as wet now and I chose a line on the right side of the curtain as that seemed more logical with the belay behind the curtain.

Close up of Martin on the curtain, revealing the many interesting features in the ice that made great foot holds but lousy protection!

The pitch was very challenging as the ice was very fragile and structured (WI5+). The most challenging part was to protect the pitch and frankly I didn't trust any of the screws. As I ascended the curtain it became increasingly clear to me that a fall would be fatal and I thus concentrated 100% on each ice tool and crampon placement - there was no room for errors. As usual the ice became solid at the top of the curtain and it was a great feeling to finally get a good ice tool placement!

Close up of the highly structured and fragile ice of the line I climbed on the WI5+ crux.

Carsten was following as second and although I kept the rope really tight to give some support he fell twice. The first and last time one of us fell on this trip - and luckily it was as second it happened! We continued to climb a few hundred meters of WI2-3 until we ran out of time and thus began descending by rappels. Once again we ended up rappelling in the dark - but we were getting quite good at it! Thus as soon as the first one reached the end of the rope, he would set a screw, anchor in it and start building an abalakov anchor and finish it before the second reached the anchor - ready for the next rappel! Nevertheless - we got down to the car too late again and reached the end of our goodwill....

Carsten leading some of the WI3 ice above the curtain.


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Last update: 8-4-2006

© Hans Bräuner-Osborne