Friday, August 24, 2012

Classic Climbing in Canada

We all have daily, weekly—sometimes even life—checklists (paying the electric bill, changing oil, hitting the gym). But checklists start taking epic proportions when your goal is to climb all the routes made famous in Fifty Classic Climbs of North America.

We heard from Mark and Janelle Smiley earlier in the week, where they've been climbing out their brain in Canada over the past month, checking these three killer climbs off their list:

Mt Waddington, via the Wiessner-House Route, BC (35 hours to climb camp to camp)
Mt Alberta, via the Japanese Route, AB (15 hrs 15 mins hut to hut)
Mt Robson, via the Wishbone Arete, BC (29 hrs hut to hut).

Oh, and then they also climbed a little mountain called Denali via the Cassin Ridge.

Most laypeople have a very surface understanding of the hauling of supplies, acclimatizing, and general waiting that happens when you climb something of this scale. On the Smiley's summit of Denali, they hauled 300 lbs of equipment from Kahiltna basecamp to Camp One (5.5 miles away at 7,800 feet). Then they carried half their kit up to 11K camp to bury for retrieval later: 5 hours of work up, 10 minute ski down to 7,800' camp. Two days later, the stashed gear needed to be schlepped from 11K' camp to Windy Corner. Two feet of fresh snow had made hauling a sled impossible, so Mark & Janelle ditched the sleds and skinned to the top of this part of the mountain carrying only packs with supplies... 4 times. On the fifth day, they arrived at 14 Camp (14,200 feet) and then spent days and days acclimatizing up and down; up and down; up and down the mountain.

On summit day, they skinned from 15K' to 16'K, strapped on crampons to 17K', and reached the summit about 7 hours after leaving 14 Camp.

And the best part of ski mountaineering? The descent.

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