Climbers: Robert Vallera, Jochan Klinke and Jim Mason
Date: July 25-26, 2004
Route: Swiss Arete, III (5.7)
Equipment: 50 meter double rope, generous rack of TCUs and Cams, hexes #4-10, 1 set nuts, 1 pink tri-cam.
Left our bivy at the lake at the bottom of the Palisade Glacier about 5:30 AM on the morning of July 25th. Started our climb with a couple of roped Class 4 pitches at about 9:45-10:00 AM. We may have started too low. And, three on a rope makes for not-too-speedy climbing in general. Summited at 8:00 PM after about 8 pitches of climbing, no photos - did not sign the summit register - within 30 seconds of summiting, I began the downclimb while Robert and Jochen grabbed up the rope and rack. Made our way through the blocks on the NW ridge, and reached the big and obvious cairn above the Class 4 north-facing ledges, found the rap slings and did the first rap just after sunset. Moving really slowly and rapping laterally to the east, we did the second rap in the dark. Stopped on the big ledge below the raps to put on more clothes and our boots. After a belayed downclimb by Jochen scouting for the way, we reached the notch between Sill & Apex at about midnight. Being super-safe, and not seeing so well in the dark (even with our three headlamps), led several (5-6) anchored downclimbs in the Class 3 rock, scree and ledges above the L-shaped snowfield. We stayed generally left, reaching the top of the snow about dawn! Robert put on his crampons, and went over and got my pack which we had left at the start of the climb. We then belayed Jochen who didn't have crampons down to the talus below and north of the snowfield. I followed, and then Robert walked down to us. With some sigh of relief, we put away the headlamps and took a short break in the early morning sun. Then, we headed over to downclimb the saddle between Sill and Gayley. Once again on the glacier, giving proper consideration to our collective safety, anchors were set, and the one of us without crampons rapped/belayed down the hard snow several 100m lengths of our double rope until talus was reached and all could walk over to our bivy. I grabbed our water bottles and got water for our tea from the snowmelt stream running across the lower portion of the glacier. All arrived back at camp about 9:30 AM! Sacked out most of the day. Ate a ton that night. Packed up and hiked out the next day. Analysis: Have all in the party bring the same gear - ice axes (we had three), crampons (we had two sets and one of us found it quite difficult to ascend the frozen snow of the glacier the morning of our approach to climb - also during our return, due attention to safety necessitated that time be taken to belay down the frozen snow of the glacier). Try to begin your climb as high on the L-shaped snowfield as possible to save roped pitches on low Class 5 rock. The snow is low in the couloir this year - go to the top of the snow and look for your traverse onto the arete. We probably started climbing too low. Simulclimb the one or two Class 4 pitches to gain the arete, and the couple of low Class 5 pitches lower on the climb if you are comfortable doing so. As mentioned, three on a rope makes for not-too-speedy climbing in general. Plan accordingly! Let one of your partners leave the rope team and hike out to get the pizza! Finally, don't overlook your preparedness for changes in the weather. We were lucky, and were blessed with very good weather. During our night on the flank of Mt. Sill, although it was cool, there was virtually no wind, so shivering at our belays was minimal. Mmmmm, pizza!
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