Story behind the photo: Julius Zonneveld on the Piz Palu
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Julius Zonneveld storming up the east pillar of the Piz Palu
Five years ago, I took my first steps on the Piz Palu. I was still very much a novice in mountaineering, and a friend of mine invited me to go along with him and climb this beautiful mountain. The entire day, I was drawn towards this big spur of rock with a beautiful snowy finish.
The East Spur of the Piz Palu.
Piz Palu East Summit
From that day on it was high on my wishlist. 500 meters of beautiful climbing, with a grand finale.
Last summer, I spent some time at the campsite of Vicosoprano with a group of friends. It had been a strange summer, with many extremely warm days. Snow and ice routes were pretty much undoable. A lot of routes were very dry, crevasses were huge and rimays had become so big you could hardly cross them.
On one of the few rainy days Jeroen Boomsma and myself got a text message from Julius. "I'm on my way to Vicosoprano. There's a good weather window coming in tomorrow. East Pillar?"
We packed our gear, and off we went. We decided against the over-the-top luxury of the Diavolezze hotel, so we hiked up and bivied near the ski lift. We made good time, and while we were enjoying a nice cup of noodles we heard familliar voices, and Coen arrived. 65 Liter backpack, filled to the brim, carrying an extra tent in his hand. Another group of friends decided to climb the Palu as well, only via the normal route.
A few hours later we had a great episode of Bivy-TV. While we were eating our Adventure Food, the other group decided that cooking was a better option. We watched in awe as jar after jar of marinare sauce came out their bags, and they started chopping up onions and bell peppers. Cheers to Coen for carrying all that extra weight.
After a few hours of good sleep, we woke up to find the episode of Bivy-TV still going. This time it was the breakfast edition. We finished ours and we went on our way. It was a beautiful clear night, and our torches weren't really necessary. We followed the trail to the glacier, roped up and continued towards the base of the pillar.
The glacier was quite scary at some places, resembeling a small version of the Khumu Icefalls on Everest severeal times. Crevasses big enough to devour houses, and snowbridges ready to collapse.
The rimay of the pillar required a big step over a large black hole, but we all managed it without any problems. From here it was a small traverse on loose rock, but after a few minutes, we were finally there. On the East Pillar of the Piz Palu. No going back now. We climbed the whole thing on running belay, and went quite fast. The climbing was absolutely wonderful. Great rock, fun steps and quite easy to place gear. After a few hours we reached the final snowfield before the east summit. We had no idea what to expect here, because of the snow conditions in the rest of the Alps (and no one in the Diavolezza hotel knew what we were talking about), so we were prepared for anything.
Fortunately, the snow was in excellent condition, so we put away our ropes and decided to go solo. The weather was great, and the views were magnificent, so I had a lot of fun with my camera. After climbing and shooting, and climbing and shooting, I climbed the last step towards the east summit, with great views all around.
We made the obligatory summit selfie, had a quick lunch and raced down across the scary glacier. After that, it was only a small hike down, and time for a nice cold beer and a pizza Gigante in Italy.
Grinning from ear to ear, because we finally climbed the east pillar on the Piz Palu. And it was better than I could ever have imagined.
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