Stay at Home Dad Pitch!
Arctic hotel mirror wall camp
It’s Freya’s second birthday today and daddy spent the day far away climbing the crucial, highly demanding traverse to the black streak we’ve been gunning for weeks. Climbing free straight sideways to the right underneath a roof a metre wide, 700m above the glacier into unknown, virgin terrain was only the beginning of a pitch that stretched my years of experience in different styles of climbing to the limit. Next at an obvious transfer stance I had to switch to hard core big wall first ascent tactics and hand drill a series of rivets into totally blank rock to link a series of trad gear in hollow flakes and hooks under tension on diagonal edges.
After six hours of toil I made it to the black streak we’ve been spying for so long. To my utter disappointment I was faced with the thinnest of thin hard aid seam, not the sweet finger to hand crack we’d been hoping for. I tagged up the aid rack after a drilled bat hook and hard sequence of bird beaks, knife blades and hooks led me to a small stance where I drilled a double bolt belay. 12 drilled holes is acceptable for such a totally blank section that is such a key link.
Photo by Matt Pycroft / Coldhouse Collective
The clouds built at different altitudes all night and by 0600 after eight hours on lead having progressed only 40m, the skyscape was dramatic beyond words. An arctic breeze intermittently froze us to the bone.
Back in camp, the others asleep preparing for day shift, I thought much about my wonderful daughter and my absence from her special day. I spoke to her before heading up. She told me she loves me “all the way around the world” and that she misses me. Heart wrenching stuff, then she was off to play in the bath with her cousins. I liked it, she misses me, must seem like I’ve been gone an eternity, but she seems quite content discovering the limits of her new ever changing world. Meanwhile we’re out here finding ours.
Arctic Hotel is a very special camp, chilling here between life in the front is so special. The month we’ve been has been long but has flown. I’m enjoying the crew and the challenge immensely especially now, up here the risks are more controllable.
However, it feels different to before. My first mission as a dad and I notice a clear change in my heart. Although out here life is very much day to day and most concerns are the immediate, deep inside I know my concerns reach far beyond the snow slope or blank section I’m facing, back to the rolling hills of the Lakes and for decades into the future as a doting father.
I’m definitely more risk averse, I’m extremely conscious all the time about the countless hazards my friends and I are facing, with more thought for potential consequences of things going wrong.
Which is so far keeping safe and on track although heavily off schedule.
The difficult terrain for the next 100m is a major blow. It will take two days, leaving us just four more to climb another 400m to the top, praying for better crack systems. Then just two more days to pack everything up, descend the route and get back to base camp for our pick up on my birthday July 28th.
We have some big days ahead of us, but if we make the helicopter flight out of here on schedule with the summit behind us and loved ones ahead, there could be no better birthday present for this besotted absent father.