Waldo’s traverse tale
Arctic hotel mirror wall camp
Copyright Berghaus, Matt Pycroft, Coldhouse Collective
“Oh no!” I could hear the disappointment in Leo’s voice and my heart sank. We had been up all night pushing our high point. We had finally reached the blank section and with a lot of hard aid and awkward sideways hand drilling Leo had finally reached the black streak that would hopefully lead us up in a crack system but it was not what we had hoped for. A thin crumbly seam that cut straight up as far as we could see.
It had already taken six hours to move 30m and Leo had taken a sketchy aid fall off a sketchy hook and the cold Arctic wind had sucked much of our energy out of us. I followed Leo’s lead, an awkward under cling traverse to the airy rivets. I defunked two beaks, a knife blade and stubby piton and my mind boggled as I jugged past the clean section up to the seam that Leo had somehow hooked and balanced upwards on. Not a bad aid effort for such a devoted free climber. I’ve aided a few bolt and river ladders but what Leo had just established would be hard to repeat even with rivets and hangers in place.
We studied the terrain ahead and toyed with the idea of cracking on but the wind picked up and 18 hours on the wall predictably led us to retreat after hauling the gear up and drilling a bolt belay, but we were moving and now although thin we have a vertical line marked out for us that will take us upwards. It’s going to be hard, painful and long but we’ll get there.
Now where’s that Ibuprofen and coffee, we’ve some climbing to do!
By Waldo Etherington