So despite our impatience, the rest day at C1 came and went, and the weather continued to cooperate, providing us a perfect day to make our move to C2. For those of you who paid particular attention to the planned schedule at the start of this trip, you will notice that moving from VBC to C1 and C1 to C2 were listed as following a typical schedule – i.e. carry much of the bulk from one camp to the next on day 1, returning to the first camp to spend the night, then moving to the higher camp on the second day (carry day, move day).

You will also notice that moving from VBC to C1 and now C1 to C2 – we were/are opting to move everything in a single day – which involves slightly heavier loads but spares us making the trip twice. Given our rest day at each camp and the relative ease of the terrain and our loads (certainly compared to other mountains), we are more than happy with this decision. Good news for today – we only climb the head wall once, and will be at high camp later today. We are moving from 9k feet to approx. 12.5k feet, most of it up the fixed ropes, followed by ~1.5hrs from the top of the ropes to high camp. This is why IMG called this a mini-Denali… as in Alaska, phase 1 is hauling loads, pulling sleds; phase 2 is up the head wall and beyond to high camp; phase 3 is final summit push.

The cold is pervasive – while we were very warm during the day hauling our sleds from VBC to C1, once there, and through our rest day – we quickly had to layer up in 3 & 4 jackets and pants to keep warm and it certainly hit -20F in our tent overnight. That said, today is perfect, and by the time we have completed our march to the head wall and the bottom of the fixed ropes, everyone is disrobing to base layer & fleece. Just as important to staying warm is to avoid sweating as much as possible. Any moisture will freeze if not dealt with, and that will only make me colder.

We had watched the previous two days as human bodies turned into ants and ants later turned into dots as several teams made their way up the head wall – and also heard of more than a few of them taking 10hrs+ which sounds like a really long day! We were hoping to have better luck and not replicate that performance – and thankfully, that’s what happened. Unlike Denali, we were not roped together (for the first time on this trip) on the head wall, so everyone free to make their way up at their own pace, but the good news is that everyone seemed pretty strong, there were some good steps kicked into the mountain by the previous teams and we made very steady progress up the hill, clipping in and out at each anchor/transition point from one rope length to the next.

Jon set a steady pace and we followed. The further up the head wall we advanced, the better the view became – behind us, C1 far below and the infinite sea of white beyond; ahead and to the left, Mt. Shinn. After a few hours we took our first rest on a broad ledge and enjoyed these fantastic views, had a snack and then pressed on the final hours to the top of the ropes. From there, we would un-clip from the protection of the fixed ropes, rope our team up together, and make the final 1.5 hrs into high camp.

We were making good time and were on track for 5-6 hr day all-in, a perfectly respectable time considering the terrain and moving in a single day with heavier packs. Jon’s plan was to take a third and final rest day at high camp before pressing on for the summit (weather permitting). That was the one niggle in the plan… the forecast didn’t guarantee the good weather would persist, and if anything, was likely to worsen in the next day or two.

At any rate, we needed to put all of that aside and simply press on to C2, make camp, get fed & rested and be in a position to head for the summit after our rest day. With that in mind, after a very pleasant break on that ledge, we once again donned packs and pushed to the top of the head wall.

Thankfully, everything went without a hitch, we all made it handily to the top of the fixed ropes, took a short break before roping up and what was a slow grind from there to C2. As we pulled into C2, we could make out the larger Seven Summits team in the distance, making their way back to camp after a summit push in what were great conditions. We could only hope that the forecast would cooperate and while we didn’t expect perfect weather like you typically see when you google “Vinson summit”, at least that the wind and cloud would be held to a reasonable level and make the summit day not unbearable.

I’m posting two videos from the head wall climb – the first is shorter (~3 mins) and gives a taste of the day’s climb fro slightly lower on the head wall; The second video is far longer (~16 mins) and is somewhat repetitive for much of the video (just ascending the head wall, which as you will see is hours on end of stepping up the hill, moving your ascender as you go – can you see yourself doing this for 3-4 hrs?!? Note around min 6:27 I ask out loud if the is a stairway to heaven or stair master from hell… you decide! Also note – this was WAY easier than the Lhotse face, if nothing else, because it is so much lower in altitude, and the ice on the Lhotse face was far harder), except in the last 5 minutes when we reach the top and you get to see the view we had. Both videos also give you some idea of the slope as I look up the head wall past Jon. Also shows you the rather precipitous drop to our left, and you can see Mt. Shinn on occasion in the top left corner of the video. First (shorter) video is 4k so much better resolution than the second one, which is so long I had to tone down the resolution before uploading.

 

One thought on “C1 to C2 (Up the head wall)

  1. The stuff legends are formed from.. Justin this is remarkable brother..! Your Hemingway-esque prose leads into two videos that capture some of the essence of the team work viscerally and gives us a glimpse of the edge of the world you went to.. thank-you. So proud of you my friend.

    Like

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