Patrick Mcnerthney Climber

Within ten years, equipment evolved drastically. Simple curved or angled picks gave way to reverse-curve interchangeable picks, which now sported graphite shafts and specialized adzes. Footfang crampons and Snarg ice pitons made their appearance. Internationally, the number of ice climbers had swelled, and avid aspirants were now cruising climbs within their first few outings that had been the ultimate in the previous decade. In the early 1980s, though, ice climbing took a back seat to sport rock climbing, which seemed more appealing to the young masses.

But the general trend to rock did not halt the expansion of icc-climbing horizons, and the first half of the 1980s saw harder, steeper, pure ice and mixed climbs and the introduction of the highest standards to the world's greatest ranges. The mountains of Alaska, the Andes, and the Himalaya were now fair game for lightning-fast, adventurous climbers. One Alaskan climb that pushed horizons was the ascent by Nick Colton and Tim Leach of the striking couloir on the Northeast Face of the Rooster's Comb (V, AI5, M6) in 1980.

Without a doubt the finest overall ice climb in North America to date is the North Buttress of Mount Hunter (VI, Al6, M6?), the route completed in 1983 by Todd Bibler and Doug Klewin, two climbers from Seattle. Their ascent capped many determined efforts by Klewin, Pat and Dan McNerthney, Rob Newsom, and, especially, Mugs Stump and his New Zealand partner, Paul Aubrey. The latter pair, in fact, are often given credit for the first ascent, even though their route varied significantly from the classic line on the buttress and they retreated from the top of the upper rock band with 300 to 400 feet still to go to the junction with the Northeast Ridge, and a full 2,500 feet remaining to the summit. Without in any way diminishing Stump and Aubrey's "Moonflower Buttress" line, Bibler and Klewin corrected these omissions and deserve full credit for the first ascent of the classic North Buttress route.

The earliest of the "Ice Climbs of the '80s" actually occurred at the end of the previous decade, in 1978 Frenchman Nicholas jaeger made a series of solo climbs in Peru that were technically as hard as anything in the Alps, at elevations around 19,000 feet. Perhaps his finest routes were the South Face of Taulliraju (V, A15-6?), a 3,000-foot extreme route done in eight hours, and the South Face of the East Peak of Chacraraju (V, Al5^6?).

The West Face of Cerro Torre in Patagonia was first climbed in expedition style by an Italian team in 1974, but its first alpine-style ascent came in 1977 by Americans Jay Wilson, John Bragg, and Dave Carmen, establishing it as one of the great ascents of the ice world. When it was climbed completely free by fellow Americans Mike Bearzi and Eric Wtnkel-man in 1986, it became, along with the North Buttress of Mount Hunter and the Hungo Face of Kwangde, Nepal, one of the most attractive challenges available.

In 1979, after working on a television film of the second ascent of the Southwest Ridge of Ama Dablam in Nepal, I made the first ascent of the 4,500-foot South Face (VI, A15, M5+) of this 22,500-foot peak in ten hours. The difficulties were similar to—but longer than—those found on the hard Alpine climbs of the 1960s and early 1970s, such as Les Droites or the Grand Pilier d'Angle, This was the first time such a major new technical route had been soloed in the Himalaya.

These climbs set the stage for the coming years of technically demanding alpine-style ascents of Himalayan ice faces. The best of these include the

37 ▼ Off-Season High-Mountain Water Ice

1980 ascent of the East Face of Dhaulagiri (VI, AI3, M4?) by Englishman Alex Maclntyre, Frenchman René Ghilini, and Poles Wojciech Kurtyka and Ludwik Wilczyczynsk, with technical difficulties similar to some of the 1930s Alpine routes, but done on a 26,000-foot peak; a fairly technical new route

Doug Klewin Hunter
Randy Rotftff (limbing "The Shaft" on the North Buttress of Mount Hunter, Alaska (Photo: Bill Belcourt)

on the South Face of Annapurna (VI1 ( A!4, M5?) in 1984 by Spaniards Enric Lucas and Nil Bohigas,- a solo winter ascent of the Southeast Spur of 23,500-foot Pumori (VI, Al4, M5), which I made in three days in December J983r the West Face of 26,000-foot Gasherbrum IV (VII, Al3, M4?), one of the most attractive of all the great Himalayan walls, by Austrian Robert Schauer and Kurtyka in 1985,- the North Ridge of Rakaposhi (VII, Al4?), also in 1985, by Dave Cheesemond, Kevin Doyle, and Barry Blanchard,- and the Hungo Face of Kwangde (VIIF WI6) in 1982 by David Breashears and me. The 5,000 feet of climbing on this relatively low {20,000-foot) mountain maintains a high standard for the entire climb and is a forerunner of fantastic routes to come. Kusum Kanguru, Kangtega, the North Face of Cholatse, the Northeast Face and West Face of Ama Dablam, and the North Face of Thamserku are all excellent climbs that have been made in recent years, By the time the experienced Slovenian climbers Marco Prezelj and Andrej Stremfelj made the first ascent of 23,000-foot Menlungtse by its South Face in one day in 1992, high-standard, alpine-style ice climbing had already been practiced in the Himalaya for more than a decade.

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