This first part of our trip took us to the remote Alaskan Neacolas Mountains. This place is still poorly explored due to harsh weather conditions. We chose this place after seeing some areal pictures of virgin summits that looked awesome at this time of the year to do mixed-climbing. The area also seemed to propose some powdery ski possibilities.
We headed there with the French National Mountaineering Team for three weeks in autonomy on one of the glacier of the massif. After our departure by plane on the glacier, we took advantage of the weather to make a first identification of the massif. Everybody was quickly seduced by all these white summits and the exciting challenge they represented.
To experience Alaskan mountaineering, four of us tried to open a path on an unexplored summit just in front of the camp. But difficult snow conditions and bad weather forced us to come back after having covered 2/3 of the route. Poor weather was the main issue we faced during our whole stay.
As stated earlier, snow and wind have been on the agenda for almost every day spent on the Neacolas Mountains Glacier.
Thus, a normal day begins with the surprise of seeing the entrance of his tent blocked by half a meter of fresh snow fallen during the night. Snow removal may seem fun when you are a child but with age you soon realize that apart from making a snowman, manipulating this freezing powder is not fun at all.
After an uncontrolled sprint to the main tent, everyone gathers. Despite bad weather, the spirit of the group remained very positive. We had a lot of heated discussions on all kinds of topics allowing everyone to know each other a little bit better. The main tent was also the place where we could all gather even with poor weather outside. This makes such a tent an essential part of the gear for expeditions like ours.
Eventually, we could enjoy a sunny day and made the best use of it. We went for a ski tour around the emblematic summit of the area: the Citadel. Skiing in the midst of the crevasses roped all seven in the middle of these snowy open spaces was an incredible moment. Later, we opened a second ski route with Mathieu Maynadier.
All in all even with such bad weather, we had some real fun. We were hugely satisfied by those beautiful two days of skiing.
I will fondly remember the time spent together with my 7 buddies of the National Mountaineering Team. We became fatalistic and were just waiting for the next day and what it would bring. We enjoyed watching the snow fall and feeling the strong cold winds. Alaskan loneliness has its charm!
After our snowy adventures, with Raphael, one of the member of the team, we decided to take the road to the great south and its huge granite walls.
It will be a discovery for me, a homecoming for Raph, we have almost two weeks to enjoy Yosemythic cracks.
After a few days of drastic sharpening to evacuate the excess of Alaskan fat, we are ready to make climbing with bare hands.
Our first beautiful experience was in Astroman, this route allows to discover the Yos in all its glory including the heinous chimneys, the pitch of the Harding Slot (narrow chimney in which it is complex to sneak) leaves a lasting memory, a second birth in the true sense of the word for me.
We then avenge ourselves on less cracked but more technical lengths towards Final Frontier (8a max). Radically different style but still as aesthetic with small crimps as we know how to do.
Some one-pitch routes and good rest later, our bags are ready for 5 days of climbing in Golden Gate (7c + / 8a max) on El Capitan !!
From the runout chimney to the perfect splitter through the crimps traverse, everything is there. This wall is clearly one of the most beautiful pieces of pebbles in the world.
Every day, we climb, we set up the Portaledge for a beautiful starry night above the void.
During these 5 days, the bag hauling took on a new flavor, like a felling of dragging a fattened Beef at the end of its rope.
The climb is incredible but it is often hard to enjoy with all the logistics of Bigwall. Finally, the moments of rest are found when you climb.
Those months were amazing times spent with fun people. The feet in the snow or above the void, every moments will be unforgettable.
Symon Welfringer, ENAM 2018
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8 planes, 2 cars, 5 tents, 7 guys but only 6 base camp mattress, 14 ice axes, 128 eggs, 5 meters of snow, 15 days of bad weather and 0 summit.
In about half an hour I will start an adventure that I have been so looking forward to for a long time and yet suddenly I had doubts. Thankfully there was not much time to question it. My boots stood there waiting to feel the earth beneath them and my curiosity was so much bigger than any other emotion.