FIRST ASCENT

FIRST ASCENT

Posted by Tony Down at 8/19/2011 1:45 AM Categories: uncategorized

FIRST ASCENT    During the summer of 2011 many experienced teams of climbers have descended upon Dolores, the “Katmandu” of SW Colorado, to see if they could be the first to climb the Eagle Falls.

A sudden blizzard at the CC Base Camp delays operations
Of course the climb is considered far too difficult to attempt in full winter and with spring run off in the mountains August is perhaps the preferred month although there are risks of summer monsoon rains.

A team leader shelters from the “cats & dogs” of a summer monsoon
The Falls were recently opened to the public on 25th June and since then have been in full flow with many advanced expeditions arriving to plot possible routes over the gnarly rocks. First reports indicate this will not be an easy climb and so far two avenues of attack seem to be clear favorites.
From Base Camp all routes favor a trek under the gently sloping terrain of the “Bismark Plateau” where they can pass behind the main falls and cross to the other side of the fjord and then negoiate the fast flowing water before reaching  Camp 2.
Passing “Travelocity” the purple route crosses behind the  Bismarck Falls  before gaining Camp 2 on the far side of the fjord  A fairly flat crossing of the sandstone boulders and crevasses leads to the slippery and treacherous ascent over the Eagle Head Pass with it’s fast flowing torrents crashing down on all that try to cross. For those that make it a welcome respite on the relatively dry zone at Camp 3 at the base of the North Wall.

From Camp 3 the current teams favor different attacks to reach the summit with the French team planning on a direct assault on the North Wall while the New Zealand Expedition prefer the longer climb passing along Lower Balcony before clearing the Hillary Step and then scaling the tricky South Col.
Breaking news just in ……… we have just heard that a US contingent is entering the race with a team from Disney sponsored by cartoon favorite Snow White ! We await their arrival with interest. Father Christmas may send a team from the North Pole as they are in “low season” and have been practicing on rock overhangs and sheer walls without their traditional ice and snow hazards.

The North Pole Team show plenty of skills  Preparations are well under way with supplies arriving on a daily basis. Base camp is a sea of tents and activities with much testing of equipment and tentative exploratory treks to the Bismarck Plateau.
From the Cozy Comfort Base Camp teams were able to view the summit, which today was clear, and assess the massive challenge they face assuming they can clear either the North Wall or the South Col.

The Summit is finally clear of cloud
With water cascading down the falls and low cloud and mist over the “Eagle” teams decided on an exploratory trek to the rear of the falls to see if it was possible to make Camp 2 via the hazardous, but dry, Back Passage. Another untried route, but sherpas say it could be done if the cliffs can be scaled to gain access before the long repel into the Bismarck Plateau.

The “Eagle” shrouded in low cloud and spray

The unknown of the Back Passage

The French are first at the “Butt Massive” but state it was “trop difficile!”  With the French failing to find a route up the Back Passage they concentrated their efforts  on finding a way to Camp 2 via the Bismarck Falls and Plateau. By nightfall Jacque and Claude returned to Base Camp well pleased with their endeavours.

Jacque and Claude pose for a photograph at Camp 2

Claude guides Jacque down the lower reaches of Bismarck
Sir Edmund and the NZ Team set off for their attempt at the Back Passage claiming the  route requires more traditional skills for which they are famous. A long trek through the rock jumbles brings them to the base of the “Butt Massive” otherwise known as the “Back Passage” which was caused by a shifting of the Macdonald’s tectonic plates resulting in the obese overhang so often associated with Macdonalds.

Sir Edmund leads the team through the boulder field
The New Zealanders work their way down the “Plumbers Crack”
Sir Edmund directs the team up the Back Passage  Meanwhile back at the Cozy Comfort Base Camp we wait for the other teams to arrive  and will keep you up to date with any serious attempts on the summit.
TONY DOWN

 

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