Book of Revelation - Part Two

Posted by Lindsay Griffin on 24/05/2014
The west face of Pyramid Peak. The yellow line shows the Irwin-Vonk-Welsted attempt, while the red is The Odyssey. Ian Welsted
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Supported by a grant from the Mount Everest Foundation, Seattle-based New Zealand alpinist, Graham Zimmerman, whose 2013 new route on Mount Laurens with Mark Allen was nominated for a 2014 Piolet d'Or, made the first ascent of the west face of Titanic in the Revelation Mountains

In Part One we reported the ascents of Irwin, Vonk and Welsted, but they were only one of three expeditions visiting the range this spring.

Graham Zimmerman teamed with the modern guru of the Revelations, Clint Helander, to make his second trip to the range.

The pair was flown to a glacier basin towards the northeast tip of the range, east of the Big River Valley, which gives access to the northwest face of Jezebel (dubbed the Grandes Jorasses of Alaska) and the southwest and west faces of Titanic.

One early morning in late April, under a spectacular display from the Aurora Borealis, the two left base camp and made a four-kilometre walk to the foot of the unclimbed west face of Titanic.

After ca 500m of steep snow through poor quality rock, they reached the start of gorgeous white granite that characterizes the upper face.

At first this gave high quality mixed climbing through cracks and chimneys. Higher the face became drier and they rock climbed 300m of granite that varied from impeccable to utter choss.

After stopping for a brew on the summit snowfield, they continued rapidly to the top, making the mountain's second ascent, then descended the north ridge, finally rappelling and downclimbing the east flank.

From the glacier at its base, they then had to walk eight kilometres, crossing a col to return to base camp, 22½ hours after leaving.

The 1,200m west face had presented difficulties of M6 5.8 50°.

Titanic's one previous ascent took place in 1981 and featured the great American pioneer Fred Beckey.

Together with Doug McCarty, Dan Hogan and Craig Tillery, Beckey first tried to make the first ascent of the highest summit in the range, Hesperus.

Finding rock and snow conditions "intolerable" they moved east and after walking under the south face of Titanic (which they christened) climbed the mountain via a moderate snow/ice route on the east face.

After their success on Titanic, Helander and Zimmerman skied off to try another objective, only to decide the weather was too poor.

On the run back to camp Zimmerman fell into a hidden crevasse and badly twisted his knee. This put an abrupt end to the trip and the two  were flown out that same day. 

Apart from the MEF, Zimmerman had received a grant from the New Zealand Alpine Club Expedition Fund, and the pair was also supported by the American Alpine Club's Copp-Dash Inspire Award.

Before all this activity a primarily Chamonix-based team had made an early season visit to the range, coming away with two major first ascents.

Lise Billon, Pedro Angel Galan Diez, Jeremy Stagnetto and Jerome Sullivan (all French except for Diez, who is from Andalucia), perhaps best known in recent years for their first ascent of the southeast pillar of Murallon in Patagonia, arrived on the Revelation Glacier in mid March

Their goal was the first ascent of Pyramid Peak on the southeastern rim of the glacier, a formation tried twice previously by Helander.

On the first attempt, following unprotected ice smears, they ground to a halt below a blank granite slab. 

Back on the glacier, they turned to a neighbouring unnamed peak and climbed it via a 900m goulotte they named The Iliad (TD+)

Completed in a 25-hour round trip from camp, the route sported two sensational thin ice pitches, which formed the crux.

They have named the peak Mount Boucansaud, after a lost friend.

Examining Pyramid again in a different light, they spotted another line towards the right side of the west face.

The four climbed 18 pitches up this line to reach the southwest ridge, which they followed for 300m to the summit. They then rappelled the northwest face, arriving back in camp after spending three nights on the mountain.

The 1,100m line was named The Odyssey (6b A1 M7 90°). There were only two pure rock pitches (climbed with rock shoes), the rest needing axes and crampons.

Read Part One here



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