July 2012

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Spring Reading

During our vacation in Italy and Germany, and a long weekend at the Eskelinens’ place on Anderson Lake I had the opportunity to read a number of books, of various degrees of quality.  A few pocket reviews:

The White Spider, by Heinrich Harrer: I picked this up in an Interlaken bookshop for something to read on the last days of our European vacation, and it was for the most part a very enjoyable read.  Its primary attraction for most people will be its account of the first ascent of the north face of the Eiger (Harrer was a member of the first ascent party, also the author of Seven Years in Tibet), and his account is excellent.  The remainder of the book consists of reports and analysis of earlier and later attempts on the Eiger’s north face, and although perhaps a bit too much time is spent on disputes that seem inconsequential in retrospect, the book remains gripping throughout, and you’ll walk away with great respect for the men who subject themselves to such a dangerous persuit.  3/5.

The Litigators, by John Grisham:  Another book picked up in Interlaken to pass the time on the train to Frankfurt, the Litigators was thoroughly mediocre.  I don’t know if Grisham’s ability to come up with a good story has diminished over time or if I’ve simply read enough of his books that they all feel the same, but nothing about the book stood out.  It was a quick read, and helped pass the time, but unless you also have a long train ride to sit through, there isn’t much reason to read this book. 2/5.

The Associate, by John Grisham:  Up at Anderson Lake I picked up yet another Grisham book from the shelf, and like the Litigators, it was a quick read, but didn’t stand out at all.  Shockingly, some of the same phrases from the Litigators turned up in this book too, such as the “Rocket Docket”.  Read it if you have a few hours to pass and don’t want to have to think.  2/5.

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest, by Wade Davis:  I read Davis’ detailed telling of Mallory’s expeditions to Everest in the week or so prior to our Italy vacation, and it is a fantastic book.  He delves deep into the men of each expedition, as well as into the hardships and triumphs they endured.  It won’t ever be known for certain whether Mallory succeeded in summiting Everest (Davis believes that he did not), but that question misses the point of this book, which is to look at the big picture around the expeditions and then to look at how the particulars of the men involved fit into that image.  To this point, Davis succeeds without any doubt.  5/5.

The Will to Climb: Obsession and Commitment and the Quest to Climb Annapurna – The World’s Deadliest Peak, by Ed Viesturs and David Roberts: Ed Viesturs is the only American to have summited all of the world’s fourteen 8000m peaks, and The Will to Climb is his third book.  Whereas his first book featured his personal accounts of climbing all of the 8000m peaks, and his second book focussed on climbing K2, this book combines accounts of his attempts and eventual success on Annapurna with retellings of the history of mountaineering on Annapurna.  Although much of the detail of his climb can be found in his prior work, the tales of “obsession and commitment” of the men and women who sought to climb a mountain that has claimed one life for every two that have reached summit are engaging and enlightening.  3/5.

The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy:  Working through each presidency from Eisenhower to the present, this book documents the relationships that each president has forged with his living predecessors.  As each president has found, the other members of the “President’s Club” are arguably the only people on earth who can understand their pressures and troubles, and the relationships that have developed between them have frequently been deeply personal, unobstructed by the divisions of party lines.  The detailed analysis and elucidation of their relationships presents the reader with a fascinating look into the psyche of each president, and for this, the book can be highly recommended.  4/5.


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Trip Date: July 7, 2012

Participants: Jeff Ross (organizer), Brittany Zenger, Geoff Zenger + 6 more BCMC members

Difficulty: 4.  Mostly a stiff 3rd class, with one short pitch of low-5th climbing.

Report: Easily visible and prominent from many parts of the Lower Mainland, including from the river shore in front of my place in New Westminster, Blanshard Needle has been on my to-do list for a couple years now, but until just a couple days before this trip was scheduled to run I still had no idea when I’d have an opportunity to tackle it.  However, a fortuitous series of events led to Brittany and I signing up for the trip at the last minute and on a beautiful warm Saturday morning we found ourselves driving out to the Golden Ears West Canyon trailhead.

Our party gathered at the trailhead and departed around 8:30.  The first couple km of the route follow the regular west canyon trail towards Alder Flats, but just before the crossing of Evans Creek, there is a trail that heads off into the trees on the left.  The Evans Creek trail is in great shape and was easy to follow, and we made quick time following the trail to its end where it dumped us out onto the creek bed at the bottom of the basin below Blanshard and Edge.  From here, we proceeded to take the wrong route as we followed the obvious, wide creek bed up towards Edge.  Luckily, Jeff didn’t take too long to realize that the route didn’t feel right, and we backtracked right back to where the trail ended at the creek, and found the correct route to follow.  Immediately after making it to the creek, you have to turn left to follow another (smaller) creek bed (there is flagging if you look carefully) up towards Fly’s Gully.

Even in early July, Fly’s Gully was snow filled right down to the bottom, and most of us put on our crampons (even with the summer heat, the gully faces NE and doesn’t see much sun) to ascend the 35 degree gully.  We topped out of the gully at around 12:30, dumped our crampons and ice axes, and followed the easy ridge from the Alouette-Blanshard col up to the base of the needle itself.

At the base of the needle, there is one short pitch (perhaps 12m?) of low 5th climbing that I’m sure some people would be willing to climb unroped, but not me.  Jeff led the pitch in fine style, and by having a few people top rope on the same rope at the same time, it didn’t take long for everyone to make it up the pitch.  From the top of the pitch, it is generally straightforward to find the route up to the false summit, although some of the flagging has fallen away.  From the false summit, we made a very short descent into the notch between the two summits, and although some reports have mentioned the exposure of crossing the notch, I thought it was less bothersome than on other parts of the route due to the ease of crossing the notch (similar to the summit ridge of Mt. Brunswick).  Once across the notch, it is only another few minutes of scrambling up to the main summit.  In all, the route has one pitch of low-5th climbing, followed by a consistently steep (and in places exposed) 3rd class scramble right up to the summit.  It was some of the most enjoyable scrambling that I’ve ever done.

We arrived on the summit around 2:30, and the views were amazing in all directions.  The local peaks such as Golden Ears, Edge, Robie Reid, Judge Howay, and Crickmer were all clear, as was Alouette just to the south of us where we could see a few hikers arriving on its summit.  Further away, we could make out details on Sky Pilot, Baker, and Slesse through the clear air above the haze below.

We departed the summit a bit past 3, and downclimbed the same route that we ascended to the 5th class pitch, which most of us rappelled.  Putting the crampons back on it was a quick and easy descent down Fly’s Gully, with a few of us having some accidental self arrest practice sessions on the softening snow. We did have a scary incident near the bottom where a couple of bowling ball sized rocks came loose from above and careened down the steep gully, narrowly missing some of our party members! From the base of the gully we made good time down the Evans Creek and West Canyon trails, and reached our cars at about 6:45.  A truly fantastic trip!  Thank you Jeff for organizing!

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