Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Fallen

Life hit me hard a few weeks ago. Two friends died, another friend escaped death, and personal family issues left me feeling helpless. I always want to fix problems and resolve issues. I can't control everything in life, and had to take the punches. 

Gill Weiss and Ben Horne, Ben Horton photo

I scrolled down my facebook newsfeed, and was informed that my friends Gil and Ben were missing. Climbing in Cordillera Blanca, Peru, they were 5 days overdue. The next day, I checked around the internet again, hoping to find that they walked out unscathed. Who knows, maybe they got psyched and decided to do a gnarly linkup because their 6,110 meter peak wasn't big enough.

Two bodies were found on the descent of Gil and Ben's new route. 

Gill Weiss Pull Harder pose with immitating com. lines

A few hours later after hearing the tragic news, I found out that another friend had been in another accident. Lisa Stern was learning how to aid climb on the first pitch of Freeblast, and fell 160 feet from the anchor. My friends on the YOSAR team informed me that she should have died, but didn't sustain any life threatening injuries. 
"It was a fucked up rescue..." said my friend Bud. 

I met Lisa climbing in Indian creek, and I'm looking forward to climbing again with her.  

Lisa Stern crushing an unnamed 5.12 at Broken Tooth, Indian Creek, UT

Joel Kaufmann hanging out with Carlyle Norman during a Centro Alpino asado. Screen shot from footage I shot in Patagonia. 

I stepped off of a 50 hour epic bus ride down to El Chalten, Patagonia, and was mesmerized by clouds swirling around Cerro Fitz Roy. Reality set in, and I felt very alone. I made an enormous effort to make it all the way down to Patagonia on my own, and could only pray that I wouldn't soon regret my decision.

I was loaned an old tent by Hayden Kennedy, who I had just met, and was cruxing trying to set it up by myself in the campground Del Lago. A kid with big goofy glasses, similar to mine, walked over and helped me feed tent poles through their respective slots and holes. Cian Brinker and his partner Carlyle Norman were the first friends I made in the new an foreign place. 

10 days later, all the climbers in town were interrupted from a common daily routine of bouldering, eating empinadas, and drinking quilmes beer. The first good weather window of 2012 in Patagonia showed up, and we all went climbing. Carlyle didn't make it back to town, a dislodged block fell and hit her head near the top of Aguja Saint Exupery. 

Impressive efforts were made for her rescue, especially by Rolondo Garibotti and Colin Haley. Rolo and Colin were unable to climb the last few hundred feet to reach her due to epic weather conditions. She died most likely due to her head injury and hypothermia.

Bjørn-Eivind Årtun at a Centro Alpino asado. Screen shot from footage I shot in Patagonia. 

A month after Carlyle's death, Bjorn and his partner died attempting a new ice route in Norway. Bjorn and I had only briefly met before he left Argentina.

My friends have been ripped away from this world because of a love and obsession for climbing. They all deserved to experience much more beauty in life, and their passions had many more people to inspire. Some live by the philosophy that glorious failure is better than mediocre success. As climbers, we accept the fact that we can't guarantee every outcome, and we that there is an element of danger that we cannot control.

I can't help but think to myself.. is it really worth it?

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