I can’t remember exactly when I first met Gregory. It was probably sport climbing somewhere. Back in the day he used to be almost exclusively into clipping bolts. To be honest, I didn’t get on with him so well at first. He was too “new school” for my fusty traditionalistic ways. But gradually, over the years, I began to like Gregory and we became good friends. Many a relaxed hour was spent basking in the sun below Spanish sport crags, we even climbed the odd longer route together.
Two years ago I bumped into Gregory in camp 4 and although we’d never climbed anything serious together we made the audacious decision to try to climb Zodiac. Much time was spent preparing for the route. We had to borrow lots of gear off other people including a haul bag and a portaledge. With a haul bag packed and ready to go, we made the 40 minute walk to the base to fix the first few pitches. All was going well until it all went wrong near the top of the first pitch. While top stepping on a small rp, it ripped. Somehow I managed to get the rope wrapped round my leg in the fall and I face planted head first into the corner. As I wasn’t wearing wall gloves I also managed to rip a huge flap of skin off my little finger. Safe to say, we backed off, me and Gregory parted ways and I spent the rest of the trip cragging in Indian Creek.
It wasn’t till a couple of weeks ago that me and Gregory felt comfortable enough to try to climb something big together, just the two of us. Hazel had to leave the valley for a few days to do a talk in Banff, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me and Gregory to climb something together.
This time we decided to try a slightly easier route: Lurking Fear. Being more of fan of climbing than hauling we were keen to try and climb the route quickly so we could be light enough to jug with a bag rather than haul. I was keen to try and climb it in a single push if possible.
“Even if it takes 2 hours a pitch that’s still only 38 hours on the go!”
Hazel pointed out that there was some fault in this logic. I’m still not quite sure what it is though.
After dropping Hazel off at the airport. We made a few final preparations and walked up to the base of the route. Reaching the bottom of the first pitch just as it went dark. To get a head start, I climbed the first pitch in the dark to fix it ready to blast in the morning. It took a bit of getting used to climbing with Gregory again, as I made my way up the 5.9 A0 bolt ladder. Sometimes he would short rope me on a tricky section right when I didn’t want him to. But that’s just his way I guess. He’s a temperamental soul and if you don’t pay him enough attention he’ll short rope you right when you really don’t want it, when you’re cruxing out 20 foot above your gear. By the top of the pitch we seemed to getting along well however and I abseiled back down to comfort of a sleeping bag and a can of King Cobra. I drifted off feeling confident about the following day. Being made of tougher stuff than me Gregory stayed up to watch out for bears.
We woke up at 2am and after a quick breakfast I stashed the sleeping bag and other comforts and set off jugging up the fixed rope. I offered the next pitch to Gregory, but it turned out it was my lead again. Fortunately it was just an easy bolt ladder with a few hooks, so I wasn’t too bothered, but when I got to the belay Gregory informed me that he wouldn’t be able to clean the pitch either! The lazy bastard! So down I went and then back up again.
It turned out Gregory wasn’t up for leading or cleaning any of the pitches, he was only interested in belaying. I questioned why I’d ever though it would be a good idea to climb with Gregory in the first place. What was in it for him? But I guess you can’t climb without a belay, so at least he was serving a purpose.
And so it went on. Up and down and back up again. Every pitch. Without any rest. I soon began to realise that it wasn’t going to be sustainable to climb the route in one push, especially as Gregory wasn’t pulling his weight. By around 9pm we had managed to climb ten pitches and the one man sized ledge only a short pendulum away was too tempting to miss. I laid out the 2 foot by 1 foot piece of foam from the back of my rucksack and curled up in my bivi bag until it got light again. The ledge was only big enough for one so I made Gregory spend the night hanging from a bolt, as punishment for his laziness.
I woke up feeling surprisingly refreshed. As we got higher on the route the angle eased and the pitches started to flow faster as there were more free climbable sections. The odd ledge also gave much needed relief from sitting in my harness.
We reached Thanksgiving ledge, two pitches from the top,just after dark. In the cave I found a log book.
“First big wall solo, 7 days,” read the last entry. Soloing sounds like hard work. I was glad to have Gregory along with me.
According to the topo the last two pitches could be linked together so I made for the top. One final effort in the dark.
“Watch us here mate!” I shouted to Gregory as I cranked up the final 10a sandbag crack. Gregory remained silent as always, but I knew he was paying good attention.