Mount Fay's North Face

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Mount Fay’s North Face P e t e r T. C a r m a n


PON first sight the best choice was obvious: the bulging, convex non-gulley o f ice w hich flowed from the sum m it ridge o f M ount Fay to the glacier below . What a strange sight — not a gulley o f ice, rather a frozen overflow from the oth er side made even stranger by the m em ory o f a past map indicating a deep valley and glacier, not a high icefield, on th a t side. Yvon Chouinard, Denny Eberl, and I were driving to M oraine Lake in the Valley o f Ten Peaks, having left the Alpine Club o f Canada Clubhouse (where this venture had begun) late th at afternoon. Necessary supplies such as beer for the afternoon and grapenuts to replace the previously consum ed, hom em ade Granola had been purchased and we sorted and packed in the crow ded parking lot. Soon we were picking our separate ways up the ledges and ram ps below the hanging glacier, leapfrogging and paralleling each other. One unnerving fifth-class pitch brought us to the m oraine and snout o f the glacier. To deto u r to the h u t from here seemed an extra chore especially w hen there was a groove in the m oraine w hich, w ith a little landscaping, w ould serve well. A fter all how could a h u t com pare to another night under the stars! The only dark clouds on the horizon were indeed dark clouds, blowing past in increasing num bers. “ It w on’t rain, th e y ’ll blow over.” Lulled by the preceding, unusually good w eather we w ent to sleep under the clouds and whistling wind. Morning daw ned, or rather crept in unobtrusively and m ade staying bundled in our cocoons all to o easy. Eventually it was light and in some m iraculous fashion had not rained, awful though it looked. The thought th at it would be worse to get rained on still in the sack drove us o u t and the grapenuts quelled any desire to linger over breakfast. As we crossed the glacier to M ount Fay even the flat light could n ot hide the bulges in the ice above. I got the first lead w hich failed to bring the first bulge any closer. “ It had looked like tw o pitches b ut here I am at the end o f the rope and . … this thing is huge!!” The ice changed continuously in textu re ranging from Nirvana Névé to black ice overlaid by a loosely attached layer o f brittle ice and was consistantly steep w ith

bulges o f 70°. Large bulges occupied the b etter part o f a rope length, not the tw o or three step variety found in couloirs back East. Tubular screws w ent in well as did the Wonder Wart Hogs, although we still used two above a long step for belay anchors. I found it necessary to warm the tubes inside my jack et to remove the plug and the Wart Hog refused to do more than rotate w ithout being chopped to the last few nibs. I m ust adm it I dared not pull very hard for fear it would fly o u t and me over backwards w ith it. Our escorts o f the night, the clouds, finally opened w ith n o t rain, b ut snow which swirled about freezing gates and eyelashes and slid quietly past in sheets, piling up on ice screws and hands and feet. On the second bulge, an extrem ely delicate section w ith a brittle layer over hard ice, dismaying am ounts o f shattered ice were sent whizzing dow n w ith every cram pon or axe blow . We soon discovered th a t slightly diagonaled pitches, sparing those below , were w orth the indirectness o f line. As the upper ice cliff loom ed larger and nearer above we headed w ith o u t hesitation to the ramp around the left side and I realized w ith relief th a t the 55° slope here seemed quite com fortable and secure. The snow had stopped and as we swung the rem aining pitches to the col, the strangeness o f this frozen overflow retu rn ed to me, for at the top was a crevasse containing a frozen pool and b eyond th a t the ice dropped away into a couloir o f rock and then to the glacier below. We ate and drank our long overdue lunch in the strangeness and th e sunshine. I still w onder from w hat the overflow comes.

Summary o f Statistics: A R E A : Canadian Rockies. ASCENT: M ount Fay, N orth Face, New route up east ice bulges. 8 rope

lengths. (Peter Carm an, Yvon C houinard, Dennis Eberl).