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Heels 1974

A Climb on the East Ridge

page 9

A Climb on the East Ridge

Two eyes sneak out of a warm pit on the slopes of a shadowed basin. The East Face of Cook was a vast orange wall. "Hey boy, it's today". The other pit grows a head. "A great place." Action starts with an arm tentatively coming out and starting the burner. Abrew, some fruit. Then out of pits come bodies, boots and more clothes. Harness, rope; " Lets go, Smiler."

First it's soft,crusty snow debris on the fan below the couloir leading to the East Ridge. Hard slog for bodies not quite awake. Next a schrund but with firm,crisp snow. Move together on front points up into the narrowing couloir. Then, little white growling blurs hum past in wild fury. We hug the slope, then hurry up to a little wall in the runnel. Picks in, climb up, swing over and go towards the ridge. Two unfit bodies, wide awake at last, pause in the sun for the feeling of the place and the views on each side.

Gingerly, at first, uncertain of picks and points we belay up soft snow on ice. Easy snow but hard work follows. The icecaps drawing nearer. Wit leads a diagonal traverse from the last snow (You're into it now boy - no more plunging of shafts, no more dreaming on belays). It's my turn. Out, up and past. A rest step, then climb on to the end of the rope. Hack, screw, clip in, rest. "On belay." Wit looks as stuffed as me as he climbs up and rests head down by my belay. We look at little dots moving down from Cinerama Col. And at the bigger dots which are friends just over the icecliff on the Caroline.

Both fully alert to the thrill, we alternate up. Protections start going in for it's not really flat anymore and there's plenty of space below. We aren't climbing slowly but it's a long way. Arms begin to feel a little tired and calves eargerly rest at the belays. Finally we're at the steepest pitch. All systems, picks and points working in rhythm, a fantastic climb.

Then it's snow, fun rock and the summit ridge. Sit down, eat fruit, start talking, laughing,and yelling to the others and going down.

Party: Ian (Wit) Whitehouse, Wharry Keys.