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Thread: The Undefinable Line

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    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default The Undefinable Line

    -------

    North Twin: North Face

    CHRIS JONES


    Yesterday all was indecision. The north faces above the Columbia Icefields were plastered in ice. Could North Twin be any different? We had gambled on the beginning of August for our attempt, had traded our fear of a rival team for our knowledge of ice conditions. All July we anxiously awaited news from Canada. But now, when all seemed ready, we faltered. Should we give it a few days to clear? Should we go to Robson and come back later? Fear was countered by desire, caution by competition. No matter what alternatives we dreamed up, we could not avoid the basic issue. Were we ready for North Twin, or were we kidding ourselves? We packed our gear.

    One foot up, pause, and then the other. It was much like any other uphill grind with a heavy pack. Yet there was a difference. In a few moments we would be at Woolley Shoulder, and I would have my first view of the fabled north face of North Twin. I became strangely detached. I saw George Lowe and myself as figures in the past. I saw our attempt as something that happened long ago. There was a clear sense that it had some meaning for a future generation, but what it was I could not say. More importantly, I knew this would be a very personal moment. I was intrigued to know my limits, wanted to push myself as never before. I had a feeling that North Twin might provide the answer. When I reached the Shoulder I ducked into the wind and glanced across at our face. I was impressed….

    ***

    There was no alternative. I chipped away at the ice in the back of the crack, bridged up the groove, and repeated the performance. It was our fifth day on the wall. We had hoped to be up in three days, but the scale and the difficulties were unrelenting. We had equipment for a typical mixed climb, but the 2000ft. upper wall was of Dolomitic steepness and severity. One of our Bluet cartridges had been damaged in the haul bag, and without gas there would be no water to drink. The intricate route finding had necessitated retreats and pendulums, and together with the gear we had simply dropped or failed to remove, we were down to a dozen pitons and nuts.

    George put in a lead and called for me to come up. When I arrived he pointed to a ramp that led around a corner. Was this the connection to the ice gully that led through the headwall? Excited and relieved I led upwards; the ramp gave out on a blank wall. I then tried to reach the headwall above me. The rock was poor and I could not get any satisfactory anchors. Thoroughly despondent, I asked George to take over the lead. He worked hard and unearthed a couple of nut placements, then started up the headwall. A knifeblade, a sky hook, a thin blade. Slowly he inched up. Now he needed a regular angle. The only one was the principal belay anchor; so I tied off the ropes, stood in a sling, and hammered at it. Suddenly the rope jerked upward. "God, he's off," I thought as I grabbed for the belay rope. In a flash I saw the last piton pull, saw the tremendous wrench on the remaining belay anchor. Then all was quiet. George bobbed up and down at the end of his rope.

    I was tense. I insisted we have a rest, eat lunch, and talk over the situation. Four thousand feet up this wall was no place to start taking leader falls. But George was pissed off.

    He wanted to get back on the rock right away. Not up the same crack, he was sure of that, but up a nearby depression. As he started up an even less promising line, it began to snow. He doggedly tried this line, but it was hopeless; another was equally bad. Finally he traversed leftward around the base of the headwall. After an age he returned through the falling snow. It was almost dark, but he had seen the ice gully which led through the headwall. It was 100ft. away from his high point and was vertical water ice. Maybe we could pendulum into it, then tie the ropes together and protect the lead by leapfrogging our three ice pitons. Even George could not hide the fact that this was a desperate proposal.

    ***

    The bivouac was austere. We perched on ice crusted rocks with our feet thrust into our climbing sacks. After a cup of soup and a mouthful of cheese we settled into the bivouac sack. My mind raced. We were in a hell of a spot. We had almost no climbing gear. With our limited means the headwall appeared impossible. The ice gully seemed like madness. Retreat was out of the question; that option had been closed since the day before. The storm was now serious. Snow covered the rock. Tomorrow we would be overdue, and warden Hans Fuhrer would be concerned. But even if he flew in to look for us, what could he do to help? Did we really imagine that they could pull us off this wall? Besides, how long could we hold out?

    George was also awake. He must have been going through the same gyrations. Finally we began to talk. He had come to the same conclusion the only way out was up. We both had been badly rattled; I, when the hoped for exit ramp turned to nothing, and George, when he unthinkingly attacked the headwall after his fall. We were near our limit. Well, if this were the real thing, I was damn glad I was with George. He was solid. I told him of my confidence, and he replied that he felt the same way. I might be lousy on 5.10, but he reckoned I had a high survival potential. As we discussed the options, confidence returned. Conversation died out and we fell asleep.

    ***

    It was the seventh day. I headed into the bleak nothingness of a white out on the Columbia Icefields. Behind me, George kept us on a compass bearing. Yesterday we had lucked out. During a lull in the storm we had made an improbable lead into the ice gully. Fifteen leads of ice climbing in continual storm had brought us to the summit ridge at dusk. Now all we had to do was find the col that gave access to the valley. At mid afternoon we headed down a dip in the glacier. Just then we heard an unmistakable sound: a helicopter was circling in the valley below. They were looking for us! The noise grew faint and then went away. We crossed a shoulder and plunged into a snow basin; at last we could see where we were going. Suddenly the noise returned; the helicopter shot over the col. We rushed headlong down the slope, oblivious to the crevasses. The pilot spotted us and swung the machine over in our direction. "You guys OK?" came over the loud hailer. Apparently satisfied by our shouts and waves, the helicopter circled away. As abruptly as they had arrived they were gone.

    The emotional impact was devastating. We realised that someone cared about us, that we were not alone. The last few days had been overwhelming. We had crossed the undefinable line. Now the tensions were released. As I walked toward the valley, tears ran down my face.


    From ASCENT 1975-76.
    Chris Jones and George Lowe were two of the finest climbers of their generation.
    Their route has never been repeated.



    Last edited by Bill Ryan; 19th May 2013 at 15:25.

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    UK Avalon Founder Bill Ryan's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    -------

    This is a simple story about partnership, courage, commitment and trust. I wanted to share it as a metaphor about human endeavor, and the ability we all have within us to succeed against all odds, transcending ourselves and our limitations in the process. For me, this true story is significant, and I always come apart when I read it.

    The world of mountaineering has been very important for me, as it provides many such examples. I've been involved in one or two of them myself. Other accounts, from many other realms, also inspire. In the wonderful 1984 movie STARMAN, with Jeff Bridges, the Starman says towards the end of the film:
    You are a strange species. Not like any other. And you'd be surprised how many there are. Intelligent but savage. Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you?
    You are at your very best when things are worst.


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    Avalon Member Sidney's Avatar
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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    Quote Posted by Bill Ryan (here)
    -------

    This is a simple story about partnership, courage, commitment and trust. I wanted to share it as a metaphor about human endeavor, and the ability we all have within us to succeed against all odds, transcending ourselves and our limitations in the process. For me, this true story is significant, and I always come apart when I read it.

    The world of mountaineering has been very important for me, as it provides many such examples. I've been involved in one or two of them myself. Other accounts, from many other realms, also inspire. In the wonderful 1984 movie STARMAN, with Jeff Bridges, the Starman says towards the end of the film:
    You are a strange species. Not like any other. And you'd be surprised how many there are. Intelligent but savage. Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you?
    You are at your very best when things are worst.

    PROFOUND!!!! I love it!!! Thank you : )

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    United States Avalon Member Knowrainknowrainbows!'s Avatar
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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    Synchronicity ...

    I just returned from work-related business trip.

    Our keynote motivational speaker was Jamie Clarke, successful mountaineer of Mt. Everest. He is well-worth attending if ever you have the opportunity.

    My main take-awayfrom his exciting and entertaining story was his grandfather's advice given him ... "Be of service."

    When things have been worst in my own life I have given pause to thought/contemplation and acknowledged my part in the situation. Then I "reset" my course for the greatest good available. I'm not finished climbing my proverbial mountain(s) but I'm certainly away from base camp... and thankful to know others (such as Avalon forum members) are too!

    KRKR

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    my word, what can be said of the energies of the total (title, post and words)
    its like the energy represented by a fork or horn with central line. surrounding and supercharging in the middle
    alternately substitute what iI say with: goo-go-gaa-gA
    BUT very thank-you for this. (my all-time movie to reduce me to tears at some or other scene, is that of the Emperor and Assassin, ..mainly i took it as my own as so-many misunderstood it for the many moral metaphors it can throw)
    The Thought of Norea: They heard, (and) they received - into - place forever...in order that - might rest in the ineffable Epinoia, in order that - might inherit the first mind which - had received, & that - might rest in the divine Autogenes, and that - too might generate -self, just as - also has inherited the living Logos, & that - might be joined to all of the Imperishable Ones, and speak with the mind of the Father

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    once you climb to the mountain top, you can see better than those that choose not to climb ... perspective is paramount ... I love these kinds of metaphors ...thanks for the story Bill ...
    Raiding the Matrix One Mind at a Time ...

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    .... i realized the title for the thread may be taken from a book...
    as in the undefinable line to the summit.

    though with your second post there is another undefinable line:
    'STARMAN: .. "intelligent but savage"'. There are many inroutes to this. misunderstanding, misappropriation being one, but the starman speaks from the glow of knowing many, and observing *this* as one . of the whole.
    Last edited by deridan; 19th May 2013 at 18:09.
    The Thought of Norea: They heard, (and) they received - into - place forever...in order that - might rest in the ineffable Epinoia, in order that - might inherit the first mind which - had received, & that - might rest in the divine Autogenes, and that - too might generate -self, just as - also has inherited the living Logos, & that - might be joined to all of the Imperishable Ones, and speak with the mind of the Father

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    we at are best when things are the worst... the forever optimist... the harmony of why we are all here... making the impossible possible ... I'm very emotional today, energies are high ...
    Raiding the Matrix One Mind at a Time ...

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    "Men wanted for hazardous journey. Low wages, bitter cold, long hours of complete darkness. Safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in event of success."
    Ernest Shackelton/ Anarctic expedition 1914 ad

    In September of 1914, Anglo-Irish explorer Ernest Shackleton set out on the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition with the goal of being the first man to traverse the Antarctic continent. Aboard what would become his aptly-named ship, the Endurance, he and 27 men set sail for the South Pole. But along the way, the ship became trapped in ice, setting off a series of events that would lead him away from his original goal and yet test him as a man and enshrine him as a hero far more than the attainment of it would have. While he did not complete the transcontinental journey he had hoped for, he brought back all 27 of his men alive, a feat of magnificent leadership without parallel.

    We are truly a remarkable energy aren't we! Great post Bill the human spirit is unmatched in this universe !

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    brings to mind jack london.and shackletons book has some great images to.also makes me wonder if mars?? will be the future generations north face??thanks for thread and another book to add to my stack.
    Last edited by william r sanford72; 20th May 2013 at 18:08.
    TRUTH and BALANCE

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    Thanks, Bill. The climbing story took my heart and placed it in my throat. Your follow-up encouragement was some music I simply needed to hear right now.

    Dennis


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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    Quote You are a strange species. Not like any other. And you'd be surprised how many there are. Intelligent but savage. Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you?
    You are at your very best when things are worst.
    Well holy hell imagine wht we are at our very best! MAgnanaMous
    We X Billions want to change the world and it appears we are......
    PARADISE IS POSSIBLE EVERYWHERE 4 EVERYONE

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    Bill what a great thread. A real boost! And don't we need them!

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    Happened to be listening to this when I read the post:

    Interdimensional Civil Servant

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    Bill has a nice story here.

    I have no idea how come this page opened. But i read that small thread. If the page opened, it is maybe because i needed it or someone else does. So i decided to bump the thread. Whoever may have needed it, just leave us a note, it would be nice to know why you needed it.

    ok I found why: it is related to a thread opened by Kirolak where Bill put a post referring to this present thread

    I will still keep the bump, it must be needed somewhere...

    http://projectavalon.net/forum4/show...=1#post1031961
    Last edited by Flash; 24th December 2015 at 00:15.

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    Default Re: The Undefinable Line

    Thanks for bumping that Flash
    Unity within the diversity

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