National Geographic : 1999 Jan
I surveyed a peak as intimidating as anything I'd ever Jushua laughed at me. "You should eat it," he said. "It will make your body warm." AN MAY 29, seven days after leaving Clyde River, we entered Stewart Valley, sled ding across a glassy frozen lake and past a Stonehenge of nameless pinnacles. We arrived at the base of Great Sail Peak, wind screaming, clouds boiling, cold biting. Bending my head back, I sur veyed a peak as intimidating as anything I'd ever climbed. "Dude, this is radical!" shouted Jared Ogden, using the slang of younger climbers. At 26, Jared lives a nomadic existence in Colorado, moving his camper van from ski town to climbing area, according to season. He was excited because soon he would be a speck on that sweep of rock. Alex Lowe and I, at 39 and 41, were the elders of the climbing team. Between us we had a half century of mountaineering in the Himalaya and Alaska. We invited Jared and 27-year-old New Hampshire native Mark Synnott to join us because, despite their youth, they are two of the best big-wall climbers around. In 1997 Mark and Jared spent 25 days pioneering a bold route on 19,700-foot Shipton Spire in Pakistan, establishing their climbing credentials. We planned to climb Great Sail Peak in three stages. First, we'd haul our gear up a 1,400-foot cliff to set up ledge camp on a broad terrace, pulling our ropes up behind us. From there we'd climb the glassy plinth to a height of 3,750 feet above the frozen lake, and under a jutting lip of rock we called the Visor we'd set up wall camp, a shantytown of porta-ledges. Finally we'd climb the upper wall to the summit. On our scouting flight, we'd spotted a possible route up the blank northwest face.