Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Hope for the Future

I had the great fortune last weekend to climb in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, a place I hadn't visited in five or six years, and to do a long route with three inspirational sextogenarians: Jim Donini and the Brits Martin Boysen and Rab Carrington. The four of us teamed up on Monday to climb an 11-pitch route, and the three old guys proved they could still climb circles around a (relatively) young whippersnapper like me.

Each of these three rose to prominence in the 1970s. Donini, of course, is the Doninisaurus, the seemingly ageless climber who pioneered Torre Egger in 1976 and just took over as president of the American Alpine Club; he was the youngest of this crew at 62. Boysen (above right) led the hardest pitches on some of the hardest Himalayan routes of the 1970s; he infamously wedged his knee in a crack halfway up Trango (Nameless) Tower and did so much damage in the extended process of removing it that he was forced to retreat; he returned with his partners the following year, 1976, to make the first ascent of the famous spire. Carrington (above left) made numerous first ascents in South America, including the enormous south wall of Yerupaja in Peru in 1977; his RAB brand of down clothing, sleeping bags and other equipment would be familiar to any American reader of the old Mountain magazines or to any Brit climbing today.

They're all still at it, climbing at a high level. Boysen is a smooth and powerful climber who easily onsights 5.11 crack climbs. Carrington favors face routes; he just redpointed a 5.13a sport climb at age 65. Donini plans to return to Patagonia this coming winter for a third season of attempting a new route on Fitz Roy. It gives one hope for a long life of enjoying the mountains.

We climbed Movable Stoned Voyage, a 5.10 link-up in the Black Canyon, as two ropes of two. Boysen and Carrington (leading pitch 8 at left) bickered fondly like an old married couple. Their rack was sparse, and they seemed to leave a third of the pieces at each belay. They raced up their leads. Rain threatened halfway up the route and then fell hard during the last pitch. No one seeemed too bothered by the weather—I think I was the only one carrying a raincoat.

I had met Boysen a few years earlier at Indian Creek, where I backed off a sketchy, runout face-climbing finish to a crack climb and then watched him storm right up it. I had been confused about who he was—somehow I had thought the legendary Martin Boysen had been killed in the mountains. As we finished our climb in the Black, I told this to Donini (following pitch 8 in the photo above). Donini of course told this to Martin and Rab back at the campground. Boysen laughed. "I'm not dead yet!" he said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's some inspiration! Please post more pix if you got them.