Saturday, September 09, 2006

The Things They Carried

Patagonia has produced a couple of great short videos of Steve House walking through the gear and clothing that he and Vince Anderson used on their 2005 ascent of the direct Rupal Face on Nanga Parbat. The gear video is 17 minutes long and worth every second. (And kudos to Patagonia for producing a a long video that shows off none of the clothing it makes. OK, so "producing" meant some guy pointing a camera at Steve in a conference room, but still.) These vids demonstrate the care and thought that go into House's choices of how to fill his pack, from gear modifications to save weight to seemingly frivolous items that are worth the extra ounces (goggles in addition to sunglasses, a pot gripper for cooking). I was first struck by House's careful preparation for big alpine routes after seeing the photos from his and Marko Prezelj's ascent of the north face of the Twin Towers in Canada; it was the first time I'd seen someone use leashless tools (with elastic tethers to the harness) on a huge wall, convincing me that leashless climbing was not just a gimmick for sport-mixed routes. And I was super-impressed to learn that House, who had pared his equipment to the bare minimum for that climb, still carried a GPS unit programmed with waypoints across the broad Columbia Icefield; they didn't even intend to descend via that route, but circumstances forced them to choose that option, and House was prepared to navigate the way home in a whiteout. Strength + boldness – preparation and planning = zero. Not always, but usually.

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