Monday, July 26, 2004

Serra V in 2004

My Friend Tom and I made the 5th ascent of Serra V in July of 2004. Just a day or two before Colin Haley and Mark Bunker climbed it while doing the Waddington Traverse. Our initial plan was to do a modified traverse of the Waddington range, sort of going backwards, starting at Serra V. After the Serra V climb we left a bit intimidated. Following the text are some shots I took on the climb.

Climb: Serra Five-From Asperity/Serra Five col
Date of Climb: 7/26/2004
Trip Report:7/24

We had all the base camp nessecities flown in with us to Sunny Knob. Beer, nachos, salsa, Bailey’s, you know just the stuff you really need. The plan was to do a modified Waddington traverse, starting with Serra Five and traversing Asperity, Tiedeman, Combatant, NW and Main pk. of Waddington. Then for shits and giggles maybe Bravo on the way down. Ambitious plan. Weather forecast was good. We packed and planned for a 3AM getaway the next morning.

7/25 I cut Tom’s sleep short by waking him at about 2AM and making him look up at the awesome display of Northern Lights being played out overhead. The best I’ve seen in many years. Stumbling down the slopes of Sunny Knob and out across the morainal debris of the Tiedeman by headlamp we headed for the base of the Serra glacier and climbed up to it through a veritable bowling alley of shattered rock. Then across the lower apron of the Serra I led up into a complex crevasse field that we hoped would lead to ‘Carl’s couloir’. We climbed up the ice slope and through the crevasses often on front points until finally we were on easier ground and it was bright enough to see without headlamps. The double bergshrund ahead looked pretty intimidating and we had no idea if we could find a way through. I hit the shrund first and probed to the left hand moat. Much to my relief there was a small slot we could climb but too narrow for packs. We would have to haul. Tom came up and insisted on checking the right side. He climbed about 100 ft. of rock and lo and behold! The moat on that side looked climbable...with packs! Good on ya Tom! Up we went through the moat and came out into the upper ‘shrund. Tom started for the moat again but I spied an avalanche cone that appeared to run through to the upper lip, right into another avy funnel that all the rock and snow came funneling down. I climbed through as fast as possible and Tom followed. We were through the ‘shrund’s! Then it was just several thousand feet straight up to ‘Carl’s camp’. My right ankle started it's inevitable aching about halfway up. I damaged it permanently years ago in an ice climbing accident. 7 advil later it seemed to functional again. 11:30AM and we were at Carl’s. Off the snow and on the rocks for a moment we took a lunch break. Then came an under estimated, totally mental traverse into the back of the Serra cirque. From the pictures I had it had looked to be a stroll. I have not ever been on a more tedious and draining stretch of ground. Not more than 1/4 mile, it felt like it took hours to cross terrain that varied constantly from soft avy prone snow, to a few inches over ice that would constantly skate away dropping your foot until your crampons caught, to hard ice and dozens of avalanche runnels. We were knackered by the time we crossed the final dicey bridge to the easier ground of the upper Serra glacier. Eventually after sitting and waiting for the final couloir leading to the Asperity/Serra Five col to be shaded we stood beneath the final bergshrund, comparing how many bridges we had each punched through on the glacier. The rock fall coming down the funnel in this couloir had abated somewhat with the lack of direct sun. I couldn’t wait any longer. I crossed the open ‘shrund on the avy debris and started climbing directly up the final face of the upper lip. Sun rotted ice made it difficult to find good tool placement but I made it up and climbed out of the funnel as fast as my legs would take me. Then I stood watch for rocks coming down as it was Tom’s turn. He made it to the upper lip before I shouted a warning
Unfortunately, I was still looking up slope while yelling and Tom didn’t hear me until the last instant ducking his shoulder as the basketball sized rock flew over it. 1500 ft above, our high bivy on the col awaited. The rocks weren't through yet though. Near the top we danced in place dodging more rocks that came flying at us with our names engraved on them. We arrived to a bone chilling wind that made diving into a small bivy tent a distinct pleasure.

7/26 Slept in today. Lots of big wind last night, but the little ID tent took it well. Finally Tom got up to look around and came back after about an hour.“Well hows’ it look?” I ask.
“Not too bad, maybe we should try Serra V”
OOOH let’s go” is my enthusiastic reply. “And tomorrow we can go up over Asperity.”No response.So I get dressed and we head out for Serra V and climb a little snow and mixed ground to the base of the summit tower. Then followed 3 great mixed pitches to the summit. It was a surreal pleasure to be climbing in this place on this peak. On the summit Tom gives me a look and say’s,
“You know, I’m looking at the ground ahead [on the traverse]and there is just a shit load of work.”
“Yeah” I say starting to feel the other shoe about to...
“And I just don’t feel up to it. I’m going to get myself or you killed”
THUMP. The shoe dropped. I didn’t say anything immediately.“Umm, If you really feel that way then I guess we go down tomorrow..?”
“Yeah, I just don’t think I can do it.”
Unexpectedly we found a summit register in the rocks. We opened the can and read the register entry’s. Three ahead of us but we realized that at least one party had not signed. Hesleden and Richardson. Then we discovered why. No pencil. No freaking pencil!!!! We scoured our clothing for something to write with, nothing, nada! We toyed with chocolate, lichen, and debated writing in blood as appeared Davis and Diedrich had in ‘89. Nothing worked and we just weren’t as hard as Davis and Diedrich, time to go down. Three raps into the wind faced us. On rap 2 Tom lost an ice tool as it levered itself out of his holster and bounced into the abyss. Rope snarls slowed us considerably but eventually we were back at the base of the tower and from there we down climbed back to the bivy tent. Wind was less and though we were going down we were both in good spirits, but I did feel disappointment.

7/27 We were out of camp about 8. A rather leisurely start. We rapped down the couloir using bollards, threads and rock anchors. I was dreading going back across the traverse to Carl's. Sure enough it sucked just as bad and we took a lower line that was no better. We had some rock to work with but the runnels were much deeper so it was about a wash. Tom was sitting on some rock about to start out into the shit again when a wet slushy avy poured down the runnel a couple feet away.“Well it missed, right?” he says.
We made it Carl’s camp and decided to bivy for the night. The couloir below was in no good shape to descend. However a more spectacular bivy spot one could not ask for. Perched on a narrow crest that diverted avalanches off to either side, the walls Asperity framed the view across the gulf of the Tideman to Mt. Munday. To the other side side lay the walls of the Serra's and Stilletto. Unfortunately the fires that had been burning delivered so much smoke that the view was somewhat stunted. We had most of the afternoon to kick back and relax. Tom kept us entertained with lots of Scottish humor.

7/28 Sling a rock, rap. Dig a bollard, rap. Drill a thread, rap. I set up anchors while Tom struggled with pulling the lines down off the bollards in the crappy snow. The process went on a long time until we reached the crevasses of the Serra glacier.
“How did we get up through this shit in the dark” I said as I led off into the maze. We slowly worked our way to just above the apron where we we drilled a final thread and rapped down to the flats. Then it was a race to get back through the bowling alley and an easy walk back up to Sunny Knob. The base camp necessities we had brought proved ample on our return. The trip was mightily abbreviated but we had managed to pull off the fifth ascent of a very elusive summit.
Gear Notes:Ice gear, no cams were used or carried. Set of hexes, nuts.
Approach Notes:whirly
The mighty Waddington
We only brought the essentials
Beer cooler at sunny knob camp
Bicuspid at dawn

The Stiletto's
Tom in the 1st bergshrund
Tom above the first set of double bergshrund's
Looking up at the Asperity ice cliffs
Our col camp
Tom on the first lead of the summit tower
Me on the summit 
Yes the ropes were hard to pull

Tom nearing our col camp on descent from summit

Serra 5 in the back of the 

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