The Edge… There is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over. The others – the living – are those who pushed their control as far as they felt they could handle it, and then pulled back, or slowed down, or did whatever they had to when it came time to chose between Now and Later.
-Hunter S. Thompson, Hell’s Angels
He was talking about motorcycles, but when Hunter Thompson wrote about “the Edge,” in Hell’s Angels, I wonder he ever drew a line to climbing.
In 2013, I found an incredible climbing partner, and together we were able to get as close to that edge as I’ve ever come. We shared the three biggest climbs I’ve ever accomplished: Terror on the Moose’s Tooth, and two others during this fall’s expedition to Nepal, where we made the first ascents of two beautiful peaks in far northwestern Khumbu.
During a month at base camp, my partner and I got hammered with more than 4 ½ feet of snow, leaving us to spend hours digging out our tents with plates, accompanied by many more hours wading through snow, falling into holes, and cursing in frustration. In the end, we were sick and frozen, but made it to the mountain.
The routes we managed were a 24-hour effort on Open Fire (V WI5 M3 1,000m) for the first ascent of Luang West (6,507 meters), and a three-day ordeal on Purgation (VI WI6+ M6 1,100 meters) for the first ascent of Pangbuk North (6,589 meters). The crux of Purgation was the hardest, scariest pitch I’ve ever climbed in the mountains. In an article about finding his edge on K6 West, Raphael Slawinski quoted Scott Backes, saying, “Dread for me in the mountains isn’t the unscaleable ropelength. It’s when I know that although I may lose control, I might still be able to sketch by.” If I thought I could describe it better, I’d try.
This trip never would have been possible without the generous support of the American Alpine McNeill-Nott Award and the Mazamas Alpine Adventure Grant.