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From Ride the Breath by Gerry Roach

Chapter Five – Huayaco’s Shroud

Mount Redoubt, North Cascades, 1972

On our warm-up climb, Barb twisted her ankle. Swimming in the chilly Chilliwack Lake, and lounging in camp, Barb painfully admitted that she could not climb Redoubt. Perhaps our excesses were no longer realistic. Hangdog, we made a new plan. As I put my pack in the car, Stu came over and said in a serious voice, “Gerry! You say that in confusion there is profit. Well, I think that we can still do Redoubt! Just you and me. Let’s go!”

Sensing his passion, I pulled my pack back out, set it against the tire, and looked at my watch. “You mean right now, don’t you? Ah, it’s 6 PM.”

Stu had thought it through. “It’s light till nine. We can be at Indian Creek tonight, poised for the climb tomorrow night, and back out in three days!” Eyeing my big pack, he continued, “If it’s just you and me, we can leave our family comforts behind and go really light. Whaddya say?”

Rocking my pack back and forth, I considered Stuís radical proposal, then my spirit surged. Shifting gears, I said, “OK, hotshot, why don’t we meet our Barbs in three and a half days on Hannegan Pass for a climb of Mount Ruth? Not only can we climb Redoubt and Ruth, we can traverse the Chilliwacks, do the high route to Whatcom Pass, and come out the other side!” In the next twenty minutes, we eliminated more than half the contents of our packs, sealed our rendezvous with our wives, kissed them fondly, and jogged up the Chilliwack River Trail into the twilight.

Barb and Chacraraju's south face Barb and Chacraraju’s south face
The west peak is on the left, and the east peak is on the right

We were at once captivated and terrified, but we were not timid. We would attempt the unclimbed south face of Chacraraju Este. It would be the greatest climb of our lives.
Huascaran watches our Pisco climb Huascaran watches our Pisco climb

I insisted that we acclimate properly before tackling the hard climbing. To make my point, I marched out of basecamp to climb neighboring Pisco. Barb, Gary, Dan, and Bill followed me. My secret motive was to duplicate Stu’s bark-inspiring photo of Chacraraju from Piscoís summit.
Randy leading high on Chacraraju Randy Berg leading high on Chacraraju

Accompanied by Mike’s singing, we crept from the cave into pre-dawn cold. As we climbed our narrowing gully, the gargoyles watched us from their perches on the flutings. In spite of our lofty stance at over 19,000 feet, we felt trapped in the confining gully. We could not see the summit. Even the knife-edge would be a relief from this shadowed place. I longed for sun and summit freedom.
Chacrarju from high on Huascaran Chacraraju from high on Huascaran

Ennui was below, exaltation above. I turned my back on the valley and focused on the climb.
Chimborazo Chimborazo

Because of the equatorial bulge, Chimborazo is the highest peak in the world if measured from the Earth’s center. In my mind, Chimborazo loomed like an Everest.
The Forest Primeval The Forest Primeval

The next morning, we left the luxury of the trail and started up seldom-visited Indian Creek. As we plunged into the primal forest, Stu stopped and took off all his clothes. I teased with, ‘Nature man! You may be cool, but you’ll get cut to shreds in these bushes.’
Stu examining Challenger from our camp on the Indian-Bear Creek divide Stu Krebs examining Challenger from our camp on the Indian-Bear Creek divide

That night, we pitched our tiny camp on the glorious Indian-Bear Creek divide. We lounged on the grass, sipped soup, and luxuriated in the views. Redoubt’s south face matched our gaze across the Bear Lake Cirque below us. Redoubt’s summit pitch looked difficult. To the south, oh to the south! Challenger and Fury were as glorious as I remembered.
Redoubt's south face Redoubt’s south face showing our route up the central snow and gully

‘We’ve got a rope. Let’s use it. I can’t see what’s above, but I can lead this pitch. Sometimes easy routes appear in the middle of these complex peaks. We won’t know unless we try. Let’s go for it!’

Stu already had an anchor in and said, ‘No doubt about this belay! Do it!’
Closing Challenger's circle on the high route Closing Challenger’s circle on the high route

I hadn’t thought about my path for awhile, since I was just climbing, but I knew that the path was still paramount, and that I had discovered the K in my WHAT PEAK acronym for mountaineers, which was Karma.
Fortress Fortress

With a look quivering between fear and awe, Tom pointed west at a sentinel citadel and said, ‘Ah. Let me guess. We have to go over there?’

Studying other objectives I replied, ‘Ya. That’s Fortress in front of Glacier Peak. I think we can climb them both.’
Barb and Glacier Peak Barb and Glacier Peak

Still on stride, Barb and I climbed Fortress and Glacier that we had admired the year before from Chiwawa. With this circle closed, and early September rains falling, we finally drove back to Colorado.

Photos from the Gerry Roach Collection



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