Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sasser Kangri II Day 2

We knew that achieving our goals on our second day on the route would be the key to success.  In 2009 this day was where things fell apart for us - the system we used was too slow and we waited too long to try and make a place to bivy and exhausted ourselves too early on the climb.  This time we needed to reach or exceed our high point of 2009 and make a good tent platform to rest and cook early enough in the day so we would have enough strength to continue.

We woke up at 1:30 AM and were underway by 3:30 by rappelling off the Launch Pad onto the ice slope below.  I was my block to lead and I traversed left around a large rock island and headed up.  I found great conditions with 2-8 inches of firm snow over the ice that was much quicker and easier to climb than the bare hard water ice we had in 2009.  The climbing was easy enough for all three of us to "simulclimb" which means we all climbed together at the same time clipping our ropes to ice screws as we moved along rather than leading and belaying every rope length.  We gained altitude a lot faster this way and were high on the wall before the sun came up.

Simulclimbing up the lower ice face

Mark took over leading as we got into some of the mixed climbing near our high point of 2009.  We were very happy with our progress so far - we arrived at the base of a pitch we called the "ice chimney" at around 10AM that took until late afternoon in 2009. 

Approaching the Ice Chimney pitch

In the Ice Chimney pitch

Here, based on a strong opinion from Freddie, we didn't start wandering all over the wall in search of a bivouac place for the night.  We made a good decision to keep climbing and search for a potential bivy spot along the way. 
Climbing through the rock band above the 2009 high point

This allowed us to keep moving up and not waste time traversing away from our line of ascent.  Before we knew it we had moved through a mixed rock and ice section that we thought would be the crux of the route.

More climbing though the rock band

We eventually found a flatish area on a rib that was going to be our best opportunity for a bivy site.  But this time we had a new piece of gear that enabled us to build a flat bivy site that would have been impossible without it.  It was Mark's invention that he calls the "Ice Hammock".  The Ice Hammock is a 2 ounce piece of fabric with webbing loops on each end that you fill with snow to make a ledge.  The pictures below show how it is used.

Filling the Ice Hammock with snow to build up a bivy ledge
I was still feeling weak from all my previous health problems so I let Freddie and Mark build the tent platform while I hung our MSR Reactor stove from the wall and melted snow for tea and to fill all our water bottles.

Bivy ledge created with two Ice Hammocks on top of each other

Although the tent hung a bit off the ledge on one corner, all three of us were able to fit inside fairly comfortably.  We achieved our main goals for the day which were to get above our 2009 high point and establish a good bivy early in the day so we could cook, and drink, and get some sleep.  With this work behind us and continuing good weather we were excited about our summit chances, which at this point were starting to look good.

Our second bivy which positioned us to climb the upper wall

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