Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Euro Adventures of Jonny and Micah

This is the first of two reports from alpine masters Jonny Copp and Micah Dash, who are spending their spring and summer in the French Alps after getting denied access to the Tibetan Alps this year. All photos by Jonny.

Had the Tibetans not rioted, Micah Dash and I would have been caught in the epicenter of an earthquake that killed over 60,000 people this May. I’ve been learning more and more that timing is everything. And when I start to disbelieve what I’ve learned, another incident occurs to drive home the lessons.

Micah and I had planned to attempt a new route this spring in a remote region of Tibet, heading after this soaring unclimbed line that inspired us. We were fired up. But by April the Chinese Government refused to grant Micah and I our permit to climb in the region due to discord on the Tibetan front. The Olympics, essentially, were getting in the way too because of the increased media exposure.

We had the time and the psyche, so we had to head out. We ended up in the Alps. And from day ONE in Europe we had amazing serendipitous meetings, close calls in the mountains, great food, wine and cheer in towns, and even though it was the worst May for weather in 7 years, we climbed almost everyday – sometimes while it was snowing on alpine routes or while it was raining on overhanging limestone (no worries!).

The low-point (otherwise known as the highpoint) of our trip was part way up the West Face of the Petit Drus. A new route on the feared face was our main objective. It’s feared because 8 years ago half of the mountain fell off lifting a dust cloud that rose and floated from France to England. This major collapse of the wall’s infrastructure was seen by all in the Chamonix Valley, and the face has had few visitors since.

The wall wasn’t as scary as its reputation (as is usually the case). Never-the-less, it was a full alpine adventure with thin ice corners, steep, gloves-off rock climbing, crazy weather, and a tiiiiiiny leeetle bivouac site perched on the edge of a gendarme. It snowed that night as the storm moved in, and we didn’t sleep due to the cold and spindrift. That was our highpoint, or low-point depending on perspective.

The trip moves on and is still at hand! We are lovin’ the sweet French limestone in Ceuse, the granite in Chamonix’s upper valley, the Via Ferrata approaches and the European pace of life. And that leads us right back to timing, which is everything. Today: a glass of wine at 8pm with the sunset and a BBQ.

Salud, Jonny Copp

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