Suffering in Ecstasy

A further lesson in terms of climbing in adverse weather conditions: mountain friends Klara and Georg report the Ritacuba Blanco (5350 m) in the Cordillera del Cocuy, Colombia, their attempt to cross. The two experienced mountaineers climbed the line “Tierra de Condores” (7a +, 800 m), as the weather made them a stroke through the Bill.


They report as Klara and George were houses without money, passport and equipment by Colombians and else on tour what they have experienced yourselves.


“I’m so hungry”… – “Close your eyes, then the stomach thinks it’s night.” It’s two o’clock in the afternoon, it’s snowing. We sit in a small, damp cave at 5000 meters altitude in the middle of our 800 metre high wall, somewhere in the anywhere in Colombia. “Holiday” exactly to our liking… Instead two bivouacs, we have established already fourth bivouac place in the wall for 9 pitches of approximately 22 we needed weather a week due to the volatile. The supplies are dwindling, we have six bars, four soups and 3 litres of water for another 450 vertical climbing meters. Because of stable weather in February! If tomorrow doesn’t matter on the cloud cover, we must give all the hard-fought metres, all the pitches, again. It’s frustrating, the situation seems hopeless.


The highest and the most beautiful

Some encounters are no coincidence, so also the acquaintance with our Colombian friend Hernan, who showed us a wall photo of his favorite field. A mountain with two faces: is from the South High Ritacuba Blanco, highest mountain in the Colombian Cordillera, an almost gentle-looking, white Knoll – North a vertical rock pyramid, as a fortress of 5350 m. Barely known a few ascents, total seclusion in a pristine nature park. In July Hernán tells us from the wall, in February, we are already on the road in the Parque Nacional natural El Cocuy.


The line “Tierra de Condores” (7a +, 800m) is climbed on mobile backups, but has drilled stands. As Coronation combined terrain at the glaciated Summit building waiting for the last 350 meters. The whole range of disciplines is required, pile of required equipment is huge. Which adventure climber could resist this challenge?


Short time up the Hill

We need to cross three passes to get to the North wall of the Ritacuba Blanco. All in all a few hundred meters in altitude to a distance of 20 kilometers. The difficulty for us is the amount that we are moving all the time above the 4,000 threshold. Six heavy haul and backpacks are at the end of the dusty road, a total to the 120 kg. The luggage will be taken by the Cowboys here living with horses to the base camp, which is customary here, because it is their only source of income. Also for acclimatisation reasons, it is advantageous to go only with a light Pack.

A long, grassy slope pulls up to the first pass – short time up the Hill, at home is a matter of 30 minutes. At this altitude the increase as a tenacious gum stretches. The gaze far into the green landscape of the National Park falls from the notch. Deeply among us, a beautiful Lake, where we will spend the night dark blue glitters. Who wants to properly acclimatize, must long take – time to suffer. Trees (Espeletia), which is littered with yellow flowers are passing on man-sized “Freilejon”. They stand there like a force of guerrillas from afar. Suddenly seems a story of my buddies in the sense of his climbing adventure in the Cocuy. “A day’s March of civilization are away and all of a sudden the 15 guerrillas with Kalashnikov over his shoulder before uns…und to our surprise they have admired us for our courage, here to climb!” So an encounter not, threatens us fighters have retreated by now in the North of the country.


The pulse thunders in the temples, the breathing is fast. Luckily the resting pulse is felt after a sleepless night back to normal, because already the next altitude are: waiting the second pass a very long, shallow rise up to 4800 metres. The landscape becomes increasingly Rocky, steep walls rise to left and right, on the horizon, the first glacier peak shine. From the Rocky gray in gray shine occasionally yellow flowers, a dream for every nature lover. However, we are looking forward to our wall! Until the afternoon of the third pass reveals: the mighty north face of the Ritacuba Blanco with its glaciated top a stunning mountain radiates toward us,. For this sight alone, the way would have paid off.


How to climb

Our base camp is situated on a small lake, Emerald shining. Just a few hundred meters separating us from the bottom of our wall, but with heavy backpacks, the path is a hiking tour for themselves. Four times we need to work your way up us through the steep, sandy terrain, until all material and especially enough water under the wall are deposited. The big advantage: we’re now well acclimatised. On the fifth day to go finally.

Vertically, the Red Brown rock in front of our nose rises, a crack system carries on the first tape. The friction is gigantic, the ledges and cracks how to climb. Bomb safe friends let sink in the important places, sitting in plump cracks our Totemcams like adhesive hooks. Rope length to length of rope we continue up us in the next few days and left our ropes for the Jumaren, like the spiders because daily at the same time, the cloud cover closes and it’s raining. As long as we have enough ropes, that little bothers us. We’re comfortable it for the time being on the covered ledge in the second rope length. Our strategy is simple: If all cables in the wall, we move into a higher bivouac and throttle. In a fast attack, we are then trying to reach the Summit. If we could… something better assess only the weather


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The tour is a real dream of climbing, the movements incredibly beautiful. Each pitch offers something different – strips, cracks, roofs. Anyway, the whole wall is a mystery in itself – like a staircase from the bottom, full of roofs. Actually she should tip over! Again and again the seemingly insurmountable passages dissolve with crazy climbing movement as saying the lines are gigantic. The days are still long, because we can climb only in the morning. The weather will not go along with it. We drink tea, try to consume our resources but as little as possible. For hours, we then stare into the distance, watching, listening. Details for which we otherwise wouldn’t have time. The seascape deep looks considered among us from above like a modern painting. An incredible shapes and colours: turquoise blue water swim like green islands ‘Cojines’-pad, an endemic plant of this valley is named. Other lakes are blue, green, yellow and Brown, the colours blur into each other. Up about us two giant condors circling. Not because of us? Somehow, this “get time” Bigwall style, even if we decided not entirely voluntarily for that have nice.


It is time. Meanwhile, even the half ropes hang as individual strands can much longer in the wall, and do we wait with burst into the wall. We need to separate us from the ground and safety. As the lighter of the two of us, it remains me the last 50 meters of the tendon master 7, 8mm up to jumaren. How on a thin rubber band I see-saw me up, the heart thunders against my temples: effort, but above all because of the adrenaline. In my mind’s eye rubs the strand over the edge like a blade. The only hope is my infinite confidence in the cable surface and the good, new rope. To make matters worse the weather has made to today already at 10: 00, so we work against an unpleasant wind. As I to secure George to our bivouac in the 9th rope length, he is quite stiff from the cold. Here we sit so in our damp cave, at two o’clock in the afternoon and stare into the snowstorm. From the dream?


Hope dies last

A purple-red sky announces the morning. Two days ago, we have cut off contact with the ground and captured two more lengths of rope. Lacks only 3 lengths of rope and the combined area of the 350 metres to the Summit. Dawn: weather bot or bad weather-bot? No matter, we must try it today. We leave our Eagle’s nest and climb with only the bare essentials. Under a bright blue sky we screw us up, finally a perfect day. Long have we allowed the condors among us and are in the light, but fragile grounds above the 14th pitch on the road. From here the pathing is snowed to or eingeeist and therefore untraceable harder stands. The first escarpment in the ice is no obstacle thanks to crampons and ice-axe, we climb and traverse the long snow-edge up now in the Exchange.


It is early afternoon as the weather trap sprung. Long again thick clouds have piled up, which begin now to reduce. For us, there’s only escape upwards and the South-facing descent on the glacier, because without descent stands we not facing north make it before the storm to the bivouac. A unscheduled crossing. We rush to the long rope n simultaneously


It is early afternoon as the weather trap sprung. Long again thick clouds have piled up, which begin now to reduce. For us, there’s only escape upwards and the South-facing descent on the glacier, because without descent stands we not facing north make it before the storm to the bivouac. A unscheduled crossing. We rush to the long rope simultaneously upwards. Partly shines the green of the Valley through the thin layer of snow, lurking on the other side of the columns. In the middle are always nice on our cornice. “Descent into the empty”-no thanks! In the snow, we reach the Summit, which is a white Peak in the white flurries without views. And yet, we’ve done it – but the tension remains. The descent of the glacier we know only from descriptions, the traces of the many aspirants of the Summit from the South disappear rapidly in the fresh snow.


Back to Los

Now is my talent as a tracker. Controls secure we us each other the escarpment to the infamous glacier column down. A narrow snow bridge crosses the column that would engulf a House loosely. However, for creeps is not the time. Again, it’s called trust, this time in the pimple backup each other. Later we brought 30 seconds cardiac arrest the crux of descent behind us. Again and again we lose the platform tracks and find her, we reach over steep snow slopes soon in the flat rock terrain. Here is striking us, as the tension of the last few hours has sapped the strength. But even worse is that we are on the other side of the mountain, at the starting point of our expedition: with two half ropes and soaking wet clothes. No passport, no money, all equipment is distributed in the wall. And now?


We are not a problem in Colombia. The staff of the hostel shortly before the Cocuy National Park have no problem to give us food and lodging and trust that we pay for everything on the way back. Three phone calls and a day later Hernán as if by a miracle from afar has organized two rental sleeping bags. We go to the second time the two-day climb to base camp, like to stay under a ledge in the Hay-lined camp of herdsmen. Our tent awaits you at the Lake, but we are still without mats. We need to climb almost the complete “Tierra de Condores” once again, to recover our equipment. It is the chance to enjoy the beautiful movements of climbing, because we no longer have to at the Summit. Piece by piece we recover our equipment, are happy about each piece as a gift at Christmas. The mat, the own sleeping bag, the cooker.


So it feels, to appreciate the little things again after a period of privation. What are a few days with less food compared to the experienced adventure? Freeze a bit when compared to all the experiences that we were able to collect? In hindsight, even our damp cavity in the wall is a special place, which we often remember back. This huge variety of walls and routes, it will stay safe not only with this visit the Cocuy!