A fine remembrance from Mark Udall about the mountain and the people.
Phenomenal photo of an iconic peak. Capitol taught me and us many lessons in our early mountaineering days. I remember a cold Feb bivouac on the N Face(just parkas, legs in our packs, no stove which still is high on my stupid list). The next day we reached the upper part of the Knife Edge route but we were so over extended we retreated across a double corniced Knife Edge.
In early summer 1984 George Gardner and I climbed the NW Buttress with an initial 5.8 pitch in Super Guides from the top of the Y Couloir. Many interesting pitches on often very good rock. A glorious special day. When we reached George’s old Volvo we used a Coors beer can and duct tape to temporarily patch the main radiator hose which had been cut through by the radiator fan blades because the Volvo’s shocks were so old they were rusted tight. On the very rough 4 wheel drive approach somehow the fan blades had “jumped” high enough to avoid the fan housing and slashed the upper radiator hose. George had many an epic with that Volvo!
We had to stop every 10 miles to fill the radiator so our “repair” was of limited effectiveness. I can’t quite remember how it ended but I think George spent the night in Glenwood Springs and found a replacement hose in the morning. I drove back to Boulder very late to be at my day job at COBS which involved keeping an eye on staff like Jerry Roberts, Bill Roos, George himself, and other present day Ridgway inhabitants.
A postscript; George and I agreed to return in ten years(1994) and repeat the route(I had first done the NW Buttress in 1974 with John Isaacs). 1974, 1984, and 1994 had a nice symmetry. But, alas, it wasn’t to be as our lives became a little more complicated. We did share a special 10 day approach to Kangchenjunga in 1990 because the main climbing party had already departed a week before we arrived in Nepal. Just 2 porters plus George and me trekked to the historic SW Face Basecamp. Eastern Nepal at that time was closed to trekking so we saw no other Westerners. We were smart enough to carry our own sleeping bags, extra clothes, and lunch food which came in handy when our porters temporarily disappeared on two occasions in the vast rhododendron forests of E Nepal.
So many memories…my last serious ice climbing came in 1996 with George at Hayes Creek. He had become a maestro on ice and led that first very thin pitch with elegance and poise. And of course with his unique exuberance and excitement that was always the experience he was sharing with you.
We were all blessed to be in his orbit…