The Guides

My Arrival: on Loss, on Giving


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ACC GMC 2007

Day 4: Return to Fried Rice/Fool's Gold - Tuesday, July 24, 2007

I wake to much better weather. Fool’s Gold and Fried Rice are now whirling around in my thoughts, taunting me to return for another try.

Perhaps Fool's Gold is appropriately named.

During breakfast I turn to Peter to ask if I can get onto the Fried Rice/Fool’s Gold team. Thankfully, the guides agree that it will be fine. I’m in!

We get ourselves together and are soon off. This time around it only takes us three hours to get up to the col between the peaks because we know the optimal route that avoids all of the difficult cliffbands.

The plan is for two groups to go up each peak. I think about it and, because of our difficulties in finding the route up Fried Rice yesterday, I figure I’ll try Fool’s Gold first and leave the other teams to figure out the route on Fried Rice – we can get valuable beta from them via our radios once we begin our attempt later.

Lars (left) shares our route beta from yesterday with Peter and Nancy. It seems that Conrad's busy doing a quick manicure.

 Making fine time through the meadows, with Whiterose and Rosepetal far in the distance.

The glacier below the peaks. Our route veers off right at the plateau just above the dirty snow in the middle.

 At the col between the peaks we divide into teams and get ready for our summit attempt.

I rope up with Bob and Brian, with Conrad guiding, and we start to make our way up the ridge. Initially it’s very loose scree, which then becomes a series of nice shelves. Part way up it begins to hail lightly. 

My heart sinks.


But hail is better than rain. I look down and most of the white balls are hitting the rock and running down the slope or dropping in between cracks and leaving the surface rock fairly dry. I hope this will allow us to press on.


We don't waste any time and make great progress, however, there is one section that is steep enough that Conrad sets up a belay.


Oddly it all looks like one continuous scree slope, but what you can't see are the hidden vertical drops - they're not more than a few meters, but we set up a belay to be safe. 

Within an hour, we reach the final bits of the ridge to the summit and the hail has stopped. I’m confident we’ll be able to make it. The ridge sharpens considerably in the final 50 meters, so Conrad goes ahead and sets up an anchor consisting of a double sling draped over a horn and backed up by a cam. He then begins to belay the rest of us across. 

I watch as Bob carefully makes his way across the exposed ridge. He puts all of his weight on his hands, which are placed atop the sharp rock of the ridge, and carefully shimmies them one by one while his legs dangle; there’s nowhere to get a solid foot grip. I look down at the drop on both sides of the ridge and gulp. My heart speeds up a bit as I begin to follow. I find that my hand placements are solid and there are some tiny pencil ledges to press the edges of my boots into. Slowly I make my way across to where I find a comfortable spot to rest while Conrad moves onward over the final bits of the ridge. He places one more sling over a horn and finds a great position for a seated belay against a rock. Slowly, we all make our way over and we summit at about 4:15 into the trip.

Nancy’s team is right behind us, and a round of congratulations is shared once they reach the summit. We have something to eat, while across the valley we can see that the other two teams have successfully summited Fried Rice.


This is good, as they’ve found a route that we’ll be able to follow.

We make the descent without incident. It’s so quick that we decide to play around a bit and do a rappel off some of the fossilized coral slabs while waiting for the return of the other teams.

This is a shot of the other team doing Fried Rice. You can see better from this angle that it is quite steep. Near the bottom you can see they've just managed to get around the coloured rock where we had a little trouble before aborting yesterday. This is a good sign!


 It certainly doesn't look like a narrow ridge from what you can see here. But it's the hidden parts that'll make your heart pump.


You can see the exposure a little better at this point as the sheer face drops into nothing but mist.

Another shot of Fried Rice. The other teams are actually on the summit.

Yes, the little bump on the summit of the photo to the left is not a chunk of rock, it's these guys shown in this close-up.

Here's our two teams on the summit of Fool's Gold. I'm in the red, Ben is in the yellow. Nancy and Conrad, on the far right, look quite pleased that they still have the same number of people they started with.  

Conrad belays Bob down the face of the fossilized coral, seen in the shot to the right.


Once back at the col, Conrad seems concerned about the time and whether or not we’ll have enough of it to bag Fried Rice.

Nancy seems keen to give it a shot.

She asks who would be into it, and I make sure to be the first to chime in! Ben and Bob are also interested, so we quickly readjust the rope teams. Conrad will begin descending and return to camp with the others.

With Nancy in the lead, we make quick time up to the point where we’d gotten shut down. Nancy goes ahead, moving left around the corner and up a chimney to bypass the problem we’d encountered yesterday. As she is setting up to belay, it begins to rain lightly again.

How ironic. The same spot as yesterday.

But it is light, so we press on. Once we clear the crux, Conrad radios up to us, again concerned about the time and the turn in the weather. I know Nancy is eager to press onwards as we are getting close to the summit and the weather is still manageable.

I sense a mild tug-o-war between Nancy and Conrad as they speak on the radio.

Nancy puts the radio away and tells us that the other group from Fried Rice has now arrived back at the col, but are not going to attempt Fool’s Gold due to the time and weather. Conrad will let his team return to camp with them and come up to help us out, thinking that an additional rope will speed things up for us.

Hhhmmm…I wonder if he is really coming up to try to talk us down.

We continue on and the rain stops. Now it is only time that is working against us. Nancy climbs a short 4th class pitch and is nearly ready to begin belaying us when Conrad arrives. He is quick to jump on the pitch ahead of us, so we continue to wait. Once up, he and Nancy speak - or negotiate - a little bit more. When the ropes are set up, Bob transfers over to Conrad’s, while Ben and I stay on Nancy’s.

Ben and I move quickly together and arrive up ahead of Bob, and Nancy keeps us moving without wasting any time. Apparently, Nancy and Conrad have agreed that we can continue until we attain a first lower summit bump, but may have to turn around there, short of the true summit. 

Onward we press, doing a couple of more belays before arriving at the lower summit. The remainder of the ridge to the true summit looks relatively short and like much easier terrain. Conrad and Nancy agree that, at this point, it will likely be easier to continue forward rather than backtracking.

We move quickly and at the 7:05 mark of the trip time for the day, we bag our second summit! We spend hardly a minute up there before continuing forward to the descent route. It is apparently much less technical, but leaves you on the snow 100 meters below the col - on the wrong side. While it will be easier going down, we’ll waste some time regaining the col.

We move quickly and efficiently, encountering only a couple of problem sections with only one of them requiring a short belay. Once at the snow, we trod at a steady pace back up to the col and upon arrival, we breathe a sigh of relief. The most difficult stuff is out of the way and we are just on pace to reach base camp for the dinner bell. The mood lightens.

At the colored rock, Nancy prepares to belay us up a small chimney around the left-hand side of it.


The weather threatens once again.


After bagging the summit, we take the alternate descent and begin to trod back up to the col.


On the way back to camp, the weather clears up considerably and we get a glimpse of the summit of Bryce.

We leave the col at 4:30pm and are back in camp at 6:05pm, just in time for the dinner bell, as hoped. We are all famished.

We eat potato barley soup, caesar salad, lasagna, garlic bread, and chocolate cake with sauce for dessert.

The trip options for tomorrow are the Cowboy Couloir route up Queant, the Whiterose Traverse, and Fresnoy.

Queant is the most technical and sounds quite fun, so I sign up for that.

I look at my Rock School sign-up sheet and there are eight names on it, so I’m hoping that it’s enough to run it. I know the guides have seen it there on the board, so we’ll see what happens.

Today has been a great day. Things should all be wonderful in my head, but I'm beginning to develop this strange sense of unease. It's not new; this has been brewing in my head since I'd arrived and the whirlwind of the days preceding camp had dissipated.

It just doesn’t feel right. 

I mean, the only reason that I’m here is because of someone else’s loss. Someone else's tragedy. This camp is like a paradise for me, but I feel like I shouldn’t be treating it as such. It doesn’t seem it would be proper.

I'm not sure what I should feel.


It’s time for bed. 

Making the final descent, with camp - and dinner - waiting for us in the distance.

On the way back a couple of Marmots seem to smell something bad - likely us.

If you've been there,

this book will bring back some vivid memories.


If you're planning to go, 

this book will give you a flavor for what is to come.


If you're one that is content to sit back in a chair and just read about it, 

this book will take you there.

Rice Crust from the Bottom of the Pot: A Journey Across South East Asia

Although in creating this site I have tried to make the information as accurate as possible, it is not meant to be a guide, and I accept no responsibility for any loss, injury, or inconvenience sustained by anyone using the information.

 ACC GMC 2007 Review

 © 2007 Parry Loeffler