After the initial flip upside down he kept falling.
W.t.f.? Am I actually holding the ropes? I remember trying to take in slack to stop his headfirst fall - unsuccessfully.
Miraculously when Ramon did eventually stop, upside down, on a sloping snow covered ledge he was completely unharmed. Apart from not moving. As he lay there with his eyes open I enquired after his health? No response. This wasn’t quite the finish I had imagined for the second pitch of our new route.
The 55m first pitch had kept me amused for a couple of hours, a turfy un-protected start followed by some slightly loose sections with ok ledges to stand on and dig protection from the frozen mud clogged cracks. After that our chosen line steepened in to a long curving flake crack that Ramon traversed to the base of then disappeared up and out of view for hours, and I mean hours! When I eventually saw him again I was surprised that he was without his right crampon (it had been removed for an inventive smearing move) but I was even more surprised when he tried to put it back on in the middle of some fairly technical climbing. After the crampon was hung back on his harness and some awkward looking upwards moves were completed the ledge on top of the flake beckoned. I have a sharp memory of three solid looking swings of the left axe in to what must have been turf followed by that move all winter climbers know, when a downward pull on a hold starts to receive an outwards component as height is gained. I was closely watching this sketchy climbing and saw immediately when the left tool ripped. I also saw when Ramon was quickly flipped upside down by the rope. I heard the semi instinctive warning shout to the belayer change tone as the fall continued.
“Sit up Ramon, sit up Ramon”
Part of the gear ripping fall of about 15m had been hidden from my view but I had watched as Ramon had hit a snowy slab head first and not done much since. After lowering him a couple of meters back to the narrow ledge level with the belay I was encouraging him to sit up - without success.
“sit up Ramon” I shouted again.
Tie off ropes (easily done as they were not very tight).
“Sit up Ramon”
“Sit up Ramon”
Belay myself across ledge.
“Sit up Ramon”
OK, good I thought, a coherent reply, not one hundred percent perfect but at least it was an improvement from laying upside down looking at the sky. By the time I had traversed 10m right to Ramon he had put his crampon on and was looking at the big slice in his finger.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Your top tool ripped out of the turf. What hurts?”
“My finger. I don’t remember anything”
“We have to get back across to the belay” I said.
“Is that my blood?”
“Err? yea, from your finger”
“Where are we? I don’t remember anything”
here we go………..
One hour later the Swiss doctor advised a light dinner and specifically no fondue!
Three hours later and guess what Scott and Nic had prepared for dinner.
keep an eye on Rob’s blog