Friend­ship and Climb­ing

Gripped - - EDITORIAL - Bran­don Pul­lan

It is easy to say that my most mem­o­rable days up high have been with close friends. Hav­ing climbed for 20 years, nearly all of my friends are climbers. Dur­ing my f irst ice sea­son, I would ral ly with my new-to-Canada friend Steve Gale from Aus­tralia. We had met in the fa l l and he would tel l me stor ies while sit­ting at the top of the crag, as I hand-dr il led bolts on fu­ture spor t climbs. In win­ter, we would bor­row his room­mate’s car to go climb ice. Each way would take t wo hours. My stu­dent loans paid for the gas. The tem­per­a­ture would some­times dip to - 40 C and the ice would shat­ter with ever y swing. I’ve spent hun­dreds of days on ice since, but my most mem­o­rable are those early ones with Steve as we forged a last­ing friend­ship in arc­tic con­di­tions. Our f irst ice screws were ice pitons and on my f irst-ever ice lead, I ham­mered an ice pi­ton un­til my ar m was so pumped I let go of my tool and fell less than two me­tres into soft snow. I let out a high-pitch squeal. Ever y week­end, we would dr ive through bliz­zards on lonely roads dr ink­ing cof fee and pass­ing the time with con­ver­sa­tions I wish I could re­mem­ber. We don’t climb much to­gether any­more, but I’l l never for­get the great times we had.

A few years later, I was climb­ing Mount Rob­son, the high­est moun­tain in the Cana­dian Rock­ies. There was a dr y spell and for­est f ires burned in B.C. On the top of Rob­son, Dar­ren and I cel­e­brated our sum­mit un­der the blaz­ing sun. We had sur vived col laps­ing ser­acs and falls into crevasses and we had to do it al l over on the way down. Back at the hut, we agreed to push it to the car be­cause we were out of wa­ter and des­per­ately thirst y. At my van, 27 hours af­ter leav­ing, I slept in my bed and Dar­ren slept out­side. Ever ything went to plan, but we for­got to wear sun­screen. In the morn­ing, I awoke to a blis­tered-face Dar­ren star ing through the van win­dow. Ooz­ing liq­uid seeped from se­vere burns. My face was burned, but not bub­bly. He mum­bled the word, “Ow.” I couldn’t help but laugh and he couldn’t help but join in. That was our f irst climb to­gether and we’ve been friends ever since.

A decade into my friend­ship with Will Meinen, we joined forces for an easy climb up Mount Aberdeen. We hadn’t roped up to­gether for nearly t wo years. The old guide­book said it was an easy glacier, but years of heat had melted the once-walk­a­ble ice tongue into a steep ice climb. With only one straight tool each, t wo screws and no hel­mets. We care­ful ly pitched-out an other wise easy ice climb to gain the up­per glacier. We must have looked like a cou­ple of rook­ies. De­spite climb­ing steep, hard and r un-out new routes to­gether, Aberdeen was my favour ite climb with Will. I know when he thinks about that day, he has a good laugh. Just l ike I do.

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