The Bond

Gripped - - REVIEWS - Tom Valis The Bond

Ver­te­brate Press Si­mon McCart­ney

Jack Roberts and Si­mon McCart­ney knew lit­tle, per­haps by choice, about the need to sys­tem­at­i­cally ac­cli­ma­tize be­fore con­sid­er­ing an im­mensely long and tech­ni­cal route up De­nali whose 5,500 m base to sum­mit rise sum­mit ex­ceeds any Hi­malayan peak. The con­se­quence of this omis­sion plays it­self over three weeks in­stead of the planned one. It’s a voy­age into the outer lim­its of what was pos­si­ble alpine style in Alaska in 1980 and Roberts and McCart­ney’s sec­ond new route up an avalanche-prone and cor­nice-rid­dled face in Alaska. The other be­ing the north face of Mount Hunt­ing­ton in 1977. re­counts these climbs, along with an early as­cent of The Eiger, with a heart-stop­ping im­me­di­acy that be­lies the fact that decades passed be­fore McCart­ney chose to write about them. Ad­mit­tedly, never had a month gone by that the emo­tional cur­rents of those days didn’t light the night sky of the au­thor’s con­scious­ness even though he did not climb an­other since.

If ever there was a great An­glo-Amer­i­can alpine climb­ing part­ner­ship, Robert­sMcCart­ney surely stands to the fore. Jack Roberts was a Stone­mas­ter to the core; a dis­af­fected SoCal youth whose re­fusal to fail on a climb was suf­fi­ciently ab­so­lute to set out on a route so long and hard as to dwarf ei­ther the Eiger or El Cap­i­tan. McCart­ney drew from a tra­di­tion of ir­rev­er­ent Bri­tish climbers that would gather in Cha­monix every sea­son Snell’s Field of­fered free camp­ing. A chance meet­ing at the Bar Na­tional – where piss tak­ing took prece­dence over fine din­ing – sparked a part­ner­ship that took alpine style to Alaska as it had never been done be­fore. The book both pro­vides a pre­vi­ously un­writ­ten chap­ter in moun­taineer­ing his­tory and ex­plores the in­ti­macy of set­ting out to do the im­pos­si­ble with some­one whose dreams and fears be­come your own.

The cross-cur­rents of climb­ing bring home some im­mutable truths in this book. Just as Roberts and McCart­ney hob­bled back to Tal­keetna by plane, four climbers from On­tario ar­rived to make an as­cent of the Cassin Ridge, the de­scent route taken by McCart­ney. They were the lead­ing fig­ures in the prov­ince at the time, and brought in solid 5.11 and es­tab­lished them­selves on the wider North Amer­i­can stage. All trace of them dis­ap­peared in an avalanche.–

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