Anna Pfaff

Amer­i­can Alpin­ist, Cana­dian Ice Climber

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Anna Pfaff has cut her teeth on burly alpine routes around the world. She calls Cal­i­for­nia home, and that’s where you can find her work­ing as a nurse when she’s not out on re­mote climbs. Born in 1981, Pfaff says alpine climb­ing gets her the most psyched. But that hasn’t stopped her from push­ing it on Cana­dian ice, from the Rock­ies to the East Coast. Pfaff grew up in the corn fields of Medina, Ohio, a long way from any moun­tains. She went to nurs­ing school at the Univer­sity of Colorado in Den­ver and met a few climbers head­ing to In­dian Creek. That was her first time climb­ing, when her friends taped her hands and sent her up Su­per­crack. She re­turned to Den­ver and bought a rack, but stayed in school. Af­ter mov­ing to Boul­der, she toured around the climb­ing hot spots, f rom Yosemite and the Sier­ras to the Rock­ies. She would take nurs­ing jobs near Joshua Tree and Red Rock. Even­tu­ally, she took a trip to Patag­o­nia and af­ter see­ing Cerro Torre was hooked on alpine climb­ing. In 2007, she made her first ex­pe­di­tion to the Hi­malaya, and has vis­ited In­dia, Nepal, Ti­bet, Pak­istan, Kyr­gyzs­tan, Colom­bia, Peru, Chile and Bo­livia in search of high ad­ven­tures. Pfaff has climbed in the Karako­ram, in the Khumbu, i n the In­dian Hi­malayas, Patag­o­nia and many other lesser-known ranges. In re­sponse to be­ing asked about ad­ven­ture, she said, “There are many, so it is dif­fi­cult to nar­row it down to one. A mem­o­rable night in the moun­tains can be cre­ated by an epic, beauty, fun, fear, or hap­pi­ness just to name a few rea­sons. “I have ex­pe­ri­enced all of th­ese at var­i­ous times. One that comes to mind is the beauty of biv­ing on top of Cerro Fitz Roy. It’s a mag­i­cal, pow­er­ful place that is very dear to my heart.”

Like all climbers, she has a few sto­ries of when times didn’t go 100 per cent as planned. In 2010, she was climb­ing The Whillans Route on Aguja Poin­cenot in Patag­o­nia. “I wet my pants, for real,” she said. “Ev­ery­thing was go­ing great, we had good weather win­dow and were mov­ing ef­fi­ciently. It was so cold that I put off the ef­fort it takes to pee while on the moun­tain.”

They fin­ished up a steep snow­field and Pfaff took the lead through a steep and tech­ni­cal gran­ite pitch when she “felt a warm sen­sa­tion f low down my left leg and into my boot.” She con­tin­ued to climb to the top and they slept on the sum­mit. That night, her boot froze and she suf­fered frost nip to the tip of her big toe. To this day, she has no feel­ing in it.

Pfaff spent much of the win­ter in 2016/2017 in the Cana­dian Rock­ies. She took some time in that trip to climb new routes i n New­found­land with Amer­i­can Will Mayo. One of their new routes is Apoca­lypse Now, a 300- me­tre WI7 M9 climbed us­ing trad gear. An­other is the 400- me­tre WI6+ Dream­line, which Pfaff and Mayo climbed with Joe Ter­ravec­chia. Af­ter her win­ter in Canada, Pfaff trav­elled to In­dia and climbed a num­ber of new peaks with an Amer­i­can team of women.

Other big routes that Pfaff is proud of climb­ing in­clude t he f irst as­cent of Un­at­tached on Tarre Par­bat 5,830 me­tres at M4 AI4 WI3 5.6 in Kash­mir, In­dia. An­other is The Pfaff/Lopez Di­rect on Lun­gartse Peak 6,070 me­tres at TD AI4 for 1,200 me­tres i n t he Khumbu. And also the f irst as­cent of the South­east Face of Dome Peak at 5.10+ for 1,000 me­tres in Mi­yar Val­ley, In­dia. In 2016, she and Ju­liana Gar­cia made the f irst as­cent of a 1,600- me­tre 5.10 up Tiquimani Peak i n the An­des.

This win­ter, Pfaff is off to Antarc­tica on a big ex­pe­di­tion to climb new routes. Af­ter that, she’ll likely be head­ing back north to Canada where she’ll work on her list of un­fin­ished projects f rom last sea­son.—

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