American Alpinist, Canadian Ice Climber
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.—