Chris Wright: Looking Forward to an Unclimbed Wal

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Chris Wright is an IFMGA mountain guide and alpinist who splits his time between obsessions with climbing, skiing, and eating. He recently received grants for his upcoming 2014 expedition and talks about his mindset around the climb. 

The north pillar of Teng Kang Poche. [photo: David Gottlieb] It’s been almost 10 years since I woke groping for my harness, ensnared in a dream where I was rolling off a ledge with nothing underneath me. But instead, I landed on the floor in the shabby doublewide I shared with at least half a dozen friends during the first summer I lived in Oregon. I was 22, fresh off my first big wall climb of The Nose, where we made every mistake imaginable and slept hanging from bolts. I’ll always remember that climb as one of the most formative I’ll ever do. In a way, it embodied the spirit of alpinism completely. We went up with no assured outcome, uncertain most of the way that we, two clueless guys, could actually climb El Cap.

I now wake up in a bed most mornings, not shaken by dreams, but haunted by Teng Kang Poche: the menacing north pillar I’ll be attempting with Scott Adamson. 6,000 feet tall, it’s two El Caps stacked on top one another, just surpassing 21,300 feet. Instead of bolted anchors and dry stone, we’ll be expecting snowy slabs, icy cracks, and ephemeral smears. The valley below will have no visitor center, no Camp Four or cheap beers, just a small Sherpa village and a few yaks.

22-year-old Chris Wright at El Cap

So now I wake up thinking about getting ready for our endeavor. Mark Twight wrote, “To attempt the impossible demands a high order explosion of confidence, sustained by the diesel-fueled physical capacity to back up that hubris.” From now until September, it’s about training mind and body, forging the climbing machine in the fire of work. I was reminded last year on Pangbuk North that when it comes down to it, the only thing you can do when it gets hard is to be as fit as possible.

I’ve heard the wall described as unclimbable. I’m aware that strong parties have tried and failed. I know it will be hard. We could probably increase our chance of success if we were willing to go with a bigger team, take bolts, and bring the mountain down to us. Instead, I’m going to continue to wake up every morning for the next five months and build myself up, so that when Scott and I stand beneath that mighty pillar, we know that we’ve done everything to rise to its challenge.

Regardless of the outcome, we can’t say how grateful we are to both the Mugs Stump Award and the Lyman Spitzer Cutting Edge Award for their support of our expedition. I hope we can live up to the incredible legacy of these grants, and it’s an honor just to be in such fine company. It should be a great opportunity to test out some new Brooks-Range ultralight down sleeping bags too!

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