American Alpine Jounrna and Accidents in North American Climbing

Turret, Turret's Syndrome

North America, Canada, Selkirk Mountains

  • Climbs And Expeditions
  • Author: Will Stanhope, Canada
  • Climb Year: 2010
  • Publication Year: 2011

One dark, drunken February night, I cleared off the beer cans from Andrew Boyd’s kitchen table to show him a photo I’d seen of the south face of the Turret, in the Adamants. Andrew, a longtime Squamish hardman, was game. We shook on it, and in early August we stood on the glacier beneath the Turret. The face looked even bigger and more monolithic in person— like some unholy stone cathedral. The day the helicopter dropped us off, the weather was absolutely perfect. We spent the afternoon noodling around on the lower pitches and squinting up to see if we could spot the line. That evening we packed our gear and vowed to try the whole shebang the next day. That night clouds filled the tight cirque, but, given the forecast, we thought we had one more day of decent weather to play with.

We woke at 4 a.m. and bee-lined it for the obvious corner system at the left edge of the face. On pitch 3, I encountered the first major hurdle: a wet, overhanging offwidth. I fell once, lowered to a no-hands stance, and climbed it second try. By early afternoon it became apparent that a storm was coming in. At this point, the climb got much steeper and more exposed, complete with beautiful, lichen-encrusted corner systems, all sandwiched together. We hustled up the corners, snatching glances over our shoulders, worried that we were about to get slammed with some weather. Once a corner would run out, I’d pound a knifeblade, then hopscotch to another one thanks to perfect face holds.

Late in the afternoon I laybacked up a perfect 5.11+ fingercrack in a corner, hoping the route was just about over. To my great disappointment, I realized that Id butted us into a roof. Loose and steep to the left and blank to the right. The threatening weather had now matured into a full- fledged storm. We were climbing in a cloud.

Andrew, before reaching me at the belay, spied an exit down and left. He bouldered out left from the roof, wrapping his knuckles on the crispy holds, all the while yelling, “I don’t like this!” I shivered away at the belay, wishing we had brought more clothes. When Andrew reached the belay, we were out of earshot. Facing an enormous pendulum if I were to fall, I decided to lower-out off a single nut in the roof. I then climbed up to him as a jabbering mess, gear hanging off me in disarray.

From there, the angle tipped back to less than vertical. We snapped a summit picture, then rappelled the backside in our rock shoes. The storm mercifully eased off. By the time we arrived at our packs at the base, the clouds had turned dark again. Turrets Syndrome (600m, V 5.11+ [free for leader]).

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