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Barantuse, Door to the Future
By Carlos Buhler
Posted 11/21/11

It was 1980 and a year had elapsed since I’d met and climbed with members of the Montaneros de Aragon for three weeks on the Huandoy peaks in Peru, when I received a letter from these dear friends with terrific news: Pepe Diaz, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the club, had been asked to lead a team of Spaniards from Aragon to an extraordinary Himalayan objective, the East Peak of Nanda Devi. Among those invited were my two close friends, Javier and Lorenzo, from Huesca, with whom I had climbed in the Cordillera Vilcanota. It was absolutely remarkable to receive this new invitation to join them! Immediately, I realized that this would be the greatest mountaineering adventure of my young career. All I could think about was what a privilege it would be to climb among such a tight team of friends. I would be the only foreigner in the group and it would be up to me to find a way to fit in and add strength to the team.

It is said that Americans are intensely individual thinkers. In many circumstances, this character trait works to our advantage. However, among the Spanish, this tendency would have to be modified. It was with these people that I began to learn anew what it means to be part of a "team".

I grew up in the sixties and began climbing in the seventies. Mine was a climbing culture built primarily of individuals. Our hard-fought efforts on the walls of Yosemite, the Tetons, the Cascades, and the Canadian Rockies stood as testaments to vision and tenacity. Though the idea of teamwork was not foreign to Americans, the balance of how to make a team function well, is centered around the individual bringing his own strength, skill and abilities which help propel the team towards its goal. Though this concept is fully appreciated within climbing circles of Spain, there is another current in their culture that simultaneously draws from the strength of the team to insure the individual will prosper. In a very general sense, Spanish climbers are about “community” first and “individuality” second. Americans, from what I could see, were driven by the reverse.

Thus, here I was, asked be part of the 1980 Aragonese climbing expedition to a great Himalayan Peak, and the only foreigner to be included. As on Huandoy, it would be a tremendous honor, and simply being invited gave me an enormous boost. At the same time, however, it would be a huge learning experience in multi-cultural "teamwork".

As luck would have it, our objective was changed, for political reasons, to Baruntse, a gorgeous, 7123 meter Nepalese peak with only one ascent to date. Our route would be the unclimbed East Ridge, and the approach would follow the Arun River from an airstrip in Tumlingtar to a very high base camp on the Barun Glacier beneath the tremendous western walls of Makalu.

Many words have been written about our ascent of Baruntse’s East Ridge and I won’t unnecessarily add to those here. Yet I must say how much climbing with this expedition changed me. In the seventies—a time when I was drawn to the mountains like a child to candy—the American Alpine Club offered very limited financial backing for young mountaineers to acquire experience on the big peaks. It takes a certain level of risk for any club or team to include a climber of modest experience and open the doors for them to new level of climbing. This, in essence, is what the Montaneros de Aragon did for me in 1980 when they included me in their climb of Baruntse.

Three years later, when the American East Face of Everest Expedition selected their team of twelve, there is little doubt in my mind that I was considered for a position, in large part, because of the expedition to Baruntse. Our success on the Kangshung Face of Everest, and what I learned there from my teammates, opened up vast possibilities for me to further my dreams in climbing. To this day, I am fully aware that the life long opportunities I have had to explore the world’s wild places during these past 30 years was born when I met and climbed with the Spanish from Aragon.

Carlos Buhler needs little introduction. His ascents of Everest, Ama Dablam, Changabang, Kangchengjunga, K2, Nanga Parbat, Cho Oyu, Aconcagua, Cerro Torre and countless others have earned him legendary status. We are privileged to count him as our friend. Read more at

"Climbing is Inherently Dangerous..."
By David Roetzel
Posted 07/01/04

On April 8th, 2004 I got a personal lesson in why we are told this... I was climbing near home in Vail, Colorado when I was involved in an accident that will surely change me forever. I was just beginning a mixed climb when the entire starting block ripped off the ceiling with me under it. This feature was like a large rectangle pasted onto the ceiling above me: about five feet wide, a foot tall and probably two feet deep. Our estimates put it in the 500 pound range. Had I not stick-clipped both the fi rst AND second bolts, this story, if written, would have been penned by another.

A couple moments earlier, I’d walked to the back of the steep cave and placed my tools on the starting block, seven feet off the ground. I placed my left foot on a hold below and pulled. As I raised my right foot over my head, my heel spur touched the shelf and it detached from the ceiling. The resultant fall ended with my butt skimming the ground and the shelf landing directly on my left midfoot. For an instant there was silence, broken by me screaming. Fortunately, the rock broke into pieces and we did not have to move any debris off of me. I began to pull it together as my friends and I packed up. The 45-minute slide/crawl back to the car tested my control and pain tolerance like never before.

Immediately upon reaching the doctor I asked for pain medication. The x-rays came next, which even to a layman looked bad. I had broken seven bones. My fi rst metatarsal was so displaced that it had poked holes through my skin—an open fracture. The bases of my second, third, fourth and fi fth metatarsals were cracked as was my lateral cuneiform. My cuboid bone had been crushed. Amazingly my toes, ankle, and heel were untouched. Sadly, the crushing nature of the injury did signifi cant damage to the soft tissue of my foot as well. Although it did not look too bad initially, what my skin went through over the next several weeks was cause for more concern than the state of my skeleton.

Three surgeries over the next four weeks were required to undo what I had done. A plate with four screws was used to fi x my fi rst metatarsal, four pins, complete with external fi xator rods, were installed to distract my foot away from my crushed cuboid bone, which was eventually fi xed via a cadaver bone graft. There was also the bi weekly lancing and trimming of fracture blisters at the doctor’s offi ce. At one point my doctor thought the area of my skin where the rock made impact was void of blood, therefore oxygen, which is referred to as necrotic tissue. Although there was talk of fl esh removal, our concern faded the next day when my doctor poked me with a needle in four places around the perimeter of the wound. A quick onset of bright red blood and the fact that I felt pain made us feel better. I had boarded the healing train. Eleven weeks after my accident I began my physical therapy, a sign of progress. My foot is healing well and although the next six weeks will bring painful physical therapy three times a week, I welcome the pain because with it brings healing.

The day I hurt myself I entered one of the most challenging periods of my life to date. Although I am now past the worst, some of my scars have nothing to do with my foot; these go deeper. There were days that I had to dig deep to maintain faith that I would heal. I easily could have stepped into the shadows of self pity only to darken my already weakened spirit. But I didn’t. It has taken time and patience, but this injury has only invigorated my love of life and, in turn, illuminated what is really important to me. In this light I have re-discovered parts of me that I have not been in touch with for a while, things I may never have found again if I had not been injured. My “spider sense” or trust in my intuition was also reaffi rmed; it was tingling a bit immediately before I began to climb and I chose to foolishly ignore it. Through this humbling experience, I have learned a greater respect for all that is around me-which in turn brings peace.

Today marks twelve weeks since my accident. It has been a long road so far. It has been hard on my wife, my children, and on me. Yet, with all the hassles and heartache, I know I will get better now, I can feel it. My foot will never be the same again. However, it will be close... close enough to always remind me of how lucky I am. I am lucky to be alive, I am lucky for the health of my friends and family, and I am lucky that I will get to climb again. Climbing feeds my soul and even though it can bring pain and death, I cannot deny its siren song. What I gain from climbing outweighs the inherent risks.

David %u201CRoetz%u201D Roetzel lives in Avon, Colorado and owns and operates Vail Rock and Ice Guides, a year round climbing company. He also teaches two nights a week at the local indoor wall. Both he and his family are looking forward to a full recovery so he can move from extreme couch surfi ng back to his true passion, climbing.


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