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Alpine Umbrella

by Kate Rutherford
Fall 2009

My teeth had been chattering for 36 hours; my summit expectations had been blown away. All that work, I thought: All those steep moves I’d aided, because it was too cold to put on climbing shoes, how Mikey defied death in an icy offwidth, and Dana led endless pitches of névé. Was it really time to give up on the summit?

After climbing the California Route in icy, slow conditions, Mikey Schaefer, Dana Drummond and I stopped to sleep for a few hours just 80 meters below the summit of Fitz Roy. It was 1 a.m., a clear night with low winds and the moon illuminating the clouds over the icecap to the east. We were exhausted on this, our second day, and we were at the top of the snow ridge with the summit boulders looming close and frosty in the light from our headlamps.

Crammed in one sleeping bag, the three of us lay on our sides shivering in unison. I tried to pad my boney hips with my rain jacket and, in a moment of brilliance, took off a mitten to insulate the other hip which was exposed to the wind. I was fatigued, and anxious about the cold and lack of food. Finally, I fell asleep.

About the Author
After a youth spent in the back woods of Alaska, Kate Rutherford has taken her intimate knowledge of the wilderness, mixed it with rock climbing, and is traveling the world to climb. Most recently in Patagonia, Kate and Mikey Schaefer climbed a new route on Aguja Guillaumet, a mixed climb full of shivering called Hard Sayin’ Not Knowin’. When not climbing, Kate makes jewelry from stones collected from the beaches of her home on Vashon Island, Washington.