Our Copp-Dash Inspire Award Application

As friends and climbers, Micah and Johnny inspired us. We wanted to share a shortened version of our grant application here, as it has already pushed us to learn new skills and make this trip happen.

Climbing objective:

We’d like to attempt a free climb of the entire Original Route (VI 5.9+ A3) on the Southeast face of Mount Proboscis. This 2000′ wall is in the Cirque of the Unclimbables, Logan Mountains, Canada.

Summarize the significance of your proposed climb by explaining the character of the route, its history, the style in which it will be climbed, the approach required, and your previous experience on the route or in the area:

Our goals for this adventure are to climb well and have a great time together; to test our climbing skills; and to expand our storytelling abilities, fusing them with our trip. We hope sharing our experience will inspire others to follow their own passions.

In 1963, Jim McCarthy, Layton Kor, Dick McCracken and Royal Robbins established the first route on the Southeast face of Mount Proboscis, following a 2000′ crack system up the center of the wall. The free variation, Via Costa Brava, jogs left, splitting from the Original Route two-thirds of the way up. McCarthy says Proboscis was one of the “first remote big walls ever climbed outside of Yosemite.” His team was also supported by an AAC grant.

With partial funding through the AAC Lyman-Spitzer grant, and after hearing McCarthy’s vivid memories of the 1963 ascent, our motivation and psyche for this trip has grown. While we are not proposing a new route, our attempt would be significant for several reasons:

  1. The Original Route is a striking line with historic significance that has not seen a complete free ascent.
  2. The area will be new for all three of us. We believe our trip goals are appropriate for us to continue building successful expedition experience.
  3. We are a dedicated team of three women who love getting high off the ground on big walls and free climbing in remote places.  We hope through sharing our spirit of adventure, we will represent and inspire strength and empowerment for women and climbers alike.

Our approach to Mt. Proboscis will begin in Bozeman, Montana, as we drive Madaleine’s van the 2500 miles to Finlayson Lake in the Yukon Territory of Canada. This decision may afford us further documentation opportunities and exposure to the countryside at a slower pace. To access the peak, which is across the border in the Northwest Territories, we’ll helicopter in to the base with Kluane Air pilot Warren LaFave.

A steep and clean wall, Proboscis is a good objective for our three person team and the often wet weather. We plan to climb “big wall” style: sleep on the wall, replace old bolts and fixed gear, and free climb each pitch as we ascend. “Going straight up [the Original Route] would probably add a 5.12 pitch or two,” said Josh Wharton, who climbed Via Costa Brava in 2001 with Jonny Copp. Mount Proboscis is “one of the most difficult summits in North America,” states area expert George Bell. The easiest free route is 5.12a.

While a team of three is slower than a party of two, we believe it will add a safety margin for us in a remote environment, and will give us a logistical advantage tackling a longer, more involved climb, requiring aiding, cleaning, hauling and freeing.

Describe your desired style of trip/climb documentation and what you would hope to be able to do with the content upon completion.

We are dedicated to merging climbing adventure with storytelling.  We’ve been inspired by people like Jonny and Micah who aspired to do this, and hope to contribute to this continuum. We’d like our documentation elements to include: a complementary fusion of video clips (interview and candid/rehearsed moments of our trip); still photography; audio (narration); journaling and sketching; interviews with first ascentionists including Jim McCarthy and Royal Robbins; and maps and older topos. Upon completion, we will use this content to create a film, give multimedia presentations, and share fresh media with internet-based climbing sites.

Knowing how to document our climbing in a way that doesn’t compromise our style is paramount to the success of this trip. With a strong journalism background, we’d like to focus on learning visual mediums and, prior to departure, we will ask for advice and training from experts in the videography and photography fields. Our team of three will make it more plausible to document our adventure with still and video images.

We believe multimedia storytelling is a great way to inspire others because it can be interactive and accessible to many. By using its non-linear format, which enables a viewer to select part of our story, we can present the story in compelling and visually stimulating way.

Furthermore, Emily plans to pitch a feature article about the adventure to magazines with national circulation.

One thing Micah and Jonny did so well was inspire others to follow their passions. We are excited to take this trip as an opportunity to develop our storytelling abilities.

For more information about the Copp-Dash inspire award, visit:

americanalpineclub.org/grant/coppdashinspireaward

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About Emily Stifler

I grew up in Vermont and live in Bozeman, Montana. I love topography: mountains, rocks, weather and people.
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