In September, I met Madaleine in Southwest Colorado. We climbed in the Black (see Mad’s wacky Southern Arete head cam video below), and we spent a couple days visiting with Jim McCarthy in Ridgway.
Jim was a gracious host, and we had a great time sharing stories from Proboscis. He’d first heard of the mountain from Arnold Wexler, who did the first ascent of it in the ’50s via the South Ridge. Wexler’s party also climbed many other peaks in the area. Jim, together with Royal Robbins, Layton Kor and Dick McCracken, completed the first ascent of the Southeast face in 1963. Jim had detailed memories from the trip. Their group spent three days climbing on the face, and spent the first night hanging in slings right before the crux.
Ever since the day we climbed to the summit ridge on Proboscis, I had a sneaking suspicion we’d perhaps not followed the final pitches of the original line. Off the ledge 2/3 the way up the wall, there were a couple of options. We went left, following the topo for Via Costa Brava. We climbed a loose 5.10 pitch that would have been very hard to aid (The difficulty rating on the original line was 5.9 A3). The option we didn’t take was a steep, right-leaning corner system that landed right near the summit; in retrospect it was the obvious aid line.
While we were in the Cirque, we called Jim to ask him about this. A poor satellite phone connection prevented us from truly figuring out the answer. This fall, we picked Jim’s brain and discovered that indeed, where we’d gone left on a long, grassy traverse following pitons, the FA team had gone straight up the right-leaning dihedral. Jim said he imagined those pitches would go free at 5.10 or 5.11. They looked awesome.
So, another chapter remains on the Original Line’s complete free ascent. How cool we got to be part of the story.