Wednesday, 18 November 2015

24 Hours of Balzout

Here's a short story I wrote partly about being a belayer to the stars on my first climb with Raphael Slawinski, when he freed the bolts on Balzout Direct.  It's obviously partly about other things too.
Jon Walsh paid me the compliment of saying it was one of the best pieces of climbing writing he'd read.  It was fun to write.

Eamonn Walsh on the first ascent, a week or two before we climbed it
Photo: Dana Ruddy

The 24 hours of balls-out
I T WAS THE MOST AMAZING 24 HOURS. Is it not what we seek,why we
 come to the Bow Valley? Forget the trophy homes and  the picturesque 
 views. The fast women, the fast climbing — that’s what it’s about. 
By 6 p.m. at the end of the day, I was back on the couch at
the 4th Street Manor, enjoying the debriefing and cocktails. It
had begun the day before at the same hour. The most eligible
bachelorette in Banff was in our living room, drinking red wine.
That she wasn’t single was a minor moral dilemma, as I knew her
boyfriend; but in sex, as in climbing, sometimes one has to throw
caution to the wind.
We stayed up all night, as we had done every night together.
As preparation for the second ascent of Balzout Direct, the sexiest
route in Canmore, it couldn’t be beat. Balls out, that’s the way to
go. Balls out in bed, balls out in climbing, balls out in Banff and
Balzout on EEOR.
That I was going multi-pitch climbing for the first time
with Raphael gave me some performance anxiety, but the compliments
were flowing so fast and furious that that was quickly put
to rest. As Raph is no slowpoke, I refrained from getting inebriated
for the first time with her, which made the night’s activity
even more vigorous and memorable. We did not refrain from
testing the limits of core strength, so crucial for mixed climbing.
Woken at 5:30 a.m. after a few exhausted winks, I was eager to
apply myself to a new challenge.
I made the short walk downtown for a 6 a.m. meeting and
coffee. The climb passed in a blur of sleep deprivation, save the
one pitch. The pitch where Raph hung on like a spider for an
hour, on-sighting for the FFA. With my friend’s going-away party
on that night, I was determined to prove Raph wrong when after
the crux he mentioned that we were sure to finish in the dark.
Big smiles on the top, only 10 hours removed from the comfortable
reality I had been questioning up on the windblown face.
What could be better, what more could I want? The sexiest
woman, the sexiest climb, and a party to go to, all in one day.
What to desire? Only more.
A week later, the blur of drinking, slaying and climbing was
over, as she left the country. Vitality sapped by the all-nighters,
I was left making excuses and telling tales at the base of the sport
crags. That’s the thing with lustful affairs: women come and they
go. The routes, they always remain.
ian welsted

the canadian alpine journal 2006

Here's a link to the original route description:

I climbed the second ascent of Great White Fright a week after these photos appeared online.

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