In early October Ben and I decided for a chance of pace, and rather than go rock climbing, we opted for some early season alpine climbing. Bora peak in Idaho 5 hours south of us, tops out a little over 12,000ft and we new the North face would be holding ice. We packed up the car and headed south. Recent snowfall had us a little concerned, but it was minimal so we decided to check out the face anyways.
We slogged in the 6 mile approach and neared the face. It looked pretty good and we figured we could safety manage the hazards. I the snow was too deep, we would just turn around. We began climbing and everything seemed great. The face was holding very little snow and we were front pointing up the permanent nevé. We were cruising, progressing around 1,000ft in 30 minutes.
We had just climbed through all the rock bands and were approaching a more broad section of the face when Ben started to pull away from me. I had stopped to rest and since we had't pulled the rope out yet, he continued on just a show ways. About 30ft from me he shouted, "Be careful when you get here, I don't like the way the snow feels." Then it happened….
I looked to him to respond when I saw the snow around him cut loose, then the entire slope went. Before he lost his footing I was screaming "self arrest." He fell perfectly in self arrest position, but the snow was caring him down, it was doing no good. I kept screaming, telling him what to do, for moral support know quite well he knew exactly what to do. As he neared the top of the cliff bands, I saw the snow parting around him. He was slowing down. I thought, "he's got this, he'll stop." Then he flew off the cliff and into the void out of sight….He was dead.
I knew this could be the only possible outcome, but I didn't believe it so I grabbed my tools and began frantically down climbing to find him. Imagining that he would be terribly hurt, I had to figure out how to get him off the mountain. Then moments after I began my down climb, I thought I heard a voice. I yelled to Ben and he responded. His voice was calm and he responded in a manner that I knew he was ok. In fact, just fine. I was in disbelief. I down climbed a bit further and spotted him shortly below me.
When I reached him, he was banged up, but relatively fine. Some cuts and a possible broken/sprained ankle. Down climbing was pout of the question so I began to lower him down the face. After about 5 60m lowers we were back on the approach slopes. I thought to myself, 'holy shit, its only just beginning." Ben had 6 miles to crawl/hobble since walking was impossible.
It was the most impressive slog I've ever been apart of. For 10 hours Ben butt scooted over moraine and hobbled through the woods. Unknowingly with a broken Talus bone. His spirits were good and between the screams of pain, we managed to laugh. His father sand good friend Frank met us near the car and helped us the final mile. After some pain killers and booze, we were asleep in the car and putting the day behind us.