Topping out at the top of the wall in the dark after twenty five days.
Silvia Vidal arrived in the Kinnaur Valley in Himachal Pradesh, India at the beginning of August with nothing but gear, a picture and map coordinates for the wall she intended to climb. With food and equipment for 18 days Vidal hoped to make a first ascent, and to feel “the good loneliness”, the kind that one seeks. In typical Vidal fashion, she did not bring a radio, GPS, or satellite phone to communicate with the outside world.
Over the the next month Vidal would experience her share of loneliness, desperation and horrible weather as she slowly moved up the kilometer high wall creating Naufragi (A4+, 6A+).
Her solo journey began when the last porter left her with the equipment in an impenetrable fog at base camp. Never seeing the full wall due to low visibility, Vidal searched blindly for an approach to her climb, eventually settling upon what she described as a “river/ravine” where she fixed her first ropes to aid her in carrying her gear to advance base camp.
After fixing the first three pitches above ABC (her portaledge hanging from the side of a boulder), Vidal cut loose from the ground with food and water for eighteen days. At one point after weeks on the wall with daily rain and fog Vidal found herself below featureless stone without enough bolts to rig rappel anchors for a descent. She down climbed part of a pitch before deciding that the climb was far from over and continued up the wall.
After pushing her rations from eighteen days to twenty five, and at one point even resorting to drilling bat holes in order to continue, Vidal topped out on the wall and began her descent. She had spent over a month preparing and climbing alone. She had passed out from hypothermia while jumaring. And she had reached the top of the wall. The name of her route Naufragi means Shipwreck in Catalan.
Read a brief interview with Vidal about Naufragi on the next page.
Vidal hauling her bedding in the change from Camp 1 to Camp 2. [Photo] Silvia Vidal
What motivated you to do this climb by yourself?
Sometimes I feel like I want to go alone. When I saw the picture of the wall I had this feeling. I don’t know where it comes from, but once I have it, I try to follow it.
Where did you get the motivation to stay on the wall after weeks of continuing bad weather and dwindling supplies?
Describe the way you felt when you decided to forego a purist style in favor of continuing up the wall and started drilling bat holes.
Bad, but basically sad, because until that moment the whole expedition had another style; to go to an unknown area, during monsoon summer, with public transportation, no phone or internet, not knowing the approach (and it was a hard one), a solo ascent…
The bat hooks were something that did not go with the rest.
What past experiences prepared you for the mental tenacity required to stick with the climb?
All of them.
What kinds of things did you do to keep yourself from going crazy while hanging from the wall?
When climbing I was very focused on the climbing because it was demanding, so my head was busy during the day. No time to get crazy.
At the portaledge I had a book and music.
Talk a little about your style of traveling without the portable means of communication that so many climbers rely on today.
For me it’s a personal decision.
It’s a way to feel the commitment with the activity.
I like solo ascents because I want to be alone, to feel the loneliness (the good one) and if I have a phone with me, I will not have this feeling with the same intensity.
How did you feel at the end of the trip?
I felt very tired and strange.
Strange because during the whole trip and ascent everything was uncertain until the last second; traveling to the valley, the approach, the base camps, the wall, the line, the gear, the food, the weather, the rappels, the descent… There were so many uncertain things that it was not easy to deal with them. And all decisions were difficult to make, it was very tiring.
Read about another of Vidal’s solo walls in Alpinist 23, Life is Lilac
The line of Vidal’s ascent. [Photo] Marc Martin
Vidal hauling gear to the base of the wall. [Photo] Silvia Vidal