• TNB: Climbing's Big Mistake
  • TNB: Trad Dads and Dad Bods
  • TNB: Do the Right Thing
  • TNB: Big Wall Soloing Sustenance – Cookies vs. Bugs
  • TNB: When Your Rope Falls Off—and 5 Ways to Prevent the Nightmare
  • TNB: Before I Die - What Would Climbers Think?
  • TNB: Raphael Slawinski - Firsthand Account of Everest Earthquake
  • TNB: Point Break - Sharma, Andrada on the Big Screen
  • TNB: Muscle Shoals - Rock and Soul
  • TNB: Naked Soloist is Saner Than Me
  • TNB: The Hard Climb to Heaven
  • TNB: Summer Camp
  • TNB: Suicide in Our Sights
  • TNB: Ethan Pringle's 10 Tips for Sending Your Project
  • TNB: Hawaii Rocks - Totally Aloha
  • TNB: PointGate - Why Comp Climbing Is Not The Future
  • TNB: My First Epic
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Avoid Braking Bad - The Art of the Soft Catch
  • TNB: #Dawnwall and The Creation of Alex Honnlove
  • TNB: Vision Quest - Benji Fink and Mexico’s Steepest Big Wall
  • TNB: The New Dawn (Wall) of Climbing
  • TNB: The Top 5 Weekend Whippers of 2014 (Plus the Comments)
  • TNB: 10 Tips for Jolene Kay, Professional Climber (and Hot Actress)
  • TNB: The Story Behind the Craziest of Rescues
  • TNB: The Risk of Climbing
  • TNB: How to Get Stronger by Doing Nothing for 5 Minutes a Day
  • TNB: Eight Ways to Improve Your Footwork
  • TNB: In Praise of the Weekend Warrior
  • TNB: Joe Kinder Visits the World's Hardest Cave
  • TNB: Celebrating Insomnia in Chamonix
  • TNB: Run, Rabbit - Hermann Gollner, 71, Cranks Pump-O-Rama (5.13a)
  • TNB: Five Best Photos of 2014
  • TNB: Clip Like A Pro - 5 Tips from Sasha DiGiulian and Sean McColl
  • TNB: Five Things Every Gym Climber Must Know About Climbing Outside
  • TNB: Still Jeff Lowe
  • TNB: Moving Over Stone With Doug Robinson
  • TNB: Wheels Up—The Top 5 Climbing Rigs
  • TNB: Is K2 The New Everest?
  • TNB: Things—Besides Us, That Is—That Fall
  • TNB: When Homemade Gear Works, Sorta
  • TNB: The Outsiders
  • TNB: R.I.P. Homero Gutierrez Villarreal - The Padrino of El Potrero
  • TNB: A Short Talk with Sierra Blair-Coyle
  • TNB: Ian Dory, Ninja, or The Craziest Thing I Ever Seen
  • TNB: The Best Crag Dogs of All Time
  • TNB: 5 Ways to Make People Love Your Routes
  • TNB: Hudon and Jones, and Don't Forget It!
  • TNB: Climbing's Tribal Rites
  • TNB: Sasha DiGiulian and Alex Johnson On How to Be a Modern Pro
  • TNB: Is Dean Potter A Bad Father?
  • TNB: Silly Places We’ve Slept - Tales of Unplanned Bivies
  • TNB: Forgotten Hero - Frank Sacherer 1940-1978
  • TNB: The World-Class Weekend Warrior – Martin Keller Climbs V15
  • TNB: Everest Sherpas No Longer Willing to “Grin and Bear It”
  • TNB: Hardheaded Helmet Lesson Learned
  • TNB: Six Most Awesome Jobs for Climbers
  • TNB: The Coolest Climbing Deal Breaker
  • TNB: Sharma and Glowacz Send World’s Steepest Rock Climb
  • TNB: An Encounter with a Legend - Patrick Edlinger, Plus A Whipper Vid
  • TNB: Six Things Every Climber Should Do Before They Die
  • TNB: Falling from the Top
  • TNB: Weekend Whipper
  • TNB: Band of Crushers
  • TNB: Charlie Porter, We Hardly Knew You
  • TNB: Climbing's Greatest Route Names
  • TNB: Hot Women Die and Have Sex on Everest
  • TNB: The Great Tragedy at Carderock
  • TNB: Thoughts On Death, and Last Words
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Big Story
  • TNB: Next Level? Honnold Pushes the Game on El Sendero Luminoso
  • TNB: Jeff Lowe Invented the Sport
  • TNB: The Most Popular Weekend Whippers of the Year
  • TNB: If Ondra Isn't The Best Climber In The World, Who Is?
  • TNB: Storm Years or Typhoon? The Biggest Issue in Climbing
  • TNB: Jim Bridwell Speaks
  • TNB: Honnold's Biggest Solo
  • TNB: Death on Forbidden Peak - Was the NPS Complicit?
  • TNB: Ice Climbing Goes to Sochi Olympics
  • TNB: When Gear Attacks
  • TNB: 8a.nu: The Best Climber in the World is the One with the Most Points
  • TNB: Shutdown: Illegal Climbers in Yosemite—Ninjas or Criminals?
  • TNB: Who is the Best Climber in the World?
  • TNB: The New Courage in a Rucksack
  • TNB: Unsolved Mystery - The Ten Sleep Shooting
  • TNB: The Pad Problem - Honnold, Kehl on Headpoints and Highballs
  • TNB: Travels with Delaney Miller - National Champ Turns to Rock
  • TNB: Jail Food and Booty
  • TNB: Love on the Road
  • TNB: Is Pakistan Safe for Climbers?
  • TNB: Flash Floods, Climbers and How to Get Out of the Way
  • TNB: Climbing's Next Level
  • TNB: Best in Show - Brand New Gear from the Outdoor Retailer Show
  • TNB: Adam Ondra Ties the Knot
  • TNB: Under Pressure - Trotter and Honnold On How Bets Can Help You Send
  • TNB: The Tragedy of Tito Traversa
  • TNB: DR's Crazy Brain Puzzle. Get It Correct or Else.
  • TNB: What Happened To Climbing Films?
  • TNB: Cry of the Colorado Fussy Snivel
  • TNB: Mystery Solved!
  • TNB: The Mystery of Moses Tower - Help Answer a 25-Year-Old Question
  • TNB: No Such Luck
  • TNB: Erasing Midnight Lightning
  • TNB: Mayhem - Crawling, Balling & Brawling on the Evere$t Soap Opera
  • TNB: Watching the Boston Marathon
  • TNB: Chasing the Devil's Snort
  • TNB: Born-Again Gumby
  • TNB: Super Unknown - Austin Dark Horse Establishes 5.14d in Random Texas Cave
  • TNB: Fearless?
  • TNB: The Big Freaking Deal, Ain't Bouldering
  • TNB: Honnold's Achilles' Heel
  • TNB: He's Either Crazy or a Poet
  • TNB: The Fish Cheat and the Prince of Climbing
  • TNB: A Letter from Santa... I mean Sharma
  • TNB: Traveler's Advisory - El Potrero Chico, Mexico
  • TNB: A Year Ago - Athol
  • TNB: Gun Control
  • TNB: What's the Problem?
  • TNB: Derek Hersey's Magic Carpet
  • TNB: The Apprentices
  • TNB: The Jungle
  • TNB: Klem Loskot is Back Climbing V15 and 5.15
  • TNB: Eliminated
  • TNB: The Hurt Locker
  • TNB: The Perils of Sport Climbing
  • TNB: Baddest Climb of the Year
  • TNB: Crossfit Misfit
  • TNB: Eating People and the Real Seventh Summit
  • TNB: Bring It On, Bitch!
  • TNB: What Would Warren Harding Do?
  • TNB: The Curse Of The Bandit
  • TNB: Reality Pro
  • TNB: Chris Sharma and The Art of Jeep Maintenance
  • TNB: American Dirtbag
  • TNB: How Not To Climb 5.12
  • TNB: Project FAIL
  • TNB: The Backwards Future of Climbing
  • TNB: The Death of Progress
  • TNB: The Da Vinci CO
  • TNB: The Philosopher King
  • TNB: Spam Alert
  • TNB: Bad Genes - The Different Types of Gumbies
  • TNB: Mouth Wide Shut
  • TNB: Outside Reality
  • TNB: The Day I Saved Jésus
  • TNB: My Pad, Your Problem
  • TNB: House Rules
  • TNB: Five Things I Don't Hate About Climbing
  • TNB: Metro-Pointing
  • TNB: Beast in the East
  • TNB: Artificial Intelligence
  • TNB: To Boldly Go Sprad Climbing
  • TNB: Self-Destruction
  • TNB: Soul Sport
  • TNB: Nine Pitches
  • Video Spotlight
    Babsi Zangerl and Jacopo Larcher Send Zodiac (VI 5.13d) on El Cap
    Babsi Zangerl and Jacopo Larcher Send Zodiac (VI 5.13d) on El Cap
    Whipper of the Month
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer
    Weekend Whipper: Alastair McDowell's Los Indignados (M7) Screamer

    TNB: Celebrating Insomnia in Chamonix


    The top out of the <em>Frendo Spur</em>, on the summit of the Aguille du Midi. October 2, around midnight. I was lying in a bunk in the Refuge du Plan de l’Aguille a few thousand feet above Chamonix, France, trying to fall asleep. At 3 a.m. my partner, Shane Johnson, and I were going to get up and try to climb the Frendo Spur, a 4,000–foot route up the Aguille du Midi—a big buttress of granite, snow and ice that tops out at 13,000 feet at a gondola station. It had been snowing steadily and the route had been described as dead easy or, possibly, completely out of condition.

    If you just look at the climbing, the Frendo should be a piece of cake. An hour approach from the hut to the base of the glacier, then low-fifth-class ramps and steps with a couple of short cruxes up to 5.10 or M5, culminating with a long, peaked snow ridge and a pitch of steep water ice right at the top. You don’t even have to descend—just climb onto the viewing platform and take a gondola down.

    But lots of people get into trouble on the Frendo. They climb too slow and get benighted or misjudge their ability or don’t bring the right gear and have to get rescued. Like Kilian Jornet, for example, the champion sky runner and holder of many speed records on technical routes, who was stopped by steep ice and loose rock in September of 2013 and had to be escorted off the Frendo by the Peloton de Gendarmerie de Haute Montagne.

    I first heard about the Frendo from my buddy DR, who had soloed the route in the early 1980s and was caught in a storm under a granite spur a few hundred feet below the summit (the same place Jornet was stymied). In lieu of a rescue, DR stood all night in his crampons on a steep snow slope, freezing, before confronting the 80-degree ice crux.

    Clearly, the climb could eat your lunch if you underestimated it. And yet, as soon as I heard I was going on a weeklong press trip to Chamonix, the only route I really wanted to do was the Frendo.

    Shane, late-20s, a shoe buyer for the Bent Gate in Golden, Colorado, was snoring fitfully in a bunk across the room. I’d met him for the first time at the airport in Geneva four days before. Rangy and fit, with a chill demeanor, he was part of the same press trip. He’d also scheduled a couple of extra days in hopes of climbing something cool and he was psyched to give the Frendo a whirl.

    We spent a day trying to get information about the route from some guides we’d met. The first guide, Jean-Michel, said that the snowfall would make the route an easy romp. But a couple of hours later we asked another guide, Bastien, and he said that nobody had been on the climb for a month and the new snow would shut us down.

    Sleeping soundly is over rated. I was lucky to be awake, contemplating big questions and departed friends before an unforgettable day in the mountains, because the hard part of life is actually the crushing monotony.So we went by the Office de Haute Montagne, a clearinghouse of climbing info, and asked the guy at the desk if the Frendo was in condition. He said it depended on whether there was snow on the lower ramps in which case the route was out of condition. (We could see from town that there was snow on the lower ramps.) But after we’d looked through the guidebooks and took pictures of the Frendo pages and asked about the rack and the cruxes, the guy changed his mind and suggested that we could probably knock it off in an easy day and do another climb, too, like the Arete des Papillions.

    All this contradiction and subterfuge was confusing to a Texas coon-ass alpine climber like me. Which was it? In or out?

    I was feeling a bit fragile. The previous two months had been especially cruel. Five friends were gone—three by their own hands, and two in falls that left them alive but with severe brain injuries. And now, here I was, in Chamonix, “the death-sport capitol of the world” (to quote the characteristically hyperbolic Mark Twight), trying to sleep. But instead of sleeping, I was thinking the thoughts we all think before a big serious climb: What in the hell am I doing? What would I find up there? Am I strong enough, brave enough, lucky enough? Maybe this wasn’t such a great idea.

    Sometime just before the alarm went off it occurred to me that this dance of indecision is what I love most about climbing. It keeps me up. It doesn’t matter if it’s a big alpine climb, or a wall, or a tower, or a hard redpoint, or even a highball boulder problem—it only gets interesting when there’s some skin in the game.

    Sleeping soundly is over rated. I was lucky to be awake, contemplating big questions and departed friends before an unforgettable day in the mountains, because the hard part of life is actually the crushing monotony. You get older and wear a groove through time with routine. People talk about everything speeding up, but that’s only because our lives are boring. Time is a sequence of unremarkable nows stretching out toward a death that feels like it’s closing in with the alacrity of Einstein’s train in his demonstration of special relativity.

    When the alarm finally went off, I was feeling optimistic and grateful for my doubts. It really didn’t matter if the route was “in” or “out” because we were going up there, and we’d have to face what ever we found. Finally, it was time to climb.

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