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The Tehipite Sanction

Apr. 19th 2011

Rob Pizem is a high-school teacher, and pretty avid rock climber, and a SCARPA team member. What follows is the first part of his account of how he circled around to find himself attempting a new big-wall free route in summer 2010:

Tehipite Dome lies in the northern portion of Kings Canyon National Park, about a mile away from the Sierra National Forest boundary. But that is not where this story begins.

I had planned on a summer adventure in Alaska, where my partners and I would have to trek through the bush, cross icy rivers, navigate unknown glaciers, and finally end up at an enormous unclimbed big wall. We would make base camp and establish an amazing new free route on the virgin stone. Afterwards, we would triumphantly hike out from our now “established” path and happily fly home to our families and friends with memories of overcoming the obstacles that were before us. That is what I had planned. So, as life goes, even our best laid plans don’t come to fruition.

For a long time, I have been of the thought that things always work out and that I would always accomplish something during one of my climbing trips. It wasn’t until this past March 2010 that I actually didn’t accomplish anything and now my once in a lifetime trip to “Seward’s Folly” isn’t happening. What was going on? First of all, my always psyched and seemingly always available partner on these adventures, Mike Brumbaugh, was not taken with the idea. He had been there and didn’t like the taste that crossing glaciers left in his mouth. Actually, he had been there multiple times and apparently had done or attempted the climbs that he had wanted to and was satisfied. And since finding a good partner is as difficult as finding a needle in a haystack, I knew that I wouldn’t find someone that I was psyched to have watching my back in Alaska, so that trip was kyboshed.

I was a bit upset, but never showed it and began researching other possibilities that did not involve icy glaciers. What was ironic was that I didn’t even have any experience crossing these death traps, yet I was the one initiating the experience. I guess that I am just too naive in thinking that Freedom of the Hills will get me out of any situation in the mountains.

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