FRI NIGHT VID - Climbing The Fish

by Nick Brown - UKC Mar/2017
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Our Friday Night Video this week is of Federica Mingolla attempting the first female ascent of 'The Fish' on the Marmolada in the Dolomites. The Fish was first climbed in 1981 and is renowned for it's sustained hard climbing. It received more attention in 2007 when Hansjorg Auer soloed the route in just under three hours. Our marketing manager Rob Greenwood had an epic on the route several years ago and we asked him to delve into those dark memories: 

"The Fish had always been on my ‘to-do’ list, but much like routes like The Bells, The Bells and The Indian Face, it was a route I’d conceptually like to have done, but not to actually do. As such I was content to have it on the list, safe in the knowledge that I’d never actually do it. It’s a great feeling to have a hard route on your tick list - it makes you feel good about yourself, bolsters the ego, and there’s nothing worse than actually having to go and do it…which is what Calum made me do…

Calum, the man-child, was aged around 16 at the time and had an alarming level of self confidence and drive. His ability to persuade people of things was quite remarkable and his confidence that we could do it was infectious, or to put it another way - I was infected. Toxic, I was so swept up in the belief we could do it. Not only that, but I was so ill I even started to believe that not only we could do it, but that we could do it in a day.

The Fish, 162 kb
The Fish, 121 kb

 

So there you have it, a plan was hatched and the challenge laid down: not only to climb The Fish, but climb it in a day. Justifications were abound as to why we’d climb it in a day: we could carry less stuff, there’d be no need to bivi, it’d all be over that bit quicker. The lower pitches of the route are also - at least according to the guide - quite easy, so we’d clearly be able to move together through those and romp up to the more challenging middle section, where we’d be so fresh that they’d fly by and we’d arrive at the Fish ledge around lunchtime, have a brew, then continue to romp up the easier top section. Christ, when put it like that maybe it’d be too easy. Why bother?

Clearly this is the thought process of an idiot and it took around 1 1/2 pitches, which despite their modest grades were quite loose and series, for us to realise that a day was going to be a push. As we got higher, onto the 6b pitches, and things were actually feeling quite hard (i.e. E4 6b) a light switch suddenly sparked in my mind. The scales of expectation and reality were swiftly feeling to tip out of balance. As the 7a pitches began I realised that I was basically there as a motivational well-wisher to the man-boy that was to get us up the rest of the difficult pitches. 

As we arrived at the Fish shaped cave it was…well…it was not lunchtime, let’s put it like that - it probably wasn’t even tea time - and it was pretty apparent that getting to the bivi cave within a day was going to be a very real issue. In addition to that, our meagre supplies of water were already dwindling and our food…well…lets not talk about the food. Still, the man-child continued on upwards, doing his thing, up until the point that fatigue got the better of him and it got dark - then it was my turn.

We finally arrived at the bivi ledge and dragged out our emergency poly bags to sleep in. Now I’ve done some grim bivis in my time, but this overnighter still makes me shiver to this day. What was even worse was that ordinarily I’d have huddled with my climbing partner for warmth, but making such advances on the man-child could have probably have landed me in jail (it could be our little secret?). No, it wasn’t worth it. So I lay down and thought to myself “what should I think about, other than how cold I am, for the next 12 hours…”. The mandatory selfie I took when waking up shows a portrait of a broken man and quite possibly the only illustration I have of the mythical ‘type 3 fun’."

Rob Greenwood - Type 3 Fun, 159 kbRob Greenwood - Type 3 Fun
© Rob Greenwood

Type 1: Enjoyable at the time

Type 2: Enjoyable in retrospect

Type 3: Never, ever enjoyable

Without further ado, here's this week's film:

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