On Sunday, I saw a Tweet saying that Colin Haley had soloed the vast majority of the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter in the central Alaska Range. I got excited immediately. The word came from the John Frieh. That’s credible. John wouldn’t post news he didn’t think was untrue.
A short while later Frieh posted a correction; it wasn’t Moonflower — the route made by legendary alpinist Mugs Stump on the toughest wall in the Alaska Range — but it was indeed a solo on Mount Hunter’s North Buttress. According to the updated Tweet, Haley came to within about 300 meters of the summit. Stump didn’t go to the true summit either, for the record.
This is exciting because it hasn’t been verified yet. And it’s Wednesday night now when I am writing this! We live in a time when a plane crashes, everyone knows about it. Twenty-four hour news alerts us and our friends. Twitter travels faster than sound too, it seems. News is inescapable.
But news from remote ranges (at least other than Everest and El Chalten) news still travels slowly. Like before Twitter, on-demand TV, and speed internet. Well, maybe not quite, but you get the idea.
Compare the Central Alaska Range (other than Denali basecamp and it’s West Buttress route, of course) to news from Mooses Tooth, the “Moonflower” wall, or Mount Huntington: Recently on Mount Everest we saw how the news trickled out from Mount Everest a few weeks ago where 10 climbers died. However, the town of Mount Everest Basecamp (unincorporated) is wired. While I don’t know the quality, phones and Internet are available in some format. Getting news is simply (as if anything is simple) a matter of passing radio messages from up high to Basecamp, Khumbu, Nepal. From there someone will be happy to email, Tweet or update their blog with your information.
So why hasn’t more news come forward about Colin Haley’s attempt? My guess is that Haley is probably exhausted in camp, or climbing something else, or trying again. He doesn’t tend to sit still for long.
But there is also the matter of how inconvient it is to get word from his location to the rest of the world. Some other unconfirmed news has it that Haley descended with a group of Japanese climbers. If so, we may have received word of his work from them.
All of this speculation and skeptism reminds me of golf. I played a round of golf on Friday with some work colleagues as part of a charity tournament. It was up to us to record our strokes accurately. What was to stop one of us from claiming we had a lower score on a hole? It’s about honesty and honor, really. But there is credibility too. It’s unlikely that I would be putting down a string of birdies. People know my handicap.
In Haley’s case, most of us know his track record. It’s Stump-esque. And if he turned around about 300 meters from the top, I’m sure it was tougher than what 99 percent of climbers today could do.