Patience pays for Steamboat climbers
Adventurers scale 1 of 2 South American goals
Steamboat Springs — There’s one common thread that goes with climbing mountains, whether those mountains are 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado, 29,000-foot monsters in the Himalayas or the 20,000-foot South American mountains a pair of Steamboat Springs residents recently assaulted.
“It’s always kind of a crap shoot,” said Matt Tredway, the recently retired Steamboat Springs Middle School teacher who traveled with current teacher Jeff Keller and several family members and friends this summer to climb in Peru.
That’s a lesson Tredway has learned in the past — like when health complications forced him to stop at 22,000 feet on Mount Everest in 2006. It’s a lesson he and Keller encountered again, this time standing at the base of a mountain they considered so perfect after seeing it from a distance that he made the trip all the way back just to climb it.
“We learned patience,” said Keller, who wouldn’t give up on the dream of climbing Artesonraju, which the party deemed off limits after massive glacier melt made approaching its base nearly impossible.
“We’re lucky here in Colorado,” he said. “You can climb almost anything. That’s not always the case other places. We had to learn sometimes you just have to walk away.”
The disappointment on the soggy slopes of Artesonraju didn’t define the trip for Keller and Tredway. Instead, they insisted it was only the final chapter in another eye-popping exploration.
“The whole experience was 100 percent positive,” Keller said.
The trip might have concluded with disappointment, but it opened with great accomplishment. Before setting off for Artesonraju, the group, which included Tredway’s brother, Doug Tredway, Leo Malloy and Chris Kruthaupt, all from Gunnison, climbed Chopicalqui.
Chopicalqui is 20,817 feet, towering above the Andean mountains just a few miles from the Pacific Ocean. Like Artesonraju, it too was suffering from a lack of snow, drastically changing the terrain from what the climbers expected to find.
“It got very steep to the point we hadn’t anticipated,” Matt Tredway said. “The first three days we were hiking and it was all on rock. That was like hiking up a valley, just like in Colorado, then we hit the snow and glaciers and had to get through a series of broken crevasses.
“We were just trying to get through, across on snow bridges. Sometimes we even had to just jump across.”
All that work paid off as the group camped at about 18,500 feet, then awoke long before the sun and made a successful attempt on the peak.
“We hit it at 9 a.m.,” Tredway said. “We were super light. We were fast. Not as fast as we thought we’d be, but still pretty fast.
“It’s amazing up there. You’re standing there, looking to one side and thinking any water that hits there is going to flow 4,000 miles into the Amazon basin. On the other side, you’re 7 miles from the Pacific.”
Getting down from that top-of-the-world point proved even more difficult than getting up. A fierce wind limited the group’s time on the summit to a few minutes, and it hampered the group the entire way down, through sections they compared with climbing down a bowling ball.
After finally reaching its base camp, however, the group set off for Artesonraju.
Tredway first became hooked on climbing the 19,767-foot peak when he saw it while on another trip to the region.
“It’s a standalone, beautiful peak,” Tredway said.
It looks like a mountain should, with 50-degree slopes, and is said by some to have been the peak used in the live-action logo for Paramount Pictures.
The attempt this summer was no happy movie, however.
The group studied the mountain’s slopes from a distance and didn’t get good news. That assessment was confirmed when they approached it in the ensuing days.
“Wherever a glacier would tuck around a corner there were 50 crevasses,” Tredway said. “That nice little valley had just melted to a degree (that) they were everywhere. It was like looking down Whiteout (ski trail at Steamboat Ski Area) early in the ski season when it’s not in shape, and you say, ‘I’m not skiing that.’
“We did everything we could do, but that wasn’t a climbable mountain.”
Tredway, who stepped away from the middle school last spring, said the experience of not going to school in fall is a new one — one he hasn’t experienced since his first day of kindergarten.
He’s not complaining, though.
“It was great,” he said, “though, as my wife says, cold, tired and hungry doesn’t sound like much of a vacation.”
That hasn’t stopped any of the climbers. Tredway has more big plans for this year. Keller, meanwhile, hasn’t stopped thinking about that one perfect mountain in Peru.
“Maybe in a couple years we’ll go back,” he said.
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