The Cardinal

The Qinguadalen peaks made an early impression…


Cardinal at the head of Qinguadalen

Although I had seen big mountains in the Eastern Alps, the Cardinal of Qinguadalen was by far the most impressive peak I had ever set eyes on.  It seemed incredible that we were planning to climb it.  I couldn’t see how this might be achieved.  We spent a day in reconnaissance.  Bob and Richard went one way, John and I another.

John Shade was an excellent climber but even he could make no impression on the vertical wall we stood under.  We returned to camp disappointed.  Bob and Richard had more success.  They discovered the ramp leading to the snowfield under the left skyline ridge.

Much, much later the following day we came to a snick in the ridge near the summit.  I happened to be in front.  What to do?  It wasn’t very wide but the depth might as well have been infinite.  I took in some coils of rope….  “You crazy bugger!” said Shade when he arrived.  It was an interesting jump.

What I remember about the descent of the lower snowfield in the dark was learning that ice-axe braking really does work.  It had to, or I’d have gone a long way.  It was one of the longest days I’ve ever had on the hill…….


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