Canadian climber Cory Hall has died in a climbing accident in Peru while climbing the 5,885-metre Mount Piramide. I first met Cory during one of his Rockies trips. He rolled into Canmore to climb some of the bigger mountains, some of the classic routes. I knew when I met him that he was a modern day climber with an old spirit for adventure. The kind of wonder for wild places we only read about in the tales of legendary explorers. I will always remember him saying, “You can do whatever it is that you want to do, you just have to start doing it.”
Cory was from Saint John, N.B. and had the humour and charming light-heartedness synonymous with east coasters. He had spent the last few years travelling the world, climbing in some of the most remote and beautiful places a climber can dream of: Patagonia, Cochamo, Brazil, the Rockies, India and many more. It is hard to write about everything the 25-year-old Cory Hall had accomplished as a climber and traveller. For Cory, it was not about the black and white list of accomplishments or grades, it was more about the adventure he had along the way.
In the Canadian Rockies he climbed the North East Ridge of Mount Alberta with Max Fisher and had made a solo ascent of Mount Assiniboine. About the top of Alberta, Cory wrote, “The view was amazing: the Twins, Mount Columbia, Mount Athabasca, and the Columbia Icefields to our south, Mount Clemenceau and its icefield to the west, and Mount Fryatt to the north.”
Cory then turned his attention to the Bugaboos where he soloed four classic granite spires in one day: Snowpatch, Bugaboo, South Howser and Pigeon Spire. “As I walked back to camp, a rainbow dropped between the peaks: perfection,” wrote Cory about his solo-link up day.
In 2012, he travelled to the Cordillera Blanca in Peru and climbed Urus Este, Tocllaraju, and soloed up Quitaraju’s north face. “I dried gear in the late afternoon sun.The lingering clouds on the ridges lit up as the sun set, outlining the mountains in a pink glow,” Cory wrote on his blog. “I tucked in for another cold night at 5,400 m. Waking during the night I could feel a sticky fluid flowing down my face, it felt like blood. In the morning I realized it was not blood, but layer upon layer of blisters. The sun is a mean mistress at 6,000 m.”
In Patagonia in January 2013 he climbed the famed Ragni Route on Cerro Torre, along with a handful of other granite spires. Cory wrote about Torre, “We stood on the summit, jagged granite peaks and towers floated on a sea of swirling clouds, a dream had been reached.”
In September 2013, Cory travelled to the Ladakh Region in Northern India with James Moneypenny. The pair climbed two new routes on the often-tried Jungdung Kangri. Thier first ascent of the mountain earned them a nomination for the 2014 Piolet d’Or. “I can’t believe we were nominated, the biggest honour I could imagine. Our climb was the climb of a lifetime,” said Cory after receiving the news of their nomination.
In 2014, Cory jumped on his motorbike with plans of riding from Canada to Argentina. In January, he stopped and climbed in Mexcio, he toured some of the less travelled areas. He then rode through Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. He loaded his bike into a boat and made the three day journey to Columbia, “The trip consists of three days in the tropical perfection of the San Blas, then a 40-hour open-ocean sail to Cartagena, Colombia,” wrote Cory. “I can’t say enough about how amazing the trip was: great friends, crazy parties, snorkeling, beach volleyball, great food, and a cuddle night on deck in 10-metre seas I’ll soon not forget.”
He then rode his bike along the open road for Columbia’s El Cocuy, “one of the best kept secrets in the Andes,” as he said. Cory climbed icy peaks and wrote a story about the rapid recession of the areas glaciers. “Clouds blanketed the eastern Amazon side of the range and the sun warmed the crevasse-riddled faces and the cornice ridge I had to traverse. I weaved cornices, ducked under seracs and then summitted. Alpine faces never to feel the swing of an axe or hear the ping of a piton, virgin and pure, plunged into a now nearly un-accessible valley.”
Cory arrived in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca in June 2014 for an extended stay. He climbed a number of impressive peaks and made the first solo ascent of the south east ridge of Hopiclqui. With his friend Ethan Ellington he made an ascent of Artesonraju, one of the classic Andean climbs.
Cory was a cutting-edge climber in that he went where few had gone. His passion for high alpine peaks in remote areas was a motivation to those who knew him and to those who read his stories.
One of the last things Cory wrote, after his Columbia trip, was, “I have found my peace, and have answered all the questions I was only recently asking.”
-Written by Gripped editor Brandon Pullan. Cory had a number of published pieces on Gripped’s website and one piece in Gripped Magazine. He was working on another about his 2014 travels to South America. It would have been an amazing story.