Photos and Words by Andy Mann | Video by 3 Strings Productions

“There will be times that you wish you didn’t come.” Mike Libecki forewarned. “It’s pretty insane.” Keith Ladzinski and I have each heard that before, having done separate expeditions with Mike in the past. This trip, however, along with good friend, Angie Payne, we would all enjoy (or suffer) together as a group. The objective was to pick one of several jungle towers to climb on the remote island of Ua Pou.

We decided, as per usual, to pack the entire office into ten checked bags. Keith and I are pretty bad about going light on assignments. Even when it’s mandatory, it doesn’t happen. It’d be nice if we talked each other off the ledge every now and again: “Nah man, you don’t need to bring that lens, we already have one in that range.” “Yeah, but what if we drop it?” “Shit, okay, pack it.” We boarded the plane and stuffed the extra baggage receipts somewhere we’d lose them and watched the pacific coast fade from view.

After arriving on the island of Ua Pou, a remote archipelago in the Marquesas Islands (near Tahiti) the four of us set out with heavy packs in search of a climbing objective. Of the six towers on the island, there was one that stood heads and shoulder above the rest, “Poumaka” it was called by the locals. She was beautiful, daunting, enticing & mysterious. After several days of shuttling loads through jungle so thick you could lose your mind, we arrived at the base of the tower. We cleared an advanced basecamp and called it home for the next 16 days.

Mike is a badass. You probably knew that. I had one look at the route up the North face and thought to myself, “I’ll probably regret this.” Aside from some initial doubts, the one thing I could count on is Mike leading us to the summit, come hell or high water. Angie would follow clean the pitches and they’d fix ropes for Keith and I to ascend along the way. The goal is to have all four of us stand on the summit. About 10 months ago Mike and I did an expedition to Greenland in hopes of climbing a remote mountain tower called “The Daddy Tower” that he had scouted a decade before. After almost 2 weeks of shutting loads and setting off up the mountain, we got dead-ended by an uncrossable glacier. Standing on top of Poumaka with Mike and friends was a priority this time around.

I’d spoil the rest of the story by attempting to articulate the next 2 weeks of getting ourselves from the bottom of that damn tower to the top. Did we suffer? Yes. Did we have the time of our lives? Most definitely. Would we do it again? Of course. Would Keith and I pack lighter? Of course not.

Did I mention that Mike is a badass?


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