Friday, July 26, 2002

Last day in Alaska

Leaving Alaska, Josh had a heavy foot on the pedal but I wanted to stay. As I thought about leaving, the name Alaska wound mythic spells around my mind and made me want to plunge back into the place. Driving east on the Denali Highway from Denali National Park, I watched the streams go by as the sun sunk on a bruised horizon. The snow on the Alaskan Range glittered above glowing green grass.
I asked for half an hour to fish at one of the stream crossings and everyone waited in the car. Chest high swamps all around the stream, called Crooked Creek, prevented me from getting to the water’s edge. The only good access to the stream was back the way we had come and I didn’t want to ask everyone to drive back. Instead, pushing my luck, I asked if I could get out again at Rock Creek, further down the road.
Half an hour later we were at the creek, a well contained run-off that rustles under a bridge on mile 110 of the Denali Highway. As they had done at Crooked Creek, Josh, Jen, and Nell hung out in the van and I headed for the water. The sunsets are beautifully long in Alaska. The sky was a deep red but I figured I still had 45 minutes before dark. Following an overgrown trail up the left bank of the stream, I fished for several hundred yards, then hacked my way to a perch on two slippery rocks at the edge of the stream. Near the end of the retrieve on my first good cast, an arctic grayling sailed up to the lure and grabbed it with a graceful twist of its body and a tuck of it huge dorsal fin.
I caught one fish after another and almost forgot where I was. Usually time flies when the fish start biting but on the last day of an Alaskan vacation, with the sun almost gone and a smooth, rippling stream at my feet, it went slow. It went so slow I watched my own arm bend out in a long, arching cast, the lure take flight, and the water open up to take it in. It went so slow and then it stopped. I stood motionless until dark.

Thursday, July 11, 2002

Reflections at the Canadian border

At the Canadian border, I must have made one too many jokes about marijuana. While other cars went quickly through customs and on their way, we were detained for over two hours, waiting on one Mounty "Joe" and a sidekick as they dumped out our carefully packed cargo all over the asphalt.
At the start of this trip, we weren’t potheads, but gradually, as we have returned to hippie pathways, we've learned that owning the title, despite having never smoked marijuana, is inevitable. Our rattling van gets hangloose signs from vagabonds on street corners. Teenagers approach us looking for weed. We once tried to explain that we were traveling in the van for its size, not to achieve peace and harmony, but no one bought it. Our license plate, “Dubsil,” is damning. It's a clever twist on the names of Josh's parents but somehow, at the gas stations of the great white north, it's strangely reminiscent of doobies.

Sunday, July 7, 2002

Fishing in Glacier National Park

Sometimes you get lucky. We weren’t feeling lucky when we awoke to a hard rain on Monday morning. Our plans for an overnight in Glacier National Park were out the window and we were looking at a quick drive-through on our way to the Canadian border.
We drove the Going to the Sun road with one quick stop in the rain at Logan Pass for a bathroom break. The storm hid everything around us. Occassionally a beam of light made it through the maze of bad weather to give us glimpses of a cascading stream on some glacier-carved monolith but that only reminded us of what we were missing. Our principle enjoyment came from the Nell's Spanish CD, which was about as exciting as it sounds.
At the end of the 50-mile scenic (when not raining) byway, we crossed over the St. Mary River and were just passing the kiosk at the exit when I half-heartedly looked back at Josh in the backseat and asked, “You don’t want to try that lake do you? Right there where the river comes out?”
The proposal was a stretch. Not only are the glacial waters of the national park infamous for their lack of fish. It was also raining, bitterly cold, and from the looks of the three foot breakers smashing into the pebble shoreline, desperately windy. But the absurd proposals offer the biggest payouts. If there was something biting in this storm, who knows what it could be? Josh replied without hesitation, “I’m up for it.”
We suited up in neoprene waders and rain jackets with hoods and trudged out across a flooding plain to the east end of the lake, where it seemed to be moving as fast as the St. Mary that flowed from it. With my eyes watering from the wind whipping off the water, I crawled my fingers down my line to the lure. I cut it off and tied on a bigger one. Josh headed down the lakeshore. “Woohoo!” he yelled. He was into the first of six mackinaws we'd catch that day, all over 16 inches in length.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Fishing the Madison, Montana

This evening we discovered a miracle river. I slept the better part of the day as we drove west through Montana for two reasons. The long off-width crack on the second pitch of Devil’s Tower yesterday sucked me dry. And a long night spread out over the front seats of the van had done little to restore me.
So it was almost before I knew it that we were driving down an unnamed dirt road toward a river “recreation area” in the middle of an endless meadow that flowed out to distant forests in all directions.
I had no hope that the wide and shallow river would produce any fish. Wading out across the stony bottom, I flung a few long casts with a big Panthermartin barely a third of the way across the river. I gave up on that approach and contented myself to fling casts up into the side water above me. I had almost tired of that when a little Brown hit.
Josh and Nell headed for the van after Josh lost two lures to the shallow, fast water in the middle of the river. I told him I was right behind him.
In the memory, there is a magical place for those casts that produce beautiful fish. Billowy white and surly dark clouds gave witness to this one, with a rainbow that connected them to the ripples on the water.
My lure had run the course of every seam in the side water and I inadvertently whipped out a cast into faster water. A big fish rose and doubled my rod over with nonchalance, as if he had just taken a sip of tea at morning brunch. I reared back on my rod. The fish jumped and plunged away from me. He was taking line and heading downstream as I stumbled across wet, slippery rocks. A minute later, I coerced him out of the current and began to close the distance between us. The water was glazed with sunlight and all I could see was that there was a great distance between his head and tail on the surface. I stretched down a net from my back and dipped it into the water. Up he came. Nearly 18 inches and fat as a brick, the rainbow had a red stripe that looked like it was painted.
Jennifer came back downstream to see what all the commotion was about. She ran back to the car and got the camera. After a couple pictures, I reversed my net and watched the big red stripe swim away into a swirling, emerald home.

Climbing the Grand Teton

The Grand Teton is deceptive. Close to Jackson Hole, a beautiful town featuring stylish garments behind shiny retail windows, the rocky buttresses and glacial shoulders of the Grand look like part of the attractions. The frozen panorama of jagged peaks in the sky almost makes you feel warm. It's like the witch of Narnia, pulling you in with Turkish Delight.
We took our time getting our permits for the Lower Saddle. We cooked pancakes on a double-burner stove and ate them with lots of peanut butter and honey. We distributed all the gear. The fishing stuff stayed behind this time. One of the ropes too. But we would have to bring more climbing gear since we were going to be climbing in two separate teams. Half the cams went on one sling, half on the other. Half the nuts on one, half the other. We were planning on climbing the Complete Exum Ridge, a link-up of the six-pitch Lower Exum and the long, technical scrambling of the Upper Exum. In all, we would be roped up for 2500’ of climbing.
Hiking up Garnet Canyon, we quickly exchanged the comforts of the valley for the unpredictable world of the mountain but we stayed confident. We had pushed our limits in the Cirque and came out okay. The Grand couldn’t be more difficult than that, we thought.
Maybe it was a sign when we realized we had forgotten our webbing for the climb. Josh ran a mile back to the van to get it. At 4:30 p.m., our pace was brought to a near standstill by thunderous winds coming over the lower saddle. The climb was steep and rocky, and a strong gusts sent us to our knees. I weighted myself against the wind for each step from boulder to boulder. When the wind would stop, I sprawled forward.
We got to the cliff below the saddle two hours later. The snow chute on the left is too steep, especially with wind. A fixed rope to the right looked doable. We take off our gloves and plunged our Gore-Tex boots into the cascading snowmelt. The thick brown rope led up and over to a camp on the Lower Saddle.
We summitted the next day, but only by trading the lower half of the climb for an easier hike to its side. Even then, we were stopping for breathers every hour. On the descent, I tried to glissade down the slot next to the fixed brown rope and ended up taking a 200' head-first slide into a crevasse of sorts between the snow and side of the Middle Teton. I fell 10', and almost fell further, when I landed on a ledge and got buried in the snow I had unleashed.
We made it safely back to the car, but felt a bit chastised.

Monday, June 10, 2002

Climbing in Cody, Wyoming

My body was baking and my face sun-ripening when I awoke in a WalMart parking lot in Cody, Wyoming this morning. The others’ sleeping bags and pads lay empty. The last few R.V.’s were warming up their engines and preparing to leave.
I was putting away the sleeping bags when Josh and Nell came strolling out of the Supercenter with fresh grapes, cereal and a half-gallon of milk. It's Day 10 of our road trip. With a midnight escape from Wolf’s Head in the Wind Rivers, a scary fall into a snow hole in the Tetons, and a full day of fishing in Yellowstone yesterday, we deserve it. Since none of our trips ever worked out according to plan, we need a day of preparation before we hit Devil’s Tower in eastern Wyoming.
Even our Straight Creek fishing trip was exhausting. I pulled us over too soon on the Madison to Mammoth Hot Springs highway in Yellowstone, looking at the wrong canyon, and we set off across a marshy meadow that led nowhere. When we ended up at a dry creekbed, I thought that Wyoming’s drought had killed all the little Brook trout that I had come to love while working in Yellowstone three years ago.
It wasn’t till later, as we continued down the road in the bus, that I saw Beaver Lake and realized that we hadn’t come to the stream yet. We fished the stream quickly, just like it’s meant to be fished. Almost every time I got a good float on my fly I got a turbo responses from Brookies in the riffles, with a few hook-ups.
We made it back to the car in time to drive up to the Lamar region in the northeast section of the park. We saw the wolves come out into the meadows and start to play near three buffalo. A late night drive had gotten us to Cody, where we hoped to do some errands as well as a little climbing before heading to Devil’s Tower.
Driving into town after our breakfast of Cinnamon Life and Honey Bunches of Oats, we found ourselves surrounded by an entire town that had gathered for a fourth of July parade. We just wanted to do some laundry and buy a guide book for Devil’s Tower but nothing was open. When we finally found a laundromat, a passerby told us with some disgust we should be out watching the parade. We packed up and went to a climbing area near town for the afternoon.

Friday, June 7, 2002

Climbing in the Wind Rivers

The first week of the road trip, we plunged into the heart of the Wind River Range in southern Wyoming, to a daunting kingdom of rocks known as the Cirque of the Towers. Figuring the place had an abbreviated name (climbers are trained to speak in abbreviations, for the sake of big walling ... and general laziness), I made a guess and started calling it The Towers. I later learned it's called the Cirque. Maybe that wasn't worth mentioning.
Two days later and seven hours out from base camp, we found ourselves perched high on a narrow ridge known as Wolf’s Head with an electrical storm forming around us and dark setting in. After a long day of climbing and traversing knife-edge ridges, we had just enough time to make the long rappels off the wall and descend the snow-filled gully back to camp. We were right on schedule for one heck of a climbing day - until our ropes got stuck.
The climb had begun at 5:30 a.m., just as the sun crested the mountains around us and the grass in the meadow warmed and dripped off ice from the overnight freeze. Feeling small among the waterfall world of illuminated granite, we pulled ourselves out of our sleeping bags and got the stove going.
Our route involved a several-hundred foot ascent of the south face of Pingora, followed by a technical 2000' traverse along Wolf’s Head, which varied from three to thirty feet wide, but stayed 800 feet high. Pingora sits on the northern corner in the horseshoe of the cirque. Wolf’s Head leads west from there, straight into a set of jagged and wispy spires that turn south and eventually east. We put on daypacks and headed up the giant boulders that lead to the shoulder of Pingora.
We climbed Pingora in good weather, summiting in a few pitches and fewer hours, and rappelling off the west face to get onto Wolf’s Head. Two 200' rappels took us to the saddle. The initial terrain seemed mild, though exposed, so we divided into two groups and simul-climbed. Nell roped into me, 40 feet down the line, and we both scrambled. We had to surmount several blocades before gaining the true Wolf’s Head, but old webbing and rappel rings comforted us with the thought that others had done the same traverse.
On Wolf’s Head, the ground narrowed beneath our feet and we found ourselves crawling on hands and knees, not because it was steep, but to prevent vertigo from setting in. I placed gear before and after the more difficult sections of rock, and Nell cleaned it as she followed. In this way, we both kept climbing until I needed to restock the gear on my harness.
Not far behind us, Josh and Jen picked their way over towers, around shallow corners, and up diving board platforms. We climbed fast for several hours. Our tent was in view, but we knew we had to reach the highest point on Wolf’s Head for a sure-fire rappel back down to it.
Mid-afternoon, the weather turned. Nell and I were taking a break and giving Josh and Jen a chance to catch us. Nell had just remarked that she only had a plastic bag for rain protection when the first drop hit. We scrambled. I pulled out a lightweight shell and threw it on. When I raised the hood, I felt my head getting pelted by something other than water.
“It’s hailing!” I yelled to Nell, as the pricks increased. She yelled something incoherent in response, as the jolts spread to the rest of my body and I realized we were in an electrical storm. I dashed back the hood, which seemed to aggravate the electricity, and rushed to a nearby rock. Nell joined me, we laughed, and she told me that her helmet was buzzing. The storm swirled away for a moment and Josh and Jen crawled over the rock toward us, with more stories of humming helmets.
With the storm suddenly past, but hovering uncertainly on the horizon, we considered escaping the mountain right there. We peered over the side for a possible escape route, but found none. Even if we were able to lower ourselves down the 800 feet of paper-smooth wall, the wave of snow and ice at the base would have to be negotiated, and we had no snow protection to help us if it turned out to be too steep to slide down.
We pressed on, with a sense of urgency. Three of the largest towers remained in our path. They posed not only technical problems, but mental challenges as well. They slowed our pace to a crawl, and made the seconds pound in my ears. Each tower forced us out onto the wild and exposed walls that, up till that time, we had been trying to ignore.
The last tower was to be passed via a long, “fortuitous” crack on the wall, according to our guide book. It is so named because it is the only flaw in an otherwise smooth tower, the only way around the last and biggest obstacle on the ridge. We scrambled down into a cave, then peered around the side to find the crack. Shooting out from foot level, it was a wide crack over nothingness. After placing a couple pieces and letting Nell get comfortable, I jammed my foot in and leaned out onto it.
I slid my hands over blank rock, praying for Spidey spikes, and glowered over sweating cheekbones at my feet. Unable to lean over to place any more protection, I let my mind wander to happier times and kept moving. The crack ended before flat ground was attained, and I leaned out of the crack to grab a knob that took me to higher ground. I threw in a quick anchor and belayed Nell across.
From there it was an easy scramble to the summit, our take-off point for the rappel down. It began to sprinkle for a moment and then, just as before, it let up. We hoped that it wasn't toying with us. We took a few minutes to eat and drink and enjoy the view of a mountain range growing dim in the setting sun, then headed for the tent.
We found old webbing slung around a boulder at the ridge’s edge. After adding a fresh piece of our own, we knotted our two ropes together, threaded a rope through the anchor, and tossed with a sigh of relief. We were going down. We heard the ropes unravel in the air, then slap against the wall below. I clipped in first, made a mental note of which side the knot was on, then leaned back and descended. From the end of the rappel, I swung left to meet a gully that angled up toward the ridge in another area. This gave me a good ledge to stand on, and I took myself off belay. Jen followed.
Once we were all down, we positioned the ropes and yanked on the one on the right. It slid freely for a few feet before wedging firmly in an unseen notch, almost 200 feet above us and well out of view. We pulled on the other rope and felt no movement. I got as high in the gully as I could and threw large waves up the line that was stuck but they drifted into ripples by the time they made the top.
We hung on it. We jumped on it. Nothing worked. Just as we were making our escape, the wolf got loose and grabbed us by the tail. Now he wouldn’t let go.
We had one other rope in our packs. We could have carried on with it. But one rope meant more rappels, more anchor building, and more route finding. Plus we’d be leaving behind two good ropes. We decided that I should venture up the gully, try to gain the ridge and backtrack to our anchor. With darkness coming on, we had no time to hesitate. I tied into our remaining rope and took off.
Thirty feet below the summit, the gully faded into the wall, and only a couple cracks continued on. I was faced with a choice. I could place protection and climb it safely, or I could go for it, and hope that I could place pro if and when it became necessary. The first choice would be costly in time, since the pieces would have to be retrieved. I climbed without it.
Carefully examining each move before I made it, I drifted out onto the wall. The long, slender rope cascaded down from my harness into Jen’s belay device far beneath me, and a couple feet below the ironical look on her face. Firm handholds linked together, and soon I was at eye-level with the ridge. Shaking my head to stay focused, I slung an elbow up and over, and rolled to safety.
I corrected the rappel lines by lowering the knot well below the wedge where it had been stuck, then rappelled down again. This time, they came easily.
From there, we rapped the gully another 150 feet, regrouped, and rapped again, that time in darkness. We could see a long snow slope that led into a jumble of rocks leading down to the edge of a frozen lake. An old, ratty fixed line assisted us down some slippery rocks, wet with melting snow, to another ledge. We lowered Jen and then Nell out onto the snow and down to the rocks, then Josh and I worked together.
We lowered each other in intervals. I lowered Josh to a protruding rock about 40 feet down the hill. He straddled the rock and began taking in rope as I worked my way toward him. I took a few steps and slipped. The slope was long and steep and I would have soon been heading for rocks at bone-crushing speed if Josh hadn't been able to arrest my fall from his perch. Downhill from my spread-eagled friend, I rose cold and soggy from the snow and plodded to the next rock. I don’t think I would have been able to catch Josh's weight if he had slipped, which I think he knew, but he seemed to take comfort in the fact that if he went, I was going with him.
He never fell. After more than an hour of kicking steps and working our way down the snow, we got down to Jen and Nell, and an exquisite stretch of dry and flat ground. We took our time getting around the lake. The bad weather had left with the light and bright stars now illuminated the night sky. Behind us loomed Wolf’s Head, now a frozen tidal wave of blackness.
We got back to the meadow at midnight, shaking with hunger, fatigue and excitement. I sat in wet shorts and waited contentedly for the asparagus to cook.

Saturday, June 1, 2002

Heading for Alaska

On a blue-sky summer day, we piled into a Volkswagon van in northern California and headed for Alaska. There was Josh and Nell, friends of mine who had started dating the summer before while in Mexico.
Josh was a handy man who liked mountain adventures for their challenge, not to get away and certainly not to enjoy the serenity. When we climbed Mt. Whitney the previous February, when sparkling blankets of snow lay wrapped around the barren, rocky faces, he bemoaned the fact that the kingly peak wasn’t more attractive. When we were climbing the Grand Teton on our way up to Alaska, Josh opined that it was "almost too ugly to be worth climbing.” And when we were in Banff National Park, with its turquoise lakes and hanging glaciers: “I don’t know, this is almost too pretty for my taste.”
But what Josh lacked in aesthetic sense, he made up for in his sense of adventure. When we would load up the van to drive to our next destination, he would turn on Creed and beat out the first few beats on the steering wheel. Josh liked cheese. He liked Easy Mac because it had cheese in it. He liked to camp in open meadows, with streams flowing through them. He liked the security of a tent. He didn't like small fish.
Nell didn't like any fish, but she was a great climber. She was a great hiker too, and the only one who could keep up with Josh on our hikes, possibly because she and her future husband were both competitive. Nell was an achiever. She double majored in Spanish and philosophy/theology while playing basketball in college. Nell liked driving fast on the Alcan. She liked country and Spanish music. She liked salsa.
Then there was my sister Jen. But enough about her. We each put $500 into a joint account and crossed our fingers in the hopes of getting to the giant fish of the great white north and back again. It was easier for some of us to do than for others. For me, it was the last penny I had. But I doubted the opportunity would come again.
I loved the myth of Alaska. It stirred something deep in the heart. We were off.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

An attempt at the Nose, El Capitan

Chris McNamara describes El Cap’s Nose as “huge, exposed, and terrifying.” Dealing with its exposure and terror we could handle. It's size was another matter.
Josh Melick and I decided to climb the Nose late one night in September 2001, while planning our annual end-of-the-school-year-Yosemite trip. We had climbed several multi-pitch routes over the years but never a big wall.
Now we were graduating and thought a next step in climbing was in order too. I was looking at some climbs on the east end of El Cap on the Internet when I began reading trip reports from the Nose. Realizing that it was within our means for the first time, I walked into the second floor of the science building, where Josh was studying with a friend. I grabbed a piece of chalk and scratched the hallowed profile of the arete on the chalkboard. “The Nose,” I said. He replied, “Do you think?”
As it turned out, we both suffered from critically developed forms of senioritus that year, which allowed us plenty of time to read descriptions of the Nose and plan what was to be our first big wall ascent. We spent hours, and once a whole day staring at images of El Cap on the computer screen. Each feature of stone engraved itself on our brains. Sickle Ledge at the top of pitch 4, weaving its way into Stovelegs. Dolt Tower below El Cap spire, below Texas Flake, below Boot Flake. We could have climbed blindfolded and done just as well.
We were finally driving into the valley on Tuesday evening, May 22. A storm had passed through the valley the day before and occasional showers that day were still clearing. As we rounded the corner by Bridalveil Falls, the shadowed west face of El Cap came into view. Water was glistening on the rock. The nose was shining wet. Nevermind, we thought.
We slept in the woods below El Cap. Josh was the first to notice other teams running by us in the morning. The earliest were probably Nose-in-a-day teams. We saw them later that day. One team was just leaving our view when we saw the follower take a 60-foot back breaking fall off a failed pendulum point.
We got up shortly after light and packed the haul bag. By the time we scrambled to the base of the climb, 12 people had already jumped onto the route, a climber told us. But it didn't sound like their climbs would interfere with outs. Many went all the way to Dolt Tower that first day. One team slept on Sickle Ledge. Another team fixed lines from Sickle, but planned to take a day off before restarting.
I led first. Needless to say, the first few moves on the rock are awesome, as in awe-inspiring. With the wall suddenly before me, the months of thinking and obsessing over the climb now became a simple matter of moving upward. I felt like an ant in an Olympic pool. The first pitch involves a few 5.7 moves up a jumble of piton-scars and then some fourth class scrambling to a platform, so it went smoothly. The haul line went around a tree, however, and Josh and I had to work together to move the bag, which weighed around 80 pounds. We dumped a gallon of water shortly thereafter to lighten the load.
Josh led the first real pitch of the climb, a 5.10d crack up to a slightly easier finger crack to bolts. It was still cold and we were in no hurry since there were a couple teams above us, so Josh opted to aid. The second pitch involved our first pendulum. I aided up to a bolt, lowered back down 10’, then swung right to an 11b crack. I aided up this crack with great pains, as I had to back clean everything I placed to avoid a Z in the rope. I didn’t trust any of my placements, however, so I had to always have two in before I cleaned the one below. We ended up doing a lot of pendulums on the climb. They’re all on the topo but you don’t realize how they add up until you are actually doing them. I became the pendulum lead man, and Josh worked on the fine art of jumaring behind.
We didn’t get off the rock until 7:30 that night, our first indication that we were moving at the pace of a dead wholly mammoth in ice. But after hearing a passing comment from another climber about the difficult nature of these first four pitches (untrue), we convinced ourselves that they were the exception, and that tomorrow, we would be flashing up easier rock.
By mid-afternoon the next day, I was jammed in a large off-width on the side of the wall, somewhere around pitch 9, in the middle of stovelegs and I felt like oatmeal. My arms were past burning point. I had hands down in the crack, but they were slipping, and I kept having to slop them in deeper. It was mostly my helmet jam that was holding me there. I had banged by head into the large crack and the rim was edging nicely on the sides of the rock.
I had no contact with Josh, 100’ below, because of the wind. The wind roared through the middle of every day. At times it was strong enough to push me back and forth as I struggled on the rock. It reduced our conversations to simple belay-on's and belay-off's. It sucked the will right out of us. I had freed up a nice 5.8 hand crack, but now pondered a curious 5.10 flake that looked like it required a monstrous lie back. The crack was too wide to aid easily. I was waiting for some kind of divine inspiration for what to do when I realized we were never going to make the summit.
My parents arrived in the valley right about that time, and Josh was talking to them on the radio. “Your parents are watching you!” Josh yelled, in between gusts. “Bust a move!”
I got out of my hole and pushed on.
We were delirious and weak as we prepared for the final pitch to Dolt Tower for the night. I bobbled a #3 Camalot during the transfer and watched it jump down to the ground. Josh had dropped a nut tool earlier and afterward lost hold of the radio in his gloved hands. His fiancee Kristi found the radio the next day, or at least, some of it.
Without the audible support of our very faithful viewers in the meadow, Josh and I struggled up the last pitch with one thought in mind - “Flat ground!” We had been in hanging belays almost all day. The thought of taking off the harness and caressing our tender hip flesh was sensual. The hanging wasn't the worst part. Moving the haulbag took getting perpendicular with the rock and sometimes inverted, then doing massive leg presses. Each press sent new sensations of pain.
After jumping #4 Camalots for 40’, I got to Dolt Tower. Unlike Warren Harding, it was totally clear to me who “was conqueror and who was conquered,” and we were only a third of the way.
All I wanted to do was sit on our perch and eat. We gutted our haulbag like hungry lions and ate two-days worth of food. We had fun with our one night on the rock, joining in the hoots and hollers started by other bivvying teams. We laid back and watched others climbing by headlamp around the Great Roof. The moon was full and our Tikka’s added nothing to the light on the smooth granite beside us. We popped open some glow sticks and attached them to the wall.
We rapped the next day, with the gear and ego we had left. We’ll return.