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jameschiang

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About jameschiang

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  • Birthday 05/20/1990
  1. Trip: Mount Stuart - West Ridge Date: 6/8/2013 Trip Report: The route was the result of a bargain, though it gave both of us much more than we bargained for. Rafael likes "crags by the freeway," as he calls them; I, in turn, go to the mountains to get away from the freeway and closer to where the earth meets the clouds. And although I sleep better on a ledge in the clear sky than at home in the teeming city, Rafael, like most people, knows that a rock is not a bed. So our plan for the weekend was a mix of our interests: we would climb Mt. Stuart by the west ridge, but we would do it car-to-car. Sunday, then, would be free for craging in Leavenworth. When I look back on the climb, I see only a few images. Had I slept better I would have remembered more, but the ones I do remember, I remember with absolute clarity. I remember, with absolute clarity, asking Rafael for the third time if he was sure we would not need to bivy. I remember holding my beautiful, warm, one-pound sleeping bag in my hand for a long moment before trusting Rafael's long experience and tossing it into the trunk. If he's not bringing one, I shouldn't have one, I reasoned. But of course we could have shared it. I can't get the image out of my head. We climbed. I also remember the menacing clatter from above, the darkness of the crook of my arm as I tucked my head into it, the massive concussion of the rock through my pack and the lesser one of my body as it was thrown against the chimney that had trapped me, immobile below a tired and rushed, and therefore careless partner on the loose rock above, and finally the explosive clatter far below. A buzzing of fear as I checked myself, a wave of relief to find everything intact, gratitude for the inanimate pack that had saved me. I screamed, first abuse at my partner, and then apologia, and finally just noise, a kettle dissipating steam. But the summit was near, and so was the end of the light, so there was no time to dwell on it. Later, when he showed me with his hands how large he thought the blocks he had dislodged were, I had to suppress a wave of nausea. And I remember the sunset. It was a red tidal wave of cloud, and only the summit was spared inundation. The wind was swift and steady. Just for a moment, my mind was quiet. Then the color faded. It was time to descend. Sometime around 1am, we knew we were not in the right couloir, and that our progress on the icy slope without crampons was too slow. Rather than risk a sleepy mistake, we resigned ourselves to the inevitable, found a flat saddle, and curled up. I remember looking at the stars, absolute clear, but blurred uncontrollably from my shivering. I remember the joy in the sunrise that brought hope but no warmth. In my mind, that sunrise was worth the cold, exhausting night. But I could've brought a sleeping bag. Down to the valley, with water and beautiful, beautiful green. Pikas, flowers, anthills, a single snake. To descend is to return to life. We should have done so many things differently. Yet in the course of our conversations on the drive back, we came to the inevitable conclusion that it was all worth it, whatever "it" was. Gear Notes: Crampons and an ice ax are mandatory; we had only axes and suffered. Some exposed rock moves are iced over near the summit, so consider protecting more conservatively than you would in late-season. My partner has soloed the route several times in the past, but the stream of Russian profanities that reached my stance over the roar of the wind told me that he was not glad, and he was glad to have a rope. (We had a 30m half-rope , 6 medium-large nuts and a few slings, which was sufficient) Approach Notes: Consolidated snow above 6000'; snowshoes are not required. Running water is available as high as 8000' on the route, with plenty of snow at all elevations. There are several sets of steps leading from the summit to the Cascadian Couloir, the Sherpa Glacier, and other minor couloirs on the south side of the mountain, so follow them with care.
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