Trip: The Xedni Skaep - The Xedni Esrevart
This trip report is (mostly)true, only the names have been changed to protect the guilty and the innocent.
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The Xedni Esrevart
You've been wanting to do the crossing for years, ever since you bagged the North Spire in '99. One of the three legs of the blue collar triple, a Northwest test piece for a so called hard man. But being this far over the hill do you still have what it takes? Or is this just your conniving mind making a promise that your long past prime body can't hope to keep? The serious attempts began in '06 with a couple attempts every year, most ending with bad conditions, with failure, with defeat. Watching the weather every day the week before and writing it down on the calendar. Several dry days are needed beforehand so the rock will be dry on the climb. The metamorphosed gabbro is slippery like glass when wet, especially on the North face of the North Spire.
You hike in the 3,000 ft to the base and it's wet, so you go back down. You hike in to the base and there's low cloud cover with 30ft visibility, so you go back down. You hike into the base with clouds, you climb up to the start of the first technical pitches and wait an hour for the clouds to dissipate, they don't so you go back down. You hike in to the base and it just doesn't feel right. Your watch tricks you by going into 2nd time zone mode and you think you've lost an hour, so you go back down. Are you ever never ever going to tag this elusive climb? Are you ever going to get the conditions and have a high energy day at the same time so you even get the chance to face your fears and prevail? For every climber knows, fear is the mind killer. You have to control your fear in this arena or it will bite you bigtime. And the stakes on this one are as big as the exposure, as big as it gets, unrelenting on all sides, a narrow rocky ribbon in the sky, a thin fragile line of life or... a thick hard line of death.
The gear is all lined up, over and over, it's written on a list, it's dialed and re-dialed. You cut the contact mirror in half. You find the lightest harness, you buy the lightest stove with a smaller fuel bottle. You take the back off the cell phone, look at that, the battery holds without it. The re-used energy drink bottle is a 3rd of the weight of a purpose bought water bottle. The big savings is the 5mil tech cord, 60m weighs 3 lbs, rapping like a spider on a thread but it's all good. Look at the mini lighter, is it full of fuel? Empty it to less than half, how many times will it still flame? Enough. You weigh the pounds and shave the ounces. The toughest choice is shoes, free solo 5.7 you want the rock shoes, but many sections have steep trees with pine needles under them and sand and dirt not to mention the moss and heather. You need some tread also for all this slippery stuff, so settle for the Guide 10's and the rock shoes.
Being so far over the hill, if you're going to have any level of success, you have to find and possess an edge or two or a dozen, like think smarter not harder. Rock Jedi mind tricks. They're exchanged straight up for the long lost exuberance and all out strength of youth. The largest concession will of course be time. Age will slow everyone but if you can control the logistics to allow more time the same end result can be reached. Also you must never no never underestimate the power of the unmitigated mind. The mind that conquers and controls the mind killing fear will also defeat the depth and breadth of the task of slipping undetected, unmolested past the usual limitations of an age compromised physical state. The decomposing decay and degradation of the unassailable march of time must be held at bay, must be pushed back and away, avoided, altered, and circumnavigated. Wipe off the rustling maggots, maybe there's still some good muscle underneath.
You startle awake at 12:30 am in the am. Car camping at Stevens Pass the night before, 4,000ft of acclimation. That being one of the rock Jedi tricks. The occasionally present small voice, is it guardian angel or guardian demon dependent on current condition of existence? It softly whispers two words in it's barely discernible voice. Is it ever real or has it always been just a mind illusion? Yes. Whatever it is, it's two words "hard snow". Dammit dammit dammit, don't say that, no don't say that. Chop off an hour of precious deep sleep and wake at 3:30 am and drive the 70 miles one way back to the house to get the crampons. So the planned and intended trailhead start time of 5:00 am gets pushed out to 7:00 am.
Leaving the car to bust up the trail, but the uncharacteristically bad August weather presses down trying to smother the dream. It's murky low clouds obscuring the objective. It's doubt, uncertainty, lack of vision harshly weighing in. But by this point in time, in life, it really doesn't matter anymore. It will be just one more defeat in a long line of them, stretching back for years. The mind grindingly shifts gears to the fall back position. Put it on ignore and get on with whatever happens, because "this is the path where no one goes" and that at least is some small consolation. To the lake by 8:30, save the data on the alti watch. Documentation for the forum TR just in case the impossible occurs and you actually make it up this thing. The lake and peaks are partly covered with wispy clouds, it still looks iffy but maybe that chance is hiding somewhere there. Traverse the lake, stash the ski sticks and approach shoes, climb the talus and scramble the approach slabs and trees and brush.
To the base of the normal first roped pitch by the late hour of 10. Maybe the detour back to the house is just a mind trick to get you to let go of time. So what if there's a force bivy when the daylight ends? If you can't do it in two days, hang up your shoes and hang down your head. Being a practitioner of the Nelson method, you jamb the pieces of foam in the heels of the Guides. Jamming your toes tight for the necessary precision of technical ground. Vegetated mossy steps and a ramp gully, the rock is dry but all the vegetation wet. Every foot placement must be scrutinized for moisture. Repeatedly wiping the shoe bottoms on the other leg like a cricket, a rock Jedi cricket keeping his feet dry for the grip.
Then the first point of real neck in da noose commitment on this narrow rock sky path high above the howling hounds of doom. The 2nd pitch turning the "sudden exposure" 5.6 corner. The start is a short unexposed slab above thick brush that would catch and hold a fall, up thin edges and stepping out, over and above the abyss. Do you look down or do you not look down? You must look down because it's a mind killer fear test and this is just the start. Taste it and if you like it and can stand it take a bigger bite, you need a healthy appetite for this dish of mind killer fear, for there is surely a feast of it ahead if you're ever going to prevail. And today it seems to taste okay, and surprise surprise, the clouds are thinning....there must be something wrong, this just can't be true? Or can it?
Up into the bowl with the two chimney's. A larger one below and a smaller one above. Your route diverges from Becky's description at this point. Heck most of the climb has more than one option, when the description is so vague how do you even know if it's the regular route or a variation? Face climbing up from the left on 5.6, it's compact and smooth, looking up there's old pins and weathered tat. It starts getting thinner, look around for easier ground, but everything else is harder, steeper. Small voice "there is no gimme here". Suck it up or go down. A few thin moves up then a thin traverse in closer to the big chimney and up face near it's left side and around it to it's top. A circuitous path but good foot edges most of the way, then scramble the bowl above up to the base of the 2nd smaller chimney. It looks like it would go without the pack but if there's an easier way why grovel or engage in a tedious chimney haul? Sure enough straight right and up some 5.5 and you're back on easier ground. This "variation" puts you right at the start of the treed ledge traverse.
Ahh the safety of some brushy Cascade goodness. A narrow treed ledge crossing between bouts of mind withering exposure. Walk softly, tread lightly, do no damage and leave no trace. Do nothing to disturb the Rock God's garden. His extra special hair trigger death blocks are teetering above the chasm. They patiently await to smash down on the heads of lowly humans who degrade his life's work. And an interminable life it is from your perspective. Think of it, the time it takes to plan and shape the path of the magma flow, to erode the softer surrounding rock. The time it takes to build and shape these spires with eons of weathering exposure. How could you expect him to take it lightly if you dared to disrespect and defile his pristine creation? One pitch across the anorexic crack addict body width ledge to the North face bowl, it goes, on tip toes.
The narrow treed ledge goes straight over to the polished North face bowl and meets it about 1 pitch from the 1000 ft sheer unobstructed cliff at it's bottom. So again your looking down the chasm, and again it's nipping at your heels. It's even wetter on this side where the sun never hits. All vegetation and moss are sopping wet, but still the rock is dry. The shoes get wet it's unavoidable, so you're constantly drying them. Half a pitch up, one foot slips, but the other foot and both hands are secure, it happens while shifting weight. Downclimbing and try to traverse to the true North ridge because TR's have mentioned it is an alternate. A 15 to 20 minute detour and it's a no go, thicker brush, more rotten rock and it's all wet, traverse back. Besides the normal 3 to 4 point solo rule there's a clutching brush rule, where available 2 or 3 branches for each hand. Branches from different plants when possible. Back into the gully of the bowl, this time paying even more attention to keeping the shoes dry. Working the stem harder. The first pitch in the gully is mostly 5.5 stemming and has a small treed ledge one pitch up. Then up the right side of the gully for a pitch of exposed 5.6 face, some positive edges, some rounded. The angle eases then half a pitch of brushy scramble to the notch at the base of the upper North ridge. Huge exposure down the West side, the biggest yet, and it just keeps getting bigger. Break out the Aces in the hole and stash the Guides, always keeping the double death grip, with thoughts of House on North Twin. The story of a single boot leaving it's partner behind and dancing down on gravity into the abyss.
The ridge looks and at first feels harder than it was years ago, more exposed if that's possible, but once started it flies by. The shining sun drying the brush, the clean solid rock, the sharp rough positive edges, past more tattered rap points up up up and onward. The mixed forest heather rock above also seems longer than before and the Guides go back on to grip the differing terrain. Looking back in case there's retreat, the top of the ridge is un-obvious, remember this tree, this slab, this rock. Lots of scrambling heather and trees and then a section of bare rock before the summit. There's really not that much looseness on the entire North face climb, the real loose teetering blocks are mostly at the summit, and they are all around. A different voice? "disturb nothing!!". Yes Master Rock God, yes Master. Delicately balanced death blocks hovering over the abyss, angled downward and resting on small points, do not touch them, do not even breathe on them. And do not even forget. You will have to climb below them.
The first summit, the timer captures the single Index finger for posterity. Then as promised there is a gift for Eve, two pale rose colored diamond stud earrings carefully placed in the summit rocks. Well sorry of course, it's cubic zirconia, because that's all one step above dirtbag affords. And after all it's the thought that counts. She will like them, although she didn't answer this time when near the start her name was called. Perhaps angels are otherwise occupied at times, who really knows? Rest in peace babe, rest in peace. Speaking of time it's precious, for it's already one o'clock, the zenith of the day. So read and carefully ponder the route notes. What little info Becky provides is as clear as Skykomish river mud at flood stage. Downclimb (how far?) until it's possible or impossible to traverse if you can find it, or you can rap off the West side after you downclimb the South West then back right over up or you can go around left up down back right left and down over right back and rap from the lower tower on it's West side and down and traverse if you can find it and rap again, if you can find the rap point or the traverse... or not. Or whatever.
The psyche until now has continually seesawed between 90 percent gripped and guarded confidence, alternating pretty evenly at varying intervals depending on a variety of circumstances. At this point it leans toward the gripped. Voice "it's been hard up to here, but it just gets harder". You're at another key point of commitment, furtively sneaking further out on the plank, the chance of return diminishing behind you with increasing difficulty. The TR's have said it's loose and it is, but it's not impossible. Climbing down knocks small rocks loose and they rattle off and down, chasing the beckoning call of gravity. Listen to them very carefully, for this is another mind killer fear test. And if you listen closer, can you hear the howling hounds of doom? Frustratingly the traverse without raps is never really found and you climb over and back up to the top of one of the gendarmes and crawl to the edge to try and see the way. It looks so steep and blank everywhere, impassable, a phenomenon that will present itself multiple times during the remainder of the traverse. Only an up close inspection reveals the way, and at times dead ends are followed out and back before that way is found. Back down the gendarme and down around it's East side on ever steepening slopes and back up and around to it's South West side. To a tattered rap point, one anchor is just a jammed knot on a sling faded to whitish gray. A rope stretcher 30 M rap puts you down on a sloping 5.5 ledge, and tech cord doesn't really stretch all that well. Voice "I hate ropes". Please, it's okay. However on pulling the rap you don't whip it properly and the cord then proceeds to Houdini itself into a trick knot that jams behind a flake. And it's not okay. Dammit...No amount of flicking and whipping will free it. Luckily it's only some 5.5 up to where it's stuck. Take another chunk of not unlimited time and climb up, unstick it, and climb back down.
Exasperatingly still not finding the traverse to the North Middle notch, but traversing non the less ends up at another rap point above the notch. Now to face your biggest mind killer fear, you're largest doubt and most persistent uncertainty. Looking down and across at the opposite face, the ultimate crux of the route, and also the point of no return, where the nearest safe exit becomes up and over. The Becky described 5.7 reputed to be a sandbagged 5.8. It's dead vertical with a bulge. From this vantage point it looks thin if not blank with a crack system on the upper sections. The rap anchor is another mankfest but it's acceptable, so flake out the cord and another full 30 M rap to the notch. And a small and very exposed notch it is, not even flat enough for a single bivy. Barely a flat enough spot to set the pack and stash the cord. The notch is about a 50 degree sided edge that gets steeper about 10 ft down and is only about 3 feet long. Not big enough to land on from even 5 ft up the crux pitch.
Do you climb with the 20 pound pack or do you trail the cord and haul it? The pitch looks like it might hang up a haul, so you decide to carry the weight of the pack on this, the crux pitch. You can just climb up and see how it goes, if it's too tough you can always down climb and haul. Take some deep breaths and try to gain some composure, you can do this. You break out the Aces again and the chalk for the first time. You're going to need every edge in the arsenal if this thing is going to go. The ultimate mind killer fear test of the climb. Will you pass the test? Go go go go go!!!. It's steep, it starts okay but gets thin, thinner, bulge... steeper... sandbagged crimps. You don't want to admit it but you start to sketch a little, moving too fast, not finding the easiest way. Maybe the constant exposure and the physical difficulty of the task is starting to make itself felt. But you can't back down now, not after getting this far. Besides it's safer to keep going up and over from this point. A few sketchy moves and then there it is, at full arms length, a thank Rock God big sharp and positive edge. "You did it the hard way". Oh well, at least you did it without falling. The climbing eases just a little, but it's a full pitch before the 2nd pitch of 5.6 takes you to the finish on the ridge. A very large weight, that you've been trying your best to ignore for pretty much the entire climb up to this point... is suddenly lifted. And a much older and larger burden of the years of failure, of turning around too many times in defeat, feels like it may be finally ending. From now on whatever happens happens, but if you do your best and keep on your toes, this baby should go.
You suck down another Gu and start on the second quart of water. The Gu seems to be working just fine and there's been no solid food today so that makes it an even more effective mind trick. Every time you start to lag just zap another dose. The 2 quarts of water seem to be going just about right, not too thirsty yet. Hopefully you'll make it to the main summit tarns tonight.
The stellar climbing scramble continues on the ridge. Sunny dry rock, not too loose and just enough positive cut holds. With the occasional detour around Rock God garden banzais and through heather, and of course the constant mind killer fear exposure on both sides, right along with the continually awesome views. Ridge climbing is just like they say, sort of like being on a summit the entire time. It all goes hand in hand, this mix of everything alpine, the 10 percent of pleasure and fun letting you know the 90 percent of work and suffering is all worth it. The climbing up to the middle false summit is straightforward route finding and you go left around it and an easy scramble continues to the middle summit. Pausing just long enough for the requisite poser pic, this time a two finger salute. The descent down to the last notch is just like the first one from North Peak. The route finding is tedious and problematic, without much of a mention from the guidebook of what to expect. At some point you just let go and follow your instincts or the voice inside your head. Or are you just conversing with yourself? Either way you manage to get down. Some slab, crack, face, a reddish chimney, some trees and brush, and somewhere along this descent there is another rap with another manky anchor. You are also getting a good view of the route up the Main peak. You see what looks like the "wedge gendarme" as Sir Becky describes but it's not really certain, and it sort of looks like there's two of them. This view also has the good or bad fortune to see the problematic and exposed exit gully, and it looks just as described, a real howling hounds of doom sketch fest. A veritable snot slippery rotten choss gully of uber doom and gristling death. Lurking skulking scheming to throw the near exhausted and unwitting wanabee climber from his tenuous grip. Desperately scratching scraping tumbling smashing, down down down into the cold, uncaring, and unforgiving abyss, off to get the chop. The chop chop chop of death. No no no no no. Above all else in this life you are a survivor. If it's at all possible to stay alive, you will stay alive. You will either control the situation or avoid the circumstances that lead to a premature demise. You will continuously and vigorously pursue that ultimate objective with every fiber of your being. You will live through this.
The notch between Middle and Main is the same as the previous notch. A very small sharp edged feature flanked on each side with ever steepening gullies quickly going down to un-climbability. Looking at the start of the climb up the Main Peak from just above the notch it appears to be vertical and blank. Mossy vertical gullies and chimneys off to the left and blank sheer walls and gullies to the right. And again only when descending to the notch and getting right up close to the opposing wall does the way appear almost magically before you. It's a thin series of foot edges and holds going off to the right. It's six pm, only a couple hours till dark. You hit up another Gu and a gulp of the water that's almost gone. You follow the thin climbing to the right and it turns into a nice rock chimney gully with plenty of stemming opportunities to rest your weary arms. The gully turns into a steep heather slope, and since it's North facing it's pretty wet from the previous days of cloud cover. Even with the Guide's traction you are having trouble maintaining grip for the feet in this steep wet vegetation. Somewhere along this field of steep wet heather the maximum points of contact mantra that every solo climber must follow comes to the fore. While moving a foot higher up the other foot slips. Both feet slide down and the adrenaline shot hits like a bolt of lighting. The product of eons of evolution, with the exposure it's been trickling all day, but now a full dose of nature's organic instant speed is slammed home to the bloodstream with a vengence. The heather is thick and strong here and the grip of both hands instantly forces in further, holding that much harder until both feet regain purchase. "I thought you were going on a long fast ride down?" Not even, not now, not ever.
You arrive at the base of the wedge gendarmes and find a way up around the left one. It's gets steeper on clean solid rock and you gain the crest. An old pin along the way lets you know at least someone else has been here. You climb along the crest until you achieve the notch between the two gendarmes. But it's going to be very difficult to climb the notch between them, and it looks pretty problematic to anchor a rap. After some hesitation and indecision you decide it will waste too much precious time so you look around for an alternate way. Back below the gendarmes it looks like a traverse may go. You backclimb the way you came and traverse under the towers. It's very winding and a bit technical, but it's doable and you find a way across to a narrow ridge that drops to the Northwest below the right gendarme. You look up and again you can see the heinous death gully, the exit. There's just a bit of technical ground to get up to the gully. At this point you unwittingly unknowingly slip your neck into an unbreakable tech cord noose. It's subtle softly quiet and your distracted by the temptation of the exit. Up to this point the rock has been almost entirely of a positive strata and not really ever close to impossible loose. You eye this climbing traverse to the start of the exit gully crossing and without thinking proceed to climb. It quickly turns into a frightening gripping sketch fest. Apparently the avoidance of the described route, climbing and descending the wedge gendarme is going to demand retribution. The rock becomes increasingly loose and the edges are all pointing the wrong way down. Every other hold is loose and the ones that bang solid are suspect, cracked and thin. You side pull and undercling on most everything that holds because there's nowhere to pull down. Feet are smearing and small edges. Breathing, concentration, your heart creeps up in your throat, you get past the point of an easy return and dare to keep on into the dangerous difficulty. Finally, thankfully after a half pitch of harrowing insecurity and gristling exposure it eases and you're up and on the side of the evil exit gully.
Hit another Gu, a small replenishment for the wracked out body and gulp the last of the water. Something anything to hold you back from the desperate edge. Sit and rest and take a breath. Focus. This time on the final crux you resolve to not descend into a sketchfest like at the primary crux. The rock is looser here, a bit chossy, there's no margin for error so you must make no error. Careful observation reveals a couple of possible crossings. You traverse to the nearest one and get a look up close. It's friable rock with nothing for the hands, a long reach to only one foot hold in the center of the gully on which you will have to match feet and then reach again to the other side. The extra sense says it smells like the way everyone goes, but looking closely at the foot hold it's a small knob that's cracked at it's base. Roped it would go but it's not good enough for soloing. You back out of the gully and scramble a pitch up it's left side to another spot that looks good from below, but a close inspection reveals it's totally blank. You climb back down to the first location for further inspection and low and behold there's another possibility. Above the foot hold knob a small dihedral parallels the gully up. "Careful the rock is rotten" I know, it's chossy and friable but it's a really good stem. You climb up a half pitch and another possible traverse comes into view. It goes with good hand and foot holds and a long reach across to a solid juggy flake. It goes it goes it goes. And it goes safe and without the gripping sketch. Another pitch or so of 5.5 traverse and the difficulties ease. Is that it? Are you off and safe? Or was that not really the exit gully? You turn the corner and the mountain starts facing more to the west. There's some more heather but it's dryer on this aspect where the sun has been shining. You downclimb one last bit of steep rock in spite of an easier alternative. Your mind and body maybe not wanting to let go of the mad thrills of this beautiful climb. Up up up heather and rock slopes, it's still quiet a ways but every step up more sure that you will succeed this time after all the trials and tribulations that brought you to this point in alpine time and space. The final bare rock summit slope, thank the Rock God, thank the guardian angel, thank the mountain's spirits... Eve and the rest. You have arrived at the summit of Main Peak! You have done the traverse!
The sun is getting low and as you watch the mountain horizon starts to bite into it. For once some time is taken to soak in the view, the sight, the sounds. The small town and winding road below, the lonesome whistle of a faraway train reminding you of childhood, of a time long ago and far away. The glimmering sound and lakes out in the hazy distance, the mighty volcanoes and near and distant ranges, all on view before you during this short time as a humble visitor of one of the thrones of one of the mountain Gods. For this brief interlude the pawn views the world as would a king. The view and pictures are good and you sit long enough to need another layer, for as the sun goes so does the warmth depart. In the back of your mind of course you're still not safe for you know the descent gully is loose and you're not sure what condition it's in considering the differing weather patterns this year has brought. Of course the alpine mantra applies, that the summit is only half the way home. But maybe on a traverse like this the "summit" is somewhere far back around the ultimate crux, and surely the technicality is easier from this point onwards. There's also the confidence of having already done the descent. So the epics that have plagued so many competent climbers when vague descriptions fall short and the visibility goes away with the frequent cloud cover will surely be avoided.
Climbing, traversing down Southwards to the tarns at the pass your tired mind doesn't remember it being this far and you wind around in the dark for a ways. The headlamp seeking, showing the way past the wind's banzai trees, the fairy's meadows, and the glacier's sculpted rocks. Past the exit gully and down to the snow and water of the tarns. The two quarts of water went about right to get you past the final crux but the thirst has relentlessly advanced since that point. So by the time you reach the clear cold and clean water of the tarn it's as appreciated as it should be. Much more so than normal everyday life. Alpine climbing condenses, distills life to it's base and primary facets. Life and death, the necessity of a flawless physical execution in moving up and down over dangerous exposed terrain. The demand to continuously place one foot and hand in front of the other without falter or fail. Water and food. Energy and rest. Clear sunny sky, and wind and cloud and rain, storm, snow, and ice. Darkness and light. Hunger and food. Thirst and water.
Two quarts of water and back up past the descent gully which is inspected as far as possible by the headlamps thin beam. Looking down the mountain's gullet, looking for the way out, the safe passage past it's rocky teeth. A small cairn in case of low visibility in the morning then up to look for bivy spots. There's plenty of flat places around this summit but you need something out of the wind and away from the chilling snow. A nice spot is found a few feet from the precipitous drop down the East side, but nestled at the edge of big boulders so it feels somewhat safe.
It's going to be a force bivy, you've sort of known it all along. A bare-bones forced shiver bivy. The climb is done in a day car to car but not by you at this point in your de-composure. As a compromise you've gone light for the steep technical climbing. No sleeping bag and just an ultralite bivy sack and a 1/4" foam pad. You'll sleep in the light puff jacket and the rain gear. Maybe you can't technically call it sleep. You'll lay down with eyes closed and shiver the night away scrunched up in the fetal position. Trying to find that one position where the knees and shoulders don't constantly ache. The weight compromise has included food, one piece of bread, one piece of cheese, two ounces of olive oil. That's it. The rest is Gu, which works fine when your on the move but wears thin at camp. You don't even feel that hungry for some reason, so you eat half the food and drink some water. You watch the stars, the stars always there but unseen in the city. The big dipper is crystal clear and it's tilted just right to hold it's fullest cup, sort of signifying the climb so far. Sleep does not come for it's too cold, after seeming hours the dipper's cup has hardly moved, so you decide to heat the water for warmth. You haven't even needed the stove and fuel that was brought, so put it to some good use now. The only problem is there's only two quarts so if used for heat you won't have any to drink. Oh well you can drink in the morning. Tediously heat the water, careful not to spill. It only lasts a short time but you finally get a brief few hours of much needed sleep. You heat the bottles more than once, so hot they leave small burns on your chest, but it allows sleep so no matter. You've had your brief time of fun, now for the art of suffering which defines most of alpinism.
The dawn finally breaks, it's overcast with the smallest touch of rain and darkish clouds surrounding the horizon. You crawl to the edge and take some pics of the stormy daybreak. You quickly throw everything in the pack, take the requisite summit pic with the triple fingers extended for the record. It's cold and your half beaten body protests at first even going down, but go down you must for while this is a nice place to visit you can't stay especially with no sleeping bag and no extra time alloted away from the grindstone. Down down down, the exit gully is mostly free of snow but wet. Careful of all the loose rock because your climbing in the gully below it for at least a thousand feet. Down to the 5.6 crux, you thought you might downclimb it but in a somewhat weary condition you break out the cord for one more rap. It goes without incident, a freehanging drop to above the last vestiges of gully snow. Down down down. To the talus field and traverse to the saddle of the ridge above the ancient sacred lake. A brief time to enjoy the view then find the thin winding trail in the sky, down the ridge, down down, hanging on roots and branches, downclimbing past the Mounties rap points. Getting worn, tired, now you hit the pass, down down more talus to the lake so very serene. There's still some snow but you find a path littered with debris for traction. Walking the edge of the lake, soaking in it's stillness and beauty. Watching looking you are now below the summit crossing you so recently made, back to looking up but now with the memory that you at least once looked down on all this.
Retrieve the gear at the lake, pause to rest and eat before leaving it again, engage the tourons in idle gossip. "you climbed that?" Yes and shiver dozed like a decrepit fetus during the night, repeately burned by heated water bottles. "no kidding?" I wish I was, no not really, it was great, the time of my life. Down down down, the steep hiway trail takes it's final toll, you move more slowly and rest more often. Only by measured steps will you reach the end. Down down down, to the trailhead, to the car. The most dangerous part of the trip is still ahead, the drive home past the drunken drivers on the two lanes of death hiway. Past the cell phone talkers that should never ever have been given a license. You stop at the clandestine campgrounds to talk to your long time friend, the one that told you to "just do it". To tell him, yeah dawg, I just did it. "Damn that's awesome man". We converse for a while easy and relaxed, with a mutual admiration and respect. Brothers of the alpine discipline. You take a short rest and eat before the trip back. "you drive safe now hear me?" Yeah man. Back on the hiway, a quick look up at the peaks in all their splendid majesty looking down at the pawns, now including one of them that dared to at least briefly share that view.
THIS MUST BE THE WAY
THE OBJECTIVE OBSCURED BY OPPRESSIVE CLOUDS
THE CLOUDED LAKE WITH THE DESCENT SADDLE ON THE RIDGE ABOVE
LOOKING UP AT THE START ON THE SKYLINE
LOOKING DOWN FROM NEAR THE START
THE NORMAL START OF ROPED CLIMBING, RED SLING UNDER ROOF
LOOKING DOWN THE FIRST PITCH
LOOKING UP THE FIRST PITCH
LOOKING DOWN THE 2ND PITCH
LOOKING AHEAD ON THE TREED LEDGE, IT HUGS THE CLIFF
LOOKING DOWN THE NORTH FACE BOWL, A 7 PITCH WALL IS DWARFED BELOW.
LOOKING UP THE NORTH FACE BOWL
THE SHORT SCRAMBLE PITCH AT THE TOP OF THE NORTH FACE BOWL
EXPOSURE DOWN THE WEST SIDE
THE START OF THE NORTH RIDGE CLIMBING
TALUS AT THE NORTH SUMMIT AND HORNS SOUTH OF THE SUMMIT
A HORN AND MIDDLE AND MAIN FROM NORTH
THE RIDGE GOING TO MIDDLE FROM NORTH
EXPOSURE DOWN THE EAST SIDE TO THE LAKE
FALSE, MIDDLE, AND MAIN BEHIND, FROM THE TRAVERSE
LOOKING BACK TO NORTH
LOOKING BACK TO NORTH, YOU CAN SEE THE FIRST NOTCH
EXPOSURE DOWN THE EAST SIDE TO THE LAKE
LOOKING BACK AT MIDDLE
NORTH AND MIDDLE FROM THE ASCENT OF MAIN
THE SKULKING BRISTLING DEATH GULLY EXIT
LOOKING BACK AFTER THE EXIT GULLY, MUCH OF TRAVERSE BETWEEN SUN/SHADE
LOOKING AHEAD PAST THE EXIT
RAINIER FROM NEAR THE SUMMIT
SUNSET FROM THE SUMMIT OF MAIN
TARN WATER BY HEADLAMP
BAREBONES FORCED SHIVER BIVY
SMALL TOWN AT NIGHT
DAWN STORM SKY
TARN AT THE PASS
DOWN THE DESCENT GULLET
DOWN THE LAST RAP
UP THE LAST RAP
LOOKING TOWARDS THE SADDLE AT THE TOP OF THE RIDGE ABOVE THE LAKE
IT'S A MAGICAL MYSTICAL PLACE, JUST ASK THE SNAFFLES
BACK AT THE LAKE
BACK AT THE LAKE, GOD'S "JUST DO IT" SWOOSH (from a previous trip)
FROM THE WEST
FROM THE EAST
And please remember, walk soft, climb clean, and leave no trace.
A mini lighter with most of the fluid emptied out so it weighs less.
Modded Go-Lite Breeze pack, 1 garbage bag, sunglasses w/scarf, 1/2 REI mirror, 1 extra contact, read glasses w/case, 5 band aids, altimeter watch, compass, hand written route description, becky photos, cell w/no back, camera w/ultralite case, chapstick, keys, cards, cash, TP, pen, duct tape, 3 mini no-climb beaners, 5ct 3/4 gear straps. Smallest swiss army knife.
Light zip shorts, med polypro top/bottoms, 1 touk, 1 pr polypro socks, HH ureathane raincoat and full zip pants, thin gloves, columbia puff jacket, knee brace, 1/4"x 3/4 insolite pad, integral ultra-lite bivy sack.
2 qts water in re-used energy drink bottles, 26 lemon-lime GU's, 1 sm piece bread, 1 sm piece cheese, 2 oz olive oil, 1 TI stove pot(handles removed), 1 snowpeak stove, w/small fuel, 1 ultra-lite lighter, 10 vitamins including Ginkgo.
60M 5mm tech cord w/thin stuff sack, 2 4mm prusiks, Bugette rap device, ultra-lite harness, 3 spectra shoulder slings, 25ft 5mm cord, 3 lockers, 3 ultra-lite beaners, 2 TI pins, 2 short BD blades, BD Venom hammer, hybrid strap on alum cramps w/steel tips, HB carbon fiber helmet, chalk bag, Guide 10's, Aces.
Total pack weight w/all food and water, 20 pounds.
Take the path where no one goes.