hursday, 7,200 Feet and Back to Mox Basin Camp
Instead of being warmed by the sun on the east-facing wall in the morning, we woke to cloudy skies and threatening rain. Pitch after pitch ate the day away, and thankfully the weather cleared for us mid-morning. Many of the pitches zigzagged across tiny run-out ledges to find ways through overlaps and overhangs. Protection continued to be a battle of nerve and creativity, run-outs got bigger, and loose rock threatened to end it all.
Erik told me later that he knew I must have really wanted this thing the way I was climbing. We were now fully committed. Every pitch of the upper headwall felt like playing Russian roulette with the rack. The pressure of forcing a way up, constantly trying to dig for gear and getting very little, worrying about poor belay anchors, not knowing if the wall’s gonna totally blank out, and just the whole enormity of the situation almost got to me. I cried on one of my leads and tried to seize control of my mind and calm down before Erik got to the anchor so he wouldn’t see how fucked up I was.
We had to regain control of the situation and get off this mountain. We had completed the East Face and were so close to topping out, but we felt that if we summited we would have climbed past the point of no return. So we put a Joker playing card in a plastic bag to mark our ascent, shook hands, and began to rappel the entire route.
Of course, the ropes got stuck immediately after our first 200-foot vertical rappel. I tried to jug up on Tiblocs on a single line and just got totally cluster-fucked and was taking forever. Erik has way more experience jugging, and proudly and courageously began the shitty jug up the 200 feet of rope, completely exhausted and dehydrated.
The first rappel took an hour-and-a-half — not a good start. Fortunately that was our only stuck rope in the 13 rappels down the East Face and tree-studded NE ridge. We had many near misses by rocks bombing down from above, and one chopped the lead rope during a rappel. The sky was pitch-black; both ropes were tangled in a pile on a thin ledge below where the rock had struck. We had no way of knowing where in that tangle the rock had struck, or how badly, and were relieved when we found the core shot only five feet from the end. Not knowing were the rope was cut midway down a free hanging rappel on a blank face in the dark is not a pleasant experience. Having exhausted our slings and rap anchor material, we cut those five feet and used them for the next rappel.
I told Erik he was my hero for jugging the line when he had nothing left, and for setting such amazing anchors so quickly with nuts and pins, and stretching the raps to the full length of the rope in complete darkness. Nobody could ask for a better climbing partner. Our relief was overwhelming when the ropes made that familiar “whoomp” sound when they hit the talus at the base of the mountain. We had finally finished a $200 rappel.
Under a cloudy moonless sky, we were forced to bushwhack through intense alder in the middle of the stream because we could not find our tent in the darkness! We knew it was in the talus right next to the river. Cold and wet, and tired to the limits of our endurance, we found the tent at 3:30 a.m. and collapsed inside.
Since our boat pick-up was Saturday morning, we had no time to rest. We were pretty sure the return would not take us the 14 hours of approach, but we didn’t want to risk missing the boat. That day was agonizing but we were so numb to misery that we just kept plodding away.
As we were traversing a ridge I crushed a bee’s nest in the ground and Erik, being right behind, was stung three times. Erik’s foot and hand swelled considerably. The hike out took only ten hours with better weather, drier rocks, 20-20 hindsight of the best way to go, lighter packs, and downhill going. As well, we had stashed a six-pack of Rainier Ale at the launch with some salmon and crackers. We just kept thinking about the beer, put batteries into the mini-speakers, and the Beastie Boys brought us back a little, setting a good rhythm. Time slowed for the last two hours. The last mile to the launch climbs up a 500-foot switchback, and the word “suck” came up a lot.
We finally reached camp at 7:30 p.m. to much celebration, put off only a little by the absence of one of our beers. We still had ourselves a fine Irish drunk, finishing the remaining whiskey as well. I found the energy to “house-party” dance on the bear box and grill. An unbelievable amount of shit was talked before we passed out tired and happy.
Saturday morning, The Last Mile
The inevitable hangover was supposed to be tempered by a swim in the
lake, but the clouds were rolling in fast and heavy and the water was
too cold, so we nursed our coffees and packed leisurely. The boat ride
dumped us off to a crowded launch of people out-bound. We totally forgot
today was the start of Labor Day weekend. The final sting in the tail
awaited us, as the last mile to the highway was another 500-foot grind.
Constant calls of “Take!” and threats of bivying just before
the car, or setting off the red flare were uttered during the final bit.
We popped some music in the stereo and ignored the disdainful looks from
passing hikers. At the parking lot, The General 2000 was a sight for sore
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