July 28th, 2016
A delicious breakfast of yogurt and fresh fruit woke us up, and left us feeling energized and confident for the big day to come. We arrived at the base at 7:30am, after taking a slower approach across the base of the sheriff's badge. Two 'dudes' from Montreal had started up the pitch ahead of us. As we racked up, more parties arrived behind us. It would be a crowded day on the route after all.
I led the first pitch and wasn't able to mitigate much of the rope drag. As Daniel followed, and the party after us arrived on the ledge, I heard tell of a party of "hotshots" impatiently waiting at the base. Two simul-climbers from Los Angeles soon passed by all of us and inspired Daniel and I to pick up our pace as well.
We paused for lunch after rappelling from the highest peak on the acrophobes, and looked back to see the guys behind us topping out the ridge as well.
Not wanting to hold up the day's progress, Daniel and I scarfed down our sandwiches and nearly threw them up again during an incredibly exposed scramble to the next belay. Daniel makes a very exposed shimmying traverse into a 5.8 corner, and sews up the pitch to bring us up to another tree covered ledge. Only three pitches to go! My next lead is up a 5.7 crack system onto a feature mysteriously dubbed 'the whaleback.' As I pulled up onto this "ledge" I quickly came to appreciate the appropriateness of the name; the whaleback is a traverse across 30ft of completely exposed, unprotected, slabby ridge, perfectly rounded like the back of a whale. I arrived at a tree/gear belay and clung on for dear life.
The second last pitch was hidden from the belay ledge, so Daniel and I had to consult the guidebook:
Scramble onto the large cedar root and climb the steep crack above. Follow the exposed crack all the way to the top and a hidden bolt anchor out left
Daniel disappeared onto a cedar root (that did not look at all large to me), and up around a corner. After a long lead, I stepped up onto the root to follow. Above me rose a daunting overhanging crack as far as I could see. Below, nothing but air to the valley floor. I could swear I saw birds circling around hundreds of meters below my feet. The follow was more challenging with our bulky pack, but I pulled the hard crack moves all the way to the top. Bravo Daniel for leading the hardest and scariest pitch on the climb!
The final pitch was mine, and it was a strange one. A bellycrawl traverse to a 5.8 chimney. Daniel heckled me as I crawled on my belly to avoid an exposed and unprotected negotiation past a boulder. As I peered over the ledge into the chimney, I looked down through a body-width gap that opened up into empty space. My heart started beating a little faster, but that first piece of protection I placed felt like the moment of jubilation from a good dream. The chimney was awkward, but shortly thereafter turned into a slabby crack climb. A few more moves, a bomber nut, and soon enough I emerged from the shadowed crack into a splash of warm sunlight. The top of the climb! What a feeling. I let out a triumphant shout, loud enough that Daniel asked if it was time to take me off belay.
After setting up an anchor on a tree, and positioning myself over the crack, belaying Daniel made me feel like I was pulling him up out of the dark chimney and into a new, warm, sunny, horizontal world.
Our victory snacks were saved for the summit. The Clif Bar and apples made for a splendid mouthwatering treat. To boot, we thought we had run out of water on the last pitch, but I discovered that the hydration pack hose had just come partly dislodged. Food and water, what luxury! The view alone would have been enough of a reward.
We are Daniel, David, Nick & Erik.
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