Rape, pillage, and blunder. A bear in Camp 4 did the only raping and pillaging; the blundering was all ours. 2/3 of Team Stooge was back in The Valley to settle the score from our last tirade. Michael had brought his friend Melanie who was visiting from Quebec. Melanie let us know up front that she was having no part of our escapades. Instead, she would hang out in the valley with a friend while we blundered our way up The Column.
Blunder, our latest catchword. Once again we headed to The Valley from Pasadena. Just as we were entering Yosemite Michael and I noticed this poor mouse in the middle of the road, there was no time to stop or swerve. It had that classic Mr. Bill look on its little face. My guess is the last thing the mouse saw was the front tire of Michaels' car. (See ASCII art below)
Many tears were shed.
We pulled into Camp 4 around 3:30 A.M. and found a site for Melanie. Michael annouced he could set up his tent silently in about 5 minutes. We didn't want to wake the denizens of Camp 4. Whack Whack Whack. "I thought this was supposed to be silent."
Morning arrives. We humped our load to the base of the climb. This time we were planning on getting on the route. In fact, we actually knew where the route started. A big step in the right direction for Team Stooge.
Once again, not an alpine start.
Michael led the first pitch in fine style. Although, he had one hell of a time hauling the bags. No surprise, the anchors are set to low to be useful (IMHO). The second pitch (the crux) was mine. The Prow is really an elegant, aesthetic line. Bomber gear with an amazing view of the Valley Floor. Now it was my turn. The second pitch is A2. Once I got in my groove it really didn't seem all that difficult. I set up the belay at the top of the second pitch, under a roof. Michael arrives just before dark and decides he is going for the "spacious" Anchorage ledge. Don't let anyone fool you, it sucks.
We had brought some 2-way radios to ease communication. They work well. We had a transistor radio that we had blaring at the belays. It definitely helps pass the time. Now at the top of pitch two, I awaited Michael's arrival. Once at the anchors Michael takes off on the final lead of the day. The only problem was I had let the haul line and lead line tangle. No problem I thought, I'll just fix it later. WRONG. Gumby Wall lesson 101, never let even the simplest of problems go. Fix it now! If you don't, you will pay for it later, big time. Tiny mistakes will cascade into major mistakes rapidly. Boy did we pay for it. It's now dark. There was no moon and the belay was totally black. I would turn my headlamp on from time to time so I could get some perspective. Michael was just reaching the ledge when I noticed my headlamp starting to dim appreciably. This is not good. Michael was ready to start hauling the bags. I can't see a thing. Fear starts to settle in. I soon realized my spare batteries are in one of the bags. Thanks to the snags with the lines, and the total lack of natural light, I couldn't get to them. Things are getting worse. I radio up to Michael about my predicament. Michael had run out of water during his lead and was very dehydrated. This sucks. Ater about 30 minutes of trying to untangle the lines I give up. Every ten minutes or I so I would try my headlamp. It would give me just enough light to see how completely screwed up things were getting, then it would dim out. I must admit, I was terrified. It's one thing to start unclipping things when you have a functioning headlamp, but when it's totally dark, it's another matter entirely. I couldn't get to the sleeping bags stashed below. Michael suggests I grab our food, water, beer, and the rain fly for the portaledge. We decide I should just jug the haul line and worry about the bags in the morning. Hooking up my ascenders in the dark, then unclipping from the lead line was very exciting duty. I start to jug up the line, I had mis-connected my top ascender to the daisy and was long hauling the top ascender. It took an eternity to jug 80 feet. I was totally spent when I finally got to the ledge.
I pull over the ledge, "This is anchorage ledge?" Christ. This isn't a ledge; it's a seriously sloping ramp into the abyss. Michael scarfs food and I drink beer as we settle into our "bivy". We spend the most uncomfortable night I have ever had. I slept in the fetal position, Michael was sitting up. Our legs were cramping all night. We would fall asleep, then wake up, "Thank god, an hour must have passed, morning is almost here." Nope, I would look at my watch and realize that about six minutes had passed. The night lasted for ever. At one point I needed to relieve myself. As I stood on the edge of our humble abode, I began to emanate the closest thing to a concious stream of thought I had been able to conjure all day. Out of no where, a gust of wind came from around the corner of The Column. Much too my dismay, the only shower I was to have for several days was unfortunately of the golden variety. Is there a theme starting here?
The next morning while Michael and I were sitting on the ledge eating breakfast, he commented "This is what climbing is all about, adventure." I responded, "Yeah right, adventure sucks!" We decided it would be best if we bailed. As we were rapping the route, I happened to look down and noticed something black spiraling down the face into the void. SMASH! BOUNCE! The projectile plunged through the top of a tree and disappeared. While the object was descending rapidly, I asked Michael, "Hey, what's that?" Michael responded with tears in his eyes, "My camera!" Michael was obviously in serious denial when he made his next statement. "It might be Ok. If that camera can just take one last picture, I'll send it to Olympus". I just shook my head in udder disbelief, "Michael, if that camera ever takes another picture, I'll pound both my balls flat with my wall hammer!". Needless to say, the camera had recorded its last "Kodak Moment".
We descended back to The Valley floor and off to the Mountain Room bar. We guzzled beer, and ate Nachos till we were stuffed. We were so fried from the previous night's epic and the lack of sleep that we both were unconscious in minutes. No wonder the park service hates climbers. Later on at Camp 4, we settled in for dinner and lies around the campfire. Finally bed time. Around 5:00 A.M. I heard foot steps in our site. BIG foot steps. I unzip the tent and peer out. Sure enough, Boo Boo had come to visit. Here we go. Boo Boo had found a cooler that one of our site mates had left out. There he was sitting on his butt enjoying what ever was in the cooler. I get out of the tent and grab a handful of rocks. I toss one at the bear, nothing. I toss another, Boo Boo turns around, burps in my face, and says, "One more rock climber boy, and I'll wipe my ass with you." This discouraged any further attempts of running him off. He finally left. Of course my tale the next morning was of bravery and heroics. Nobody was buying it.
This trip put Wall climbing into perspective. The most important thing
I learned during this trip was that I have finally found a Wall partner.
For a while, I was willing to make an attempt with just about anyone who
would listen. Not the way to go. You end up never really finding a "systems"
groove with your partner. Michael and I have sorted out what happened,
where we went wrong, and what we plan on doing about it on our next trip
up The Column. Hey, at least we made it 3 pitches! Stay tuned.