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|Mailed to WacList||08/23/2006|
Doug conceived of this trip under an alcoholic birthday haze Thursday night. Time-honored way to start these things. Doug has led a bunch of trad lately (including his first on Olympus this July), but I'd never placed anything besides "psychological pro." So the phrase "blind leading the blind" was thrown out and we shook hands on it with our happy, drunk friends as witnesses.
By Friday, we were both "rocking gnarly hangovers," and agreed it would be best to get me out to Exit 32 and actually practice placing some pro, dizzy or not. I mock led one route and was certified OK after only about 50% of my placements slipped or fell out under tension. After the exhausting 20-foot wall, we all retired to the Rogue Brewery in Issaquah to drink a little hair of the dog.
Saturday morning came early, because we were determined to beat any other climbers to Pineapple Pass. It was a beautiful morning and proved to be gorgeously hot all day long. But something was very strange when we got to Alpental parking lot. Where were the milling groups of gaiter-wearing climbers futzing with gear? But a few parties had registered in the box already, so we fuzted with maximal alacrity and got moving.
The hike up was uneventful. We passed the time plotting ways we could sneak our way to the front of the lineup at the climb. Bug repellant really is one of the 10 essentials. So is sunscreen. We had some very minor route finding fun, and Doug mentioned something about, "We should jump in Source Lake afterwards." This is his MO, be warned. I was more scared of that snowmelt than my first lead. I kept my mouth shut and hoped he'd forget about it.
No snow on the route up, but enough patches in the Basin for Doug to slobber over – and lament not bringing his backcountry setup and get turns all year. Still expecting crowds, we stealthily snuck up the gully behind the Tooth and crept over to the first belay station. Nobody.
Feeling a little surreal, we hurried to set up. We thought we heard some voices getting nearer. We hurried more. A quick decision was made to let me lead the first pitch, thus slowing down any followers and ensuring our position in line. No time for first lead fear, because at any second we were going to get overrun by rank upon rank of rest-stepping Mounties pouring over the Pass right behind us.
Somewhere near the top of the first pitch, I suddenly remembered I was on lead, prompting me to try and hang on to the rock with my mouth, nostrils - anything that would generate a little friction. A little (firm) denial goes a long way though. I heard a woman's voice down in the Pass somewhere and scooched up the last bit.
Doug shot up the 2nd pitch so fast I barely had time to register the climbers starting to swarm over another peak to the south of us. He had a great time practicing slings and slapping hollow-sounding rocks before topping out on the enormous belay station with a 10,000-sling "prayer" anchor.
By the third pitch, it had begun to dawn on us that we weren't going to be pulled off the face by ravenous packs of name-tagged helmets, and I took what is probably the longest ever lead on the third pitch of the Tooth. Doug calmly took a nap on the belay ledge while I slowly sautéed myself up above, chatting with the trees and bushes about how appreciative I was for their assistance. There was an especially instructive bit where I slung a tree with low branches – which opened my biner and let my rope out when I turned my back and walked away!
The fourth lead ahead of us, Doug reminded me not to bother taking pictures while he was on the Catwalk. Not that he was nervous at all, but because in the process of absorbing the shock from his potential 20-foot pendulum off a slung hollow-sounding knob, I might dent his camera. Now we were both hearing voices, so while I figured out how to zoom in, he gunned it up to the Catwalk.
Then, there was a space where I heard nothing in the world besides Doug's inhalation, exhalation. I stuck my arm out and took a bunch of pictures without removing my eyes from his feet, then yelled out a relieved congrats when he got to the end of the ledge. He dryly replied that he wasn't at the end, just where the ledge runs out and he had that exciting little step-across. Then, while I was blinking, he rounded the nose at the end and appeared again on the top.
I remember distinctly NOT breathing while I crossed the Catwalk. I smelled fear. I think I heard Doug meowing at me… I clung like a barnacle to the summit rock, and slowly remembered why I liked climbing.
When I got to the top, Doug was waiting with a bottle of Porto Kopke Colheita (1987), water crackers, and some French brie to celebrate! What a great climbing partner! (or maybe it was Nature Valley Granola Bars and a Camelback.) I snoozed on the summit, after placing some pro in the summit cairn, assured that it was the safest way to combat the potentially dangerous light breeze. Doug played human GPS and named every single mountain in sight.
On our last rap down to the Pass, we finally encountered the hordes. Two guys from Tacoma - one of whom mentioned that he sure wished they'd build a road all the way up here, then he'd climb this kind of thing all the time! I checked his anchor and assured him they would one day, smile, goodbye.
Doug opted to down climb the last pitch out of the Pass gully. While he was doing that, I pulled the rope for the top pitch and almost took him out with a fair-sized rock that came down with the rope. I'll admit that I was thinking of the pending Lake dip and ways to avoid it, but I didn't mean to do it that way!
About 15 hours and many thousands of feet of talus later, we found our way down to Source Lake. I hyperventilated while Doug had me do a countdown for him. He started yelping so loud when he went in that the next thing you know, there were mountain goats falling off the talus fields and bouncing down among us. My entry was much less efficient, and my exit was much more so. But believe me, any remnants of that stinking hangover were finally gone after we got out!
We paused to admire a nice memorial for a family of Steins on a huge fallen boulder in the Basin, then raced back down the trail, encountering curious hikers who wanted to know how badly we were injured in the Lake by the falling mountain goats. Visions of pizza haunted us, and we kept up the pace until we arrived at The Pizza Place in North Bend, where we tossed back one last brew - and pondered where we could go next!
Trailhead start: 8:00am
Trailhead return: 6:45pm