plam gallery

adventures with plam

I finally managed to get to sleep despite the best efforts of our chatty neighbours. A couple of hours later, at 6:15, I got up for the usual morning pictures. We eventually managed to rack up by 7:15 and were ready to depart. The sky appeared to be appropriately clear of threatening thunderclouds at the moment (better than two days ago!) Indeed, we actually got views today. Always a plus when climbing. Two hours later, we were back at the Eye of the Needle, our previous highpoint; now we'd have new and exciting opportunities to get lost again. Since we were in the shade, I was trying to minimize weight, and I sometimes had to wait up for Dave, I was getting pretty cold. Jumping jacks can help in this situation, and I thought about it, but decided that the ledges weren't quite as wide as I would hope for. Instead, I did a couple dozen situps to warm up, which worked for a while. We also saw the helicopter again, now trying to hook something. Our next checkpoint was the Upper Saddle, from which we should be able to see Exum Ridge and Wall Street. The book says "From here to the Upper Saddle one can simply take the path of least resistance... The best but intricate scheme involves climbing onto the crest of the main ridge... staying on the right (east) side of the crest for 200 feet, and then crossing back... to reach the Upper Saddle". After bumbling around for a bit and crossing some snowpatches, we eventually did reach the Upper Saddle, which is fairly obvious to identify. On the way to Upper Saddle we managed to reach the sunlight. I was thrilled about no longer shivering. Chattering teeth are definitely a minus. From there, routefinding is pretty obvious through Wittich Crack. It's a big 2-pitch 5.6 crack, which somehow got lost for 24 years after its first ascent, perhaps because it is on the way to the most popular route, Owen-Spaulding, and people were just looking for the O-S. Somehow I forgot to take pictures while leading these pitches. This climb definitely called for a ground anchor; after setting one up, I climbed the moderate crack to a small cove. Since I couldn't tell where to go next, I set up an anchor and found some fixed pins to back up the anchor with. The problem was that the crack ended. I brought Dave up and we investigated our options: 1) continue climbing straight up into an overhang; 2) climb the 5.10-looking unprotectable blank face to the right; 3) oh look! we could climb up and then left on a traverse. Fishing around for the right guidebook photocopy, it suggested that left would work out too. Up and left I went. This part was amazing. Just when I thought I couldn't hang on to the traverse anymore, it ended and I could step out onto a huge ledge, hidden around the corner. I finally remembered to take pictures while bringing Dave up. "Hey Dave, I'm going to lock off the belay and take some pictures now!" The book says that we end up in the middle of the Catwalk ("easy, but very exposed, 150-foot series of ascending slabs"). So there were indeed a bunch of slabs. We climbed the slabs---probably roped up a bit longer than necessary---but it wasn't completely clear which way to go. We did eventually find the Sargent's Chimney, which was low 5th-class. I placed gear, which was probably a good idea. From there it was almost easy to continue to the summit. We just had a couple of big blocks to walk over or around. We finally got to the summit at 3pm, which could be a problem for thunderstorms (hmm, we should probably be wary of thunderstorms!) but wasn't that day. Ah, another summit. Views from the top are great, and I'm happy to be up there (isn't that the whole point?), but there's always the question of getting down. In general, the best thing is thinking about the views from the top while safely down at the parking lot. This summit was actually not too tough to attain, since we had cleverly avoided getting hit by lightning, but it took longer to get there than I would have liked. It felt much less of a slog than Rainier, probably because it was over rock for the most part, not snow, and the altitude was not as much of a big deal. Routefinding was easier on Rainier, though, since we just followed the most common route through the glacier. It being late, we didn't stay at the summit for long. The goal for the descent was to avoid covering too much new ground. This was mostly successful and we managed to recognize Sargent's Chimney again, which we rappelled down. From there we found the standard rappel point. You have to rappel to your right ("south"), otherwise a 60m rope won't reach the sloping ground. We added an extra rappel (around a rock) on the way down, as an alternative to downclimbing some sketchy slabs. The rope almost got stuck at one point, but I managed to climb up (not far), redirect it, and pull it loose. Two hours later we were definitely on familiar ground: being able to see the way to the Lower Saddle is a plus. By 8PM we were back at Lower Saddle. Now, recall that we had "portable toilets". Dave wanted to try using the portable toilet with the seat at the Lower Saddle. He claimed that the seat was pretty good, as was the kit, which contained everything that you would need. While I was waiting, I chatted with other climbers at Lower Saddle. We decided to avoid the glissade, since we'd be wet from the snow, and arrived at our tent at 9:30PM. Since we didn't really eat any significant amount of food all day, the Mountain House meals were most welcome.