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Thread: Molar Tooth
08-06-2012, 10:56 AM #1
- Join Date
- Dec 2005
- Out on the edge of the bell curve
A little longer and with an edge (epic?)....its what happened.
Happy 22nd birthday to Aaron today
I suppose conditions were ripe for this to happen. His case of eczema was so
severe that blood was oozing out from many sites on his body. The itch was
constant and maddening.His foot was badly injured and being in boots was an
agony. I was becoming anemic from blood loss due to colitis. Ugly beyond words
and my calf muscle was severely strained. Neither of us could stand ourselves
after weeks of dried sweat and the layers of grease and grime on our bodies.
Even plunges into rivers and lakes could not effectively wash off the filth. We
are back in an area, Washington Pass, where we have spent too much time in the
past, having abandoned our foray into new and exciting country, due to weather.
We wish we could have stayed in Canada where everything was new and exciting.
So conditions were ripe for crisis of confidence and the boy has a history of
being to hard on himself. So after bed, he starts to lay out all the ways he has
failed, created images of successes in his life for others to see, but he knows
better. He is no damn good!. He wallows in a cesspool of self loathing. Latches
on to every deficiency, real or imagined to punish himself. What is a parent to
do when this is laid out for him/her? You can contest it with the glaring facts
of skill, competence you know to be true in the young man. He will not buy any
of it and then self loathes even more for having shared it. For burdening me. It
is such an empty feeling and I barely sleep. He sleeps not at all, wandering off
to bathe in loathing.
The next morning breaks with clear skies and sunshine...yet neither of us moves.
We both wish we were home. Done with the pain and filth, both physically and
emotionally. I confess my own sins to Aaron. The parts that others see and
admire that I know to be a fraud. Tell the lad of my own self doubts.That this
is normal. That he shares this angst with much of humanity. That it even can be
a healthy thing. But not when it consumes us.
Morning is nearly gone and we are devoid of energy, bleeding from our hearts. We
both know that to continue to wallow is a poison, so we try and rally to
something. Not much appeals to me and less appeals to him. From our camp, a
mountain called Molar Tooth heads the cirque. Some north face routes interest
Aaron a bit and we decide to probe there. Thus the road to healing is taken.
We have one further point of contention. It is 12:20 AM and I start to limp
toward the peak, miles distant, but in view. The peak is surrounded by snow.
Steep snow in places, so I advocate for him to put his boots on. The boots mean
agony for him and he objects. I point to the peak. He rails at the need to have
them, but puts them on. It is 12:40 PM now and I have packed my headlamp.
Off poor sleep the midday heat has me pouring sweat and I'm whining about it.
When its time to leave the trail and lead a bushwhack to the ridge, I am
invigorated at last. When Aaron gets to steep snow. His mood brightens. Up steep
snow and into a moat. Moats are not human friendly places. They are dirty,
insecure and just plain spooky. This seems to lift Aaron's spirits even further.
Aaron stamps out a platform for me and we attempt the central chimney as our
access to higher aretes. We love a good dirty climb. Aaron is now a pro on the
steep and clean routes, but his background is alpine and his skills on the
sketchy are famed among his friends. Wet squeeze chimney, a super tight hole to
crawl through and I can hear him almost giddy from the experience. A million
miles in attitude from just hours ago. Then the chimney gets too hard and ugly.
Even Aaron backs off. We choose the next gully over and he is off on lead again.
He calls out with a certain aggression..."Ram it's time to PONY up!" I know that
this means there is some hard and dangerous places in my immediate future. He
finishes the pitch and I soon find the spots that I anticipate.
Ahead is a ice polished rock wall on the left and to the right, a 35 foot high
snow wall that soars into a sharp knife edge of ice at its top. There are even
holes where one can see through the snow and ice, down 35 feet to a moat on the
other side of this gully. The climbing is up, but mostly lateral, so the
occasional protection is more for the head, than any reality. I grunt and use
the snow on one side and the wall, on the other, as a squeeze chimney and go to
war. Some moves of dirty exposed 5.8 in here. Charming! I am relieved by the
incredibly loose 5.6 section above, as we joke, not without pride, that we know
how to move on this stuff and what dirt bag climbers we are. It is now 6 PM and
we are one pitch up the 500+ foot north face.
Aaron takes off and out of sight behind a roof. Without much rope left, he goes
off belay. When I follow, I find the climbing steep but easy and I note that he
has traversed, perhaps even slightly downward, the last 75 feet. It makes no
sense that I am comfortable in such places, but traversing doesn't inspire the
fear that I have, that my upper body strength may not be up to the task. Dancing
sideways is more dangerous, but feels natural to me. I am focused and serious,
but I have a huge smile going within. I like the choice he has made. We now are
on a small ledge at the base of an arete, just a few feet wide, that soars to
the sky at 80 degrees. Certainly a classic climb awaits? The reality proved
memorable. Nay, unforgettable.
Up the arete Aaron goes. Some protection is available and he uses it. He makes a
dicey step left at a hard and steep spot, with a nervous giggle. He clears some
loose rock and boulders echo down both gullies on each side of the arete, to the
shout of "ROCK!" We need not worry. No one is within miles of us. The rope sets
loose some more rock. Some even makes it down the arete proper and pings my
elbow and helmet. Aaron calls "off belay" with 4 feet of rope to spare. Another
190+ foot pitch. The kid is amazing at pitching it out. I start up. About half
way up the pitch, I notice the top of the rope is going off the arete 100ft
above me. I also note that there is no protection set in that distance. None at
all. I resolve to take this issue up with him. I never did. Understanding came
all by itself. The rock on the peak is granite. Not all granite is created equal
and as I climbed up further, I found the rock looser and looser. There was NO
place to place protection. There was NO ledge or hold that did not simply come
off in your hand and you dared not use your feet on any feature. I soon found
myself with no secure holds at all for any of my 4 points of contact. A horn
came off in my hand. I put it back, noting that I was able to return it in 5
layered cake pieces. What looked like a low 5th class section, could only be
done by using smear holds on the steepest parts. Anything, a hold, a ledge,
whatever, that looked positive was illusionary. The rope loosed more rock as it
crashed off the sides incessantly. More rock danced down the arete proper, one
rock smacking my hand. As I approached Aaron I resolved to to tell him "We will
not talk of this now!" It was too close to dark. It was still too fraught with
danger and it wasn't over yet. He agreed not to talk of it. We both knew and
understood. We were fully in the "precarious" zone. He sat on a tiny ledge, over
the abyss anchored to a tiny tree. No fall zone for both of us.
Above our belay, a gully, headed to the ridge. Where on the ridge? Where was the
summit? And if the arete was so awful, what will this gully be like? No choice
but to find out. Retreat is not an option. Why this gully turned out to be
somewhat solid, I can't figure out, but it was. The corner was turned and
thankfully the summit was near and easy to attain. No time for self
congratulations. Little more than an hour of daylight remained. We made two
rappels and some tricky downclimbs and were soon near jogging on the scree and
snow covered ridge. Time to bushwhack down the slope to the proverbial "needle
in the haystack." We aim for a tiny point of trail, on a switchback. Miss it and
one may not find it that night in this cliffy and complex country.
We are sprinting down the mixed slopes, brush, forest, snow, sweat pouring into
our eyes, as we nail the trail, in last light. A moment to decompress, then the
game of letting eyes adjust to lower and lower levels of light, while trying to
keep knees and ankles intact. NOW we talk of the arete where there was no safe
holds, no safe haven, no place to be safe, and no place safe to go. Sometimes
there is nothing to do, but do it and hopefully survive it. It seemed like a
good idea at the time. Soon the headlamps come out and we glide on into camp at
11:20 PM. Dinner is prepared. We even sneak a game or two of backgammon in,
getting to bed before 1 AM.
When we had too much time to think or rest, we suffered. Suffered the
distraction of discomfort and pain. Suffered the agonies of self doubt and self
loathing. When we were "in the game" our spirits rose up and joy pervaded. When
the conditions became truly awful, we rose up to the challenge, again with a
giddy high spirit leading the way. We turned a corner that afternoon and
evening. Two weeks into the trip and with 10 days left, we never were free of
all the discomforts that had beset us, but we limped on through in better form
and with belief in ourselves. We suffered, mostly in better style and we found
more successes, off the small changes in our attitudes. It was a horrible and
dangerous route, but it gave us some of our finest moments and it changed us for
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