Finally when the need for the toilet is greater than the need to stay warm and cosy, we get up. It’s 0745. None of us can get to go to the toilet without the wild goats running after us and trying to get real close. Mad animals!!!
There were mosi’s about yesterday but not annoyingly so. This morning however, they are pretty invasive. Even with mosi juice on they don’t back off! Bernice retreats back into the tent to write the blog and get a little reprieve from them.
After brekkie Rowan and Conny set off for the rock face they want to climb today, it’s a route on Prusik peak. We all agree to meet them at the pass at 1300 and we have a slow amble up, getting there around 1100. As it happens they don’t succeed with the route as its pretty crumbly so are back down around 1130. Then everyone sets off to do another except Bernice that is. Huw is able to borrow rock boots from Conny, but she and Rowan’s shoe size don’t match as well, and that’s fine as after yesterdays walk in Bernice’s happy to just sit in the sun and read a book, well apart from the blasted midges that is.
Eventually she snaps and goes back to the camp where it’s windy most of the time which keeps them at bay. What with sitting out reading and having a catnap in the tent she manages to while away the afternoon. She only gets a little worried when it turns 1900 and no ones returned yet!!!
Meanwhile, Huw joined Rowan and Conny to get ready for an assault on Prusik Peak before scrambling up to David, Todd and Andrea at the start of the route. The route we are climbing is the West Ridge, a 5 pitch classic alpine climbing route with a 5.7 crux on it (Notes: a pitch is a section of a climb typically 20 – 30 metres long. Alpine Climbing is fast and lightweight-style of climbing. 5.7 is a US climbing grade meaning a bit tricky and/or exposed and is the equivalent of about a UK VS [Very Severe]). Prusik Peak is a breath-taking range of 8000 foot granite towers with near vertical drops to the beautiful Enchantment Lakes 1200 feet below. It makes a really spectacular setting for a day out on rock.
Huw is climbing with Conny, Rowan and David; Todd and Andrea are climbing separately behind us. As there is four of us in the group, we have to operate a little differently from normal. Conny leads (goes first and places the gear in the rock for protection, Rowan follows a half a rope behind, David is next on the join of the two ropes we are using with Huw coming up last removing the gear as he climbs. With so many of us climbing at the same time, it would be easy for the trip to take forever and so it is a testament to Conny´s skill that the four of us can keep moving without holding up Todd and Andrea as they climb up behind us.
The climbing is fab, a really varied set of pitches, with smearing (climbing using fiction rather than holds), finger cracks (crack just big enough for your fingers), chimneys (crack big enough for your whole body) and traverses (climbing sideways rather than up) all coming into play. The route is hard enough to be a challenge, scary enough to be exciting but still well within everybody’s ability so that we can all enjoy it.
Whilst we wait at the top for Todd and Andrea to finish, we enjoy a bit of basking in the warm sunshine and Conny decides to give the last pitch of the South Face route a go with Huw lowering him off and belaying him back up. After what he describes as a “bit of a grunt”, the grading of 5.9 (HVS – Hard Very Severe) is declared as being misleading!! Also, from our great vantage point we can see what appears to be a forest fire taking hold in the distance, over towards Leavenworth.
Once we are all at the top, we descend as a big group of 7 altogether. This involves a series of 5 ´raps´ (rappels – abseiling to us), sometimes on half a rope, i.e. 40-45m and sometimes on a full rope 80-90m. As Huw doesn´t have a belay device, he is lowered off by Conny with everybody else either rapping or being lowered off depending of the stance. Getting 7 people off the mountain takes some time and as we are on the north face there is very little sunshine and a biting cold breeze develops meaning by the time we get to the bottom everyone is a little chilly! Even this doesn´t detract from what has been a great day out 🙂
It’s 1945 when they all start slowly wandering back into camp exhausted. Relieved Bernice tries not to show her angst. Swift organisation and cooking of dinner, with a celebratory cup of wine (yes we did haul a box of wine up the mountain), makes sure David doesn’t go without proper food again tonight!!! We have to have someone on watch the whole time (its sensible to cook out of the wind but more importantly a little ways away from the tents) as the goats are trying really hard to get into our cooking area. Almost immediately we’ve finished, our sleeping bags are calling and it´s lights out zzzzzzzzz