Bernard and I set out to try a real mountain on our own for the first time.
We packed all the gear for all the possible routes. We brought perhaps too much cheese. And we gave ourselves 3 days to do it all in. We were open to what the mountains would teach us.
Neither of us are very good at the whole “alpine start” thing, so we left Victoria around 10:00am. With a grocery shop stop along the way, we didn’t get on the trail until 3:00pm.
This meant we were really hustling to try to get past the steep, exposed parts of the approach before it got dark. This was good for me, as I can be a real slow poke on the uphill. (I like BREAKS, okay? I am enjoying the scenery!)
I was so thankful we had run into folks at Crag X who had tried Elkhorn the week before. They told us there was no water at the first camp on the ridge. We ended up stocking up at the river, as we knew we did not want to play the “where’s the water?” game in the dark.
We did end up finding water on day 2 at the second camp, but it was a definitely a sad, little tarn on its last legs. Just a few minutes past the second camp, there was a much bigger tarn! And that was about it for water on the ridge in late August.
As we approached the start of the climb … I don’t know how many hours of hiking later … we saw the summit block. It was totally covered in clouds. Very spooky. Very intimidating.
As we were getting ready and trying to psych ourselves up, our friend & dear climbing buddy Dave just popped over the hill! He was with his other friend Dave. If we had all planned to meet here, we would not have timed it so well. We decided to start off together on the Northwest Ridge.
After the scramble and the short layback crack, it was decision time. We could go up the exposed, steep snow. Or what Roxy described to me as the “magic’ ledge. Magic because it does not look like it will go — but it goes. When you give rock climbers the option between two very exposed routes, we just are just going to pull out the trad gear and hop on the rock. So off we four went.
It was easy going after that, up to the summit. And then we rappelled down the West Gullies. That route looked absolutely horrible with no snow in it. Just looking at a rock seemed to send it careening down the gully.
We said good-bye to the Daves, as they had to make it all the way back to their car. We plodded along back to our tent. And then home the next day.
What a great trip! I’ve now checked off the third and fourth hardest IQs this summer. Finishing them all seems like a really possibility … just how many years will it take I wonder? If I continue to get one or two a year, I’ll finish before I’m 40. There’s a scary sentence. Good thing mountaineering is the one sport where you keep getting better with age.
Things we learned
- Get up earlier.
- Cheese is heavy.
- Buy a half-rope.
- Buy some mountaineering boots. (Yes, I’ve been climbing in hiking boots…)
- Make one plan and stick with it. No more carrying an ice axe and crampons and a rope and trad gear…
- Building your community is an important mountaineering skill.