Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Climbing with a Legend

How often do you get to take someone out to relive an adventure that they hadn't experienced since 1966? How about that Someone you had read about in old mags and books. A man who has impacted the future generations of climbing in a positive way, with style and technique. And if that isn't enough, how about taking that person who is pushing 70 years old with "no string" up a climb that takes most parties an entire day to climb with a rope.

"I wish I had my forty foot cord for this one" he said.
"Not a problem" I responded... "We got a seventy meter rope, we'll just lop thirty feet off".
He was hesitant about the idea of cutting a perfectly good line, but I couldn't have found a better reason to do what climbers dread doing at that very moment.
So with a smile on our faces, Amy tensioned the line and I sliced.
"Alright let's go!"

It was late enough for most parties to say "it's to late, we'll start tomorrow morning", yet the time did not seem to bother us, actually it seemed to slow down.

We hit the notch at the starting point on the East Face of Mount Whitney, pointing out lines on Keeler Needle and Day Needle to our good friend Doug Robinson.

We loitered there long enough to take it all in. "You ready Doug" I asked. A simple "Yup!" from D.R. had us free soloing to the left on the beginning traverse. Amy hanging back a little way to catch the master at work in her view finder. Up the chimney we went with the thirty foot rope stuffed in the pack with one cam and a sling tucked next to it. I watched as D.R. threw his day bag from one shoulder the next as he wiggled his way up the wyde without a problem.

The washboard slabs felt cleaner to the three of us as we took a perch before it's end and admired the views, the setting, and for me... the company. This was about to be a totally different experience. There are not many moments when Amy and I take the opportunity to sit and ponder at every flat spot we come across. We move fast, usually gasping for air. This was a classic time with friends at every stop along the route, as if sitting at a park bench flapping our jaws. We just happened to be 2'000 feet off the deck with time standing still.

Up, then down, then back up took us to the "Fresh Air Traverse". As many know, it is a wildly exposed step across that everyone raves about.

Doug fired it. It was the exposure of the following section that got him...he later described it as "loose a foot and a 1000 ft to the talus!" But once again, the rope remained in the pack.

Up a chimney, some more chillin' and we were on the summit. Doug had some previous issues with wood cutting and had reopened his scraps during the climb. A kid asked if he needed first aid, which DR modestly refused, as Amy and I laughed nearby. If only that Whitney summiter knew who he was speaking with!

We scoped some peaks from our high point, asking Doug to identify this one or that, peaking his interest with prospective, future endeavors. He knows the mountains here well, as they are one of his many Sierra stomping grounds.
The chill of the wind finally had us scrambling down the mountaineer's route and back to camp before dark. We clanked beers and watched as the massif faded into darkness, ending one of the most relaxed days I have yet experienced in the backcountry.

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