It had been months since our last adventure together. Many obstacles this summer kept us away from our usual escapades, mostly the fault of the 2 plates and 22 screws that were used to stabilize my wrist after a winger in July. We were yearning for it. The first snow that covered our mountains and brought bone-chilling temps up high, had almost disappeared, but we knew it wouldn't be long before the next one.
We had already climbed Bastille Buttress once a few years back, and truthfully, I was a little intimidated to return; I remembered it being difficult and exposed. But, after months of recovery during the Sierra's prime rock-climbing season, I was craving 15 pitches on white granite with my favorite partner.
We got to the base and began climbing around 9 am. Myles took the first few leads to get us into the sunlight, dancing up the rock. The climbing was surprisingly easy, and the granite amazing! A few years of running-out easy terrain gave me a confidence I didn't have when we last climbed the route. One, two, three pitches were done...we were flying. Then, it was my turn: a 5.7 traverse with zero gear took us to the bolt ladder. Myles followed me up the ladder trying to free it on TR...for the first attempt, he got pretty close. Finally, we had arrived at what I had been waiting for: the 10c " killer finger crack". Myles had led it last time, but I was feeling it! Slick orange rock forced me to keep my toes in the crack most the way, it was euphoric.
Snowy slabs made up the western side of the north ridge which we had descended with ease before, but with one working headlamp, tennies, and approaching darkness we were convinced to try something new.
We began rappelling trees down a gully on the east side of the buttress. We were moving as quickly as we could, but soon blackness overcame us. I hooked a few slings together to attach myself to the ropes while Myles descended with the light...it was the only way I could find them once he disappeared.
Bivying wasn't an option, as I had to teach in Bishop at 8am the following day. Anyway, we knew it was too early to give up hope of reaching the comforts of beer and a warm bed!
We got to the ground after something like 10 rappels...so we thought. After running in sand, thinking it was over, the cliffs showed up. Myles tossed a rock down in order to hear where it found it's rest- a ways, for sure! Luckily, we heard the creek and knew we were close. A little zigging and zagging the hillside and we found our old trail, heading back on familiar territory. We reached the car at around 9 pm...four hours after topping out.
Lessons learned: always bring a back-up headlamp ( duh?), always carry more toilet paper than you think you need, and always give a route another go every few years, just to stay on your toes:)
Side Note: This was the first time that Amy and I had roped up together since her accident this summer. She had been repeating Skid Marks IV, 5.11A0 in the Whitney Portal that a friend and I established a few years back, when a 35 to 40ft fall left her with a broken wrist and for sure a sore spirit. She worked hard and pushed herself even harder to regain what she felt like she had lost. Being on the wall with Ames once again, was incredible, our rhyme and rhythm seem to always be in sequence in the vertical world. Being a couple and climbing the high/ wild terrain that we enjoy, sometimes I can't help, but feel a "worry" or a "fear" for my Bug that is climbing above.... Yet on this one, the time that we had spent not tied in together created a pure Ecstasy once the line was between Amy and I. We "blocked" out our climb in groups of 3 pitches each... it was awesome to watch Amy cruise with a solid confidence and fire her crux pitches with nothin', but stylie!