Its Friday morning and I'm off attending a management class. During the 15 minute breaks I rush out to the lobby and try to conduct the days business through voice mail. In the midst of the this, a welcome diversion, a message from Kaylea, this weekends climbing victim.
Hey Evan, this is Kaylea, I don't know how to tell you this, but on my way to work work this morning, my backpack with all my climbing and camping gear was stolen...
What?!? That had to be static on the cell phone. But no, I call her up and its true. She'd packed everything she needed for a weekend in The Valley, then left it on her front porch while she ran back in for something and poof, it was gone. We chatted a bit about the state of the world then skipped, to the important question:
Well, we're still going, right? Umm, I'd like to, but I don't have any gear No problem, show up at my house with the shirt on your back and we'll put it all together!
6pm finds us in my living room rooting through the various caches of gear hidden around my house. We manage to gather everything she'll need, coming up short on only two items: a sports bra and a toothbrush. I try to sell her on the idea that the mannequin's sequined bathing suit will be ok as a makeshift climbing top, but she doesn't buy it, so we spend half an hour in the lingerie deptartment of Ross Dress for Less finding something she claims is a bit more appropriate...
Midnight finds us well equipped and settled down for the night at the base of El Cap watching the stars blend with the climbers head lamps and listening to their cries echo across The Valley.
Saturdays Agenda: sleep in, have pancakes, call in sick to Kaylea's work, then practice aid techniques. Its early afternoon before we are at the base of Heathenistic Pursuit(10b), I'd planned on aiding this for Kaylea to practice cleaning, but its located in the only patch of shade in The Valley and its clear we are going to bum some people out. Then I notice a string of fixed wires on a mostly blank overhanging wall to the right and decide to give that a go instead. 20 ft off the deck I realize those wires are #1 copperheads and things are starting to look a bit dicey for the home team on what's suppose to be a practice route. Luckily there is a sport route a few feet further to the right and I clip the big shiny 3/8" bolts as I aid on the copperheads.
Kaylea spends the rest of the afternoon learning the basics of jugging. Free lines, unweighting a piece, the nut tool hook, passing the knot, lowering out, down jumaring, etc... She picks up all the standard tricks like a pro. Its important for her to feel (and be) confident, because tomorrow she'll be on her own 2,000ft off the deck on Lost Arrow Spire with only the wind to look to for advice as she uses what she's learned.
A quick check of Church Bowl reveals that all the good routes are crowded, so we head for an early dinner at the Pasta Place. A solid meal and a bottle of wine later we're at the base of the falls trail. Three and half miles and some 2,500ft of elevation gain later we've gone from way too hot and slightly buzzed to damn chilly and way too sober. Luckily all is not lost. We build a little rock shrine to protect our candle from the wind, then snuggle down and break out an Oatmeal Stout I smuggled up the trail. The wind whistles through the valley as Kaylea picks constellations out of the cloudless night sky.
The sun is slow to warm us Sunday morning but eventually we break camp and make our way to the rim. The Valley floor lies almost three thousand feet below; the verdant greens broken by small splotches of yellows and reds in California's cheap imitation of fall splendor. We're not going to the floor though just down the three hundred feet to the notch that separates Lost Arrow Spire from the main wall. Kaylea takes on her first challenge of the day, passing a knot on rappel. She does fine, and by the time she joins me in the notch its gone from damn chilly to bloody hot. The new sports bra makes an appearance as I start the first pitch.
In what seems so recent, but is really a few years back now this pitch was my first real aid lead. I can remember taking forever to commit to the first move; stepping out over the void with nothing but air between my heals and the valley floor. Back then that first piece was an ugly blob of soft metal bashed in over a sling. Now, that piece isn't even there. I do half a free move and clip the next. This time around it probably takes me less time to lead the whole pitch than it did to make just that that first move originally.
Kaylea joins me on Salathe Ledge with a minimum of fuss and bother. She's made the discovery that jugging with a pack sucks, but other than that she is doing great and having fun. The ledge is the width of side walk and about 3 meters long. A little chunk of sanity carved out of the sky. Its a great place to lounge, but eventually I'm off to confront the second pitch.
On his first real aid lead Ian got worked over a bit by this pitch and he's significantly taller than I am. I have a 3 foot cheat stick along, in case things get ugly but I'm hoping not to use it. The start is pretty sketchy, some junky fixed gear and a few dodgy big aliens. it traverses and I'm worried about what it will be like to follow, but there isn't much I can do. Eventually it settles into a rhythm of rivets and choss and I'm finally confronted by the last few free moves. Kaylea is 150ft below me experimenting with new and different ways to pay out slack with a gri-gri. After a few minutes tug-of-war I get about 20' of slack into my hands and free the last bit to the top. Ahhh, its taken about an hour and there were a few rough bits, but I didn't have to resort to the stick. I call down that the rope is fixed and settle in for a nap.
Eventually Kaylea joins me on top, she's a bit disappointed by the dimensions of our perch (about the size of love seat), but is justly proud of the job she's done. She too had a few rough spots low down, but she used the tricks she'd learned and made it through without any crisises or leaving of gear. We relax on top and soak in the views while munching peanut-butter and honey sandwiches. Eventually the time comes for us to return to the rim. Kaylea is hell bent on doing the Tyrolian, so I set it up for her. Neither one of us really like the looks of it though so we opt for the easy way off.
The set up is this: you have one line running back to the rim, and two lines looped through the anchors on top of the spire in a normal rappel set up. The ends of all three ropes are tied together. You clip your jumars as high as possible on the rope fixed to the rim and then do a normal rappel off the spire. The fixed line draws you across the chasm in a slow and stately pendulum. When you reach the far wall you just jug the remaining distance to the rim.
Kaylea goes first and maintains a wide-eyed look until she reaches the far rim; then she finishes the now mundane feeling task of ascending the fixed lines. I join her and we manage to pull the ropes. The excitement is over. All that is left is the hike back out by the dim light of a fading battery. On the drive home Kaylea dozes off and then is jolted awake by a vivid dream of air, ropes, and jumars.
The rat is hungry, my job here is done.