Cirque of the Unclimbables
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The Story, Part 2

Whew! Well here we are in the Cirque! Our first views of the meadow and surroundings are stunning. Three colors predominate: blue, grey and green. The sky is either blue or grey depending on whether it is raining or not. The granite that towers around us is grey and black. The moss and grass is a deep green. There is virtually no other vegetation. There are no trees, no shrubs and few flowers. The scale is overwhelming. Even the boulders in the meadow are the size of small houses. On all sides of us, the walls rear up for thousands of feet.

We get settled and go out visiting. There are several other parties in the valley. There are 2 gents from England, 2 guys from Alaska, 4 from Colorado, a couple from Canada, 2 guys from Switzerland, and 12 rafters that did the hike up just to see the area. All but the Swiss would would be gone in a few days. On the second day we got lucky and scored the primo site in Fairy Meadows, the big boulder camp. This is important because it rains a lot here. And there is a lot of downtime waiting for the rocks to dry.

We became friends with the other long time meadow residents, the Swiss. These guys were incredible climbers, they did the Tower is a single day. And we watched them make a go at several very hard climbs. I had several conversations with these guys about the routes and the weather. They were from the Italian area of Switzerland, and "conversations" might be stretching it, as my French and German is poor and their English was not much better. Mostly we talked with our hands, in the universal climbing-beta language.

The weather was good for the first few days, and we had to hang out as the line for the Tower thinned out. There had been snow in the Cirque in the previous days and nobody had been able to climb. So there was a rush as soon as the sun came out. Just before the last party cleared off, we went up 3 pitches and fixed a line. We came back the next day with only one haul bag, intending to shoot the route and lighten our carry. Hoo boy! Have you ever hauled a 100+ pound pig up a wall? Body haul. my ass.

A word about body hauling. It consists of connecting yourself to the other end of a rope that goes from this big, stupid weight up thru a pulley, and then walking off down the wall. This will drag the haulbag up the wall. When you get about 6 or 8 feet down, you lock off the load and Jumar back up. Repeat this 50 or so times with a liberal amount of cursing. It truly is as scary as it sounds, and I have no pictures from this little adventure, dammit.

At pitch five, we had had enough. It had taken us all day to go the 5 easy pitches. In defeat, we retreated back to camp.

After a rest day we attacked anew. We hiked up the night before and slept at the base to get a good early start. This time we brought 2 haulbags. One for each pair of 2 climbers. This worked a whole damn lot better. The climbing was mostly uneventful, and I managed to get pictures. The upper chimney was dank and a little creepy cuz the pro was not the best. But eventually all four of us were standing on the bivi ledge at about 1000 feet up. This is a nice, large ledge about 10 feet wide by 30 long. It even had grass and flowers. How plush!

Our luck turned bad that night, as it began to rain. By the morning, the walls were soaked. We were cold, wet, tired and in low spirits. Wussies that we are :-) we decided to bail. Now came the fun part. Clip a 50 lb bag to your waist belt, throw the end of the rope down the wall, and step off into 1000 feet of air. If this don't suck yer nuts up into your throat, I don't know what would. Oh, and did I mention that it was snowing?

Knowing we were beaten, we spent the rest of the week climbing on the short (less than 100') stuff in the area and doing day hikes up into the cirques. When the time came, we humped our loads down the talus slope that passes for a trail. Down to the lake where Warren would pick us up for the flight out.

OK, I didn't make it this time, but I will be back.

Home Sweet Home Rugged Pitch 4 Looking Down Good Morning Campers! Owwww. The Gang

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