Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Chasin' Tail: A hairy first ascent on D-tail

It's time to bail. Adam's got the other rope in the pack. You know you can build safe enough anchors to get down. It's time to bail, it's time to bail, it's time to bail...

As I manage a steep wall of granite puzzle pieces my conciousness battles itself. The voices in my head send conflicting messages.

This is it. You'll never be up here again. Be patient, thread the line through the choss. The rock looks better above. Take it step by step, move by move. Stay in the moment, be in the moment, stay in the moment, be in the moment...

Adam Lawson and I are navigating a new swath of rock on Dragontail's NE face. Well right from Dragons of Eden and Dragonfly, I lead through desperate pitches of choss. I can only connect the passages by tension traversing between the best kitty litter. The runouts are long and the climbing insecure. Adam wants nothing to do with this crap. He's smart. And strong. He's carrying our one pack, laden with an extra rope, food, and a couple of jackets. This sacrifice gives me the ability to sink into my crazy world, find a consistent headspace, and pick my way through the dark, vertical maze.

"That was horrifying". Adam repeats this mantra as he reaches each belay. I try not to meditate on those words despite the fact that my world is dark with lichen, shitty pro, and razor sharp, rope mangling stone.

You're only up here once Jens. Look ahead. Find the path. You can do it.

My physical and mental strength are just enough to push us up into a headwall of solid stone. Finally, the rock shapes up into classic Stuart Range granite. Textured with diorite knobs and lined with continuous crack systems, the last three pitches pull us towards the upper NE Ridge. Arriving at easier ground I breathe a sigh of great relief. I don't even bother to look over the edge at the wall we've just ascended. My head is blown from managing serious risk for so long and I don't even care to look down into the maze of fear below. After a sandwich and a bit of water we arc across the serrated ledges of the NE Ridge. For 1700 feet we traverse over mostly solid rock, finally arriving at the NE summit, a high point where I always end routes that scale this side of Dragontail's mile wide face. The sun is still fairly high in the party cloudy sky. I am excited that we've established such a big, complex new route in a very reasonable amount of time. Adam and I worked well together, each playing our role with pointed assertion.

The setting sun descends with us out of the alpine and back into the forest. Darkness joins us for the final mile to the car. Techno beats give me strength and we barely suffer. I feel a happiness in overcoming my fear. It did not own me today.

Chasin' Tail
IV 5.10 AI
FA Jens Holsten and Adam Lawson, 7/24/2011

1 comment:

Sol Wertkin said...

Nice job Adam and Jens. I gotta say i'm pretty glad to have "missed out" on this one...