Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Adventure Journal: Pickets 2011

The amazing Southern Picket Ridge Traverse!

My throat burns with acidic vomit as I spit again and again into a moon lit Diablo Lake. Fifteen mountains, a giant cheeseburger, and one too many french fries brought me to this shoreline. I sit on an egg shaped rock and stare up at the forested hills that gaurd the alpine realm. "I should have eased into it," I think, remembering the last days meager calorie intake. Wiping my mouth, I let my mind retrace the ridges, walls, and glaciers of the past week. Even as worked as I am, a smile breaks my face. It was so beautiful out there!

Mt. Triumph from the approach out of Goodell Creek

Day 1
The forest and sky unite in blackness as we meader up Goodell Creek. Before long the steep trees peter out and we zig zag through misty heather slopes and hop between tilted granite boulders. When the Southern Pickets come into view we monkey call and slip down a snow slope, excitement in our heel plunges. A quick water break allows us to scan the razorback ridge that dominates our view. Iconic peaks line themselves up in the swirling clouds as we prepare to kick up the glacier towards our first day's objectives, the three McMillan Spires.

Approaching our first objectives!

Finally, the gear is off our backs. I twist into my harness, tie in, and take off running. My pack is heavy with many pounds of food and fuel, but the freshness of day one allows me to push us up over the towers before the sun sets. Red rays burn the skyline and the bivy is magical. We take in our surroundings and settle into our new world. And what a world it is!

Dan and Sol climb the McMillan Spires

Night 1 bivy

Day 2

"I got messed up here last year, " Sol says as he jams over a steep block on the towers seperating our first bivy with Inspiration Peak. Dan crampons down a snow patch and ties in twenty feet from my end. When the rope comes tight all three of us traverse with care through a more reasonable path than Sol had followed previously. The climbing in this section demands concentration, but deposits us under the laser cut splitters of Inspiration's East Ridge. Taking the lead, I lieback and face climb to a bench of loose talus. The pack is heavy, but my heart is light. What amazing climbing!

Awesome climbing on Inspiration Peak's East Ridge

Another varied crack leads to a perched belay and I snap photos of Dan and Sol as they hoot and hollar up steep 5.9 jams. Rambly climbing leads over Inspiration's two summits. Although we are climbing well, our late morning start has pushed us against a setting sun. A bit of discouragement follows us down the raps and into the col between Inspiration and Pyramid Peak. At the bivy we relax and remind each other that the first few days with packs full of food will be slow. Tomorrow we plan an early assault, aiming for a notch in the sky many mountains to our north.

Stay tuned for Day 3!

No comments: