I'd climbed this route last year (the animation that is the main picture for this tr is actually from last year. Click it cuz it doesn't work properly in the small version and it's pretty kewl!) but had only lead the crux. This time I was planning to lead the whole shebang so I was pretty pumped. My climbing partner Mike was awesome. Perfect combination of skills, adventurous spirit, common sense and Adam Sandler tunes. (la la la .... piece of $hit car... la la la)
And now... on with the show...
Prusik Peak W Ridge
After a rough night during which two baby goats decided to circle our tents all night long crying, we stumbled out of our sleeping bags to face another day. Greg, Andrew, Mike and I were planning to climb the West Ridge of Prusik Peak. Chris was planning to study all day but we talked him into accompanying us to Gnome Tarn where he could watch us climb and take pictures of us.
By about 11:00 Greg, Andrew, Mike and I were huddled under the balancing rock at the start of the climb trying to get out of the infamous wind. Andrew and I had both climbed this route before but couldn’t agree on where to start so we decided to part ways and race up to the ridge. I wish someone would just take some spray paint to the start of this climb (oh I’m kidding… relax!) because it is NOT obvious where to start. I headed over in the direction of where we’d done it last year and started up. I knew I wasn’t on the right route because this was most definitely not 5.4 but it was a fun climb for the first couple of pitches and I knew I was headed in the right general direction. Andrew scared the crap out of me by suddenly appearing around the corner at the top of the second pitch. They’d decided they were off route and hung out on the comfy ledge we were at to see if I could make our route go. I climbed myself up to an overhanging bit where I decided that it was time for a conference. The boys said they wouldn’t climb it anyway so there was little point in me continuing. I was well beyond my comfort zone so I got Mike to lower me off a nut I hoped I wouldn’t need later, back down to the ledge below.
We decided to make a fresh start and rapped back down to the trail then headed back to the balancing rock. Andrew & Greg decided they were done for the day but Mike and I were determined to finish the job. I fired myself from route finding. Mike had explored a bit and thought he’d found a route that would go so I followed him up some very easy class 4/5 (so sayeth Beckey). We didn’t bother roping up for this section which saved us a lot of time. Just below the white horn the exposure got more serious so we roped up there. The traverse under this was a bit awkward but there were good places to place pro and I got through it relatively quickly. Mike was over in no time and I suddenly realized that we were at the ridge! Yippeee! I knew it would be smooth sailing from here and we were making great time.
After a spooky move (for anyone my height anyway) climbing over to the south side of the ridge it was time to face the crux. The wind had died down fortunately so I looked forward to it being much easier than last time (we’d encountered gale force winds that threatened to pluck me right off the slab the previous year). I clipped into the stuck cam, slug the horn, clipped into the 53 year old Beckey piton at the base of the slab and then summoned up all my courage. Damn… it was still bloody scary but I did it much faster than last time. Unfortunately my radio crapped out so Mike and I had to resort to screaming at each other to communicate but before long he was up on the south face with me basking in the sunshine.
We released Chris from his photography duties at this point and began the fun but very exposed traverse pitch. Then it was up over a few ledges to a steep layback corner that pretty much finished off my arms. Thank god it’s short! I managed to pick the wrong chimney on the last pitch and made it MUCH more difficult than it had to be. What a dumbass. Lucky for Mike I spotted the RIGHT chimney once I was up so he didn’t have to repeat my embarassing performance of grunting, sweating, swearing & scraping my sunburned back up. Oh well.. I got up… that’s all that matters.
Two very happy climbers were atop the 8000ft summit of Prusik Peak 3.5 hours after we’d started up (the 2nd time). I plucked up what was left of my courage for a summit cartwheel then sat down to enjoy the moment. With loads of daylight left we hung out on the summit for about an hour before rapping down the north face.
The rope got stuck at one point and I had to climb back up to retrieve it but other than that it was pretty straightforward. We were back at the balancing rock by about 9:00 and back at camp at 10:45.
Chris scored major brownie points by having dinner ready for us when we staggered into camp. VERY much appreciated cuz I don’t think either Mike or I could have been bothered to cook dinner that night. Bed sure felt good. Mike and I went through the pictures quickly to relive the glory before passing out cold. It felt good to get up entirely on my own steam this time (last time I’d only lead the crux) but leading all day is definitely not something I want to do again any time soon. I’m far too lazy for this nonsense so it’s time to whip Mike into shape!
Next morning most of the group high tailed it out of camp to hit Aasgard before the sun did. Mike and I slacked around camp for a few hours before finally heading off. It was hard to leave. The Enchantments feels like home to me. I doubt I’ll be able to stay away for long though.
Descending Aasgard Pass (2200ft in ¾ of a mile) was every bit as unpleasant as expected. Everything you step on moves and that gets old pretty quick. Fortunately we had shade most of the way down and were at the lake about an hour and a half after we’d started slip sliding our way down. We met up with most of the rest of our group at a mosquito infested boggy creek where we stopped for lunch and to donate blood. After fueling up and bleeding we pointed our feet in the direction of the cars, said goodbye to Colchuck & Dragontail and plunged into the forest and made a beeline for the parking lot. After allowing the resident blackfly population to feast on my legs for a while, we headed for home.
You might want to correct the spelling of Fred Beckey's name -- there are two "e"s. I'm on a campaign to fix this througout Summitpost.org. Make the fix and let me know, and I'll increase my score on your page.
This reminds me of the time I was talking with a buddy on the trail about various climbs, sprinkling the conversation with references to "Beckey says this" and Beckey says that". A neophyte climber with us finally asked "Who is this Becky, and how come she knows so much about climbing?"
Just a note for future west ridge seekers. The Summit Post write up doesn't mention which direction dihedral to look for, which is crucial to staying on 5.5 rock! We used a topo from Fred Beckey's guide, and it showed a left-facing dihedral to start. If you follow it, you will be off route on something 5.7+ below the white horn. The warning sign which we should have noticed was too much lichen, moss and loose rock for such a popular route. Instead I assume a clean, lichen-free right-facing dihedral closer to the balanced rock puts you on the 5.5 ridge climb.