We make plans to climb Backbone. Want to leave Saturday morning and climb on Sunday. Alarm goes off at 6am. The bed at home feels so good. Have not slept in on a weekend in longer than I can remember. We can do it tomorrow in a day. 2am Sunday we’re hiking through the dark forest. I feel sick. Shirley is high on her poison oak medication. Bad reaction with Redbull. Hyperactivity. She’s imposing a pace that makes me more nauseous. I can’t keep up with the conversation. I don’t want to climb. We do Serpentine Ridge instead (album here).
We have a permit. We pack wine. We get to Colchuck Lake on Saturday. We’ve been here before? We drink. We swim. We set the alarm for too early. We hike. We feel sick. We bail and go home.
We leave Portland after work on Friday. Get to Colchuck Lake trailhead at midnight and change. Place is packed with cars. Short night spent on the bed of our truck – long day lies ahead. Memories of Inspiration Peak are 3 days old in our bodies. Alarm goes off at 2:30 am. I kill it before Shirley’s REM sleep is interrupted. I sit up on the gate of the truck and stare blankly into the darkness of the forest. There’s the trail. We should get going. It’s a nice night – a cool and clear night. I’m falling back asleep. Just a half hour. It’s 9am. We eat breakfast in Leavenworth.
We leave Portland after work on Friday. Get to Colchuck Lake trailhead at midnight and change. Place is packed with cars. Short night spent on the bed of our truck – long day lies ahead. Alarm goes off at 2:30 am. There are LED’s in the parking lot. Paranoia says they’re after our Backbone. 2:45am – time to move. Autopilot on – night hiking. Other party catches up at junction. They’re after Balanced Rock. Relief. Colchuck Lake at 5am. High altitude clouds obscure the sun. We’re worried about thunderstorms. Decide to get on the route. Short snow crossing and we’re simulclimbing the 4th class ledges at 9am. 500 feet up and I’m ready for intimacy with the crux OW pitch. Easier lower half. Walk the #5 Camalot on upper 40 feet. Each resetting maneuver leaves me vulnerable to a big fall. Shit – the pack is in the way. Going is easier than Damnation – more sustained than wide stuff on NEWS. Pack goes on the daisy below. Finally the exit. We look at the sky. It’s dark. What was that??!! Airplane. Commit to upper ridge. Route finding issues within next few pitches set back the clock. Low angle ridge scrambling follows. The stellar Fin looms above!! We’re out of water. Pleasant pitches on the Fin – clean faces and cracks. Dirty ledges. Lose my way on the 3rd pitch. Shoulda listened to Shirley’s directions. End up finishing on the Kearney variation. Excellent jam cracks all around! Colchuck Lake makes for first rate views! More route finding issues on the 4th Fin pitch – pull up on right side of upper gendarme only to see an endless face covered in thick lichen. A disappointment and a downclimb. Try the left side. Thank you!! We’re off the Fin via the backside gully. I shove a handful of dirt-snow into my mouth. Crunchy but wet and cold. Shirley takes small rockfall to the helmet in the gully. Tag the summit at 5 and change pm. Relax but are urged by mosquitoes to get moving. A party from Serpentine tops out as we’re departing. Sweet ice-cold glacier run off!!! Better than the summit views!! Down by Colchuck Lake at 8 pm. Boring night hike out. We lack motivation to move quickly. Rest frequently nearly falling asleep. It’s been a hard week at work. Big fat chunks of fresh Sushi come to mind. Indian curries flowing over Basmati rice. Ice cold smoothies and beers. What time does McDonald’s drive thru close? 2am. We see lights switching off as we’re driving towards the arches just past midnight. Must’ve been thinking of Wendy’s. Too tired to drive home. Why is this deer flipping me off? Never mind – it’s a mailbox. Lag time between what I see with my eyes and what my head registers. Drive back to Icicle Road and sleep in the truck till morning. Heat wakes us up at 6am. Leavenworth will bake in 108 degree heat today. We’re home. We drink cold beers. One stellar outing.
Colchuck Peak in the morning during our hike in.
Approaching the route above Colchuck Lake.
Shirley topping out on pitch 1 with Colchuck Peak in the background.
Leading the pitch 2 OW.
Shirley nearing the top of the pitch 2 OW.
Shirley nearing the top of pitch 3.
Shirley on pitch 4 or 5.
Colchuck Peak with a couple parties on the glacier.
Shirley on pitch 9 admiring The Fin above.
Starting the lead of pitch 11 on The Fin.
Views of The Fin from below on the route.
View of The Fin taken from the next door Serpentine Ridge.
Starting the lead of pitch 11 on The Fin.
Shirley following pitch 11, The Fin.
Shirley on The Fin, roughly pitch 11.
Beginning the lead of pitch 12.
Pitch 12, somewhere on The Fin with Colchuck Lake below.
Leading pitch 13 on The Fin.
Shirley on The Fin, pitch 13 or so.
Leading pitch 14 on The Fin.
Pitch 14 on The Fin.
Shirley nearing the top of pitch 14 on The Fin.
Another view of The Fin from Serpentine Ridge next door.
Shirley on top of The Fin, roughly pitch 15.
Leading the loose gully above/behind The Fin and just below the summit block.
Shirley approaching the top of the loose gully on pitch 15.
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