15 JUNE 1991
Car door slams. Flashlights snap on. Feet on forest floor
push from tight-wired legs, we sprint-walk to the base of
this huge rock wall.
Dawn. Two hundred feet up. The wall is a living, moving
curtain of silverfish. As we climb up, the bugs above us
hurl themselves into space. we are engulfed in a living
downpour, a turbulent waterfall, of silverfish. In
our eyes. In our ears. In our mouths.
Eight am... we're flying. As I stretch for the distant,
tiny hold on the crux face traverse into the center
section of the wall, two parties at the bottom of the
route curse the silverfish: We smile. Should we tell them
that after 300 feet the critters are gone? Naaaah....
One of the parties backs off and leaves in fish-coated
We sip precious water.
The center section slows our pace with problem after
problem. I struggle up a poorly-protected 5.10 face,
slippery fear and the hungry void nibbling at the back of
my neck. Pat falls, later curses a chimney.
Far below, the second group can't solve the riddle of the
runout 5.10 face. They too, descend.
Sunlit sky crashes into this wall in an endless, roaring,
soundless wave in our minds.
The water is almost gone.
Two thousand feet up, the wall above looks like a full day of
climbing. Grit, dirt. Open abrasions on our elbows and
shoulders ooze plasma, crusting with the filth,
cracking, oozing, and crusting again.
We finish the water.
Bushes, jumbled rock, heat. The only moisture is the
trickle of muddy sweat into our stinging eyes.
Summit. We stumble across the brush-infested boulder slopes
in a heat-induced delirium, tongues sticking to the roofs
of our mouths. Several hours pass as we wander around in
dehydrated confusion, making no progress.
A foaming, white cascade shimmers through the heat haze
from the bottom of a distant gorge, but we turn our parched
bodies toward the summit of Higher Cathedral Rock, the
trail, and the car, which we reach at 9:30 pm.
"Hey Pat! LETS GO CLIMBING!!"