After our evening victory over Wilson Peak on Tuesday Mark and I got up at 3:45 and were hiking from Navajo Lake at 4:17 in the hopes of completing the traverse and hence my 14ers. We had inspected the route all afternoon and evening the day before and felt confidant that starting the Buttress in the dark wouldn't be a problem.
Mark scrambling at 12800ft
The climbing was great solid rock with staunch exposure at many points truly an exciting route. But as we ascended the clouds thickened more and more, at about 12900ft the sun came up but did little for our visibility.
And now you see nothing muhahahaha
It was unsettling to have 20ft visibility, we kept the climbing going in spite of small rain and sleet determined not to downclimb the Buttress. Big drops seemed endless in the white darkness of moisture.
Not totally sure where we were... we moved to what seemed like the best climbing given the conditions. It was scary the slightly wet rock made the climb become a constant meditation of mindful foot placements and handhold checks.
The solid moist rock stretched into the cloud up to the sky. We couldn't see each other most of the time, let alone see our progress on the route. We kept persevering until we could climb no higher.
The Ridge! Huzzah
We topped the ridge just to the west of what seemed like El Diente and when Mark had the summit register I was elated to know that only one peak remained!!
Register Proving we were in the right spot
Luckily we had a few minuets of calm on the Summit with just slight wind and cloud.
Rawr wet bear.
After a bit the weather turned bad again and we descended towards the notch praying for the morning sun to burn the clouds and slick snow away...
Horrid .5" of coverage
Looks like death to me!
Avoiding most exposure was necessary because the snow made every step a cognizant effort. We climbed down the short gully on the south side and started the traverse below the "Organ Pipes".
Instead of getting better the weather got worse, cloud everywhere and sleet that was drenching us fully.
Mark had a chance to climb on an Organ pipe!
I wonder what key that Organ Pipe is..?
Ohh right G major
We got to the top of the class 3 north gully and were faced with even worse weather. Both valleys were darkened with a cloud ceiling at around 12500ft.
After trying a little further on the traverse it was obvious that we had no business being that high on class 3 and 4 routes during a sleet storm. Here at 9:30 no excuses could be made about the sun burning off the storm. We were wet through and through the climbing wasn't safe, so slick and viscous. It seemed that the snow might betray us to a painful or deadly fall on some feature and the right decision was made to backtrack to the gully and get back to camp asap.
I was happy to have a gully that even when wet was easy to escape with, that being said what a terrible place to be on the mountain! As most gullies are, it was filled with loose rock that moved everywhere, horrible pieces flew all over as we simultaneously descended opposite sides of the gully. Why people would rather climb class 3 crap vs class 4 gold is beyond me. The cloud ceiling stayed constant and the rain/sleet kept us very wet.
As we moved lower down the basin the cloud kept chasing us off the MT back to camp.
Not sure our full route
About .5 mile to the tent the sky opened up and we were drenched fully once again. Back at the tents at about 11am we chose to sleep until the rain stopped. It ended up being at 5:45pm so after a long afternoon nap in the warmth of the sleeping bag we packed up and started the hike out.
I'm left with climbing Mt Wilson... going back next week!