The First Foray: Climbing the Chadwick-Bowman on Granite Peak, Part IV

The north face of Granite Peak in August 2008. The Chadwick-Bowman Route goes directly up the face, just left of the main pillar.

The north face of Granite Peak in August 2008. The Chadwick-Bowman Route goes directly up the face, just left of the main pillar.

Procrastination isn’t usually my thing, but it’s been a rough first half of the year on a couple different fronts and I haven’t been too stoked to finish the story. Here it is though – the final chapter, and the conclusion of one of the defining adventures of my life. I’ll move it to the “Stories” tab in a few weeks, but you can find the earlier chapters there now if you haven’t read them already.

Loren traversing on the first roped pitch.

Loren traversing on the first roped pitch.

0740 on August 26, 2008

A faint shout reached my ears, but the words were torn away by the gusting wind. I looked down, my eyes following the gentle arc of the rope to where my partner was climbing almost sixty meters below me. We had been simul-climbing the moderately technical rock face to save time and stay warm, but now I could faintly make out the word “belay” as he continued moving towards me. I shrugged. The terrain ahead didn’t seem difficult enough to merit the safety of belayed climbing, but Loren was more experienced and maybe he knew something I didn’t.

I placed two solid cams in a hand-sized crack to my right and used a pair of clove hitches on our twin climbing ropes to anchor myself safely to the wall. Loren seemed to be almost running up the pitch, and it was all I could do to keep up with him as I pulled the slack rope through my belay device. He reached me just a couple minutes later, breathing hard.

“Give me the gear,” he said in a flat voice between breaths.

I started to unclip the remaining pieces of protection from my gear loops, handing them over to him one at a time as he arranged the nuts and cams on his harness.

“Are we belaying from here?” I asked. “It doesn’t look that hard for the next bit.”

Loren didn’t look up. “You’re moving too fucking slow, Bambi,” he said as he continued clipping gear around his waist. “I want to get up and off this thing before a storm rolls in. Slings?”

I ducked my head and pulled the tangle of slings off my shoulder without saying a word. I was embarrassed, furious, and surprised. I thought that I had been moving quickly and confidently, running it out between pieces as much as I dared and placing just enough gear to keep us from going to the ground in the event of a fall. I kept my mouth shut and focused on rearranging the anchor to account for an upward pull if Loren peeled off the rock above me.

Following Loren's lead two pitches below the ridge.

Following Loren’s lead two pitches below the ridge.

“You’re on belay,” I said through clenched teeth as he looked at me. I huddled into the rock as he moved swiftly up the blocky terrain above us. The sun’s rays had not yet kissed the wind-blown north wall, and I couldn’t feel my feet anymore.

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“Ok, climb!” came the shout from the ridge forty meters above me. I couldn’t see Loren, but I was eager to get off this shadowy face and into the warmth of the sunlight. I disassembled the anchor with numb fingers and made a few tentative moves upwards. After a moment’s pause, the two ropes snapped tight against my harness, and I knew my partner was paying attention. I jammed bloodied fists into the wide crack above me and worked my feet upwards, hating the weight of my pack and craving a hot drink.

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We stood together on the tiny summit block, arms thrown around each other’s shoulders. The sun had disappeared behind clouds that had materialized seemingly out of nowhere, but at least the wind had died. I was filled with a contentment unlike any I had ever experienced, and I felt closer to Loren at that moment than I had ever felt with anyone else in my life. Thoughts of the descent lingered at the edge of my mind, but I was determined to be fully present in the moment at hand. I looked over at my partner.

On the summit block of Granite Peak after a seven hour ascent of the Chadwick-Bowman.

On the summit block of Granite Peak after a seven hour ascent of the Chadwick-Bowman.

A final summit shot before starting the descent.

A final summit shot before starting the descent.

“We did pretty good, huh?”

Loren grinned. “Yeah, Bambi, that wasn’t too bad. Still gotta get down, but I’ve done the east ridge descent before and it’s not hard.”

I nodded, feeling physically drained but emotionally charged. I gazed out at the view of mountains and glaciers for a minute before glancing over at him once more.

“Again sometime? And soon?”

He looked back at me for a moment before a slow smile spread across his face.

“Yeah. Yeah, I think we could do that.”

Going Horizontal – Surf the Murph Ultra

The subtitle for my blog boldly declares the following:

A repository for thoughts, reports, pictures, and opinions about going vertical.

However, I haven’t really climbed since my ice climbing adventures to Switzerland and Canada in February and March, unless you count my Memorial Day Weekend misadventures in Washington. Oh, I’ve tied in at the climbing gym a few times, and I have lapped a few familiar pitches at Taylor’s Falls, but the desire just isn’t there right now. I know the reasons – there are two of them, and they’re both personal and likely wouldn’t be considered rational by most. The last few times I’ve thought about packing my rope and rack for a day of jamming and crimping, I either felt nauseous or my eyes starting misting. I know myself well enough not to force it, and I needed a distraction in the meantime…something to keep me busy, un-fat, and something that gives me time and space to think.

BASE jumping was an option, but I don’t have the money for it right now. I’m SCUBA certified and there is some great diving in Lake Superior, but that’s not a great hobby for maintaining physical fitness. Mountain biking would require a financial investment that I don’t want to make at this point, so I settled on training for and running a race. Well, actually a marathon. An ULTRA-marathon. A goddamned thirty-one mile trail run on October 24th.

The course map for the Surf the Murph 50K ultra.

The course map for the Surf the Murph 50K ultra.

Here’s the problem: I’ve never run a race before, and I hate running.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the runner’s high after a long run, and I really appreciate the scenery when I’m running with (and slightly behind) an attractive female partner. I’m in decent shape, and I can fire off six miles without trying too hard. But the act of running itself? I hate it. I get bored easily, and I can’t stand listening to music when I run – it messes with my pace. I have rickety knees already, and I’m not sure what a three month training plan and a fifty kilometer trail run is going to do to them.

I wasn’t going to sign up for it at all, but then I had a bit of an epiphany. Don’t laugh, but this thought came while I was reading The Oatmeal’s excellent comic book The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances. He talks in the book about running being a form of practiced stoicism, and how the pain lends perspective to the problems and complications of everyday life. He writes about running to the point where the world seems to stand still and questions of why seem to melt away into insignificance.

The last few months have been wonderful in ways, but completely shitty in others. I lost two people I love dearly, one to death and one for reasons I still can’t understand fully. I could use some perspective, and some silence from the constant internal barrage of self-doubt and questioning. I crave clarity, and when I run the pictures seem a little less fuzzy. Things seem simpler, clearer, more decipherable. Maybe this is a knee-jerk reaction, and maybe I won’t even finish the damn thing. But I’ll pass out on the trail trying, and who knows – maybe I’ll find some answers along the way.

Sidenote: I know some of you are distance runners, and I clearly am not. Any tips or advice on training, pace, nutrition, cross-training, injury prevention, hydration, etc. would be greatly appreciated.