About halfway between Leavenworth and Seattle, Washington along US-2 West is a little...
let me try again..
tiny podunk town; where the only building aside from a tour service and city hall is a gas station/Asian barbecue restaurant/post office/grocery store...
and is also home to some gargantuan granite cliffs.
So, naturally; we were there to climb.
Now, before I get started reliving this little gem of an adventure; let me just tell you that Russ and I have NEVER had a successful multi-pitch experience. Why? We don't know. We're great partners in all other aspects of our life, but for some reason multi-pitches do us in when we are together. Seperate:fine, dandy. Together: disaster and tears.
So, with that in mind...enjoy my elaboration on, yet another, failed multi-pitch epic.
We get in to Index around 3, just as things are starting to think about cooling off, we had our climb all picked out, something easy--with our horrible track record with multi-pitches, we knew we were already pushing our luck,so we kept the grade low.
We scoured out a place to camp that night, next to a hippy van that looked like it had been established in the 70's and passed down by great-grand-hippy to his love child's, love child.
We got to the cliff base around 4:30 with plenty of light and slightly cooler rock. Perfect timing. A British husband and wife were just starting the first pitch on the climb we were looking at when we arrived, so we chatted with the wife and watched them climb. The wife had a bit of difficulty on the start of the second pitch and again towards the top where a slanted hand crack ascended to the anchors. Her troubles worried me a little bit, but at that point, I was sick of getting eaten by mosquitoes and just wanted out of the brush, so I assured Russ I was good to go, and harnessed up to belay.
After a tricky, stemmy, slopey start; Russ flew up the first pitch, out of sight over a ledge and called 'off belay' when he went in direct to the anchors. I yelled back ok, and he began pulling the rope. When I had the end in my hand I gave it a tug and told him I had the end, so I began tying in but he kept pulling the rope. Again, I tugged and told him I had the end and to hold on, but he pulled the rope faster.
Confused and fed up with being eaten alive by carnivorous insects, I let go of the rope and sat down in exasperation. A few minutes later Russ called down in a tentative voice "uh...are you ok?"
"Yea, just fine. Do your thing."
Mayhaps my retort was a little bit snarky and pouty, but how can I really remember when I was getting destroyed by swarms of blood suckers and deafened by trains that ran past literally every 10 minutes.
Russ rapped down with a confused look on his face and checked again if I was ok and asked why I didn't second the climb. I informed him of his hasty rope pulling and he informed me that he was unable to hear me because of the trains and their continuing echo above the treeline.
Really, really, wanting to be a good sport, I insisted we try the route again and go for the top anchors. Unsure of the difficulty at the start of the climb (let's face it, I'm a n00b) Russ insisted I top rope the first pitch just for fun, to both of our surprise, I had no difficulty with the start and flew up the first half of the climb.
I came to the back door of the deepest depths of Mordor. For reals kids, it was freaky.
The temperature was somewhere in the mid 80's outside, but from this deep, mossy, crevice came the stench of rotting flesh carried on an icy wind that blasted out of the earth and instantly gave me goose bumps. The air coming out of there couldn't have been any warmer than 50 degrees. It was chilling in the creepiest of ways.
Freaking myself out with all the ungodly things that could drudge their way up from the dark stench of this abyss I scampered away and up over the ledge to the anchors.
After rappelling back to Russ off of some giant metal anchors left over from when there had been a surrounding rock quarry, we set up to climb again, this time to the top. Russ flies up the pitch and I quickly follow (holding my breath and staying as far as I could from the toxic freeze chamber) and we get set up for a comfortable belay for the second pitch...
If only I had taken the deathly chill cave as an omen...