(from May 29th, 2011)
Darryl Miller talks about the history of early Alaska exploration the way my good friend Dick Paulson talks about birds. It makes the tent feel homey, the stories vast and well illustrated, and suddenly you feel inspired to get outside. Darryl has done the Muldrow glacier route on Denali 3 different times, as well as a host of other massive Alaska mega-transects, and considers it one of his finest adventures. I honestly can’t wait to get on it next month. Darryl stopped by basecamp for a few days to help out with air traffic control, and it was an awesome opportunity to hang out with one of the great climbers of the previous era.
We had another ranger patrol join us a few days ago, comprised of a ranger (Joe) and three solar power engineers (Blake, Mark, and Luke). We’ve obviously had lots to talk about. Please check out Luke’s awesome work at Peaks to Prairie Power. Last night Luke walked up to me with a grin on his face and asked “hey you wanna do Bacon ‘n Eggs tomorrow?” 10 pitches of classic climbing pioneered by Mark Twight was impossible to turn down.
“Yes” I replied without thinking. Later I came to terms with Luke about my feet. I wanted to do the route, but was scared of what ice climbing and a long day of alpine commitment would do to my feet. Last night I couldn’t really get psyched, but agreed to go with the understanding that my foot was a “known unknown.”
We went for it, leaving camp at 4:50am and were under the base of the route at 6:50am. I felt solid touring up the glacier and even a little psyched when I saw the route, but the dread never totally left the back of my head. We simul-climbed over the bergschrund until Luke ran out of screws, and I led off pitch 2, getting a long slab with a fun step at the top on pitch 2. That said, by the time the ropes came tight at the bottom of p3, I knew there was no way I could hold back the pain for another 8 pitches. I popped a pill before heading up, but each kick brought increasing pain, and Luke knew we were headed down even before he saw me from the belay.
We rapped off without incident (still getting used to rapping off v-threads I didn’t set), and I had to pop another pill before skiing back to camp. Regardless, I’m glad we took a shot at the route- the climbing and position are definitely classic, and felt like I gave the climb an honest, level effort. Based on the experience, I suspect I may not climb ice for quite some time, and I’ll need to be careful in the more technical sections of the Muldrow. I had borrowed someone else’s boots for this trip, which may or may not have been a great idea- they climbed much better than my tele-ski boots would have, but also didn’t fit so well (ed. note- my tele-ski boots were very comfortable for the rest of the trip and don’t concern me for the upcoming Muldrow expedition). Most concerning was the fact that the bunions I have not had surgery on caused me almost as much trouble as the one I recently had removed. Shit.
So the adventure continues…