Saturday, October 18th, 2003

Northeast Buttress of Higher Cathedral Rock

One night in the dark

This is the first trip report I have ever written. Didn’t mean to make it so long, but the words just kept flowing out of my finger tips. Ricardo wrote a trip report on his 7 day solo ascent of Zodiac for his first big wall. 7 days, and his trip report has only about 4110 words. Mine, one night, 5920 words. I felt embarrassed after I found out the numbers. But it is not that easy to cut pieces out, especially when I am the one who threw in all those pieces in the first place. So bear with me. Here it is…

I sit on the ground with my back leaning against a big tree on the edge of Camp 4 parking lot. Cars driving by are tailed by a cloud of lifted dust that quickly dissipates into the air. In my hand is a big plate of cooked salmon and mixed vegetables. I chew with the satisfaction that one can only have when she is having the most delicious food in the world. I look around absorbing the bright morning sun light. Allen sits right next to me. On his dirt covered face, I see the same contentment. I look down and see a few holes in my pants among tens of black stains from burnt tree branches and a few blood stains that have started fading into brownish dots. They form an interesting pattern in my tan-colored pants. I look up smiling. Life is good.

It is around 10am. 26 hours earlier, Ian dropped Allen and me off near El Capitan meadow, where we set off for our climb of the day, Northeast Buttress of Middle Cathedral. This is a Grade IV 5.9 climb, “possibly the best long 5.9 in the (Yosemite) valley” (SuperTopo). 8am was by no means an early start, although every beta I read about this climb suggested early start. “why bother?” I renckoned. I was never a morning person; plus I had the confidence that Allen and I would have no trouble finishing the climb in 7-8 hours. Out of 11 hours of light ahead of us, that should give us enough time in approach and descend.

We hiked up leisurely stopping occasionally to take off jackets and have sips of water. It was all uphill following a climber’s trail, which turned into a path through a talus field marked by carins here and there. From the approach, we could see a climber leading up the first pitch. Good, that meant by the time we got to the base of the climb, that party should have been long gone. The weather was perfect. Nothing would slow us down.

SuperTopo gave the approach 1 hour, and that was exactly how long it took us to get to the base. I had always been a big fan of SuperTopo, and now I was even bigger. Nobody was in sight at the base, so we did not feel any urgency to jump onto the climb. We took our time racking up, answering nature’s call, pre-hydrating… By the time when I started leading the easy first pitch, it was already 9:45am. Never an early start… never.

After some 3rd / 4th class scrambling and sections of 5.6 climbing, I reached a huge comfortable ledge. Looking at the topo in my hand, I was confused. There was supposed to be a bolted belay at 165th feet. What I saw on this ledge was just a couple of slings looping around an upper corner of a rock. Looking up, I couldn’t see a better belay ledge. Hm, should I stop here? “How much rope left?” I called out to Allen. “5 feet.” Oops, I had no choice but stop my first pitch right here. Supertopo was wrong then. The Supertopo fan who just grew bigger suddenly shrank a little bit. Allen quickly joined me me at the ledge. I looked at my watch. The first pitch took us less than 30 minutes. Not bad.

Allen continued up on the second pitch, which was concluded with a 5.8 wide section. It was in this section I started having a taste of this “sustained, steep, and physical” climb as described by Supertopo. Occasionally, I could hear the climbers above us. It surprised me because I thought they would have been way ahead of us. When I was following up on the fourth pitch, I could see them at the fifth belay to the left of us. That really surprised me. But I hid my surprise and gave them a big smile and friendly wave. All the climbers belong to the same family.

Later we got to learn their names were Eric and Nathan, two young guys from southern California. Eric was the stronger of the two and he was leading every pitch. They had been climbing for a few years, but did not have much experience climbing in the valley. This was the second long climb Eric ever got on in the valley besides Snake Dike.

The fifth pitch was a horizontal traverse to the left. When Allen reached the fifth belay, Eric was on the 6th pitch. I could hear him groaning from a distance. The fifth pitch was rated 5.6, but I would argue the mental challenge on this pitch had to be greater than 5.6. The last move was accomplished by locking up fingers in a positive but sharp horizontal up-facing dip, smearing your right foot on the wall, and reaching out the left foot to the far left side until it touches the slope on a giant flake that attaches to the wall and forms the fifth belay station. If the follower takes a fall at this dicey delicate move, he will be going for a big swing into the flake. On the other hand, if everything goes well (that is to say if your left leg is long enough), it is a very enjoyable traverse. I enjoyed this traverse.

Nathan left the fifth belay seconds before I reached there. Allen and I sat there watching him above us. He was groaning, cursing, and hanging from time to time. A patch of cloud overcast my heart — we would be slowed down. I knew Allen had the same concern. We looked down seeing two climbers below us. While we were waiting at the fifth belay, they reached the fourth belay before the traverse. Despite the worries in our mind, we chatted with them cheerfully. They were from Alaska and Utah respectively going on a road trip. From what we heard, they were very strong climbers. They decided to rappel down seeing the party ahead of us making slow progress. Their departure sent Allen and me back to our worries.

We decided to wait a little longer after the leader set off for the seventh pitch. The 6th pitch was only 80 feet while the 7th was supposed to be 165 feet and also rated 5.9 but with wide sections. It would be harder than the 6th pitch. The 6th belay, from what we could see, was a tiny little stance for a hanging belay. So we waited observing Eric fighting his way up.

To rap or not? The question kept circling in my mind. In the back of my mind, I knew clearly that rappelling was the smart thing to do. We had two 60 meter ropes with us, and there was a rap anchor at every belay below us. If we went down, we would be back to the road in light. But I also knew that I would regret later because rappelling meant bailing…. And bailing? Wasn’t there an equal sign between bailing and failure?

I had been reading mountaineering and climbing literature during the past year after I picked up climbing. The successful stories had always impressed me. But what impressed me more was the “failure” stories of those people who turned around within 100 yards from the summit only because their partner ran out of oxygen or they had doubts on their own conditions. As a matter of fact, in my mind those people earned even bigger victories by overcoming their desire for success and disappointment in failure. That could not be achieved without a strong and determined willpower. I had always wanted that willpower.

But when I was sitting on that 5th belay, I had no such willpower. Those stories did not came across my mind a single time. All I could think of was if we went down, we would regret not finishing the route, but if we continued up, there was still a chance that we could finish it in light. I guess Allen had the same hope in his mind. We decided to go up. After waiting for nearly an hour, I happily set off leading the sixth pitch. Although the previous party had a hard time on that pitch, because of my thin fingers and small hands, I found it working perfectly for me. Soon I finished the pitch and joined Nathan at the tiny stance who was waiting for Eric to belay him up. This was the first time I spent time with him side by side, and I could see uncomfortableness and exhaustion written on his face. Allen waited until Nathan left this belay and came up and joined me. This was a hanging belay with a couple of slings looping through two fixed pins. A rap ring hang in the middle. Allen called up to Eric who was belaying at the 7th belay “Is there rap anchor up there?” and the answer was “there is only one fixed nut here.” So where we were right now was the last chance to rappel. We had to make a decision. Allen asked Eric “how does the rest of the route look?” and he responded cheerfully “Oh, it’s a cruiser looking from here.” Hm, that sounded really promising. Allen looked at me and said “ok, we’ll go up.” We had about 4 hours of light left for the 5 pitches in front of us.

Good, that was exactly what I was thinking. Allen waited until Nathan disappeared behind the roof above us and started leading up. The seventh pitch was long and sustained, so was the eighth. Both got wide sections and chimney (even a squeeze chimney section). To me, it was by no means a cruiser, but it was too late to discover that. We could no longer find ledges as large, flat, and comfortable as those in the first few pitches. Instead we always found ourselves cramping together on a small stance. Sometimes, we had to wait until Nathan left to move our anchor to a better place, which further slowed us down. The sun was sinking. The shadow of the ridge line kept rising on the wall across valley from us. It could have been a spectacular view if we had not been in a rush. But I was not in a mood to admire the view; we were running out of time.

Allen linked the ninth pitch, another traversing pitch, together with the tenth pitch. There he caught up with Eric. When I got on the tenth pitch, Nathan was somewhere above me. It was almost dark. I should get my head lamp out from my backpack, but I decided to keep going hoping to race the fading light. I wished I could run up the wall, but I had to fight my way up on the sustained lieback. It was only rated 5.8, but the slippery wall, scattered by loose moss, made it feel harder. Only if I had enough light to see where to put my feet, I thought. My feet kept slipping. Finally both came off, and I fell until the rope caught me. I felt frustrated. This was the first (and the only) fall I took on this climb. I was disappointed. But there was no time for dwelling in the disappointment. I reached out my hands into the crack, pulled harder with my arms, put my feet on the wall, pressed harder with my legs, and I moved as fast as I could blindly following the crack. When I got to the belay crowed with the three guys, the last trace of the light was gone.

Eric asked Allen to lead for them. He was too tired to fight the last pitch, which included a wide section, a 5.9 roof, a 5.8 chimney section. Allen took over a couple of big pieces from Eric, switched on his headlamp, and stepped up into the darkness. He was happy that he had the big gear from Eric. They came handy in the wide sections on that last pitch in that dark. After he pulled through the roof, I could no longer see his light. I felt sorry for him because he was up there searching an unfamiliar route in complete darkness alone. On the other hand, I felt lucky that I had company of the two other guys. We kept chatting maintaining a cheerful spirit. They were grateful that Allen could lead the last pitch for them in dark; otherwise, they would have to bivy out there over night on this uncomfortable ledge not even large enough for sitting down. Nathan broke into hard breathing every now and then when his right arm cramped. I could see his right hand curled up and he was not able to flatten it without pain. Eric constantly shifting his weight from one foot to the other, which did not seem to ease up the pain in his feet. They certainly did not expect this climb to be this physically demanding.

The only indication of Allen’s activity above us was in the rope. Sometimes I needed to feed the rope quickly and sometimes I had to take it in. It looked like he was going up and down looking for the proper route. After seemingly forever, I heard him call “off belay.” My heart settled — all was well. After a short while, I was climbing. As we decided, I would unclip the protections from my rope and clip them to Eric’s rope. He would then climb up unclipping the protections from his rope and clipping them to the rope that he would drag for Nathan. This way, they could have gear to pull on if needed, and all the protections were always clipped to one rope so we would not lose them in the dark. I panted on this burly pitch making a steady, but slow, progress. Sometimes, I had to drag my backpack on my daisy chain when going through chimney section, and sometimes I had to carry it on my shoulder so it did not get caught in the narrow crack below me. When I was in the chimney, it was hard to see any potential footholds below me, so I kicked and scratched the wall with my feet and inched my way up. When I was over the top chimney section, only a few feet shy of the top where Allen was, I cheered out aloud. I could see the big hand holds above me, and I flew up. Yes, I was on the top. I was done with the climb! I pressed down the illumination button on my watch and it was 20:30 already.

First thing I did when my hands were free was pulling out the walkie-talkie from my backpack. Our friends were hanging out in El Cap meadow, and the reception was very good. Ian picked up the radio and told us there would be water, cooked dinner, and beer waiting for us at their Camp 4 site when we came down.Oh yeah… food… water… Who could live without friends, I thought.

Eric came up pretty fast with Allen belaying him. Then Allen and I scrambled up to a flatter spot and Eric belayed Nathan. We finished a bottle of Gatorade, our last bottle of water supply. Kicking off our climbing shoes, we sat down cuddling warmly together leaning on the rock behind our back staring at the starry sky. It was a beautiful night. I felt content. There always seeming to be things to get done, we had barely had chance to simply sit down and chat like this. Right now, there were no unpaid bills on the table, no un-replied emails in the computer, no un-answered phone calls, and no dishes in the kitchen sink, there were only us and the rock around us. I enjoyed the simplicity of this moment and closeness between us.

Eric and Nathan joined us. The guys sorted out gear, sat down for a brief rest, and finished their last bottle of water. We would only have half an hour of way down to reach our stashed water bottle near the base of the climb, and then it would be another hour of hiking down the trail to hit the road. I could almost smell the water and feel the softness of my sleep bag. I grinned.

The descend started with scrambling among boulders, but it was not too bad. Allen and Eric followed the trail carefully, and Nathan and I followed them carefully. Never being good at orientation and avoiding responsibilities, I gave up decision making in any type of route finding long time ago. From time to time, I could see carins by the trail, which made me feel reassured. I felt grateful to those climbers who went through the trouble stopping here and there, looking for rocks of right sizes and piling up the carins just for the people behind them. Obviously, they did not need the carins to guide them, but they knew some climbers to come would need those, and I was one of them.

At one point, we came to this flat area where there was no one obvious trail (we were on the ridge top), and there was no carin in the limited sight lit by our LED headlamps. Allen and Eric walked around and found one seemingly well traveled trail going down hill, so down we went. The moon was not out yet. It was as dark as it could get. I could only feel that we were going down hill by the motion of my legs, but I couldn’t see where I was going and what was around us other than the 5 feet in front me. I hadn’t seen carins for a while, but the trail was well established. Oh wait, maybe I spoke too soon. We reached a field of fallen trees that blocked the trail we had been following. But we could still see the path underneath the trunks and branches. It was not what we would like, but hey, descending in dark was not what we would like either. We accepted it. Reaching out our hands to push away the branches and lifting legs really high to step over the fallen trunks, we continued going down hill. The path we were following deteriorated fast, and before we realized it we were in the middle of bushes. Obviously we were off trail. Ok, the guys decided we had to go back up and find the good trail and start over, so we started going uphill through the bushes. The path we followed coming down was no longer visible. Going uphill constantly took the energy and strength out of me. I was out of breath, hungry, and dehydrated. I was frustrated with the bushes in my way. They made every step so hard. After a long time of the ordeal, our hope subsided. We could no longer find the good trail where we came from, and going uphill was tiring for everyone.

At this moment, what seemed reasonable was we would just go downhill anyways because that was where we eventually wanted to be. We might not be able to follow a trail, but we could break a trail. The chance was if we kept going down, we might come across the climbers’ trail at some point or hit the road. I did not participate in the decision making, but I respected the guys’ decision. They were so brave, I thought. I gave up analyzing already. Analyzing was too hard at this moment when there was nothing in my stomach. Yes, trails were built by human beings, weren’t they? I might never be a first ascentionist, but today I might be one of the first descentionists. I tried to cheer myself up, but no smile emerged on my face. I was too exhausted to move any unnecessary muscles.

Down we went again. This time, the path going down looked totally strange… Oh wait, actually there was no path. I stepped over low branches, crawled under high branches, and swam through bushes. The coiled rope on my back kept being hooked on branches and pulled me backwards. My shoelaces kept being pulled loose. I ignored them. Nothing stopped me. I didn’t dare to lose sight of the lights from the guys’ lamps in front of me. Darkness was too scary. As I moved down, I started hearing water. It became louder and louder. It sounded almost like a water fall or a big river. I didn’t remember there was a water fall or a river near the climb, but what did I remember? My memory was notorious to people who knew me well. I kept quiet. Everyone was quiet. The only sound was from the water below us and the constant snapping when the dead branches broke under our weight.

Suddenly, the water sounded really loud, and I felt the cool breeze coming from the source of that sound. It had to be a water fall. It seemed that we were standing very close to a cliff. Eric picked up a rock and threw it over the edge, after a while, we heard it landed and splashed. The cliff was tall. Allen skirted the cliff to see if we could get access to the water to quench our thirst, but had no luck. We couldn’t go any further down and it was too dangerous to walk around the cliff. We seemed to be at a dead-end.

At that moment, a light bulb lit up in Allen and Eric’s heads. Ahhh! We were on the wrong side the ridge! We were behind (I mean, BEHIND!) the cathedral rocks. That was why we came close to the water; it was the Bridalveil Fall! We might still be able to find a way down, and hit the road, but not in this dark!

Eric and Nathan started clearing out a platform. They were too tired to move on. Poor guys. They were already exhausted on the climb, and now they had to go through all this. I looked around, there was only this 3ft x 3ft spot behind two small boulders barely enough for 2. Being close to the waterfall and river, I could feel the cool breeze, which felt pretty nice since I was sweating inside my non-breathable windbreaker while fighting through the bushes. But Allen was right, it could get chilly once we lay down. He decided to go up to search for a better resting spot. In that darkness and in that non-friendly environment, nothing could break us up. So I followed him loyally.

The bushes seemed to have grown even thicker during the past couple hours. As soon as we moved through the bushes, they closed up and the trace of us passing through disappeared into dark behind us immediately. Our existence in this mountain was only marked by the dim light from our head lamps.

My legs felt very weak. My heart pounded fast. I needed to pant due to exhaustion, but I kept my mouth closed to preserve the moist if there was any left. There was this bitterness in my mouth. I just learned from Joe Simpson’s book, Touching the Void, that this was a sign of dehydration. I didn’t really need the sign to know I was dehydrated, and the bitterness in my mouth made me feel sick. My head felt heavy and empty. There were too many dead branches around and they broke under my desperate pulling. I fell all over the place. The branches kept poking into my body, sometimes they missed my eyes by millimeters. And my shin bones were knocked on by rocks and bigger branches that I was too weak to step over. I tried to think of a more miserable moment in my life to make myself feel better, but I couldn’t. But I did know that I was in a situation way better than what Joe Simpson had gone through, so the thoughts of giving up was immediately erased from my mind with shame at the split second they emerged.

It seemed very strange to me that during the numerous times of trekking up and down, back and forth, we never came across a single place where we had passed by earlier. How could that be? The mystery brought the memory of that movie, Blair Witch Project, back to me. Could it happen that we were trapped in the mountain for ever and would never get out? Could it be that there was no way out? A chill ran down my spine. I was scared. “Silly. That was just a movie.” I talked to myself silently and shake my head to get rid of that thought. I looked up. Where was Allen? I couldn’t see him. I was in this dark alone! Now I got panic. “Allen…” I called out with a weak voice. “Yeah. I’m over here. I’ll wait for you.” Oh, he didn’t sound far away. I looked at the thick bushes between me and the source of his voice, took a deep breath, and dived into the green ocean. I didn’t know how long we had been moving up after we left the two other guy, but it seemed forever. We just could not find a single flat spot in this ocean of bushes and branches. We started seeing the ridge line again. It seemed so far away to me, but Allen was optimistic thinking once we reached the ridge, we could either find the right trail down or we could find a flat place to lie down. Occasionally we stopped to take a break. I crashed on the slopy ground. Oh, it felt good to lie down! I wish I did never need to get up. But we got up and kept moving.

There were times when I felt a little annoyed that Allen kept getting out of my sight ahead of me, but I knew clearly I was too slow compared to his pace. He was very patient with me. I had only one coiled rope on my shoulder and he carried the other rope and a backpack stuffed with a full rack. I felt guilty for the unfair sharing of the load, especially after he did most of the hard leading. But I didn’t dare to offer otherwise fearing being even slower. Well, I did offer to take the other rope once, but he carried on. I was grateful that he was being strong, even though I knew he felt physically weak just like I did.

It was almost 3am when we arrived at the ridge. The moon had been up and the bushes gave way to boulders, but we still could not find a trail. I didn’t dare to lose the precious elevation we just gained. Not wanting to go any further unless we knew where we were going, I asked Allen to stop and wait for the day light. We found an open area covered in dirt and pebbles and sat down. Allen looked frustrated. He cursed quietly and then turned around to me, “I’m sorry. I’m just frustrated with the situation.” I knew he was holding himself responsible for this situation. I felt bad for him. He did what he could and now he was blaming himself. I wrapped my hands on his face lightly and whispered, “it’s okay. It’s just a tough night.” I felt extremely calm, maybe because we were suddenly exposed in the moon light, or because I knew that it would be only another few hours because the sun came out, or because we were out of the endless bushes, or because we decided to stop moving and sit down, or simply because I realized that Blair Witch Project was just a movie. I was happy that I had Allen right beside me when I was in this seemingly no-man land.

We flaked one rope on the ground as our bed and used the other coiled rope as a pillow. We cuddled together and fell asleep immediately. It must be really soon that I woke up to shivering. My hip bone was painful pressing on the rope and the ground. I pulled over my harness to cover my exposed arm, shifted my body a little, squeezed closer into Allen and drifted back to sleep. But we constantly woke up to toss around hoping to find a better position. The shivering became so bad that lying there became an ordeal. But it was still dark and I needed rest. I lay there thinking that I would eat lots of fatty food after I got out. I wanted to put on ten, no twenty, pounds of weight. I needed the insulation and cushion. Finally we could no longer bear the shivering any more. It was about 5:30am. We could see the sky behind the far ridge was already lightening up. Our hope rose with the sun.

Not wanting to make another mistake by going down a wrong path before light, we moved about slowly just enough to keep ourselves warm. I felt pretty good after the two hours of rest. My head was no longer as cloudy as before, but I still could not make out where exactly we were and where we should go. Allen scouted around and he believed that we should be headed toward a notch some distance (1000 feet?) away in the ridgeline, then we would go down on the other side of the ridge from there. Since he was the only one who was still able to analyze the situation, I gave him my trust.

Although we could most of the time see the destination, the traverse along the ridge was not easy. To avoid the giant and steep boulders on the ridgeline, we had to move down and make the traverse through bushes. I could see many burnt branches hit by lightening lying about. Sometimes I avoided them, and sometimes I pulled on them. Feeling weak, my progress was slow. I tried not to let anything stop me and tried to take the most straightforward path I could find. There were some flies circling around a cluster of bushes that seemed to be in my way. I reached out my hands and pushed open a narrow path in front of me and stepped into the bushes. The flies started circling around me, which annoyed me. And suddenly I felt tens of needles poked into my scalp and the front of my neck where my windbreaker opened up. I got stung! They were not flies after all! Allen told me later they were yellow jackets. The constant pain in my scalp and my neck made me scream. I started running towards Allen with my hands swatting around helplessly and uselessly and tears swelling up in my eyes. I ran to him because he was my only hope to rescue me from this despair. When I got to him, I was still screaming, but I looked up to him through my tear filled eyes seeking help. He looked calm and ordered me “take off your helmet.” I kept screaming and waving my hands not being able to comprehend what he was saying. “Take off your helmet,” he repeated. The words started to make sense and I took it off with my trembling hands. Immediately I could hear more yellow jackets swirling around me, around us. He slapped those creatures from my hair and they kept coming back, and I could see that some of them started attacking him, and I felt bad. He kept swatting my hair and my jacket and ordered me to keep moving to get out of their territory. It didn’t take long to lose them. We stopped running, and I still felt sharp pain in my neck. I took off my windbreaker and flipped open the collar of my t-shirt and a couple of yellow jackets fell out. The nightmare seemed to be over, but I felt awful. My scalp and neck hurt continuously. It felt like there were still tens of needles constantly poking.

I just heard someone’s dog died of bee stings recently. Would I die too? I raised my question to Allen. He said “no, you would have had the anaphylactic shock if you were allergic to it, so you are fine.” “But I feel terrible. I might still die.” “Ok, you will die. I’ll miss you then.” I knew he was trying to enlighten me up, but I had no sense of humor at that time. The tears again rushed up to my eyes. I mumbled “I don’t want to die so young.” Allen smiled and pulled me into his arms. His warm and reassuring hug finally calmed me down. Another short traverse through some bushes led us to the notch and there we were with the higher cathedral spires to our right and middle cathedral rock to our left.

Going down the gully was slow as my legs were really tired and weak and they trembled every time I bent low to step down a boulder. I tried not to make any mistake. It would make things worse if I sprang my ankles or twisted my legs. Slow but no events, which was good. Allen went back to the base to fetch the other backpack we left there that had a full quartz of water in. That was our immediate hope. I lost trail again, but it was fine as long as I was make progress down the gully. And Allen and I could still hear each other, that made me feel secure. When we merged back together, he handed me the water bottle. We finished it in two minutes. We also got the radio contact with Ian. He sounded happy to hear we were both fine. By the time when I got down to the road, he was already there waiting for us. It was almost 10am already. We poured water down our throat and then jumped, actually crawled, into the car, and drove back to Camp 4 to meet other friends.

So here we are bathing in the bridge sun shine. Ian and other friends have set off for the day. After we finish eating and a couple pots of tea, we drive to the Yosemite village. Still feeling the stings in my neck and scalp and still not wanting to die young, I decide to go get some information regarding bee stings from rangers. The ranger at the information center diplomatically assures me that one allergic to bee stings would have much more dramatic reaction but keeps pointing me to the medical clinic. I feel good after that visit despite the pain. In the village store, we bump into Nathan and Eric. They stayed down near the river until morning and hiked up to the notch and found their way back. Great! Everyone is safe. We cheerfully thank each other for the help on the climb and miserable descend. Then Allen and I drive to Curry Village. After a nice and long hot shower, I come out and sit down on the bench. I am so glad to see the tourists around. The world around feels so alive. Allen appears from the men’s shower room. He is all clean and shaved. I notice the t-shirt he is wearing has a smiley face in the middle with three words underneath: Life is good. I look up smiling.

Mei racking up for the first pitch.

We killing time

Allen anxiously monitoring the slow progress of the party above

Looking around, we see the higher cathedral spires and the valley

Mei meeting Nathan at the 6th belay.

Ahh ohh, I’m stuck.

Looking down from the ridge in the morning.

Still shocked by bee stings, Mei wraps herself up.