Sharkfin Tower, August 26, 2006
Full up on breakfast gelato and road-dusted cherry tomatoes, we left the trailhead at 6:30 and made it into Boston Basin by 8. The place was quiet, not a soul around. We wondered where all the other climbers were. No one visible anywhere in the basin, on Forbidden Peak, or on Sahale.
We followed the trail until leaves the moraine and traverses towards Forbidden, and continued straight on a smaller path. I think this way is quicker than following slabs and scree from where the trail enters Boston Basin. We reached the glacier below Sharkfin Col about two and a half hours after leaving the car.
Ed decided not to bring crampons. Fortunately, the ice on the Quien Sabe glacier was completely avoidable, so we avoided the scene I had conjured in my head, where I would be tediously belaying him up some 10 degree bare ice as we inched our way toward the approach gully. Trying to hold a fall, my crampons would then lever off my running shoes and I would start sliding. We would slide a few hundred feet down low angle ice, being gouged by embedded rocks, until we came to rest, him on a pile of boulders, and me wedged into a little crevasse. We would be rescued by Mountaineers who would chide Ed for going cramponless on a glacier in August. There's more to the story I imagined, but enough is enough.
Apparently "the gully" to Sharkfin Tower melts out and becomes deeply moated by mid summer. An alternative is to take the ugly scree gully that leads to the Sharkfin Col bypass, and then head right on the screen slopes below the peak. Ed thought we should check out "the gully" anyway.
An easy walk along the glacier brought us to many "obvious gullies" - "Hmm... is it that one? That looks hard high up." "It might be this one around the corner.". Finally we saw an easy gully with old footprints leading to it. There was no moat and it was easy to get off the snow.
"The gully" was ludicrously more pleasant than the one near Sharkfin Col. There is some loose debris and boulders, but much of it is pleasant 3rd class scrambling on solid rock. Exiting the gully involved some interesting route-finding.
We followed dirt and scree to the col below Sharkfin's southeast ridge. About four hours from the car to here. Ed was excited to take the first lead, to make up for his disastrous performance on the last climb we did. Meanwhile, I shivered at the belay. I was wearing all my clothing. Despite the forecasted 14500ft freezing level, it was COLD!
Finally it was my turn. The pitch had some moves that seemed harder than 5.0 to me. Wow, I must really be out of practise!
I took the next pitch, which was by far the most fun. I was all scared, but it turned out to be easy, exposed solid climbing. It was over too quick - I would like to climb a mountain that has 10 of these pitches. Ed led the final pitch which traverses to the summit.
Yay, we did it.
Now... how do we get down? The direct way down was not enticing, since our up route was mostly on a ridge. We could see a series of rap slings on the sheer south face, but none within initial reach of our single rope. Not really wanting to "explore" our way down, we decided to descend the way we came up.
It kind of sucked, especially rapping the second pitch, which is on a ridge - the fall-line drops way off to the right. Confidence was not helped by the fact that Ed's wrist watch strap had broken, and he was now holding it in his mouth, and he looked like some kind of retarded guy with a retainer (that may not be PC, but that's what I thinking in my head anyway). Many shenanigans ensued, including a safety issue I was causing, but which Ed only realized upon further reflection driving home on I-5. When it came time to pull our rope, it stuck hard just before one of the ends would have gone through the rap ring. I immediately yarded on it, and as I felt it wedge even more, I simultaneously thought "Crap! Why'd I do that??".
There were some climbers approaching the peak... we thought they would be coming up the first pitch any minute. Maybe they could get it for us?
Then Ed flicked it and the rope came free. Weird since the jammed section appeared to be on the other end.
At the bottom, we talked with the other party, who were just looking around, not climbing anything. They had come up the shitty scree gully near Sharkfin Col.
We headed back down "the gully"... now being Complete Alpine Masters, we decided to downclimb it instead of rapping (it was fine). This gully is fun, as approach gullies go.
Then we did the worst part of the descent... the hot dusty hike back to the cars. Plod plod plod, boring boring boring - ouch I'm getting stung in my back! - plod plod plod, boring boring boring...
Hummels: I need my lightweight axe back! I felt like I was carrying a steel telephone pole on this trip.