Exorcising the Demons pg 2
.......It has now been over 9 years since that day in August back in 1998, and the demons of that day have haunted me
on every rock climb since then. So, in order to finally exorcise the demons I had planned on going back up to the climb
just for my own peace of mind, or maybe more like an arsonist returning to the burning building just to see the
carnage? So, as a last minute decision, I headed out on October 13th to repeat the steps of that day.
Memories play strange tricks on our minds, because I had packed my rock shoes and as a last minute decision, I left
them in the car to save weight. My memories told me the lower slabs were pretty easy and I could just scramble up
them in my mountain boots. (Mistake #1) the lower slabs turned out to be truer to the 5.5-5.6 rating we had given them
years before. Nothing too hard, a few very smooth exposed face moves and some beautiful rock to smear and friction
up--if you are wearing sticky rubber rock shoes. Stiff soled mountaineering boots changed the rules, and after a couple
of "religious" experiences 300-400 feet off the ground and some careful down climbing (Mistake #2--was history
repeating itself?) I decided the scramble up the creek bottom would be more prudent. There were still several 4th
class sections, and I began to think the climb was all I had remembered it to be, a great technical climb for a day out in
the mountains.
An hour after getting off the slabs I was standing and looking at the route where I should have died.
The route seemed to beg to be climbed, and it is still a very intriguing alpine route. After taking pictures and trying to
retrace our steps from 1998, I was once again standing at the base of the offwidth chimney looking up to the crux face
and rehearsing the moves it would take to climb the route. I could remember where I had placed gear, the features to
rest on and it all came back as a very strong memory, which seemed to scare me to death the more I thought about it.
So, I did what every climber does at that point, with sweaty palms I started up the route. The difference in this trip was
that after about 20 ft, I down climbed, looked back up the route, smiled and walked away. Then I went back to the spot
where the helicopter had taken me off the mountain and I was even more impressed at the flying skill of a life flight pilot
(who has since passed on) and silently thanked him for his abilities.
As I hiked back down the mountain, the demons remained at the climb and now I feel much more at peace about what
happened that late summer day in back in 1998.
There is still a beautiful, long, alpine rock route begging to be finished by someone younger than myself, but my
experiences with that route are over--if you decide to finish this route, just keep your eyes open for the demons which
live there.