Good girls are attracted to bad boys. Bad boys are attracted to beauty. Since Eve reached for the apple, humans have demonstrated that the forbidden exerts an irresistible temptation. Infinite Bliss sparked controversy once she was bejeweled with bolts. There are certainly other big granite walls to climb, safer, or more wild. The siren call of this wall has intrigued me from the time that the fight over her began. It was precisely because she broke the rules that she first caught my eye, and she could not be forgotten.
I needed a partner for this threesome. This partner had to be more skilled than I. My husband had to give his consent and participate in the foreplay. This was a one-time hook-up with someone you can trust for your fantasy, yet someone not in your everyday reality. It is important to keep reality and fantasy separate.
Over the July 4rth holiday, my husband and I peered into the other world. We stayed at a lovely B&B in the lap of luxury. From there, we traveled deep into the forest to seek out the rumored beauty. We chased the lass to her perch 1,100’ above the trailhead. It was like chasing the maiden goddess Diana, the huntress though her arboreal habitat. At the top of the trail, she teased with a braid of paths to several possible entrances to her chambers.
We returned the next day to explore the first chamber. She did not succumb easily, offering a mere twig for “security”. Though it was day, I searched as though it was dark, and the first pitch became a 140’ dance to the first piece of real protection. Now I could creep closer to the lady, and finally I spotted a gleaming bolt on s silky smooth face, 30’ from the small cam. Carefully caressing her face, I clipped that bolt and breathed deeply. Emboldened by the clasp, I moved up to a ledge on that smooth face. Surely the anchor would be there, and we could securely hold hands. With over 200’ of rope out, she did not yield with a peek at her anchor. I cleaned a slot to build a gear anchor, frustrated that this route purportedly covered in bolts seemed scantily clad to me. That’s when I spied the rap anchor 25’ to my right on a dirty ledge. She lured me to that earthy place.
Very relieved and gleefully, my husband joined the romp. He passed by me, not wanting to stop, blinded by the shiny object above. It was a bolt, closely followed by the anchor. With his wife encouraging him, he decided to go further. The goddess soon laughed at him, repelling his advances in hiking shoes. He paused to change into his bedroom slippers. She smiled and allowed his to go further.
My turn came, and I was somewhat intimidated by the reach for the first bolt on pitch 4. At 5’2” I often find security just inches from my reach. I blew softly on a tiny stance for my toe, and just touched the first bolt. With increasing excitement, I pirouetted from bolt to bolt on the 9 clip friction traverse and ran up to the anchor. Quickly my husband joined me. This was far enough today.
Over the summer, we sought out granite walls and smeared across granite slabs. My partner for this climb was traveling abroad and returned just before the scheduled date. Thankfully the weather Gods appeared to be smiling on us, and the forecast called for a dry, warm weather window in the Pacific Northwest.
Supposedly some hardmen from Seattle can casually stop at Starbucks, fly up the wall, and be back in town for dinner. I had no illusions about this being an easy conquest for me. This would be a full-on adventure. To increase our odds for success, we agreed on an early start, hiking the trail in the dark and shoeing up as the sun rose. While morning dew covered the leaves, the granite was mostly very dry. Nice. She is letting us start. She is capricious, so we brought small climbing packs with extra clothing.
The first 5 pitches were completed in a cloud. My partner still had never seen this wall with his own eyes. Suddenly, like a bride lifting her veil, the mist parted, and we could see the enormous wall ahead of us and the river of clouds below us.
Delighting in the beautiful granite, the first 6 pitches of slabs fell easily. My husband watched us from below. We fully expected that the flirtation on the wall would be a lively repartee up to the first 5.10 pitch, aka first base. We disappeared into the big gully where the wall steepened. Now we faced the first confusion of the day. The topo said to go up right 50 feet. We scampered up the gully and found no trace of the route, but a bit of evidence of human passage. 30 minutes was lost before my partner discovered the next shiny jewel virtually directly above the last anchor. While the beauty had many bolts, she does not wear that jewelry very conspicuously.
In my fantasies, I get to lead many of the pitches. The first dalliance in July and shorter days of September made the tactics clear for me. I would need to allow the man to take charge and follow the lead. I would need to conserve my energy to allow the team to succeed. Choose the prize or my pride. I do not like to shirk from my fair share of the work or “use a man”. This first attempt, I swallowed my pride and chose to go after the prize first.
Regrouping we arrived at pitch 7 which I feared would be a mar on the lady’s face. A run-out water runnel just doesn’t sound very appealing. The grey streak on the white granite was truly a beauty mark and provided a fun, easy romp to the anchor.
The flirtation continued in the shadows. We were loving this climb. We arrived at the bottom of pitch 11, the first 5.10 pitch, as the face emerged from the shade to the sunlight. Feet smeared onto the searing holds as the intensity of the climbing increased. My breaths came quicker.
My heart rate increased, buoyed by success on the second most difficult pitch of the climb, moderated by the anxiety about finding our way through the notorious dirty slabs to come on pitches 15 -17. I noticed that our pace was slowing, perhaps affected by the scant pro and the blazing sun. Merely standing on my feet was painful. Technique was now affected by the screaming feet, and muscles were whispering about rebellion. A seed of doubt crept into my mind.
The lady was sapping my strength. I consumed the sandwich, the gu, the electrolyte replacement jelly beans. I sucked the supply of water dry....as did my partner. I thought that route finding would be the crux, but little time was lost with route finding. We had wished for blue skies and sun earlier in the day so we could fully see the lady. Be careful what you wish for. The blazing sun was extracting a huge toll. My turn to climb was fine, but standing, sitting, hanging, merely existing at the belays allowed my body to shout out.
Finally we arrived at the crux pitch, number 19. The food and water consumed were helping now. I watched my partner caress the tiny holds and smears on the face. Perhaps we are going to complete this seduction. Even though my muscles were tamed, the searing sun made the smears on this pitch painful. I grabbed one draw, then the grabfest began. With extraordinarily poor form, I muscled, not danced, my way up the crux pitch. The lady was disgusted with this display.
Pitch 20 included “a little chimney action”. My partner showed his humanity, noting the sparse protection and awkward move ahead. Just as he went to clip into the anchor, the tag line hung up. The line was as tight as a piano string and had us singing. Somehow he managed to clip his lead line into the anchor, and we furiously tried to free the line. The lady clamped onto the far end even harder. I lowered him a few feet, but still she refused to release the rope. Lowering him further, he fought valiantly to free the rope, and it finally released. He reclimbed to the anchor and assessed the belay stance, hoping to move up to a tree which might offer a little relief from the sun. That was a sucker stance, and down he came to the bolted anchor in full sun. Precious time elapsed, and there was a hard decision to make when I thrashed my way up the chimney.
From our brilliant, sunny perch, we gazed at the fantastic views. We clearly could make the next three pitches before dark. We had talked about descending in the dark, and we were fully prepared to pay that price for such a prize. The beauty was ours to take. How badly did we want her? She wanted a higher price.
We were concerned about reversing the run out and filthy slabs in the dark. We wanted to be below pitch 14 by the time twilight faded. It was clear that the summit would require us to be searching the slabs for the bush anchor in the dark. Any issues with retrieving lines would be far more difficult in the dark. We had been out of water for a couple of hours. No one wanted to say it, but we both did. We couldn’t finish the last three pitches with the safety margin we wanted, so we enjoyed our lofty perch and admired the view. We shared an apple, and changed our shoes. This was blissful. Perhaps this wasn’t as perfect as finishing the climb. But the day was quite spectacular, and the climbing was amazing.
We changed into our approach shoes. The temptress was not quite ready to let us go. “How can you turn around after 2,200’?” she murmured? Clearly she was not used to suitors who kept their wits about them. As we began the hours of rappels, she was stunned and viciously played with my mind. “You will never get another chance, old woman. You will never find another willing partner. You are old and weak. I will not let you walk away unscathed.” There was an ugly battle on the hanging belay of the bush where the skinny line wrapped around numerous loose blocks and branches. It was absurd to struggle with a small bush and small stones. “You can’t just walk away so easily, “ she pouted. We endured the “horizontal rappel” off the small bush, through the debris field. Instead of infinite bliss, she gave us friction hell. She tossed in a few more tantrums, but consented to releasing the rope ...slowly.
A brilliant sunset was laid before us as we neared the lower slabs. The heat of the day receded, and we got into a rhythm.
She toyed with us one last time as we tried to link pitches on rappel. A miscalculation left my partner 40 feet above the next anchor station. The lady showed some mercy and a single bolt offered some safety until the rappel was moved lower. We arrived back at the packs at 11 PM, a full value day of adventure. Apparently I made an excellent choice for a partner for this adventure, and he shared the water stashed in his pack before the walk to the trailhead. With overheated feet, it took over an hour to return to the car.
Unbeknowst to us, the mountain conspired to maroon us at the end of the day. After watching us disappear onto pitch 7, my husband intended to spend a day fishing the river directly below us. He found the car battery was dead and spent most of the day hitching a ride back to town, and then hitching a ride back to the trailhead with a new battery. This wonderful husband then further demonstrated his devotion to his lady by having pizza and beer waiting at the trailhead when we popped out at midnight. The three of us sat in the forest, consumed our feast, and recounted the adventures of the day. We enjoyed the warm evening, and returned to the comfortable bed and breakfast by 2 AM.
We awoke to a rainy morning and drove home.
The first ascent team violated the rules when putting in this climb. In the ensuing controversy, the route was called a sport climb in the midst of wilderness. Let her stay or banish her from the wilderness? I see why the debate raged. She is beautiful, but she is not easy. For a mere mortal like me, she is all that I can handle, and then some. Even with tape fluttering from the anchors, it is hard to see precisely where she is. With an 1,100’ gain for an approach, a casual weekend warrior is repelled. She is a handful. This time, she wanted more than I was willing to give....but just the tiniest bit more. The siren’s hold on me hasn’t been fully relinquished. I did experience bliss, the bliss of beautiful views, comfy shoes, a wonderful husband, and turning an acquaintance into a friend. I guess she is still whispering to me. Naughty and nice, sugar and spice.