On Gunn Peak, I did not have a flashlight but did not think twice about it. I thought I would have plenty of time to get up and back before sunset. On my way down I ended up crossing to high, and ended up in a lot of cliff bands. I could skirt most of the cliffs. However, to make good time I choose not to mess with rope and just make one last cliff traverse to a band of trees, my exit. Trees are my friend. I can drop altitude very quickly when I am in them, and I have used this technique a lot, swinging branch to branch.
The sun was getting low and half way through this last band of cliffs I get a little stream of water coming down this face making all of my small holds slippery. No way! Not now! So, I had to size it up several times before I got into the go mode. It was either “go for it”, or reverse direction and rappel down spending more time than I wanted. I went for it, made it to the tree spur and then a quick retreat down. After dropping 1000 feet or so, it became darker in the thick trees. But not to worry, because I have a cell phone and just a little light will do the trick. I made it down using my cell phone and I now just needed to cross the river to my car and go home.
My car was no more than 200 meters from me. One problem; the river was high with a lot of swift rapids. So now I am in the dark with one foot on a slippery rock and my right hand holding on to the end of a tree branch. I have poles but there were not really any good connecting moves. At this point I can see myself going down the rapids and making the nightly news. This is actually a critical point late in the day when climbers make bad judgments. So I held for the night in a clean room suit I use as a survival suit. It was spring and the morning came early. I found a way to get across the river and made it home, and back to my work in the lab. I don’t know if you ever saw the movie fight club, but getting back to the lab was a different reality, and most non-climbers just don’t get it. The reward of climbing is usually an intangible and if you try to explain it to someone that just doesn’t get it, they usually never do. Only a few people at work have a slight idea of what I do for sport.
I am also tagging this photo for this same story for my addictive climbing stories group. There is also a group with the same name.
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Photo taken in Snohomish County, WA, USA
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