Last/Final Part 5 Weather or Not: Granite Peak, Montana Without Sleep

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

The snow increased, as did the number of times I lost my footing.   I was really, really tired.

Our descent

Robin held up much better than I.  After a bunch of pitches on rappel and even more just downclimbing, we eventually got off the rock, put our ropes away, and started walking down the snow along the ridge.

A couple hours of walking along snow, too lazy to pull crampons from our backpacks, we slipped.  A bunch.  Eventually, we stood atop the section that we had, all day, been unsure how to descend.  It was a huge, open, glacial snow bowl.  Glissading, I quickly decided, was our best option.  It would be virtually impossible (and super dangerous) to skirt this bowl on surrounding rock fields.  So, we had to go straight down it.

Robin in FBSAP (full-blown self-arrest position)

Luckily, it appeared to be a fun 30 or 35 degrees of sledding (and avalanche) heaven.  Having only fallen into 1 crevasse in my life, which can be attributed 100% to my feeble attempt at glissading, I was fairly confident we’d both die.  But death while sledding on snow, in June, without a sled, with only an ice axe in hand?  We’re in.
…only part of that is a joke.

the glissade run

Robin was an absolute glissading monster, and disregarded any fear of ripping his pants, losing his pack, or bruising his “sled” cheeks.  He just sat down, tossed his ice axe into the snow, and cruised all the way to the bottom of the glacier.  I was a bit slower (and terrified).  But the glacier that had taken us many hours to climb just took us less than 2 minutes to descend.  Sweet.

Back on the moraine, we packed away our stuff and began to walk down the loose scree.  We were tired.  The climb had taken us 8, 10, or more hours already, and that was only with a few hours of sleep separating it from the long approach.  Crossing the boulder field below the moraine without slaughtering millions of spiders proved much harder during the day than 12 hours earlier, because we could actually see how many spiders there were.

the out-of-focus spider, hiding in the shot

And there were a LOT of spiders [ed note: see part 2 for more about the spiders].  The spiders were really weird, and, after a while, we learned that they did this crazy BOUNCING in their web upon sensing us.  If we snuck up on one, we’d watch it, as we closed in on it, suddenly begin to bounce up and down in its web—as much as 6 inches!—until we had passed it.  It was, we presume, some sort of defense mechanism.  It was interesting, but made our tired selves step 6 inches HIGHER in order to avoid crushing their webs.  Unfortunately, if the web started at waist height, this was impossible.  Sorry to admit, but I think I knocked down some spider webs.

the route from across the glacier

Granite Peak's North Face

Notch Couloir

We returned to our tent, each ate an apple that I had secretly packed for us (in the bottom of Robin’s bags, along with the two 50lb. dumbbells.  gotcha, sucker).

We packed our heavy backpacks, dreaded putting them on our backs…then put them on our backs.  Unfortunately, the 2lb. of food we’d eaten didn’t make much of a difference.

The hike out was, arguably, one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.  While we started it quickly and energetically, after 2 or 3 hours, this slowed dramatically.

good BYE, Granite Peak. you SUCK. ps not really. but seriously, bye.

Hours passed. I have never been so tired. Our feet were so, so sore. Our shoulders and hips KILLED from our packs. We were relatively quiet, but would discuss how we were slowly becoming delusional, and about the things that we were seeing and thinking. I don’t really recall any of the specifics from this. At all. But we were walking in a haze. Robotic. Step, step, step…each one hurting our feet and hips more than the last. It was impossible to ignore the pain. But there was, as there always is, no option but to continue. The trail, seriously, seemed to never end. We remembered landmarks from our hike in the day before, but couldn’t seem to realistically connect them to a quantitative distance from the car. It was night time. Robin’s headlamp died. I think. Maybe I only dreamed that. We were hiking fast. We thought. We felt like we were running. But maybe we were hiking fast. But it seemed as though the car would never come.Eventually, though, it did. 36+ hours after leaving the car, we reached the trailhead at midnight. We collapsed. And laughed. And talked. And drank the extra Nalgene we had stored in the car. And were starving. And had run out of food 8 hours ago. We knew, though, that we couldn’t get too comfortable. We had a 3 hour drive home, and had to work a double shift starting in 10 hours.

The drive home is an absolute blur, and makes climbing Granite Peak look as danger as building sandcastles at the playground.  We split the time behind the wheel.  And, eventually, we arrived in the driveway, alive.  Within seconds, we were each in our rooms, and asleep.  7 hours later, we were (smiling) at work for 10+ hours.

The worst part of the trip?  Losing my bear spray at some point on the trail.

The best part?  Taking shoes and socks off at the car.