After an enjoyable hike up "The Stair Stepper", a seemingly never ending stair case of stone, and a little more 3rd class hiking, we arrived at the base of our intended climb. As I flaked out the rope and tied in, all I could think about was this feeling in my stomach saying that climbing today wouldn't be wise. I blame the pancakes.
Ignoring the pancakes, I work my way across the ledge and up to the first gear placement. Something really doesn't feel right, this climb does not feel like 5.6. I admit my feelings and down climb back to the ledge. As I look at the guide book again, I realize that I've misread the guide book, and the route I wanted to climb isn't even marked. I was actually about to climb a 5.8. Thank goodness for bad pancakes.
We packed up and headed towards where we climbed yesterday, hoping to maybe find something a tad easier. As we tromped down the trail, me with my tail between my legs, we came upon the bearded man from the climbing shop.
Mr. Beard, Steve, and his friend Bill, who lives about 30 minutes from my school, were tying in to climb Old Man's Route. After some chatting, they talked me into doing Conns West, something that was exactly what I was looking for.
After they headed up, we roped up and took off after them. Upon reaching the belay ledge where our routes split, they suggested we meet at the top and take pictures and rappel down together. After bringing Kelly up, I recollected gear and headed straight up.
Fantastic climbing on great rock. After reaching a ledge where the route heads left, I went straight up the direct route. Straight up the dihedral to a fantastic ledge, I set a belay and brought Kelly up. I knew she would love the last 20 feet of the pitch, super exposed.
I headed up the last pitch to the top, set a belay and up Kelly came. Soon after, Bill and Steve appeared. With them, a woman, and then several more people came up. The harnesses on these folks were the most unusual I've seen in the mountains. Several had webbing for a harness, one had a glacier harness, one had a real climbing harness, and their "guide" who I later
learned to be their friend, had a runner and some cord forming his "harness". Some of them were wearing helmets, a few, including the "guide" was not.
Bill and Steve realized the situation and were kind enough to set a fixed line to the summit. We quickly moved onto the summit, signed the register, in an old army ammo can. Bill and I headed down, and soon we learned that the group of 6 people only had 4 rappel devices and several of the people had rapped at all before!
Under the impression that they were only going for a "rock scramble", they either got very off route or were misled, and thought they could just walk off. I suppose they could, but the first 300 foot, bone shattering step is certainly a doozy. We (Bill, Steve and myself), suggested that we rap down as a large group, in teams if need be.
I would be the first one down, serving as a "fireman" for the new people with no experience. I rapped down 60 meters and was unable to find the next anchor. Hastily, I descended farther until I was on a small ledge, with a perfect crack for gear for an anchor, not more then 2 meters from the end of the rope. As the inexperienced started to come down, I decided I would lower them the remaining 40 or so feet to the ground, and after 2 hours, our mini-rescue was nearly complete.
After finally making it to the ground myself, I packed my gear and Bill, Steve, Kelly and I hiked down, preventing another accident in the process. An out of shape father and his 2 kids, probably between 7 and 10, were hiking up the trail to what they thought was the North Summit. Bill informed them they were in dangerous territory and NOT where they thought they were. A little redirection and they were safely on their way.
So many variables worked safely in the favor of 9 people. Afterwards, Bill Steve, Kelly and myself talked about what happened and decided that something very tragic could have occurred, and the group was fortunate we were there. As you can see by their expressions, Kelly and Steve were not thrilled by the situation on top...