Monday, April 13, 2015


We woke with the sound of an alarm jangling in the darkness. We fumbled in the womb of the tent to silence it. Then without speaking we set about stuffing sleeping bags, deflating mats, wriggling into clothes for the day. I unzipped the tent fly and the Mojave breeze folded it open.

I emerged into eerie light. Instinctively I looked toward the moon. It was 3/4 covered in burgundy shadow.

We scurried under the eclipse to pack away the camp and load our packs. The highway only yards away was empty.

Our first steps up the wash were slow as we adjusted to the weight of a 7lbs of water, pro, a rope, rock shoes, helmets, and food. The eastern horizon glowed with a thin line of orange. The western horizon cradled a moon in transition.

Hours later we dropped deep into a wash and began to clamber up and over dryfalls and boulders slickened by eons of water and wind. Cat's Claw grabbed our packs, our skin, our clothes. We were thankful to be in the shadowed depths as the sun rose higher.

We reached the head of the wash and descended to another. Then we turned and began fighting our way up a third. It was steep and rocky. Choked with Cat's Claw and cactus. 2,000 feet above us a lone juniper marked the horizon. It took ours of sweaty work to reach it.

Once on a plateau of rocks we slipped beneath the largest boulder. There we ate and drank and rested in the shade. Around us rocky summits loomed like a druidic circle. We had three objectives and we chose to start with the easiest one.

We walked up the giant rock pile named "Aqua Benchmark" on the map.

From there we photographed Spectre and Dyadic. The routes would be difficult and for Dyadic, unknown.

An hour later we were high above the basin, clinging to boulders. We pulled ourselves up and over and dodged the yuccas eking out their precarious existence.

Through trial and error we found our way through the near vertical terrain to at last stand on the summit slab towering over the desert world below.

From the summit of Spectre we descended and set off up another gully toward the mysterious Dyadic.

We found some cairns and mostly followed our instincts upward. At last the summit came into view and we had to negotiate 4th class rock downward into a saddle. The sun was dropping ever lower. We entered a chimney and stemmed our way up two stories, shoving our packs ahead of us.

We hugged a ledged as we put on our harnesses and flaked the rope. We each knew that the sun was far past the point at which we should have turned around. We each had less than a liter of water remaining. But the lure of the summit was strong.

A short time later I sat on the warm rock, my personal anchor clipped to a cam placed firmly in a crack. Rope played out through my hands across a chasm, up a wall, and out of sight. Bright colored slings danced in the wind as the rope slid through. The sun's angle was finally pleasant and I relaxed into the moment.

This was perfection: sitting high above the world, my partner setting anchors and scouting our route, swallows swooping past at speeds fast enough to make the wind shriek through their feathers. I couldn't help but suck in deep breaths of awe and contentment.

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