The climb went well, to say the least.  I enjoyed the open bivy at 9500′ as much as anyone could enjoy getting snowed on in 15 degree wind without a tent.  The sun set was amazing —  a redeeming moment after a day of climbing in the fog with little hopes for the coming day.  Moreover, looking out over the Reid glacier didn’t precipitate my fear as I’d expected, but having looked the shark in the mouth its teeth seemed fewer.

Sunset on our camp.

2:40 am: Alarm goes off late.  I’m covered in spindrift, and not too excited about my 4.5 hours of spotty sleep.  The steel cut oats with raisins do little to improve my mood.

Mmm. Less fiber next time.

4:00 am: We’re roped up in as best a system as I can conjure for two-man glacier travel.  A group arriving at the camp site says that they have the same objective.  They graciously give us the lead and a fair bit of space.

4:30 am: Traversing through the dark.  Are there crevasses?  If there are I can’t see them.  I imagine myself walking over gaping depths, unawares.  Likely the case.  It’s somewhat unclear where the objective is, though I’ve seen plenty of pictures.  It’s hard to find things when you can only see for twenty yards.

4:40 am: Think I’ve got it.  Lose the rope, we’re going up.  Kick, step, kick, step, to the tinkling sounds of a constant rain of falling rime ice.

4:45 am: I can see the lights of the party behind us growing closer, as they ride the escalator that I’ve set up the snow.  The objective remains unclear.

5:00 am: Time is now a guestimate, as both my watch and, how sporting, my headlamp have gone dead.  Apparently all of my spare batteries have nothing to spare either.  We’ve chosen to take a right at a forking ridge.  A few minutes later, with some discussion, our followers head the other direction.

5:40 am: Some rights, some lefts, hundreds of feet of climbing, and it’s now clear that we’re off route.  Welcome to the Reid Headwall, the route that you wouldn’t have knowingly chosen.

5:45 am: It’s freeing to be without a plan.  The adventure streak runs deep and we’re going for it.

6:30 am: The sky is beginning to grow brighter, and we’re weaving our way on the most likely path through towering hulks of ice.  There’s a party of two behind us, strangely choosing to kick their own steps.  “For exercise”, they explain later. Kick, step, kick, step.

6:50 am: I’m sinking tools into blue water ice at ten thousand feet.  This is more than I could have hoped for.  My calves are screaming to be back on snow, but the ice scares me, and that’s what it’s all about.

7:10 am:  We’re a party of four now, trying to find our way out of the maze.  One, two, three, possibilities are eliminated.  There’s only one left, and I don’t know that I can climb it.

Kick, step, kick, step.

7:12 am:  Alex is stemming on rime ice, raining dinner plates and forging a way forward.  He sends, so impossibility is no longer a viable concept.  I sack up as the two below me watch and push through.  From the ridge, looking left we can see the other parties coming up the route that we’d intended to climb.  Looking right, we can see down into the crater as little streams of ants move up the South route.  What a difference a year makes.

7:15 am: I’ve got a headache, and I’m suddenly nauseous.  Oh yeah.  Haven’t eaten or had any water since camp, three hours and 1800 feet ago.

7:25 am: The traverse to the summit follows a ridge that’s only three feet wide at times.  The exposure is a bit breathtaking, and focus is reined in once more.

7:30 am: Summits are a bore.  The uncertainty’s gone, and all that remains to make the day exciting is the possibility of injury on the descent.  A Portland Mountain Rescue member asks us if we saw any evidence of the bodies of two climbers lost on the route that we’d just climbed.  Food for thought.

9:30 am: Camp has been broken, and I’m making turns down the Zigzag glacier.  My headache is gone, and the warm sun keep me elated.  Time away from my thesis has been more rewarding than I could have asked for.

6:42 pm: I’m dead tired, and haven’t slept.  Nothing taxes a body quite like mountaineering.  It’s time for some coffee though, as my friend is back from Columbia and its margarita night.  Morale has improved.  Thank you Portland, for making my life what it has become.  The people, places, and spirit of the city have done so much for me in four years.  I’m going to sleep well tonight.

Shadows, as a rope team travels a ridge.

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