Descending Sacagawea, originally uploaded by raventrickster.

On day one of climbing during NOLS‘s Mountain Training Trip 2010, three of us made an attempt on Sacagawea, a sub-peak of the Fremont Peak group in Titcomb basin. The day prior, it had rained, but during the night the weather turned *splitter* and brutally cold. We woke in our camp in Indian Basin at 2 am (too early) to begin our approach into Titcomb Basin.

The approach took two and a half hours by moonlight, and we arrived at the base around 4 am. It was too dark to see the route, and our four-sentence topo gave us little information, so we decided to sit and shiver at the base until there was more light. The three of us spooned in a little hole behind a small rock and shivered under a cold wind until around 6 am. Miserable, we decided that even though the weather looked iffy, we might as well approach the base and take the gear for a walk. “In alpine climbing, you can always take the gear for a walk and see what happens” -Evan Horn, NOLS Training Manager.

Sun Rising Over Sacagawea

The base seemed not too far away, but it was two and a half hours later that we had managed to negotiate the “endless gravel escalator” through three 3rd-4th class rock bands glazed here and there by startlingly dangerous verglass.

When we finally reached the base of the climb, the weather had improved, but much to our dismay, we found that the previous day’s rain had glazed Sacagawea’s crack systems with smooth, impossible ice. Our single 7oz CAMP Corsa ice axe with its aluminum pick wasn’t going to cut it. Back down we go.

The descent took almost as long as the ascent, as the ice made some probable routes unexpectedly hazardous. By the time we reached our little shiver-bivy at the base, the knees were crying and the body tired of moving, though it was only 8:30 am. A nap followed.

It was a good warm-up to the alpine start, to the persistent optimism needed to get on some climbs, and to the need to stay comfortable on exposed and icy terrain.  Though it was not a successful climb in the traditional sense, taking the gear for a walk always seems to beat sitting in camp, even if it really throws off one’s body clock and sleep schedule.  It’s a funny feeling to have been up and moving about for eight hours when some in camp are just waking.  For you, a whole day has passed, and a second is ahead of you.  For them, the day’s consciousness is just beginning, and without the early-morning anxieties afforded by the alpine start.

(More entries come, with successes no less.)

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