By now it was dark and getting late. Ben and I were ready to haul on the static line and Phil was ready to ascend the 60’s and guide the ledges and haul bag over any obstacles.
Phil did a fantastic job of dismantling our camp and packing the haul bag while Ben and I completed the 6th, 7th and 8th pitches. Then he had the lonely task of ascending 100 meters of rope to meet us on the ledge.
Phil would let us haul in the bag a few meters then radio to stop. He said that nothing was wrong with the gear and that he liked the comfort and company of the haul bag. This was understandable as I guess it can get a bit unnerving being alone and swinging in free space in the dark. I radioed back to Phil and said that he can draw a face on the haul bag and call him “Wilson” if he likes. Certainly a more appropriate name than “Pig”. Phil gave a chuckle and continued to ascend the line with Wilson at his side like Tom Hanks in ‘Cast Away’.
Phil was exhausted and when he reached the top of pitch 8 but was happy to move along and prep himself to belay Ben on the last pitch. I sorted out the ropes and gear and got them ready for the last 15 meter haul.
It was well dark now and we could almost taste the top! We all looked at each other waiting for someone to volunteer to lead the last pitch. Silence.
I tied in and Phil belayed. I was actually really excited to aid at night under head torch. Some would argue that carrying a number 6, 3 number 5’s, and 2 number 4 camalots all this way was overkill, but it was great to have more perfect gear than I knew what to do with on this last off width pitch. The pitch is vertical, or less than vertical, so it wasn’t physically hard at all. Gear went in everywhere. By now my process was automatic, and I didn’t have to make much of a conscious effort at all. Up I cruised into the blackness until I rounded the final bend in the crack and spied a bolt, then another, and by now the angle of the terrain was so low I could free in my hiking boots. Up through the final bushes and over the lookout railing. I tied off the tag line for Phil to jug and took my harness off!!!
Phil exploded out of the blocks and met me at the top a few moments later.
Ben smashed the last pitch on lead and Phil cleaned. Before too long the fellas were ready to haul for the last time. I quickly ascended the line and helped get the gear over the edge of the lookout. It was 11pm and it was over. We had done it.
For me this trip will go down as the most adventurous to date. Every one of us was challenged and asked to deliver. There is no doubt the adventure would have failed if any one of us didn’t commit ourselves.
It was a clear starry night when we topped out and we took a moment to appreciate what had just gone down.
3 great mates ticking off a dream that we’d had for a very long time.
While not the most physically demanding or exhausting aid experience I’ve had to date, it did herald a number of new aid experiences for me such as hooking, multiple RP placements in a row, longer pitch lengths, having to use mechanical advantage hauling, night aiding, and sh!tting in a bag in front of your mates.
To the pioneers of routes like these: I salute you. Our journey up this fantastic line was like a business class flight compared to your wagon train Spartan effort thanks to our new-fangled technology, ledges, and synthetic polymers.
To Karl and Phil: Thank you! It all came together thanks to your hard work. Already the painful, boring, and scary bits are being forgotten like chaff to the wind, leaving only the kick arse adventure and outrageous memories behind!