There are no flowers in the George Creek drainage. Oh sure, plenty along the road leading in as we bounced and swerved between the knobby boulders buried deep in the sand. Enough to scent the air as we hunkered out of the breeze Friday night. The brilliant, waning gibbous moon only accentuated the darkened arc of trees at the bottom of the path, haunted and howling with the rush of the creek. Once through this gate...
Oh, what the hell. We had fun. I mean, if Jeff's own words, "Who DOESN'T like this sort of thing at 5 a.m.??"
We were headed for Mt. Carl Heller's east ridge, a small rack and rope in Jeff's pack in case snow and ice presented a problem. But before that, we would push through willows (which always point downhill, right?), creek crossings on disintegrating logs, steep snow traverses over rocky bottoms (um... do you think you might want your axe here, Laura??), wade through thickets of thorny desert plants barely holding onto their existence (which is why they had mass-produced themselves on the sandy slopes). Performing the limbo with an ice axe on your pack isn't very pretty.
We made it to the convergence of the creek by mid-morning, and stopped to tank up and eat. At last, firm snow the rest of the way to the toe of the ridge, and we followed the still filled-in drainage through rock bands and ice falls to where it opened beneath a small cirque. One more bump up and we crested the slabs to the north of the arete, both of us instantly knowing that it wasn't going to go that day. Flocked with new powder clinging to its north face, gusts of wind rolling spindrift down into the lake basin and triggering soft powder flows along the side of the knife-edge, pockets of possibly firmer snow tucked in along the Class 3 sections, it was spectacular to view, and whetted both of our appetites for a return trip.
Speaking of appetites, we cruised the slabs for a bench in the sun, looking south to the magnificent peak as we laughed away an hour over sammies and snacks. We briefly considered cruising up to Vacation Pass, adding a few more hours to our jaunt, but the thought of winding around in the quagmire of bushwhacking below us overrode any further exploring. We followed different routes down, finally donning crampons almost for the sake of doing so as the snow changed rapidly between aspects. We traversed high over the creek, reaching the our break spot in no time at all.
But what would a Moose trip be without postholing? Jeff made the comment that despite all the snow, we had been able to stay atop for most of the day. Now, as you all know, I love a challenge, and Jeff somehow, mysteriously, ALWAYS had the camera out for a picture JUST as I managed to sink into my ass. But at least it wasn't just me...
From there, the drainage was the Twilight Zone. We crossed; re-crossed; followed trails; thrashed through the brush; cursed the sheep for moving the trails; cursed the willows for not growing downhill; swore at the puncture wounds from poor defenseless bushes; grunted at swinging from trees over the water; balanced on tall logs above the creek; passed the same spot 12 times; "Laura, please tell me you've got at least ONE beer hidden in that pack of yours..."; sweet huckleberry that's a ROAD!!
It's a sickness when you can laugh about having to work so damn hard. It's a passion when, the Monday after, you and your partner are trying to figure out ways to go back. Thanks, Jeff, for a marvelous adventure!
Sunday, we tried climbing in the Alabama Hills for a few hours, but got pretty annoyed with the wind fairly quickly. So Jeff ran me through more drills on weight shifting and flow, foot placements, and even a mock lead before we went home. Lots of practicing to do...
My pics from Saturday are here
From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard, Be Safe.