The Belaystein Bears Climb a Mountain Together

Last weekend was my teams overnight adventure to Gothic Basin where we had lofty goals to climb Del Campo and Gothic Peak.  This was our plan:

Saturday, April 18th: 
4:00am– Kyle and I wake up and get ready to go.
5:15am– Pick up Carl and Sarah, our carpooling buddies.
6:30am– Congregate at the Verlot Ranger Station and caravan the rest of the way.
7:00am-Arrive at the parking lot by Monte Cristo Road and start the hike in.
7:00am-12:00pm– Hike the five miles to Gothic Basin.
12:m-1:00pm– Set up as much of camp as we can and eat a hefty snack.
1:00-6:00– Climb Del Campo (1 mile, 1,400 ft of elevation gain, potentially three or four sections with technical climbing and rope work)
6:00pm-7:00pm– Down climb/glissade and be back in camp by seven or sunset at the latest.
Eat, sleep, be merry.
Sunday, April 19th: 
4:15am– Alpine start
5:15am– Climbing towards Gothic Peak and able to see sunrise from the ridge around 6:15.
8:15am– Summit Gothic Peak after a pretty short climb and only one technical section.
10:00am– Return to camp, pack up, hike out.

So this was our plan for the weekend, bag two peaks, be exhausted, and eat a lot of pizza once we got back to Granite Falls.  This is what ended up happening:

Saturday, April 18th:
4:00am– Kyle and I wake up and get ready to go.
5:15am– Pick up Carl and Sarah, our carpooling buddies.
6:30am– Congregate at the Verlot Ranger Station and caravan the rest of the way.
7:00am-Arrive at the parking lot by Monte Cristo Road and start the hike in.
7:00am-12:00pm– Hike the five miles to Gothic Basin.
12:00pm-1:00pm– Set up as much of camp as we can and eat a hefty snack.
1:00pm-6:00pm– Climb Del Campo (1 mile, 1,400 ft of elevation gain, potentially three or four sections with technical climbing and rope work).  We actually managed to climb Del Campo in the amount of time we had set out for it.  We got to camp, set up the tents and threw everything inside them and headed out by one.  At this point I was actually feeling super nauseous, I don’t think I snacked enough on the way up, so I downed a ridiculous amount of cheese and sausage and swigged back an Emergency and like magic, felt better about twenty minutes later.  But for about an hour in camp and the first part of the climb I felt awful, and was scared I was going to have to turn everyone around if I didn’t feel better.  The climb itself was a mix of awesome and scary.  We headed straight up the snowfield that exists on the Southeast side of Del Campo until we got to a gully directly South of the peak.  We headed up the gully and upon reaching a class four scramble to the North we set up ropes and climbed.  It took us four ropes to get to the top, more than we had anticipated.  Past the class four scramble was a very steep very exposed snow slope which was easy to kick steps in until the very top where the snow wasn’t very deep.  That was the most challenging section requiring careful work to get over the slippery icy snow-covered rocks and up to the top.  By six o’clock on the dot we had all thirteen of us on the summit!
6:00pm- 9:00pm– Down climbing and getting back to camp.  This took much longer than we had expected.  First we had to rappel off the summit and then down climb the steep snow slope bellow, still attached to the fixed line.  Then our lead instructor decided to change our descent route and instead of having up rappel down the class four scramble we came up we prusiked down a fixed line on a class three scramble instead.  Toward the bottom of this fixed line we actually ran out of rope so some cordalettes and slings acted as a safety net but really you were on your own at that point.  We were allowed to hike out in groups of two so I waited for Kyle to down climb and then we plunge stepped off the mountain.  We were the second duo back to camp and got there just before we had to get our head lamps out.  We melted snow and filled water bottles as people continued to trickle into camp.  The last group, made up of instructors, got back around nine after having cleaned all the ropes.
Eat, drink, be merry.  The decision was made that night that instead of climbing Gothic Peak in the morning we would get up to see sunrise and then have a skills day instead.  Del Campo had turned out to be harder than the instructors had expected, it had been a lot of rope work, some seriously hard climbing, and as our lead instructor said “It’s the kind of climb you blow your climbing load on.”  He told us that before the climb he had been 100% sure we would make it to the top but knowing what he knew now, if he went back in time he would have only been 50% sure.  Boealps hasn’t had a team summit Del Campo in years so we were all pretty pumped to say the least, but mostly we owe our summit to our lead instructor who led all the hard stuff and ultimately got us to the top.
Sunday, April 19th: 
5:00am– Wide awake after not a great night of sleep.  I was the person in the middle of five other people in a four person tent… enough said.  About half the group was up and going quickly, and we headed to a little knoll above camp where we watched the sunrise.  It was stunning.  When you live in Seattle you can see mountain ranges on both sides of you but when you are in the Cascades you realize how big the range really is.  It isn’t just one line of mountains, it is square miles of them, spreading out in every direction.  Every single one is different and unique, craggy and impossible.  But then you look up and you were just on top of one of those impossibly pointy steep mountains and at that moment, anything is possible.
8:00am- 2:00pm– We spent the rest of the day rappelling of cliffs, learning to travel in a rope team, and glissading our way back to the trail head.  Actually the hike out was not that easy.  We glissaded down as far as we could but the snow had melted a lot over the weekend (did I mention we had picture perfect weather) and there was a lot more walking on trails than on the way in.  Walking on rocky, rooty, dirt trails in mountaineering boots is not what one would call comfortable.  We were all limping a bit by the time we got back to the cars.

So you may be wondering, after my last post, what about fear?  It was there, the whole time.  For most of the hike it was just nervous anticipation but when we got to the notch bellow the class four scramble you could see the steep snow slope and the summit above and that was when it became very real.  We spent too much time sitting around waiting for ropes to be set up or waiting to climb and that was when my mind was going wild, imagining every possible bad thing that could happen.  Before it was my turn to climb up the fixed line on the steep snow slope it was just Kyle and I standing there and I could feel myself tearing up, for no specific reason but because there was just SO much going on, so many stresses and emotions and thoughts.  He told me I could stay there, just wait, no one would care, but I couldn’t stay behind.  I never can.  So I went up and I pep talked myself the whole way, which did very little good.  A scared Lindsey is not a very convincing Lindsey.  Even once I summited there was very little relief because all I could think about was getting down.  And any self-respecting mountaineering movie watcher knows the majority of accidents happen on the way down.  So I was stressed on the summit, while descending and then while watching Kyle descend after me.  Once he was down and safe I just wanted to get the heck out of dodge.

So why would I keep doing this?  I am certain there were a couple of times up there where I thought, I am not doing this again next weekend, I am going to be sick or something.  And honestly, my stress was so overwhelming that I couldn’t focus on being present, on enjoying our accomplishment in the moment, on celebrating our summit.  Once down I felt excited about it, I felt pride and joy and triumph.  I loved being at Gothic Basin, it was beauty incarnate, but I didn’t need to summit a mountain to get that, I could have just gone up to camp.  What will make me go climb again this weekend and the weekend after that and even after this class is over is something akin to nostalgia.  My mind is already glossing over the really gnarly emotions I felt this last weekend, the fear and the stress, and dulling these feelings so that the climb seems easier than it was.  On top of that I am able to imagine what it would be like to summit a mountain without any fear, to feel good and strong and confident and just charge up the slopes without worry.  My ability to imagine this gives me hope.  My ability to forget the fear I felt gives me hope.  Hope that I can tap into this strength I feel now, safe and secure in my bed, on the weekends when I am risking it all.  Hope that I can let go of my worries knowing that they will not be remembered even a few days later.  If I can do this enough, try it enough times, perhaps I can get myself to a place where I can make the fear and worry dissipate more quickly, until it is barely there at all.  The fight against fear continues tomorrow when we climb Mt. Phelps.  Stay tuned for more.

PS  We finally decided, after a dearth of inside jokes about everyone having different bear related names, that our team name should be the belaystein bears.  Hence the title of the post.  Sorry I can’t explain further but you know how explaining inside jokes goes… not well.

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As Edward Abbey said, "An indoor life is the next best thing to a premature burial."

8 thoughts on “The Belaystein Bears Climb a Mountain Together

  1. I took some rock climbing and mountaineering classes in college and had similar experiences. Lots of anxiety, a couple tears, general unhappiness, etc. Looking back though it has made me a much stronger hiker and backpacker. Even though I don’t go in for the technical stuff when I’m not in a class I did learn my limits and even stretched them a bit and I’m much more comfortable with steeps, snow and exposure than I was before. It will be worth it!

  2. Your adventures look amazing! Those are much too technical for me right now, so thank you for allowing me to live vicariously through you! Be safe!

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