you were DEEP in not 3rd class.
The hail followed soon after the first crack of thunder. The thunder followed soon after those behind me yelled that they were turning back.
Excited energy coursed through my veins – built from the day’s anticipation of this race to beat the inevitable summer storm and complete the alpine link-up. The day prior, while I huddled under a tree to watch the sky open up into Tuolumne Meadows, the power of the mountains made a casual appearance – reminding me of its fierce beauty. Later, while taking in the sunset, I hoped the storm would again hold back late into the afternoon – I sensed it wouldn’t.
A pre-dawn rumble of thunder and light rain to greet the sunrise confirmed as much. My pace quickened – racing against time – Atop North Peak the mid-morning sky was sunshine – If we push quickly…I pushed. Stopping only for my camera.
Slowed suddenly by a 5th class confrontation traversing the eastern side of Conness’ 1st Tower – loose, sandy blocks – a blind reach – A shout floated across the expanse “YOU SHOULD BE IN 3RD CLASS TERRAIN” – I was committed – Don’t pull this block off, you can’t fly -
The group was not following. Considering instead the darkening sky – imagining the clouds that were surely building on the western side of the mountain. Their hesitance echoing off the granite cirque, weighing on me – Shouting something about wanting to scout the storm, I climbed on to the 2nd Tower – knowing it would soon be on top of us – wondering if I would go for the summit anyway – I watched as it shifted direction, first traveling North, then toward me:
The sky rumbled overhead – Rain followed by a low rush – Hail. A warm breeze turning it to slush – The massive peak was soaked – I sat down to put on my rain shell and gather my thoughts. Priorities. Keep warm. Keep the camera dry. Don’t slip. Don’t get struck by lightning. Get off this mountain.
Find your own path. A good decision – the 3rd Class ledges promised by Super Topo were actually on the Western side of the ridgeline – I caught up quickly.
The storm let up and let the sun out, as if it were all a big laugh – I ran ahead down into the bowl of the cirque – stripped – walking into the glacier lake – The cold washed over me. Through me. Quieting me…
An exhilarated being in an expansive silence – I existed.