Chasing Mountains | Torment-Forbidden Traverse, WA
"Today is a great day to be alive!" ...My mentality as I woke up to the sun breaking through a haze of smoke from the far off forest fires of British Colombia on a bivy ledge at 7841ft.
The night before, my climbing partner, George, and I made the trek into Boston Basin and soloed most of the way up Mount Torment, arriving at the bivy ledge just as darkness fell; Impeccable timing. We made ourselves at home on the sandy ledge with a hearty meal of instant potatoes, veggies, and organic chicken sausage before attempting sleep. The sound of mousey footsteps kept my mind alert as he dashed around our heads and feet, investigating his new visitors. I try and force my thoughts to cease. This is his home. We are only passing through.
Darkness hung around until 6 am with the thick smoke diffusing any signs of earlier light. I rubbed my sleepy eyes awake and sat up in my sleeping bag. As I peered over the edge, the view of a glacier scarred by crevasses thousands of feet below and faded ridge lines off into the distance reminded me of exactly where I was.
...It was some place I had dreamed of being for a long time. Maybe not this exact spot, but somewhere on this giant formation of rock, nonetheless. Three years ago, I took a beginner mountaineering course in this basin and it altered the course of my life in a big way. I remember staring at this rock as a young amateur climber, full of ambition and desire, saying to myself, "I will come back and climb you, when I know more and am ready for the challenge." Part of me never dreamed it would be so soon...
The goal for the day? To complete the Torment - Forbidden Traverse. A Grade V, mile long alpine rock ridge, broken up by snow slopes and bergschrunds, and ending with the classic West Ridge of Forbidden Peak.
Instant oatmeal and potato-water coffee got the wheels turning as we wrestled all of our things into our packs and set off on part II of our adventure. We reached the summit of Torment in a half hour as we took our time navigating some seriously loose rock along the way. We descended to the Southeast and found ourselves at the point of commitment: the rappel onto the glacier. The last time I stood here just over a month ago, I turned back. This time, I was ready to commit.
George rappelled in first and disappeared into the bergschrund. Moments later he emerged, ice axes swinging overhead, he climbed out and got situated on the glacier. I was next. With a little bit of technical rope swinging, I joined him on the glacier.
We crossed 1 thin snow bridge, walked on some glacier, and climbed rock in crampons for a while before we realized that our crampons were no longer needed. (Although it was fun to practice climbing with spikes!) For the next few hours, we traversed granite that progressed from crumbly and loose to fairly solid and clean. For the snow traverse section, we ended up crossing onto the South side of the ridge to traverse on some grassy ledges. This made things go rather quickly.
We started up the West Ridge of Forbidden Peak (5.6). We soloed most of the beginning pitches and then put on the rope for the crux pitch. Since George had already led this pitch, he let me take it. It was a lot of fun. At the anchors, I decided to keep going and just simul as far as I could make it with our single rack of #0.2-2. I got to a tat anchor just before the summit, where George took the lead and belayed me up to the summit. WOOP WOOP!
The descent went relatively flawlessly other than some other climbers who decided to hangout under a rockfall zone that held us up for a while. Although it kept us from rappelling for a while, we enjoyed the chance to take in the scenery and reflect on an amazing climb!
...Climbing can sometimes be confusing because you are constantly striving to reach a high point or a summit. But that is not at all the reason why I climb. It's the challenge of route finding; the laughs along the way; the moments of serenity and focus on the rock that quiet all other thoughts; the magnification of my inner-nature and instincts; the lessons I learn about myself and the ways I deal with the trying times and the suffering; the calm that I find in my heart when the world outside is a storm. It is in these moments that I feel most alive; most myself; most in awe of the world around me; and most grateful for the amazing people I have met in this life. Life is not about achieving the summit, but about enjoying every step along the way. Just remember, wherever you are, that that's where you are. That's where it's all happening and everything is as it should be.
We let the pull of gravity carry our tired feet all the way back to the car. Too tired to think, we managed to unpack our sleeping bags, bang a shin on the trailer hitch, slam a hand in the door, chug the last of our water, and eat two delicious gluten free cookies for dinner before sleep overtook our minds. Not exactly the dinner of champions... But sometimes that's just the way the cookie crumbles! ;)