Saturday, September 24, 2016

6. Bravo Glacier on Mount Waddington

We woke up late in the Plummer hut and cruised back to camp under a warm sun. I was looking forward to food most of all. Food and a nap. But when we got to camp Josh and Chris asked if we were interested in going up the Bravo Glacier route on Mount Waddington that night. Without really thinking I immediately said "yes." Nick said something like, "what, hold on!" because less than an hour ago I had said that I was totally satisfied and not really stoked on anymore big routes.

The reason Josh and Chris wanted the fast turnaround was that they had just read the latest forecast on the satellite texter. It called for our good weather to end in two days, giving us just enough time for a fast ascent of the Bravo. We decided to make some food, take a nap and think about it. Then wait for the latest forecast that evening before making the final decision to go that night.

The great thing about heli-camping in the alpine is that you can bring some pretty nice food with you and refrigerate it in the snow around your camp. Nick and I had taken full advantage of this with a late-night discount supermarket stop in Kamloops, on our drive from the Bugaboos. We had purchased about three kilograms (6 lbs) of pork shoulder along with broccoli, mushrooms, beets, and carrots. We also flew Nick's pressure cooker in with us, allowing us to make deluxe carnitas from the pork shoulder in a relatively short time. If I recall correctly Nick may have put the majority of a stick of butter into the pressure cooker with the pork. We made rice and beans, and fresh steamed veggies to go with our meat entree. Looking back at this trip, we spent only three of our nine nights at base camp on Sunny Knob, but whenever we were there we ate exceedingly well.

That evening we radioed Mike King who runs White Saddle Air Service, the helicopter company we were using. He looked at the weather and called back to say that the weather would be reliably clear for at least three more days. This was great news to my ears, as I now knew I could get another full nights sleep and some good food in me before we headed up the Bravo. One of the main reasons we wanted to go as a team of four was that we knew the Upper Bravo Glacier, above the ice fall, would probably involve a fair amount of slogging on a breakable crust like we had encountered on the Upper Tellot. With four people we figured we could alternate breaking trail enough to keep everyone fresh and make better time.

Looking across at the Upper Bravo Glacier from the summit of Serra 2. The most distant horizon in the top left is on Vancouver Island. Photo by Nick Mestre.
L-R Tiedemann, Asperity, Serras 5-1 in the morning light from the Plummer Hut.
Base camp with Waddington in the background the day after getting back from Serra 2.
Napping in the tent on Sunny Knob, trying to get some rest between climbs.
The next day we packed up most of our stuff and humped our camp across the Tiedemann Glacier to Rainy Knob, the south-side, north-facing equivalent to Sunny Knob. Rainy Knob is right next to the Bravo Ice Fall which we would need to climb through to access the Upper Bravo Glacier. Since we didn't want to be traveling through the steep seracs and crevasses of this ice fall when the sun was beating down, we wanted to be as close to it as possible so that we could maximize pre-dawn travel.

We got to Rainy Knob early in the afternoon and setup camp at the top of the knob. We had some amazing campsites on this trip, but this one was arguably the best. Heather benches dropped away to the east, overlooking the lower Tiedemann Glacier. To the north, across the Tiedemann, the massive south faces of the Serras, Mount Asperity, Mount Tiedemann, and Mount Combatant reared over 5,000 vertical feet. The opposite direction, across the Bravo Ice Fall, were the imposing north faces of Mount Munday and the Arabesque peaks which constantly calved seracs down cliff bands and fluted ice faces.
L-R Josh, Nick, and Chris enjoying the sunny rock benches of Rainy Knob.
Setting up camp on Rainy Knob. Peaks behind L-R Combatant, Tiedemann, Asperity, Serras 5-3. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Looking down the Tiedemann to the east from our campsite at the very top of Rainy Knob. Photo by Nick Mestre.

Heather benches on the side of Rainy Knob looking past the Lower Bravo to the Tiedemann. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Nick Enjoying the afternoon shade with a view across the Tiedemann.
We set our alarms for midnight and crawled into our tents with the sun still up. The good side of being tired is that its easy to fall asleep, and I felt surprisingly good when the alarm went off. We packed up camp and headed up towards the ice fall in the darkness. After what felt like hours of traversing back and forth between crevasses we reached an impasse. Unable to end run a large, overhanging crevasse, we headed all the way back right to where the crevasse met a crumbly rock face. Josh led a pitch up and over a serac and then up some dead vertical snow out of the crevasse. He then gave us a top rope off his ice tools and a picket. Honestly, if Nick and I had not had Josh and Chris there to lead us through this improbable feature we probably would not have gotten past the ice fall.

There were two more steep snow steps to bypass crevasses, but none quite as steep as the first. The last "pitch" out of the ice fall involved an extremely crumbly rock band which we topped out as the sun was rising. This placed us in the "Cauldron," a small bowl under a massive serac. Luckily the ice fall tops out on the opposite side of the Cauldron from this beast, and we were able to kick steps up the snow and out of the bowl without being directly under the line of fire.

We were now on the Upper Bravo Glacier, (relatively) safe from ice fall, and only had to "hike" up the glacier until we reached a suitable campsite from which to climb the summit block the next morning. The next sixish hours on the Bravo Glacier involved minimal crevasse navigation, but unfortunately involved walking entirely on the same isothermic slop with a thin crust that we had dealt with on the Upper Tellot.

We took turns breaking trail but it didn't seem to help as those who followed only sank further into the snow. Sometimes the crust would strengthen enough to hold your weight, but only for a few steps before you would suddenly break through again and almost fall flat on your face. Around noon we finally reached a large crevasse beneath the summit block at 12,000 feet elevation. We set up our Firstlight tents side by side on the lip of this crevasse and then draped our sleeping bags over the tents to keep them from getting too hot inside with the blazing sun. We made a lunch/dinner and melted lots of snow to rehydrate. Around 7pm I went to bed, the alarms were set for 3am this time so that we could sleep in and climb the summit block in the light.

Chris leading onto some steep snow near the top of the Bravo Ice Fall. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Josh heading up the last bit of the Bravo Ice Fall in the morning light.
Chris hiking out of the Cauldron with the Tiedemann Glacier behind. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Josh breaking trail on the Upper Bravo with the Tooth and the main summit of Waddington beyond. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Camp in the crevasse at 12,000 feet. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Campsite views of Combatant and Tiedemann. Photo by Nick Mestre.
We awoke and got dressed in the dark, ate a quick breakfast and cramponed over a snow bridge and up to the summit block as the world just started to get light. We were doing the standard Southeast Chimneys route to reach the summit from the Upper Bravo. This is often described as 5.7 rock climbing but often has ice in it as well. For this portion of the climb we had decided to climb as two separate rope teams so that we could move faster. Unfortunately for Nick and I, since one of our double ropes was core shot in the middle from our adventure on Serra Two, we were only able to do about 35 meters of climbing at a time before we either had to start simuling or belay.

I lead the first pitch up a chimney full of loose rocks and traversed right onto even more loose rocks on a kind of sloping, debris covered ramp. For the next pitch Nick took us up the ramp and up a short ice gully to a notch. Chris and Josh had simuled past us on the ramp and Josh was now in the process of leading the first proper chimney pitch on the other side of the notch. This involved a nice ice column on one side and rock on the other. With our short rope I lead across the notch and brought Nick over before taking the rack again and leading us up the ice pillar and into the chimney (Nick is stronger on rock and I'm more experienced on ice). This pitch was incredibly fun: stemming between rock and ice up the pillar and then doing a fun rock over move to gain easier ground. The pro was sparse and at one point, with no other options, I simply clipped a draw to a loop of white, sun-bleached climbing rope that was protruding from the ice. While in many ways this route was more sketchy than the South Ridge of Serra Two, I enjoyed myself much more. The chimney system we climbed in was much less exposed and it was not the site of a recent accident; both of which allowed me to focus on the fun climbing.

The second chimney pitch was just as good as the first. I climbed up and around a large block on mixed terrain and then scaled two rock steps, climbing bare-handed with crampons on my feet, up vertical edges. The pitch ended with a thin crack holding three rusty pitons, which I just aided through to save time. Nick followed the pitch free and then led us out right and up the snow gully towards the summit. One more pitch had me standing on top before gingerly down-climbing and building a belay to bring Nick up.

Looking back down the Bravo and Tiedemann Glaciers in the morning light.
Chris leading up towards the notch.
Looking back along the rubble covered ramp system.
Chris at the notch belay.
Josh leading the fun ice pillar on the first chimney pitch.
Yours truly getting rowdy on the first chimney pitch. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Nick following the second chimney pitch.
Nick pulling the final moves on the second chimney pitch.
Arriving at the belay with the Tooth in the background.

Nick belaying on the final exposed snow slopes to the summit.
Looking to the west from the summit of Waddington.

Nick on the summit, feeling the call of nature.
Chris and Josh started to rappel right as Nick arrived. We snapped some pictures and began our descent, but not before Nick desperately needed to go "number two." The resulting poop-in-a-harness with Nick's bare ass hanging off a picket-in-rime over the 4,000 foot south face of Mount Waddington was easily the most hilarious act of climbing shenanigans I've had the privilege of witnessing.

The rappels down the summit snow field and the chimney system went smoothly despite our short ropes. We only had to build one intermediate anchor, as I recall, and did a minimal amount of down-climbing. When we reached the notch below the chimneys we could hear Josh and Nick in the gully below. From the notch, instead of down climbing the loose ledge system, it is recommended to rappel the Harvard Route, an ice gully that goes straight down from the notch. Unfortunately, the gully has many loose rock flakes and blocks in it, which make pulling your ropes after rappels difficult and dangerous. Chris and Josh had gotten their rope stuck part way down the gully and Chris was in the process of climbing some unprotectable ice to retrieve it. We waited for them to retrieve their ropes and continue rappeling before beginning our own descent down the gully.

It only took a couple raps before our own ropes became stuck. Luckily they were so stuck that both strands were still through the anchor and down to us. I climbed up what was actually some of the best ice of the trip, while self-belaying on a prusik, and found that the knot joining our ropes had simply gotten wedged behind a boulder near the anchor.

Luckily our short ropes were making it between rappels without a problem, but we knew that the bergschrund at the bottom of the Harvard Route was both very large and overhanging. Nick rappelled down to the lip of it from the last anchor in the gully and confirmed our suspicions that the ropes would not reach. He moved over to the rock wall and built an anchor but it was not very ideal. I then rappelled towards him, looking over the rock wall beside the gully as I went, hoping to find a better place to build an anchor. I spotted some promising flakes and traversed over to them but it turned out that they were all detached and very loose. Fortunately there was another hidden flake in the back of the alcove that seemed more sturdy, despite sounding quite hollow when I hit it with my palm. I was able to loop some cord around the flake and "back it up" with my largest nut in a flaring crack formed by one side of the same flake. I bounce-tested this pathetic excuse for a rappel anchor while still on rappel from the other one above... it held. I pulled the rope, rigged it through the jengis flake anchor and let Nick know it was ready to go. I stemmed out on the ice in the alcove and unweighted the anchor so it was bearing no more weight than it had to. Nick weighted the rope and rappelled over the overhanging lip of the 'schrund. I watched the anchor in an odd state of detached terror as the nut shifted but held. The rope went slack and Nick yelled that he was down. I rigged my rappel device and started down. As I dropped over the lip of the 'schrund I realized just how overhung it was; I was hanging in space surrounded by massive icicles that poured over the lip from the ice gully above. All I could think about was that shitty nut shifting as I very carefully eased my way down the rope. When I finally stood on the glacier below I let out a sigh of relief before remembering that we still had to descend thousands of feet through crevasses and ice falls before we were actually out of the woods.
Nick rapping out of the chimneys to the notch.

The anchor rapping out of the chimneys... note the dyneema sling girth-hitched to bleached webbing that is fully severed and disappears into frozen sand behind the block at left.

Nick psyched for rappelling off of more shitty anchors... you don't want to know where that cord goes.

Nick on another gully rap with plenty of choss.

This is the anchor from which we rappelled over the bergschrund, definitely not guide certified. Here I have it backed up with a cam while Nick raps. The large nut is behind the red biner.

Getting ready to rap over the schrund.

Me rappelling through overhanging icicles on the schrund. Photo by Nick Mestre

We pulled the rope and hiked down to our tents at the crevasse. Josh and Chris had been waiting for us for a couple of hours due to the stuck rope and extra anchor building shenanigans. Despite having started for the summit at 4am it had taken us nearly 12 hours to climb and descend. We packed up camp and began the long slog down the Upper Bravo Glacier.

As it turned out, our timing was both perfect and terrible: we reached the top of the Bravo Ice Fall just as it got dark. We broke out the headlamps and began rappelling through the rock band and then over the first crevasse. Unfortunately the intense sun had melted away most of our tracks from the day before, making route finding through the steep maze of seracs and crevasses by headlamp an exercise in patience. Eventually we found each of the crevasses that we had climbed out of and built snow bollards to rappel back down them. Sometime after midnight we arrived back at Rainy Knob, ate some food and fell asleep.

The next day we hiked back across the Tiedemann Glacier to Sunny Knob and radioed White Saddle. The helicopter would pick us up at 7pm that evening. We had just enough time to cook all our remaining pork shoulder, eat it, and pack up camp. Less than an hour before the chopper was scheduled to arrive Nick was double checking camp and reminded Chris and Josh that they had left a trash bag of food in the snow bank. Chris and Josh said that it definitely wasn't theirs so we opened it up. Inside were three six-packs of canned craft beer. When the chopper crested the Serras we were still chugging the first round. Minutes later we were loaded up and taking off. We circled around the Tiedemann Glacier one last time and flew over the Upper Tellot on our way out of the range. That night we camped on grass, surrounded by trees, next to a beautiful lake. We drank more of the beers, went swimming and watched the sunset reflected in the water. I don't believe that life can get much better than that.

The summit of Waddington getting some cloud as we head down to the crevasse camp after rapping off.

Myself on the descent down the Upper Bravo. Photo by Nick Mestre.

Josh and Chris descending the Upper Bravo with Waddington behind. Photo by Nick Mestre.

Nick tired but psyched for some snow bollard rappelling by headlamp.

Chris and Josh cooking up food at base camp on Sunny Knob on our last day in the range.
The sunset at Bluff Lake where we camped the night after flying out of the mountains.

5. The South Ridge of Serra 2

I woke up feeling way too tired, but resigned to get on with it anyway. We ate a quick breakfast and put the last few things in our packs. Last minute we decided to make "wraps" to bring for lunch that day. We were limited on ingredients for such short notice and ended up going with large spoonfuls of Skippy peanut butter (crunchy of course), mixed with chunks of pure butter. As it turned out, the peanut butter and butter tortillas were the perfect snack: too rich to eat in one sitting with enough fat to keep us running all day.

The route starts with some steep hiking up benches above camp to access a snow field and the first rock buttress on the route. About 20 minutes out of camp we ran into two members of the other party that was camped at Sunny Knob, Steve and Alex. I was confused because I knew there was supposed to be a third member, a woman named Laurel, who I had met the year before at Index and who I had emailed back and forth with when we both found out we were planning to go to the Wadd that summer.

Steve said that there had been an accident and that Laurel was "gone." He had to repeat it before it registered. I felt numb and withdrawn almost immediately. They explained the accident a bit more, which I don't really remember. Unroped, 3rd class, summit ridge, loose block, gone, lost gear in her pack, unplanned descent. No doubt there was much more of a story, but it was not the time for details. We asked if we could help, but, no. They just needed to hike the last bit down to camp where they could radio the outside world with the sad news. Nick and I continued to hike upwards, on auto-pilot. We talked about if we should continue. I was withdrawn and scared by the news but I also knew that I wanted to continue. I let Nick talk through it and he said that he felt the consequences had not changed, we had always known what they were and decided to go anyway, this accident changed nothing. We agreed to continue with the caveat that we would be cautious, and remain roped on the summit ridge if at all possible.

The next few hours were a blur, partly because we covered so much ground and partly because I was focused inwards on the potential consequences of our chosen practice. We simul-soloed, simul-climbed, and belayed. The snow on the ridge was in terrible condition: warm, isothermic slop. Wet slide avalanches and ice fall were constant on the south facing glaciers and gullies of the Serras. Several times we opted to avoid easy snow gullies for harder rock climbing on adjacent features because we were afraid the gully would avalanche if we tried to climb it. Unfortunately, we were also discovering that the ridge was composed of lots of loose rock. Nick dubbed it the "Jenga Blocks of Death."

Nick soloing some typical low 5th Jenga Death Blocks
At least some of the rock was quite good. Nick is up there on lead.

Nick organizing gear after a block of climbing.

There were some nice views down the Tiedemann.

Some more climbing, a mix of good and bad.

Nick avoiding a crappy snow gully with some jengis rock climbing.
Yours truly soloing some quality rock... for once. Photo by Nick Mestre
The inner processing combined with the bad conditions and the exposure, no doubt led to me being pretty negative. I was trying to put a good face on it but I was pretty scared and definitely not enjoying the experience. Looking back, I probably needed to stop and take time to process Laurel's death and my own choices, but the task at hand didn't give us a choice in that matter. Instead of putting it behind me and letting myself focus on the climbing I began to get frustrated at all the little things. Nick, seemed to handle it all much better than me and took the lead on route finding. He gave me the shit I deserved for my bad attitude; after all, this whole thing was my idea.

I had several memorable quotes on the route that Nick will probably never let me forget. "I'm having a type two religious experience," was one. I think I meant that the current contemplation of my own mortality was not enjoyable. "I just want to go home and make love to my wife,"  which was self explanatory. There were also several iterations of "fuck this shit." I was saying all of these with black humor delivery, but Nick could tell that I was more than half-serious. He (also less than half-jokingly) began to call it my split personality disorder, in contrast to the excited enthusiasm with which I had discussed this trip for months.

Luckily, the shittiest climbing of that day came at the very end, when we were within view of Josh and Chris. We traversed around a large rock spire on the ridge (named Phantom Tower) and had to rappel into a notch. They were at the far side of the notch beneath a hanging snow gully, brewing up melted snow and waiting for the gully to go into the shade. I began to traverse some of the worst Jenga death blocks that we had seen that day, protruding from loose, vertical sand. Chris yelled across at us and after some back and forth yelling he managed to direct us up higher to more solid rock where I was able to traverse to an old tat anchor. We were then able to rappel from this, down more death blocks in more vertical sand, to reach easier ground in the notch.

Looking back up the vertical mud chimney full of death blocks.
Nick's picture of my type-2-religious-experience face after we reached the notch.
We found a great tent platform perched in the notch with thousands of feet dropping into ice falls on either side. Chris and Josh had just finished brewing up and we debated whether we should climb the snow gully above us that evening or early the following morning. The wet slides were continuing to crash down the faces around us in the warm afternoon sun, and the gully in question had runnels from several slides that had almost certainly swept down it that day.

We also had to inform Chris and Josh that Laurel was gone. They seemed to take it in stride but both of them knew her quite well from the Seattle climbing community. Both of them recalled some good memories they had of her while we waited for the sun.

In the end Josh and Chris decided to climb the snow gully that evening, and start up the crux rock buttress above it, while Nick and I opted to stay at the tent platform in the notch. The notch sloped off down rock slabs and snow slopes to the east before dropping over a cliff into the Stiletto Ice Fall. The other side of the notch dropped down a vertical to overhanging cliff into the top of a very steep snow couloir that disappeared from view through steep cliff bands with an ice fall on the upper Serra Glacier below. Fortunately, the west side of the tent platform had a counter-sized rock bench separating our sleeping pads in the tent from this overhanging drop.

Nick, fully to terms with our situation and determined to enjoy our precarious perch, chose to cook dinner with his legs dangling over this overhang. I was too freaked out to join him and was constantly worrying that the stove would fall into the abyss. Rattling my nerves further, Nick started to toss small rocks off the overhang into the snow gully below for entertainment. Each time the drop would be followed by an interminable silence as the rock hung in space. Then it would silently hit the snow, releasing only the smallest of amount of snow, moving silently down the couloir. Then the slightest hiss of this snow moving would reach our ears. The hiss would not stop, but slowly grow, second by second, as that snow slide would widen down the gully until it was a deafening roar from several tons of wet snow ripping through the sides of the narrow rock gully and over cliffs onto the ice fall below. This happened every time Nick dropped a rock, and he dropped several. Once we even saw the resulting snow debris pour into a crevasse on the Serra Glacier, thousands of feet below, catching just a glimpse of the final destruction through a notch in the rock spires.

With each avalanche I told myself that I was safe where I was, which was true, and slowly I began to enjoy the amazing position where we were. When I relaxed enough to take a big poop I found a nice flat rock and laid a coiler. I then walked to the edge where Nick sat and sacrificed my "fecal sacrament" to the mountain gods, causing yet another earth shaking avalanche. We laughed pretty hard at that one and the laughter felt good.

Nick enjoying the cooking spot above some prime avalanche chutes. Mt. Waddington wreathed in clouds.

Our Firstlight in the notch with Phantom Tower behind.
We ate a good dinner and went to bed early. In the early morning the snow gully above the notch was frozen hard and Chris and Josh's boot pack made for an easy stair case of steps. A couple pitches up the rock buttress above we ran into them. They had not made it far and slept on a small ledge, making us feel pretty good about our choice of campsite.

Overall the buttress went fairly smoothly. Despite being the rock climbing crux (six pitches up to 5.9) it was one of the easiest segments of the whole climb. At the top we reached the "summit ridge," which is 3rd to low 5th class, but had some of the worst Jenga death blocks on the route. The previous afternoon there had been a helicopter or two flying around the ridge we were on, presumably as part of a body recovery effort. That day they were flying very close to the ridge itself, one came and hovered quite near me for an extended period of time while I was trying to downclimb some rather loose and exposed blocks. Since Nick and I were simul-climbing, he was tugging on the rope a hundred feet away wanting to move. I did not want to move until the chopper had moved away but I couldn't communicate this with Nick over the din of the blades. This got me pretty frustrated again and I was not super stoked when I caught up with Nick.

On top of the helicopters, the Canadian Air Force was doing fighter jet practice that day as well. We watched several jets blast along the Tiedemann Glacier below us and then circle around to do barrel roles above the spires of the Serras. To try and lighten the mood we started joking about the sheer ridiculousness of climbing a super remote alpine rock route with multiple helicopters and jet fighters flying all around us. So much for peace and quiet, this was like a bad action movie with too many stunts. Pretty soon guys would be parachuting out of planes and fighting each other with knives and sub machine guns on the knife edge ridges around us. The whole sensory situation was so absurd that I was unable to really wrap my head around the fact that those helicopters were searching for a body, or maybe that was my way of dealing with the noise and not thinking about my own body falling off that ridge.

Nick leading some fun, moderate cracks low on the crux buttress.
A quality girth hitch anchor with the Jenga Death-block ridge in the background.
Choppers getting frustratingly close while we are on the sketchy ridge choss. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Looking back down on the start of the Jenga Death-block ridge with the crux buttress to the left. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Some quality rock on the summit ridge and surrounding peaks.
Eventually we reached a notch at the end of the ridge. The true summit was just beyond and Chris was already leading across a slab to reach it. The notch was the start of the rappel route as well. We climbed out an amazingly exposed but actually solid knife edge ridge and up the summit block in one long pitch. We didn't stay on the summit long, there was not much relief associated with being in a place that is that hard to leave. A short rappel and another traversing pitch got us back to the notch, but somehow in that process we badly core-shot one of our ropes. Nick used some medical tape to patch the total break in the sheath. We put stap-on crampons on our approach shoes and we began rappelling down the ice gully on the north side of the peak after Chris and Josh. Some of the anchors looked pretty sun bleached and precarious, but we were comforted by the knowledge that Chris and Josh had gone first.

The first few rappels we did on the one still-whole strand of our double ropes until the gully opened up and we weren't worried about stuck ropes. Then we did a double rope rappel and my belay device got stuck on the tape wrapped around the core shot. In desperation I dug my front points into the ice face and stood up as best I could in my flimsy approach shoes. I was barely able to pull myself up the rope to get the tape out of the belay device. I was then able to unweight the rope in my precarious position just long enough to slip the tape through my belay device. Nick's belay device passed the tape without incident.

On the rap we thought would be the last, I decided to rap first on the single good line. Nick could then unhitch this line and rap on both ropes so that we could pull the ropes from the glacier below. Unfortunately, there was another rap station that I missed and the bergschrund was deceptively big from above. I found myself committing to rapping off the end of the rope on the thin snow bridge partially covering the crevasse. I then had to downclimb some steep snow to get down to the glacier proper.

Unsure what to do about this situation and tired, not sure if Nick could even hear me I waited to tell him about it. Meanwhile he was yelling at me trying to find out what was happening and imagining that I had rapped off the roped into a gaping 'schrund and was unconscious or dead. Some mix of snow and angles made it so that I couldn't hear him at all. When he finally rappelled into view I yelled to him to do one more rappel off the last rap anchor that I had missed. Luckily he was still above the bergschrund's lip and was able to prusik up the rope and do a final rappel that got him to flat ground. He was pretty pissed off at me for not yelling "off rappel" or anything to try let him know I was okay, though he was little more understanding when he figured out I hadn't been able to hear him at all.

The important thing was that the most difficult stuff was all behind us and now all we had to do was walk across the Upper Tellot Glacier and back down the snow slopes to the Tiedemann Glacier and across that crevasse field to Sunny Knob. We were lucky to again have a boot track from Chris and Josh to follow, because as it turned out the evening shade had put a thin ice crust on the soft, wet snow covering the glacier. It was painful enough with the tracks already in, getting our shins wracked by the ice crust with every step. Breaking trail must have really sucked for them.

Chris (center on slab) and Josh (blue jacket on left) traversing slabs towards the summit of Serra 2 (top right).
Chris (in black on the left) nearing the summit. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Chris leads back along the knife edge ridge to the notch and descent gully. Photo by Nick Mestre.
Nick pulling onto the summit of Serra 2.
The view across to Serra 3 with the bergschrund and the Upper Tellot Glacier on the right.
Skyline peaks from the summit L-R: Waddington, Asperity, Tiedemann. Photo by Nick Mestre.
One of the better looking rap stations on the descent.
Nick on the first rappel down the gully.
Nick rapping over the schrund onto the Upper Tellot Glacier.

We took our time taking pictures in the evening light as we followed our painful path around the crevasses. We reached the Plummer Hut as the last rays of sun disappeared. Chris and Josh had obviously hoofed it down to camp ahead of us. We knew we had some extra food and so decided to spend the night at the hut instead of walking back to camp by headlamp. We found some folding camp chairs and a half full bottle of Makers Mark in the hut. Propped up mentally by swigs of whisky and physically by chairs on the little front stoop, we watched the last light fade and the stars come out while we melted snow and made the last of our instant potatoes.

In my mind, before starting up the South Ridge of Serra Two, I had thought that maybe we could still get on the Southeast Ridge of Mount Asperity. Nick had been totally against it from the start, laughing at the thought of us two even attempting an ED2+, but I thought maybe after cruising the South Ridge of Serra Two (after all, its been climbed camp-to-camp in a short day) he would change his mind. Instead, the experience made me realize that I had no desire to get on the Southeast Ridge of Asperity. The loose rock and awful snow on Serra Two, with the exposure of ridge climbing and Laurel's death left me completely satisfied. Looking over at Asperity from Serra Two, that ridge looked much more difficult, but also, even more loose. The South Ridge of Asperity was the longest rock route I'd done in my life and distinctly more alpine too. I decided that if we left the range the next day I would be happy and would not complain. However, satisfaction rarely lasts and its hard to stay still when you are in such a beautiful landscape.

Video: Nick celebrating after making it to the Upper Tellot with Serra's 2 and 3 behind.

Chris and Josh are already specks hiking down the Upper Tellot.
Nick admires the Serras (L-R 1-3) from the Upper Tellot.
Alpen-glow above some Andean ice flutes across the Tiedemann.
Waddington in alpen-glow as we approach the Plummer Hut on the Upper Tellot Glacier.