The wind woke me up the next morning making it a less than desirable decision to want to crawl out of my sleeping bag. However, laying down (on the ground, in bed, on a couch, doesn’t matter where) has always made my lower back hurt. Sometimes I hate my body for being so odd in that way because it just means I have to get out of “bed” to avoid the pain, no matter what early hour my body decides it’s done with horizontal life. With that being said, as soon as I am vertical, my lower back pain instantaneously disappears. Begrudgingly, I crawled out of my warm hole, snuck to the corner to relieve my bladder, and retrieved my camera.
They are cute when they sleep. I took the alone time to stretch and watch the sun peak around the edge of the Spire. I couldn’t wait for the ledge to be engulfed in sunlight; that meant warmth, my favourite thing. When the boys awoke from their slumber, I had to do the inevitable – a No. 2. I suppose up until this moment, peeing off in a corner is one thing, but relieving bowels in front of others is a completely different story. In that very moment, it hit me, I was going to have to do it with them less than 10 feet from me. Oof. Let’s say that again – Oof.
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“How do you do this whole… pooping deal?”
“Awh, does Shay have little rabbit poops that she needs to release?”
I laughed, a bit uneasy, a bit relieved that he was making light of the situation and didn’t care at all. He gave me a wag bag and explained to me that I needed to aim correctly, be neat about it because the boys were going to need to use the same bag, and even more importantly he stressed that I couldn’t get any urine in the bag. He handed me the bag and said, “Enjoy!” Tom and Jon both thought the situation was hilarious.
So it was. I finished. I rolled it up carefully and placed a rock on it so it wouldn’t blow away. I thought to myself, “Well, if that wasn’t the worst part of this big wall adventure, I have no idea what could be worse.” After Jon and Tom used the bag, we placed it in a used gallon water bottle, duck taped it real well, and attached it to the bottom of the small haul bag. Jon confirmed his opinion for me: “You really do have little rabbit poops, us meat eaters have big man poops! Want to know the best part?”
I looked at him, not really sure what to make of his openness, “What?”
“You get to go last tomorrow!”
Oof. “I so look forward to it, trust me.”
We ate breakfast. The sun came to warm our faces and we began to prepare for the day. We had managed to find a few extra gallons of water on our ledge, which we scavenged all of what we could. When we found the extra water the previous night, we all rejoiced. We looked at the topo and planned out the next 4 pitches before the next bivy. I said I would jug again if Tom wanted to clean aid. Once everything was settled, Jon said I was going to have to do a 3 to 1 lower out from the belay ledge. Immediately, I got really scared. I knew that lower outs were scary to begin with, but I had also never done one before. I was going to have to do my first lower out without anyone on the ledge with me to double check my system. Reality – it’s brutal sometimes. Completely outside of my comfort level, I reviewed everything with Jon a few times before he began the first pitch. Now it was waiting time, curling up in the sun like a cat time, dreading a 3 to 1 lower out time, and camera play time.
Jon yelled down at me, “You’re fixed Shay. You’re rope is fixed. Prepare to haul.” It was climb time. I took a deep breathe. I helped the haul bag on it’s way and watched it swing out over the ledge. Watching the haul bag swing made me even more nervous because that was the exact motion my body was going to make once I weighted the rope. Scanning the ledge for any pieces of our existence that could have been mistakenly left behind, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and repeated to myself a few times “You got this. You totally have this.”
I threaded the rope through one of the anchors and back through to my GriGri. Looking over the edge, I did that thing again – imagining my body falling weightlessly through the air, maybe bouncing off of the rock wall a time or two, before reaching the depths below. Shayd’s voice came to mind again. I began my lower out. I stepped over the edge. My mind was racing. The lower out was about 30 – 40 feet. When I reached the end of my slack on the fixed line, it became apparent that I didn’t have quite enough rope to finish the lower out. I double checked my set up to make sure that when I pulled the rope out of the anchor I wasn’t going to have any unexpected falling happening. It felt like 15 minutes had passed while I collected myself, calmed my breathing, preparing myself to pull the rope, reassuring every fiber in my body that the remainder of the swing wasn’t going to be that bad. Description of the experience: positively terrifying.
I was now back into my comfort zone, jugging. I decided to get brave and take my camera out while standing on my aid ladders before reaching the belay ledge.
I had to do a few more lower outs as we continued pitch by pitch. None of them were as big as the first one though. If you look closely at the two pictures above, at the very, very top of the Spire there is a little black dot. Someone far in the distance was up there looking down at us. Maybe there was going to be a rope in the notch allowing us to bypass a ridiculous amount of repelling and a horrendously steep descent back to the Valley Store.
The day went on and the heat from the sun was sweltering. I no longer felt like a cozy kitten curling around myself to soak up the welcomed warmth. No, I felt like a shipwrecked crustacean baking on a rock in the middle of a water-less ocean. I tried to stay conscious of how much water I was drinking. For me, it’s really hard to remember to eat and drink water while on the wall. Tom reminded me every time I reached a belay ledge.
After the day’s 4 pitches, we had finally made it to Bivy Ledge No. 2. This ledge was composed of all rock and tapered off downward on the edges. The last ledge had been surrounded by a wall of rock with a sandy bottom. The exposure was definitely more real here. We settled into our home for the evening before the evening’s light disappeared.
And of course, play time for me as I instructed my models to entertain my lens.
We put warmer clothes on, took inventory of our food, prepared to cook, and tidied up the rack. Going pee on this ledge was a bit more difficult. It required one down climb move to a small notch between the wall and the ledge. I began to make my way down when Jon came to give me a spot telling me to be careful. If I were to slip here, it could mean inevitable death if I tumbled over the edge. After making sure I was safe, Jon gave me my privacy.
And then I grunted: “Oh fuck!”
Both Tom and Jon turned to me with concern.
© /skin/ /ˈpōətrē/