Wow! I started on the Swift, but got off route near the top when I traversed left to the roof on Altitude Sickness instead of entering the crux of the Swift. The roof crack on Altitude Sickness was HARD! I just managed to onsight it. My favorite climb of the trip. I wrote this for Victor's creative writing paper:
<p>I knew immediately that I was off route. The 15 feet of rock above me, which had looked like a probable line from the ledge 40 feet below, looked a lot less probable up close. It was definitely some route - the
chalk marks running the length of the thin crack were evidence of that - but not the relatively mellow pitch I was expecting to find on The Swift, my chosen route up the three hundred foot Lost Horse Wall.
<p>I looked down at Victor, belaying me from the ledge, and then at the valley floor far below my feet. I thought of reversing the traverse that I'd made to get to the overhanging block under which I stood, but I realized that even that would be a gamble, and I'd have a good chance of falling.
I wasn't afraid of falling to my death. I was afraid of blowing my perfect, no falls lead of the climb. To fall is to fail on this particular climb, even though I'd simply be caught by my protection and continue to the top. I made the decision to go for it. I double checked the two pieces of
protection I'd placed near the bottom of the crack, called them good, and started up. I heard Victor's encouraging words and made up my mind that I wouldn't give up. If I fell, I didn't want it to be for lack of trying.
<p>My obstacle was a 15 foot, right angling finger crack under a steep roof. There were no feet on the face below the crack, so I knew I'd have to move quickly. As I started up with my fingers in a great "lock" I hoped for a rest partway up to place more protection. After making the first
commiting move into the crack, however, I knew that no rest would come. I would have to keep moving, well above my last piece of protection, if I hoped to climb this section of rock without a fall.
<p>I walked my hands up the crack, trying to get solid finger locks, but more often than not trusting a less secure hold and hoping that my next would be good enough to keep me on the wall. My feet pawed at the blank face for holds, but could find nothing more than the friction
offered by the sharp quartz monzonite of J-Tree on my sticky rubber shoes. The crack widened near the top and I found a way to jam my left fist into a shallow pod. As I let go with my right hand to make the next move, my fist started to slide out of the crack, and I grabbed desperately
for the top as I began to fall. My hand slapped a flat shelf above the overhang, and it miraculously stuck. I pulled myself up to the shelf, looking for more holds but finding only some loose blocks and a wide crack. I jammed my arm into the wide crack and let out a scream of joy.
<p>Victor's congratulations echoed up the walls. I took a minute to gather myself, placed another piece of protection in the wide crack, and continued up easy rock to a ledge. Arms shaking with adrenaline, I built an anchor to protect Victor as I belayed him up. I sat down at the anchor, pulled the rope up until I had Victor tight, and put him on belay. Relaxed now, I told myself to enjoy this moment. As I belayed Victor up, I felt the cool breeze from the north on my back, blowing over the top of the rock formation, and I watched the shadows on the valley floor below me to the south.
Witnessed by: Victor McConnell