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Angel Wings, 8/00

By Peter Coward

On August 12, a mere three weeks after swearing off marathon approaches, I found myself stumbling back to the car after another long day in the backcountry. Chan Harrell and I had just climbed the South Arete Direct on Angel Wings in Sequoia National Park, and, hungry and dehydrated as usual, we were hoping to end our little adventure as soon as possible.

We had cut out of work a little early Friday to beat traffic, and arrived at the trailhead at the unheard-of hour of 8:30 pm. Thumbing through the guidebook just outside the park, I rashly suggested that given our early arrival, we should consider doing the 16 mile approach in the dark, maybe catch a couple of hours of sleep at Hamilton Lake, and then tick both Angel Wings and the South Buttress of Cherubim Dome, a so-called unknown classic of the Sierra. Chan didn't need much convincing, and it seemed like a great plan until a more careful look at the numbers revealed a certain epic drive home Sunday and possible missed flight for me Monday morning (to start a trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone with Tatjana). So it was back to the usual--up at about 3:30am, hiking at 4, and climbing by about 11. The route was quite good, though a little dirty on the first few pitches. And lots of funk, even on the easy pitches. We enjoyed a cloudless sky, and the views were, as always in the Sierra, quite spectacular. We also enjoyed a fairly casual descent, and near-full moon for the hike out. The final tally was 32 miles hiking, 7070 feet elevation gain for the day (which was a little surprising given that the net gain from trailhead to summit was only 3500 feet, and the trail doesn't go over any passes), with a car-to-car time of 21 hr 20 min (back in time for a few z's before driving home!).

The following day, T and I headed out to the Tetons for a week. We stayed at the climber's ranch, where climber's from all over the country hang, chat, and scheme their next ascent of the Grand (13,770 ft). These ascents seem to take at least one day for the approach, one for the climb and possibly one for the hike back out to the car. So it turned more than few heads at the Ranch when I soloed the Owens-Spaulding route in 8 hrs ranch to ranch (5.4, 12-14 miles, 7000 ft elevation gain). (Jackson locals were no doubt more impressed with Rolando Garibrotti's solo of the entire Grand Traverse (Teewinot, Owen, the Grand, Middle, South and possibly another summit or two) in roughly the same time a couple days earlier). Later, I again stunned the ranch denizens when I did a three mile approach AND on-sighted 5.10- while climbing Caveat Emptor, a fabulous 6 pitch route in death canyon, all in a single day.

Other highlights in the Tetons included running into Abby Watkins on the summit of the Grand (she's guiding for Jackson Mountain Guides this summer), and many terrific hikes and wild animal sightings.

We spent the next five days exploring Yellowstone, again enjoying beautiful scenery, wild geysers, hot springs, bubbling mud pools, and Visitor Center videos of bison head-butting hapless tourists. Exciting stuff. The only bummer was that we didn't see any bears, though we did see paw prints and a total of 5 bison or elk carcasses within sight of the various trails we hiked.

Now it's back to the usual...



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