I had a couple days where I could get away but with no car. I offered this problem up to the interweb gods and a Wandering Tree Frog was my sole response. Unfortunately he's crazy. Okay so maybe that's an unfair assessment but the sleep deprived furry, hoofed part of myself wasn't so sure about arriving at the wedgemount lake TH at 11pm, hiking through the night, and climbing the NE Arete of wedge as the sun warmed our behinds.
for a memorable and almost poetic first impression of Jason.
But in the end Frog was persuasive...or I was overly ambitious...or destiny was talking, and 11PM saw us gearing up in the lot discussing pickets or aluminum tent pegs, harnesses or old school hip knots, boxers or speedos, and Star Wars or Star Trek.
The way up was uneventful, the first for me on the new bypass trail, and before too long we were hopping along boulders by head lamp to the tongue of a Glacier littered with taste bud debris. We threw on some gear and began trudging up what seemed at times to be an endless vast wasteland of crunchy white styrofoam. I guess I can't complain. Could have been an endless ocean of oatmeal.
I'm pretty sure we both were feeling the lack of sleep at this point so I entertained myself by putting my left foot in front of my right and then my right in front of the left...I never tire of that game!
Jason lead us up to the start of the Arete where we decided it would be prudent to find shelter amongst the rocks for a brief snooze while we waited for the sun to rise. Unfortunately the wind was still hitting us a bit and we both awoke with quite the chill in our bones. A chill that could only be erased with some more uphill and good old-fashioned sweat. Do frogs sweat?
Jason lead the way up a steep snow tongue at the starrt of the Arete but kicking steps in trail runners took a lot out of him. As I passed by him my left crampon popped off which in retrospect was exactly what I didn't want to happen. Luckily I've got three other solid legs so I managed to scamper up to a snow ledge and put it back on but it would be problematic for the rest of the day.
I'd seen the Arete in better shape before but Jason's intel had told us it was in great shape, which in retrospect, it was in pretty good shape for a crooked line of rock, snow, and rockhard snow.
As the sun rose, we realized why we had been smelling smoke all night. It was REALLY smokey. The next day, I felt like I had smoked a pack of trees.
As you can see, the smoke line was rather apparent to the south - west especially.
Not as bad, but still pretty hazy to the East.
The upper half of the Arete turned out to be much softer and our axes could actually grab some purchase which was nice. But the stepped stairway from past climbers was nice to have.
Jason taking a break near the top and taking it all in...the smoke I mean.
But in all seriousness, as we went up, it seemed like we were just above the the smoke line.
Just a small Frog on a big ridge.
I was pleasantly surprised with my body status. I had felt pretty strong all night and the expected leg spasms, hoof cramps, and general fatigue did not manifest themselves.
Unfortunately my left crampon was still giving me issues and to add to the difficulty, the anti-bot popped out. It made me a little uncomfortable to trust my left foot on the way up but I managed.
Happy to be where we are, but still thinking about the long down.
The first time I climbed Wedge about 7 years ago, me and a couple peeps went up the Scrambles route. Due to snow and our fitness, it ended up taking us about 8-9 hours to get on top.
Ironically, this time around it had also taken us about the same.
At some point, Jason piped up. " Hey man, is there something around here that I could use to strengthen my ankles, and give my knees a really good work out?"
I can't be certain but I'm pretty sure I responded in a surfer voice "Tots Bra...I got just the thing! The west ridge decent!
In all seriousness though, I was a little apprehensive of reversing our route with a bum crampon on an exposed downslope and my memory of the west basin was that it was pretty much flat to gain the Glacier on the other side. Turns out my memory ain't so good. Pretty sure Jason was cursing rocks, cursing me, and cursing rocks. It was a lot looser than I remember it. Here I am sending giant slides of rocks down, boulders, falling on my ass, tossing my poles up into the air...and meanwhile I don't even hear Jason above me. I swear he didn't overturn one rock. Amazingly light on his feet for a 6'5 amphibian.
Luckily we happened to come across a set of bear tracks to follow which went exactly the way we wanted to go back out onto the Glacier to meet up with our up tracks.
We trudged back to the vehicle with limited breaks. For the last hour I must have resembled a slightly less spry version of Mr. Burns down stepping the trail.
Thanks to Jason for the ride and the idea. Been meaning to do this for awhile and glad to have finally gotten around to it.