|The East Ridge: Looks good from here|
Sleep never came. Sometimes we would nod off for twenty minutes, but then the cold would jerk us awake and into another round of shivering.
Our two-day climb was now stretching into three. We huddled all night in the dark tending an anemic fire, mostly with wet twigs, as we sought its meager warmth. Lance tried to call his wife with a cell phone but never got through. She would remain awake all night too, alone and worried. The next morning she would call work and say that she could not come inher husband was missing in the mountains.
Finally, with the first rays of the sun, the cold and darkness began their slow retreat. The sun began to warm and color the world around us.
We were only a quarter-mile from our original campsite. It was in a line of trees on the far side of a deep drainage. Within an hour we had retrieved our packs and had begun the walk out.
When our car finally rolled into Marblemount, Russ pulled into the nearest gas station and announced that the trip was now a great success because the gas gauge had been pegged on empty from the time we had left the trailhead on Cascade River Road an hour before. Lance shook his head and made some kind of insulting comment about Americans.
A few miles farther down the road we found a cafi and Lance called his wife. We ordered double espressos and our blood started to warm from what seemed an interminable deep freeze. The rejuvenating rush of caffeine displaced the misery of a cold, sleepless night. The silent vows to abandon climbing, or at least back away from it, startedas they always doto fade. The sharp edges of memory became a little softer, a little less dire. They were already being diffused by the falling rhythms of the wind, rock and snow of Forbidden Peak.
Lance said we needed to check the weather for next weekend. He wanted to come back to the North Cascades, but he wanted to read the guidebook first.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication