Lost Arrow Spire (5.12d) Yosemite

Lost Arrow Spire (5.12d), Yosemite

June 1994
by Ron Kilber rpknet@aztec.asu.edu

Click on the image for
an unbelievable view!

When I had the opportunity to go with some people to Yosemite for a two week climbing vacation, I thought, "What a great idea". (Actually, anywhere is a great idea if you live in Phoenix where it becomes a furnace in June.)

I met Bob, Isaac, and Mark at the Phoenix Bouldering Contest in April of 1994. Bob is Isaac's father and Mark is a family friend. They talked about their plans of going to Yosemite in June, and eventually the conversation evolved into an invitation for me to join them. (They decided I was a pretty good guy.)

It is now Friday, June 8, and tomorrow I am departing for Yosemite with my new climbing friends. I've been planning, packing, and preparing all week for a trip I've been wanting to take for a long time now. Actually, I had plans to go there last year, however, my climbing partner cancelled -- putting a big damper on that idea, and a friendship, too. It has been a good 12 years since I've been to Yosemite, so believe me, I am ready.

About five o'clock, Bob is on the phone with me wanting to know if I would mind if the trip could be delayed one week -- due to unexpected business problems. He is having problems, which he can't abandon, otherwise he will lose a lot of money. Would I mind? (Ya right, I'll just reschedule my two week summer vacation right now.)

Rather than change my plans, I decide to go to Yosemite alone. Traveling solo is actually not a bad way to go. Last year I went to Devils Tower alone, and it was a very interesting trip. I was up to my ears in climbing partners, and I got to do many of the classic routes on some of the best rock in the world. Had I been with a friend, I would never have had the opportunity to meet so many good climbers.

A little later, Bob calls back on the phone and wants to know what I think about the idea of taking along Isaac, his 16 year old son. In this way, he reasons, I will have a climbing partner in Yosemite. Bob and Mark will catch up to us in a week, and then the four of us will be able to climb together.

Before committing to this idea, I want to think it over. My first reaction is that if something happens to Isaac, most certainly Bob would hold me liable, and worse, even if it were an accident, he would come after me for restitution (and most certainly he would not settle with me for just my climbing rack).

Isaac is a tall, lanky kid, but one hell of a climber. His dad and Mark put him on the sharp end of the rope all the time. Actually, if it were not for Isaac, they would not get up most of the climbs on their outings. Isaac leads a full two grades higher than his dad or Mark (and me, too).

After discussing the idea with a close friend, Genette convinces me that I should take Isaac along. After all, my only real objection is the liability issue. She reminds me that, as a climber, I take risks all the time, so what's the big risk with taking Isaac along anyway?

When I call Bob to tell him my decision, I can hear Isaac reacting to the good news in the background. Unwilling to accept the one week delay in his vacation, he yells at the top of his lungs, "Yes....yes....all right...all right....cooool".

Yosemite is about 800 miles from Tempe. Even though the route is mostly freeway, it takes a good 17 or 18 hours of travel time, owing to fuel and food stops and the mountain road after Fresno. Since we plan to dirt-bag at Camp Four (which is always full unless you get there early in the day), it makes sense to time our arrival so that we get there first thing in the morning. That way, we'll be first in line to get a camp site before the weekend crowd shows up.

Saturday morning Bob stops by with the juvenile (together with about five pounds of homemade chocolate chip cookies). Bob gives me an envelope, which has a list of instructions in it. You know, what to do in case of an emergency, etc. I find this amusing, and now I feel like I am a baby-sitter or something.

Also, it isn't long before Isaac's mother phones and wants to talk to me. She is practically in tears as she tells me this is her son's first trip away from home alone. I'm looking at Isaac as I listen to her. He certainly is not in tears, and if he would be, it certainly wouldn't be from sorrow over leaving home, but uncontrollable excitement. She goes on and on about how worried she is about her son.

Now I begin to think about a way to get out of this, because all of her concerns make me apprehensive as hell. Soon, Bob wants to talk to her. He calms her down, and me, too.

After the requisite photo session, we load Isaac's gear into my car, and then by mid-morning we are on the Superstition Freeway on our way west to California.

We drive straight through, stopping only for gas when we need it, and killer tacos at a Mexican restaurant in Fresno. We arrive at Yosemite's Camp Four about midnight, and about six hours sooner than we had planned.

The journey here was without incident, except Isaac kept trying to give me a cookie about every half hour. I think he was so grateful for the opportunity to go with me, he wanted to make sure I knew he was appreciative. I went the entire day without a single cookie, but after dinner I finally had several of them.

They sure were good then, but certainly not now (they are killer cookies and now I have killer indigestion).

Camp Four is full (no surprise), and a placard at the ranger booth says to stop back after nine in the morning. Also, a park brochure says it is illegal to sleep in a car anywhere in the park, or to camp outside a designated area.

Now what? Why didn't someone tell us this before we got here? Not easily defeated, we grab our pads and sleeping bags and decide to sneak a bivouac in the woods about 300 feet north of the Camp 4 parking lot.

For the better part of a week, Isaac and I climb most of the routes at Swan Slab, the Church Bowl, the Chapel, and over by the Ahwahnee Hotel. The sheer volume of climbing forces us to take a rest day twice.

It is Friday, and something interesting is happening on the radio. The police are chasing OJ Simpson on the freeways around Los Angeles.

On Saturday, Isaac's dad shows up alone. Mark stayed in Phoenix because he now has a business problem of his own, and he will be along just as soon as he tames the wolves -- which will take few days.

Bob's arrival and timing are perfect, because I developed a pernicious shoulder problem from the intense workout with the juvenile during the last week. I'm in dire need of several days rest.

Bob has not climbed in several weeks, so he and Isaac leave early Sunday and get on Royal Arches (5.7). My newly found freedom is great (I don't have to chaperone anymore, nor worry about Isaac running off with a pedophile in a Nintendo equipped sports car), and I use the rest of the day for rest and relaxation.

By the time Mark finally shows on Tuesday, I'm getting a little worried that I have not yet bagged a truly classic climb. I have not yet done Snakedyke, Royal Arches, or The Nutcracker, but those classics will always be there. With only four days of vacation left, I want to do a classic climb, something to really write home about. A climb hard enough to discourage the neophyte and faint of heart, yet easy enough to attract a few climbers to keep the route clean.

I am not prepared for a big wall like El Capitan -- besides, even if I was, I'm not sure I would want to. With the hordes of people on El Cap these days, your chances of getting urinated or defecated on are pretty good. No wonder all wall climbers complain about intestinal problems -- they all have parasites from climbing through dump stations. The "Nose" already is, by many accounts, a half mile long vertical sewer and land fill.

This reminds me of those who were wiped out during the great plague, only now modern medicine enables wall rats to keep on living, and infecting (I wonder, is this why they got the name, wall rats?).

What is really appealing to me is a climb such as The Lost Arrow Spire with its Tyrolean Traverse finish.

Traveling on a tension line was a staple of exercise for me in my youth, and also served as transportation from my tree fort to my friend's yard two houses away. In fact, I had not done such a traverse since I was a teenager. The difference now though is that the Lost Arrow traverse is not 20 feet above Mrs. Anderson's back yard -- it is 3,000 feet over Yosemite Valley.

The more I think about this climb, the more I want to do it. The only problem is, I can't get Bob and Mark to do the Lost Arrow Spire with me. Instead, they want to do Snakedyke

Never being one to accept defeat easily, I set out to find a partner for the Lost Arrow Spire.

The first thing I do is put a note on the Camp Four bulletin board. My note reads:

10 AM
Partner Wanted
Ron, Space 10
Leave message (time & date):

I am confident the bulletin board method will result in a climbing partner for me, but just in case, I think I will also try to find a partner by word of mouth in the parking lots, and wherever climbers hang out.

There are many problems for climbers here in Yosemite during the summer. For one thing, visitors must limit there stay in the park to one week. Already, Isaac and I have overstayed our welcomes, and only now have a place to camp because we are sharing the site Bob got when he arrived on Saturday (when ours expired and we checked out).

When I get back to camp at the end of the day, I learn how stupid it was to use my name on that bulletin board message. Bob tells me a ranger was here looking for me.

You see, I've already used up my one week stay at Camp Four, and now I am a felon for remaining in the park. How do the Rangers know I am a scofflaw? (The bulletin board message says: "Ron, in space 10". Their records say Ron (in space 10) checked out on Saturday, and the note says Ron (in space 10) is still here. So let's catch him, and fine him $50.)

The next day, while hanging out in the Yosemite Lodge parking lot, I am approached by a soft-spoken climber, John, who asks me if I have seen Jim Bridwell. I say no. Then a guy on a bicycle overhears our conversation and wants to know, rudely, "Who wants Bridwell?" (Like, hey guys, you don't look much like 5.12 climbers, so go away!)

John says he was suppose to meet Bridwell in the Lodge parking lot at 2 PM -- it is now 2:30. The rude guy on the bike says Bridwell is setting ropes on El Cap in preparation to guide a party up Triple Direct in the morning.

John then informs him it is he and two friends who are going with Bridwell in the morning up Triple Direct. Now the rude guy suddenly is polite (he's probably afraid Bridwell will leave a #4 cam impression on his forehead for pissing off three clients).

John directs his conversation towards me, obviously in an effort to ignore the rude ass on the bike. Any ordinary person would be offended by this tactic, but not the rude guy. He just hangs around as John and I talk -- all the while we are oblivious to his presence. Eventually, he just tires and goes away. (Isn't it funny how you can't insult morons?)

It isn't long before John and I learn that we had something in common. Both of us are knot freaks. I ask him if he has ever seen the double butterfly knot. He hasn't, but is curious and wants to see it.

Never missing an opportunity to dazzle another climber with a knot concoction, we walk to my car so I can retrieve a rope.

After demonstrating the double butterfly knot, John is so impressed with it that he wants me to do it again, only slower so that he can learn it. He immediately masters the knot, and I can tell he is anxious to try it out soon.

"What do you use it for?", John asks.

"What do you do when you reach the top of a climb without any slings left, and you want to equalize two anchors but you only have the climbing rope left?", I ask him.

John responds, "A double butterfly knot?"

John is a great knot freak. When I tell him about the triple butterfly, he demonstrates it without the benefit of first seeing it. Then he goes for the quadruple, the quintuple, and so on.

Not once have I ever met a climber who was not dazzled by this knot, or even knew of it for that matter.

About this time Bridwell arrives, and he is looking for his clients. After recognizing John at my car, Bridwell walks towards us while yelling John's name to get his attention. They shake hands. John is very polite and introduces me to Bridwell.

Now here is where an introduction between any two people from different worlds would stop dead in its tracks. But not here, thanks to John, who is curious enough to ask Bridwell if he knows the knot we are playing with.

Bridwell's expression on his face is something like -- ya right, I'm standing here with some dumb shit who thinks he's going to show me a new knot. He even gets a smile ready to use after I show him the knot, but the smile is not needed. Jim has never seen the knot before, but he is quick to analyze it and demonstrate that if one anchor blows, the other anchor will be shock loaded.

"True, but the anchor is shock loaded whether you use a sling or a rope", I debate.

Jim then tells us this is why he clove hitches his slings to each anchor. Now John demonstrates that the climbing rope, too, can be clove hitched to each anchor.

Then Bridwell's smile finally comes and he says, "but I don't run out of slings".

I turned to John and say, "I don't think Jim likes our knot" (I take back what I said earlier about never meeting a climber who was not dazzled by the double butterfly knot).

We laugh, then Bridwell says let's get this show on the road. In a flash they are off to the other end of the parking lot to gear-up for El Cap.

The back of Bridwell's pickup (a really old one with a camper shell) serves as a staging area as they prepare for their ascent of El Cap in the morning.

It has been a very casual but interesting day, and I forgot all about my note on the bulletin board. I figure I better check it since I haven't looked all day.

Miraculously, someone has already posted a reply to my message:

6/19, 6 PM
We're doing it tomorrow, if interested meet
us in the Yosemite Lodge till 10:00 PM.
Ed & Derek, two tall ugly dudes w/ bandanas.

I track them down after a little effort. They are not in the lodge after all, but instead at Camp Four with Bob, Isaac and Mark, waiting for me to show up.

Ed travels with the Blue Oyster Cult as an assistant, and Derek is an engineer in the Boston area. They have been friends since grade school, and now at ages 27, they came to Yosemite from Boston for a climbing vacation to tackle the Lost Arrow Spire, which they have had their eyes on for years. They are driving a blue Pontiac Lemans convertible, which was built in the year of their birth, 1967. The license tags read "TUF 67". A haul bag with the name Petunia on it consumes the entire back seat. (I can just picture these two dudes in ponytails and bandanas flying down the freeway with a huge haul bag in the back seat.)

Their plan is like mine: to team up with another climber. Only they want to climb the Lost Arrow all the way from the valley floor, something like 17 pitches.

Once on top of the spire, how would they rig the Tyrolean Traverse? That is were the third man comes in.

We quickly agree to form a climbing party, only I will hike up the long trail, gaining 3,000 feet in elevation, to the rim of the main wall across from the spire. There I will join my two ropes and rappel 270 feet to the notch, where I will rendez-vous with Ed and Derek. From there the three of us will complete the climbing with my rap line in tow. Once on top of the spire we will complete the Tyrolean Traverse -- considered to be the high point of excitement on the climb.

Ed and Derek are extremely psyched for this climb. In fact, Ed and Derek have been training for it back East. The only thing they lack is someone with two ropes to descend 270 feet on a fixed line to the notch.

Early in the morning (very early, we don't want to encounter any rangers), after the three of us have breakfast together, Ed and Derek depart for their assault of the talus slope to the base of the Lost Arrow Spire.

Bridwell & Gang Bridwell & Gang posing before departure for El Cap

I decide to loiter, so I head over to the Yosemite Lodge parking lot where my car is. Bridwell and his clients are parked in the space next to my car. They are doing some last minute preparations. The thing that strikes my attention most is that one of Bridwell's clients is removing all the wrappers from a case of Starbursts. There must be 1,000 unwrapped Starbursts there!

Without me even asking, but recognizing my curiosity, he says matter-of-factly, "I'm peeling Starbursts".

Peeling Starbursts Peeling Starbursts.

I want to know what for, and he tells me the deal they have with Bridwell is to supply the money and the Starbursts, and they must be peeled. Jokingly he says, "these are what make Jim Bridwell what he is".

Another thing which strikes me is how John is filing the throats wider on his new Petzel ascenders. They work better on an 11 MM rope this way, John says.

This is not my first time watching a party get ready to do a big wall. Each time though, it is fascinating. Especially this time, watching Bridwell give shit to his clients because they want to take so much stuff along, and because none was ready two hours ago.

I hang around until they finally take group pictures and then depart. Bridwell makes them leave more than half their gear behind in John's car.

So far on this trip, I've prepared all my food at the campsite, but soon I will be doing a very strenuous hike (and climb), so I decide to eat a big breakfast in the Yosemite Lodge Cafeteria. (Actually, I'm afraid to show up at Camp Four in daylight, fearing an encounter with a ranger.) Bacon, scrambled eggs, potatoes, toast and coffee come to eight dollars. I facetiously ask the cashier if the gourmet prices mean gourmet food? She is real sympathetic, smiles and agrees the prices are way out of line for what you get.

Right now, I could eat three of these breakfasts, but I wouldn't pay the $24 they want. Before leaving the cafeteria, I fill my disposable coffee cup with hot water, and grab a handful of complimentary packets of jelly. At my car, I add oatmeal and honey to the hot water, and use the jelly on a couple slices of bread.

Afterwards, I am still hungry!

When it is mid-morning, I use my binoculars to try and spot Ed and Derek on the Lost Arrow Spire. They are no where in sight. I figure they must still be trying to get up the talus slope to the base of the spire.

When it is noon, Ed and Derek are still no where in sight.

By the time it gets dark, I think by eye sockets are permanently red from the binoculars. I have not seen hide nor hair of those guys since I left them this morning. Now I'm beginning to think that Ed and Derek have flaked on me, and this second week at Yosemite is not yielding any climbing fun at all.

It is morning again, and as I am viewing through my binoculars, a Yosemite regular takes interest in my fixation of the Spire. He suggests maybe Ed and Derek decided to climb the chimney, instead of the face, in which case we wouldn't be able to see them until they reach the notch. This sounds plausible, so now I think maybe I should get my butt in gear and get on up there. Are they already in the notch waiting for me? If so, I'm the one who is the flake.

Well, I have two days of vacation left. I may as well go for it. What the heck, if they are up there, great. If not, maybe I will be lucky and run into another party to climb with. Even if I don't climb at all, at least I will get to do one of the best classic hikes in the world -- the trail to top of Yosemite Falls.

So I begin the long, hard, killer hike to the top. My only reservation about doing the Lost Arrow Spire is the tremendous workout required to reach Yosemite Falls, and then to continue on to the point directly across from the Lost Arrow Spire. For me, this is the approach from hell- -4.5 miles of switchbacks with a vertical rise in elevation of 3,000 feet. With my pack, two ropes and water, about 50 pounds in all on my back and shoulders, I no longer am just a 160 pound climber going up a steep grade. I am 210 pounds!

After three hours of steady movement (and one pound of Fig Newtons), I find myself in pretty good form on the rim of the wall just across from the Lost Arrow Spire (where's that moron who said it only takes about an hour to hike up here?). Actually, I am surprised at the amount of energy I have left and conclude the hike isn't as bad as I first believed, even though it took more time than I thought.

Only thing now is that no one else is around. Not even another hiker. So I make myself comfortable near the edge and savor the panoramic view of the valley, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Twolemine Meadows on the horizon. This certainly is worth every step of the hike up.

It isn't long before my energy puts me back on my feet. Then I notice a haul bag stashed behind a boulder, and I read the name "Petunia" on it. Ed and Derek are here? How did they get the haul bag from the notch to here? I begin shouting for them. When I start to feel stupid about shouting at nothing, Ed and Derek show up out of the blue. They have been off hiking.

Ron Ed posing with the Lost Arrow Spire in the background.

The first thing they ask me is if I got their message.

What message, I muse.

The one they put on the bulletin board, they tell me.

Actually, I didn't even go back to Camp Four last night. Fearing the rangers, I slept in my car instead (lots of people do this; just don't fog your windows and get caught--it's fifty bucks).

Ed and Derek hiked up here yesterday because they couldn't get Petunia up the steep talus slope to the base of the wall. They'd been waiting here all day, unable to do the climb because I was nowhere around.

But is there enough time left in the day to complete the climb? Ed gestures to the sun and thinks it is still high enough. Derek says there will be a full moon.

So we then rapped the 270 feet to the notch. Only problem now, it is getting very dark. Because the moon doesn't shine around corners, we can't see very well, so we jug back to the top of the wall and decide to think things over.

Now the problem is a little more complicated. If we still want to do this climb tomorrow, we need to bivouac for the night. Ed and Derek have bivouac gear, but I do not. Ed says it's no problem because it didn't get very cold last night. Also, they have a huge rain fly, which I can use, and if that isn't enough, there's always Petunia which I can climb into.

These guys don't care if I freeze, just as long as they get to do this climb.

"What about food, I'm all out?", I say.

"No problem, you can eat some of ours."

Then I remember I don't have a back-country permit.

"What back-country permit?", asks Derek.

The sun is already down when we finish dinner. Neither one ate very much, and I wonder how could these 200-plus pound dudes eat so little? Actually, I ate more than they did, and could eat even more.

What amazes me right now is how quickly it has gotten so cold. I mean, I am shivering, probably much of it due to just eating. How the hell am I going to stay warm when it gets even colder?

When I get up to move around a little, I notice that a boulder about the size of a Hummer is still warm from the days sun. After leaning on it for a while, its heat warms me up like toast, and I get the idea about using the rain fly and constructing a lean-to. This way, I'll have perfect shelter -- with central heating.

Using rocks to stake the corners and edges of the rain fly, I put Petunia inside my make-shift home and then I climb in.

Thirty minutes later I have to come out to cool off! My lean-to has gotten too hot from the heat of the boulder. So I leave one end of the fly open, and I go back to sleep without needing Petunia.

Somewhere around three in the morning, the wind comes up from the east, and I mean I am freezing! I thought I had this problem conquered, but without a sleeping bag, or pad for that matter, nature proves to be more than a match.

Ed and Derek look like toast in their sleeping bags (if either offers, I think I would climb in with one of them). The wind wakes Derek, too. He realizes I am cold and gives his sweater to me (it doesn't matter that he has been wearing it day and night for a week without a shower). Pretty soon, Ed gives me his sweater, too. This helps quite a bit, but it isn't enough. So I crawl under the fly and into Petunia again, closing the fly behind me and using rocks to hold it closed. This immediately helps me as it retains most of the body heat I am now generating. Soon I am warm, and I fall back to sleep.

About four-thirty or so, I wake again. This time I am not only freezing, instead, I am soaking wet from sweat! The wind is still blowing and it is now cold enough for frost outside. (How sure are you guys that it didn't get very cold last night?)

It seems Petunia not only retains heat efficiently, it also does an excellent job with moisture, too. Breathable clothing really is important. Now what, I think, as I lean back against my Hummer? To my amazement, I immediately feel the warmth of the rock again. It is slight, maybe only a few degrees above body temperature, but pressing against it is now slowly warming me. I remain seated with my back against the rock until I am dry again, which also is about the time the sun comes up.

Right away we have breakfast, which consists of everything that is left: two packages of Ramen, some cookies, some coffee, and some granola bars. I am so hungry, I don't turn down anything they offer. And when the food is all gone, I want more. Now I know why they didn't eat much last night. Had they eaten more, there would not have been any food left for today.

Ed & Derek Ed & Derek, "two tall ugly dudes with bandanas", posing for the camera.

Breakfast makes us feel pretty macho, so even though we have no more food, it isn't long before we find ourselves in the notch, after rappelling the 270 feet on two ropes and passing the knot through our rappel devices.

Within two hours we make it to the Salathe Ledge, after two short pitches of free and aid climbing.

Ed on the sharp end of Pitch 2 Ed's ready on the sharp end to lead Pitch Two, confident he'll reach the Salathe Ledge.

Ed and Derek are the opposite of your run-of-the-mill climbers on the scene today. Their anchor and protection skills are top priority. They are my kind of climbers. At the Salathe Ledge, existing bolts are marginal at best. Ed places two more back-up pieces -- both bomber -- then rigs a common tie-in point, which equalizes all of the anchors. I consider myself lucky to have met up with these guys.

My only reservation about climbing with strangers is that I do not know their belay skills or the integrity of their anchors. It absolutely kills me when I meet a climber who can climb very well, and then condescendingly assumes that my concern for a bomb proof anchor is unfounded (takes too much time). Climbers are injured far too often in this sport because they are mistaken that climbing skills will somehow substitute for marginal anchor skills. Climbing skills and anchor skills are two separate components of the sport.

Ed & Ron on Salathe Ledge Ed & Ron on the Salathe Ledge, posing for Derek while he leads Pitch 3, the last obstacle before the Tyrolean Traverse.

After savoring the beautiful view of Yosemite Valley, I focus on the exposure from this outside perch on the Salathe Ledge. Looking straight down, the rock continues to an abyss. It is well over 2,000 feet to the talus slope below, where water from Yosemite Falls crashes on a ledge before continuing a short distance to form Lower Yosemite Falls.

The Salathe Ledge is nothing more than a huge flake. Someday, this ledge will fall off and there will no longer be a belay station here.

I spot a brand new descender in the crack between the ledge and spire. Using my skyhook as a fishhook, I am able to snag it, then hoist it out gingerly using a ten foot sling. (Note: whoever lost their descender, write to me! I'd like to know how you got down? No, I won't give it back; booty is booty.)

Actually, I think I will make it a souvenir after I engrave it with the vital details of the day.

How the f--k did you lead that? Ed tops the spire just before sunset, impressed with Derek's feat: "How the f--k did you lead that?"

After three more hours, we complete the final 165 foot pitch to the top of the Lost Arrow Spire. The sun is just going down, so we don't have much time left for the Tyrolean traverse before it is dark.

Once we anchor our traverse rope, which we towed from the notch, I rig my pulley to my harness, then back it up. Next, I clip my chest harness to the traverse line.

Ron Ron, leading on the Tyrolean traverse with Derek's thumb on the camera lens.

The rim is actually 40 feet or more higher than the Spire, so using one ascender to wench my way along, I use another to prevent backward motion. With a belay, too, it proves to be an efficient and safe method across the tension line.

Ed follows me, and when Derek finally reaches the main wall, I feel the new fraternity we have formed. Most definitely, this climbing adventure is the apogee of our respective vacations.

Ed & Derek posing on the Lost Arrow Spire Ed & Derek pose on the Lost Arrow Spire after Ron finishes the Tyrolean Traverse

Ed and Derek decide to bivouac another night. I am not ready for another night up here (I'll never be ready), so I hike the 4.5 mile trail to the valley floor, alone, under a full moon. I only need to use my headlamp occasionally, whenever the terrain and trees block the moonlight. Where the trail is exposed, I look in the direction of my feet. It is gratifying to see the view below of the dark valley and the lights dotting it.

By the time I reach my car in the parking lot, all businesses are closed, so for food I settle for what I have left in my trunk (not much) and four soft drinks from a vending machine. Within minutes, I'm fast asleep in my car.

Camp Four Note The Camp Four note, complete with Ed and Derek's second reply, which I spaced out and never got to read.

"6/20 - Ron, we're doing the Falls Trail and the Notch on Tuesday - Ed & Darek"

After a nine-dollar breakfast, I manage to find an empty shower stall at the cabins across from the parking lot. A clean set of clothes makes me feel brand new.

Afterwards, I bump into Ed and Derek just as they arrive off the trail. They are very hungry, so we only talk long enough to say good-by and to make arrangements to get in touch with each other when Ed is in Phoenix for a scheduled appearance of the Blue Oyster Cult. Derek says he might come, too, so that the three of us can climb together in Arizona.

When I get to El Cap Meadows on my way out of the park, I stop for one last look at the huge granite monolith. There is barely room to park anywhere because of all the people watching so many climbers on El Cap. The guy who suggested that maybe Ed and Derek climbed the chimney is here. He tells me the Bridwell party just topped out, and that they will be down in probably a few hours. I wish I have the time to hang around long enough to greet them.

Twelve hours later, with the help of coffee and lots of chocolate to stay awake, I arrive safely in Tempe. Even though I lost seven pounds (I'm going to eat more next time) and need three days of sleep to catch up, it was a great vacation -- made so by two great people and, of course, the Lost Arrow Spire.

Copyright 1994, Ron Kilber, all rights reserved

Ron Kilber rpknet@aztec.asu.edu

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