First Step is a Dusy: T-Bolt Peak Attempt 7/18-19

Originally posted on the WPSMB on 7-21-09

The steel grey wall of clouds swallowed the northern gullies of Mt. Agassiz as we peered up the sheer face of Bishop Pass from last water. “I wish I had brought my pack cover,” said Brent, and he smiled when I handed him my extra garbage bag. Fat drops of rain and the occasional splut of sleet began to drip on our jackets as we turned back down the trail a bit, leaving the packs and poles above. A single crack of thunder, from somewhere behind us in the drainage, rocked us to our cores as we strolled down the trail to be among objects taller than us. We snacked, each finding a cubby to ride out the storm, discussing how awful it would be to be struck by lightning. As the rain slowed, we ventured forth, clusters of columbine tucked throughout the boulders distracting me as we hiked back up to the packs. The sky above the Pass cleared , the suncrawling in and out of the remaining puffer clouds, adding depth to ridges guarding Dusy Basin .

From the trail at 11.6K, we angled across the slabs towards Thunderbolt Pass, crossing the headwaters of the Dusy Branch, emerald meadows full of shooting stars and cinquefoil. You could smell summertime on the wet granite, feel the intense heat of the sun when it danced out from behind the clouds. A few lone snowfields, deeply suncupped and firm, lay hidden between ledges and clefts in the rock, quicksand belts at their feet for the two of us to sink into as we walked on. Beneath the thrusting towers of Mt. Winchell’s west face , Brent and I anchored the tentin the shade of an enormous boulder. A few marmots scoured the creek drainage immediately below the site, a small tarn provided an optimal water source (althought the tumbling creek through the meadow also had deep pools from which to draw). Brent napped in the tent while I wandered a bit, my time spent gazing up to the Palisades, back out to LeConte Canyon, soaking in the shifting light and shadows and breathing deeply as the air cooled in the late afternoon.

Dinner was my treat and my tradeoff: while Brent had carried the rope and gear, I had the tent, bear can, stove, and dinner for that evening. The pasta boiled away as I pulled out the main ingredient: Moosie’s Mango Sausage . We moved our seats out to the last light of day to sit in warmth as we ate , both of us snapping pictures at the alpenglow consuming the peaks above us. In the permadusk twilight, we made our way back to the tent and settled in for the night.

Brent’s alarm sent me jumping, but I rolled over, mumbling, “Five more minutes…”, the perfect warmth of my bag almost too enticing to get up and out. I felt a bit off, like I didn’t sleep, or perhaps I did but too deeply. Either way, I needed coffee. Thank goodness for Jetboil. By just after 0500, Brent and I were on our way across the slabs, scrambling up the gulleys and into the talus just below Thunderbolt Pass. In just over an hour, and just after sunrise, we crested the Pass, peering into the Palisade Basin and south across the Sierra. Donning puffy jackets in the chilled breeze, we sat quietly as we ate and drank, watching the light’s fingers creep ever eastward across the terrain, the granite aglow in bright bands as the sun rose through cloud bands.

We both had a sinking feeling as we clambered up the scree and choss at the foot of the southwest chute: we had seen another party at the foot of the gulley, and a small snow tongue protruding, the others obviously starting up with crampons and axes. We had neither, having made the decision not to carry the weight and take our chances. Around the corner, both of our faces fell when we peered up into the chute : wall to wall snow all the way up. A small patch could have been dealt with, possibly even avoided or postholed through. Brent waved to the other party as we stomped on the first few steps of the snow, feeling the slick ice beneath through our trail runners. Disappointed, we backed off, and I found a spot out of the rockfall zone to furrow my brow and, well, pout a bit. By the time we reached Thunderbolt Pass again, Brent was already planning our next attempt, reminding me that the first ascenders had come back a number of times before actually reaching the peaks. I smiled at the thought of someone other than myself being the optimist…

Brent, by this time, had achieved his 14th wind, and was bouncing along the rocks of the Pass, leaping from boulder to boulder as we descended. I scrambled heavily along behind him, my legs a bit wobbly beneath me for some reason. I smacked my thighs a few times to wake them as we wound across the slabs back to camp. We loaded up in the mid-morning light, snacking and drinking to lighten the packs, keeping an eye on the skies as clouds once again gathered and breathed and darkened to the south and west. Coming out early meant more time for pictures and flowers, and I stopped for the shooting star’s view on the world immediately beneath the trail. It was just too enticing not to lie down in the flowers and smell the earth beneath my head. From Bishop Pass, we caught our first glimpse of the Forks Fire, the billowing smoke meeting the darkened cloud deck, melding earth and sky. The two of us opened our strides along the trail, namely to try and stay a step ahead of the clouds of mosquitos chasing us down. Thunder rumbled to the northwest, the rain finally squeezed out of the air as we approached South Lake and the deserted trailhead, breezes cool against hot skin from another weekend of work and adventure.

Thanks, Brent, for a beautiful weekend.

A few moments from the weekend:

Rest of the pics are here .

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb Hard, Be Safe.



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