Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spring Break, Day 4: Window Blind Peak

This morning we had a frigid, strong wind blasting us and it wouldn’t abate for the entire day. I kept up my routine of getting up before the boys, which actually was impossible not to do, as the boys never got up without prompting. I wondered how long they’d linger in their tents if I didn’t prompt them to emerge. They enjoyed each climb but they were never chomping at the bit to get going. I’m still not sure how to interpret this. They were excited for the trip, it seemed, but they were never jumping up, eager to go climbing. 
Window Blind Peak from Assembly Hall. Our route goes up the center of that north face
We all wore our wind shells, all except Derek, who forgot his. Hats and gloves were the order of the day as well. After packing up camp, we moved a  mile back down the road to a wash and parked. We followed an old, abandoned, and barely-there mining road towards the peak and eventually into a bouldery wash leading directly for a our climb - a rib between the two “windows”.

The approach was much longer and more difficult than the day before, taking us nearly two hours to approach the climb. We had to pass through one tall, cliff band. I took a more direct approach, while Homie found the correct and easier way up, which we all took on the way down. We stopped on the east side of the rib to gear up as much as possible before going into the shade on the west side, where the route started. It was cold enough even in the sun to prompt us to climb quickly.
Homie leads the last, short pitch
We went around and up a few hundred more feet of steep, loose ground, weaving around some smaller cliffs to the base of the main wall. We saw a stuck rope here that we’d later find out was left by some friends of Homie’s. I zipped up the first 5.5 pitch, which was easy and secure climbing to a notch. Here we were all able to get out of the wind and into the sun. It was the first time I felt comfortable since getting out of my sleeping bag.
Derek scrambles the last bit to the summit
The next pitch was a rope-stretcher and rated 5.7. It was mostly really easy, but a couple of sections gave me a slight pause. The protection wasn’t great for most of the pitch, but the angle was low enough where I didn’t have any stress. I belayed on a broken ledge and brought up Arthur and Homie at the same time, having dragged two ropes behind me. Derek came up last and, after Homie led up the final 30-foot cliff/slab, we unroped and scrambled around to the west on a big ledge and then up a break to the summit. 
Arthur on the summit
We spent a long time here, soaking in the immensity of the Swell. There is so much space here and nothing in it, Just some faint roads are the only sign of any human passage. Besides Jeff and Sandy we didn’t see another person for two days. The boys and I threw rocks off the summit while Homie busied himself photographing every page in the summit log book.

We got down with one 200-foot, free-hanging rappel. On the way down I unstuck the rope and we pulled it down. Arthur packed it out, hoping to use it as a gym rope. After talking with Homie’s friends, Sarah and Dominic, we knew the rope was relatively new. The color wasn’t faded at all, but it was a bit stiff.
Homie at the notch belay, atop the first pitch

We reversed back to the vehicles and let Derek and Arthur do the route finding on the way back. They did a good job and we didn’t get lost. Derek did most of the trying on the way home, with Arthur, who only has a permit, taking an hour-long stretch to spell Derek. We arrived home at 11:30 p.m. It was only four days, but all were very successful and the boys are game for another trip, so at least I didn’t sour them on desert adventure climbing.

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