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Three Fingered Jack 1/31/15

Well I knew it was only a matter of time but it finally happened… And all of Andy’s coaching and emphasis on preparation kept me from hurting myself and peeing my pants. I had to self-arrest. Yes, I know how that sounds, no big deal, blahahblah, mountains n stuff… But for me, the moment I finally dug my toes and axe deep enough into the VERY soft snow to stop my fall, the second I started breathing, the instant I stopped crying, I realized that I do possess the skills and knowledge to prevent myself from cascading uncontrollably down the side of a mountain. And that felt good.

I wish that good feeling had taken hold sooner after my slide than it did because Andy had to give me a big hug and many many words of encouragement before I regained my confidence, but at least that feeling happened. I fell, I slid down a 60* slope, and I managed to stop. That win alone was enough to make the mountain epic. Now… Onto the actual climb.

3FJ was a sexy mixture of snow, ice, scree, and the chossy mess we cascade-climbers call “rock.” Which meant that Andy and I got to…. CLIMB. Our packs loaded with KIND bars, lunch, water, crampons, and ice axes, we piled in harness, rock shoes, a 60 meter rope, and some miscellaneous protection that Andy expertly organized. Then we set off. The trail head was close enough to portland that we woke up at 3am, ate, grabbed coffee, and hit the road. We began the climb around 730am and watched the sunrise over Mt Washington and the Three Sisters as we navigated the PCT. It. Was. Beautiful.

After a few hours we cleared the trees and started up the slope toward the rocky spires and gendarmes prominating the summit. My confidence grew with each successful section of climbing- thoughts of “oh god coming down this isn’t going to be fun” passing through my head on an alarmingly regular basis. But eventually we hit the choss, threw on harnesses and got busy.

Andy taught me the importance of terrain belaying and after a couple hours of protecting, and cleaning gear, we reached the summit. Beauty. Magic. Power. Jefferson. Sisters. Washington. We snapped some photos up top, and began rappelling down. Which was pretty spicy considering that one little slip could send me spiraling around into the abyss.

But we lived, climbing skills keeping me safe and confident. The descent was when life got special. I broke several milk-jug sized pieces of rock off, slipped on snow melt and grated my hand, and went for my exciting little sled-less “joyride.” I’m not dwelling on these events but I do think they make for fun story telling and great learning moments… Overall, the mountain was amazing. It was a long 12 hour day full of primo weather and great company (the best actually). More snow covered = more world seen = a happier lifetime.

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