After getting royally shot down on our first attempt at the North Face of Longs, Apryle and I decided to have another go. We packed up and hiked to the Boulderfield under beautiful skies. Spent some time excavating a nice hole in the snow for our lightweight tent, boiled up some snow for a gnocchi dinner, and went to sleep.
Or tried to, anyhow. The wind hammered down from Storm Mountain all night, tossing our tent from side to side. Sleep came in five minute spurts at best. By the time the alarm went off at sunrise, we were utterly exhausted. Nonetheless, we racked up and started up the face. The wind began to subside and the sky was clear. We roped up on the snow below the North Face, and Apryle led a pitch to the base. The snow was steep, steeper than she had climbed before, and she was uncomfortable, cold and nervous…but agreed to continue. I started up the technical pitch, crampons scraping on through the snow and gaining little purchase on the slabby rocks below. I made my way to the first of the giant ring bolts that used to anchor a metal cable to the face, but Apryle was done. For little reason other than her discomfort with the situation, she decided that she would not climb any further. I recognized that it was futile to object, so we bagged it. Traversed to the Keyhole, saw the sights, and descended to our little tent pitched all alone in the Boulderfield.
Basking in the sun later that morning, Apryle realized that there was no reason not to continue. Conditions had been perfect, and we were easily capable of the climb. But it was a bit too late. We hiked back to the car, feeling good about the hiking but eager to try our skills in the technical realm. I think the trip was a good lesson for Apryle – not to turn back on a moment’s hesitation.
So the North Face beat us again. Our time was up; the next test would be the Grand.