Friday, May 10, 2002

The Tooth (Fiction)

The Tooth, WA
WAC Class Climb
May 10, 2002

We arose early Friday morning and after shooing away the mice from our food, Todd cooked up a marvelous breakfast consisting of hearty dishes that we affectionately named the George Washington and the Paul Revere. There was a third he offered to prepare called the Mickey Mouse, but our skepticism won over and none of us tried it. For the herbivores, he displayed a dazzling ability to flip flap jacks while simultaneously separating egg whites and frying soy bacon. Rob skipped breakfast in favor of a shower. We inquired as to why, but he merely replied, "Trust me," then muttered something about "damn hot sleeping bag" or something.

Energy stores topped off, we piled into Pat's king sized Yugo. Fred had to be strapped to the bumper and Maria rode on the roof with the chickens as we drove up to the Alpental parking lot. Once there Pat lit up and passed around a fatty. Mike declined in favor of good old fashioned tobacco. With our new outlook on the day, we headed across the footbridge, whereupon we discovered the gate locked. Angela shed some light onto her "time" in Walla Walla as she promptly picked the lock with the pick of her ax.

The next order of business, we decided, was to get the ski lifts running. This decision was made not because we were intimidated by the distance and grade of the slope, but because after performing a Rorschach test on a section of snow, I determined that there was genuine concern of a slab avalanche occuring. It was pointed out to me later that a Rorschach test isn't nearly as effective for assessing avalanche danger as a Rutschblock test, but nonetheless, it was agreed that the lifts would be the safest means of transportation. After Mike hotwired the lifts, most of us rode them up to the bench to begin the traverse. However, we asked Rob to slog up the slope in the hopes that his perspiration would lubricate the crusty layer six inches below the surface, effectively sabotaging any Mountaineers groups that might attempt to follow us.

As we approached the avalanche gullies, I could feel the tension heighten within the group. The instructors huddled. The students huddled. The instructors tried to assess the danger. The students pondered how much worse the danger was getting as we stood and waited. The instructors debated whether Kirstin Dunst's Mary Jane character in Spider-Man was too helpless when contrasted with the Mary Jane of the comic book, who we all know was a strong independent woman. There was general disagreement, but they all agreed on one thing, the movie kicked ass. Janice meditated on the certainty of death, chanting "the jewel is in the lotus. the jewel is in the lotus" repeatedly. Tim meditated on why the hell he packed his tent, sleeping bag and cooking gear.

Finally we were all snapped back to the moment when Todd remembered he left the stove on back at the cabin. Angela volunteered to go back and turn it off. We all speculated that she actually wanted to go back to see if she could find some of Jonathan's powdered marmot meat soup.

At this point we spread out and crossed the gullies one by one. Hoping to gain a little leverage, Tim duct taped a ski pole to the head of his ice ax, fashioning a stilt/pogo stick, upon which he hopped across the danger areas. I had the intriguing experience of following second behind Maria through the mushy snow, where I discovered that steps kicked by someone half your weight are relatively devoid of meaning as they simply provide a deeper starting point for you to post-hole waist deep.

Once through the avalanche danger, we paused for lunch. At this point we realized Angela had taken all the mustard. It was Angela, guys! Oh the tragedy. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Fred poured out some liquor, and Pat tore out his hair in grief.

As we ate, we noticed a pair of climbers heading up the basin in front of us. Pat convinced us that following in their steps wouldn't be sporting, so we all kicked our own steps up the final steep ascent to the pass. During the short climb over the moat/cornice, Janice attempted to pull herself up the hand line hand-over-hand without the aid of any footwork. We tried to tell her that wasn't necessary, but she insisted that using feet on technical rock and snow wasn't sporting.

Once the technical climbing began, it all went smoothly. Tim left a nice trail of tobacco spittage on the route, but it was quickly washed away by the sweat-bath from Rob. Janice managed to climb the final pitch with her eyes closed. In a classic set-up, Pat chose not to inform me of the "manly" route up the face of the final pitch, instead informing me that I am a wimp for taking the catwalk route after Mike did the face while smoking a Camel. But I'm not bitter.

Up on the summit, Maria disappeared for a while. When she returned, she bummed a smoke off Mike.

On the descent from the summit, around the third belay station, Pat mumbled something about saving his sister on K2 and took a flying two-footed leap across the gap between the tooth and the pineapple, planted his ice tools firmly in the supple rock of the pineapple and landed but a few inches above the ground. No one could figure out how his entire thoraxal region didn't cave in upon impact or how his arms didn't pull from their sockets. We all just chalked it up to artistic license granted to the director.

Back down to the pass, we sent Rob to glissade down the snow slope. In a fascinating chemical reaction, his body heat and moisture combined to make a wet tube that quickly froze behind him. It was amazing to watch as he went from the tooth, down the basin all the way to the parking lot in three minutes. Thrilled at the prospect of following in his tube, we were quickly turned away as marmots, deer, and a herd of elk moved in and licked away all the salt-saturated trail, then tragically succombed to the toxic levels of sodium they ingested.

We arrived back at the parking lot around 6. We engaged in a discussion of whether or not we had made the right decision. In the end we agreed that forging on without mustard for the sandwiches was within a reasonable range of risk and that on future trips, we must divide the mustard stores up among several members lest another situation like this repeat itself.