All photos by Nick Lake.
“Rope!” I shouted, tugging on the rope we were rappelling on. Above us, the sky quickly turned black. It didn’t budge. I yanked on it again. Small bits of debris rained down on us. Josh grabbed it and pulled. More debris came down.
It was clear, the rope was stuck. Night was falling fast and most of our party didn’t bring a headlamp. We didn’t expect Prusik Peak to turn into such an epic…
Last year I scored a 4th of July permit for the Core Zone in the Enchantments. The Core Zone is one of the most picturesque spots in Washington, or perhaps all of the United States. Getting a permit is like winning a million dollars.
Our plan was to hike in via Colchuck the first day, climb Prusik Peak the second, and hike out on day three. We very loosely followed that plan.
We arrived in the Core Enchantments as the sun began to set. It was a long day of dragging our butts up and over Asgaard and slogging through the snow. Heating up freeze dried meals, we all ate fairly quickly and went to bed.
The next morning, we woke up late and hung around camp. Prusik Peak was a four pitch 5.7. What could go wrong?
Around 11am, we got off our butts and started the trek to the base of the route. We had three parties of two, and only two racks. The plan was to have the first party climb up and leave the gear. The second party would lead on that gear and clean it. Then Josh and I would climb the route regularly.
Before we knew it, we were sitting in a traffic jam. Every pitch of the four pitch route took at least two hours or more. But we sat around talking about swimming and what we’d do after we got off the wall. The clock ticked by slowly. We summited Prusik Peak around sunset.
We frantically set up to rappel. It was going to be dark soon and we still had to navigate a steep slope of snow. None of us brought headlamps. We were mostly out of water and snacks.
Somehow our rappel stations became mixed up. The second party did some heinous rapping around multiple corner trickery to meet up with the first party. I followed suit on the same rope.
And then the rope was stuck. We were one rappel away from being off the route, and our rope was stuck. Just our luck. Josh still had the rope from the upper rappels, so we abandoned the stuck rope to get down safely.
We got back to camp around 11pm, twelve hours after we’d set off for an easy climbing day.
The next morning Josh and Matt woke up “early” to climb back up and retrieve the brand new stuck rope. It would be an easy mission, they assured us. The rest of us lounged around camp. An hour went by, and then another. Maybe we should start heading out? Josh and I had a flight to catch out of Seattle that evening.
We packed up camp and divided up gear for the boys to carry and began to descend towards the Snow Lake trailhead. The trail never seemed to end. Miscellaneous body parts hurt. My pace slowed considerably. I ran out of water.
But I kept trudging on. I knew that if I just kept one foot in front of the other, we’d make it back to the car and we’d catch our flight. If I didn’t check the clock, then time wouldn’t pass. We wouldn’t miss our flight.
Like the rest of the trip, boy, was I wrong.