Part Five: Kathryn made the first move. As we sat there contemplating those cables, Kathryn exclaimed that having come this far and covered so much ground already, she was not turning around without at least touching them. As she headed across the saddle toward the cables, Bailey spoke next. “You know she isn’t going to stop there so I guess this means we’re going.” And that was that. By the time we reached the cables, Kathryn was already climbing. We pulled on our gloves, grabbed our backpacks and followed; Bailey went first, then me and John right behind us.
It was then that the first mistake was committed. For whatever reason, Kathryn decided to leave her backpack on the saddle. This included her water bottle. By now, we had been walking for nearly seven hours. We were tired, hot, and though we had been trying to stay hydrated, this was not the time to leave behind such a precious commodity. But, already almost 100 feet above us, Kathryn was not coming back down. And so we climbed.
The first hundred or so feet were reasonable. The angle of climb was near 45 degrees but doable. We were getting comfortable with the cables and proficient at switching our carabiner each time we reached one of the stanchions, but that didn’t last long. At around 150 feet, the pitch increased to over 60 degrees. At this point, it was like climbing a ladder. The carabiner switch became more and more difficult. We were now reaching behind us to unhook and then re-hook on the other side of the stanchion. Every time we reached back, we got to look straight down, not just the 200 feet of cables, but all the way down the sides of the dome to the valley over 2000 feet below. And that is when our next problem arose.
To be continued ………