Chianti Spire - Rebel Yell

Washington Pass, North Cascades, WA

July 17 - 19, 2005

Dave Svilar, Matt Alford


Looking up from the glacier at the East Face of Chianti Spire.  First ascentionists decided it needed a name - Rebel Yell

Tuesday July 19

"Where's my turd?"  We were just finishing a peaceful night's sleep somewhere off to the side of Highway 20.  We were currently heading west towards my favorite greaseball cafe in Silvana when Matt became frantic over the whereabouts of Sunday night's bowel movement.  Matt promptly pulled over and began rooting through the back of the Nissan looking for the turd.  Don't worry about it Matt, I'm hungry, let's go get some grub.  "We must go back.  I left it on the side of the road."  Against my will Matt pointed the Nissan in the opposite direction backtracking east 20 miles over two mountain passes to recover his two day-old bowel movement.

Two days earlier...

It's important that a trip start with ambitious plans.  Sunday we would climb Darrington's Dreamer, Monday we would climb Chianti's Rebel Yell, and Tuesday we'd finish the whole thing with something easier on Liberty Bell.  The other climbs would be nice, but what we really wanted was the east face of Chianti (Rebel Yell).  Temperatures must have been in the 80's in Darrington as we made the lousy approach to what is supposed to be one of Washington's best rock climbs on Green Giant Buttress located in a tree-choked valley behind Three Fingers and Whitehorse.  We arrived at the bottom of the route only to see three other groups making slow progress on the route.  Seeing as how it was already afternoon we reversed course and decided to make a night's sleep at one of our favorite spots, Burgundy Col near Washington Pass.

Just before shouldering packs Matt felt the urge to empty his bowels.  Under typical circumstances this occurs on the most difficult part of a climb, so I was more than happy to wait while Matt finished his business.  As he returned to the Nissan he was holding his turd in a plastic bag, which was so neatly wrapped that it wouldn't have been out of place under a Christmas tree.  As is customary, Matt felt obligated to share the experience.  Some people Matt's age derive a sense of pride and self-worth by purchasing a first house or earning a promotion at the office.  For Matt, nothing is more dignifying than a large and well-passed wilderness turd.  "I triple bagged it.  Thick as a burrito and this long before the break," he proudly claimed while holding his hands nearly to shoulder width for emphasis.  As any good climbing partner would do, I noted the measurements, did a quick calculation, and estimated that he would be clear until the next morning.

It was my 8th straight day shouldering a pack including the behemoth I hauled to the Enchantments for my Mom.  My recollection of two previous tromps to Burgundy Col were that of a steep, but fairly simple trail.  With my glycogen stores registering empty and 40+ pound pack it felt more like a death march to the Col some 2,500 feet up from the road.  We arrived at sunset and nestled in for a well-earned dinner. 

As I mentioned earlier, plans for the three-day trip were ambitious, but if you would have asked either one of us, what we really wanted was some quality bivy time together.  Now that I'm currently living in Colorado, distance has robbed our relationship of time.  It was imperative that we make the most of our two nights in the hills.  Knowing this, there had to be a plan to allocate the cookies in such a way that neither of us felt slighted.  With the intent to avoid the selfishly competitive standoff over my Mom's cookies that took place last time we bivied at the col I packed the cookies in separate bags.  This time each of us had our own bag and could eat the cookies at our own pace.  In the middle of the Cascade's third consecutive season of endless high pressure we enjoyed the peaceful, clear night without worrying about weather.

Matt prepares to leave the safety of the horizontal world.

Our objective for the next day required us to drop over the opposite side of the col and cross the edge of the Silver Star Glacier.  Bending over to put on my rock slippers at the base of the route confirmed my worry over my energy level.  The simple process of changing shoes caused fatigue, and looking straight up at the Chianti and its steep six pitches I wasn't even sure I could last for one pitch.

Matt began to the right of where I believed he should, but soon passed a couple of fixed pins that reassured him of his route selection.  Whatever the case, the start of the second pitch was fairly obvious: a left facing corner followed by an awkward off-width crack.  Due to knee injury of the past two years Matt had focused his incredible energy into rock climbing instead of spreading it out among alpine climbing, running, and other pursuits that required heavy use of his right leg.  Not climbing with Matt as much over the past two years it became immediately obvious that the focus on rock climbing had paid off.  Seeing as how we were climbing a steep, and somewhat difficult route with off-width cruxes I had prepared myself for the usual - a falling redhead.  Instead he fired through cruxes with nary a hesitation, sizing up the difficulties ahead, placing protection, and confidently moving upward.  Amazingly, as I watched him climb words like "smooth" and "finesse" were what came to mind.

Matt finesses his way to the top of Chianti.

As I followed Matt I was forced to climb slowly as each intense effort made me feel like vomiting.  The slow climbing seemed to work, as I had to scrap my typically desperate, heavy-breathing style.  Pitch three contained the only "easy" climbing on the route, although I was never able to find a solution for an awkward step around move (except using my belly for friction).  Pitch four was the classic: an overhanging, but not too difficult series of moves gained a wide crack that continued for almost 200 feet.  Depending on the size of your paws the crack was either rattly fists or arm-bars.  Despite my vomitous state it was hard to argue with the fact that we were undertaking a gorgoeus climb on the best of days.  Short sleeve temperatures, blue skies, clean granite, and a three goats waiting 400 vertical feet below for us to drop something edible, such as a stream of urine.

1. Dave looking up from bottom of 4th pitch, 2. Matt on the summit block, 3. Matt on the rappel from the summit

To gain the summit of this splendid Wine Spire one must scramble the remaining 20 feet onto a platform made for one.  We took turns and then began a series of four double-roped rappels.  With the assistance of a few bolts this was rather uneventful until we made the mistake of rappeling straight down the cliff instead of retracing the climbing route on the last rappel.  Matt went first trusting that a belay station awaited just over the overhanging face and just beyond our eyesight.  After standing at the belay station for over 25 minutes I sensed trouble, and finally, after starting down myself I could see why.  There was no belay station.  Matt had spent the past 25 minutes climbing towards the closest thing that resembled an anchor.  The pendulum fall he would've taken returned me to my vomitous state.  Thanks to Matt's bravery we were soon standing back down on the relative flatness of the glacier with the three disappointed goats.

The descent to the Nissan was even worse than the ascent to the col.  My energy stores were burned and I found myself sitting down for breaks on the way down!  A victory refreshment in Winthrop was particularly satisfying, however, in all the excitement a very crucial piece of luggage was forgotten at the roadside...

Tuesday July 19

A startling discovery was made upon returning to the location of the Matt's gift-wrapped turd.  There was no turd!  The only explanation for this phenomenon was a thief in the night.  In the course of 12 hours an animal from the woods or a human from a car had found the gift-wrapped package appealing enough to remove from the roadside.  If only I could see the expression on the face of the recipient when the gift was opened.

Unsolved Mysteries - if you or anyone close to you has information leading to the safe recovery of Matt's turd please contact the staff at Alpine Fever

-written November 2005

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