We were woken up by thunderstorms around 5:00AM that caused us to roll over and sleep some more. When we eventually crawled out of the Rav, we questioned what we should do with the day. Would the rock be dry enough to climb? Should we just hike?
The original plan was to climb After Six, a six pitch 5.7. Alex had her mind set on leading the first pitch; a hand crack in a corner that was the crux of the route, and the possibility of it being a wet route… and possible storms later in the day was making her VERY indecisive about whether or not to climb it that day. The sky was completely clear, not a cloud in sight... so it shouldn't be an issue based on the weather patterns they had seen in the park thus far. Finally, after driving into the park, having breakfast, and peering up at the granite that surrounded them, they moved to the parking area at Manure Pile Buttress. Dave was leaving the decision of whether or not to climb up to Alex, and she was having a hard time making a decision. After much trepidation on Alex’s part, she decided to go for it, and they headed to the wall.
Alex lead up the pitch confident at first, and then with quickly waning confidence as the hand jams became more awkward and footholds slick, though the gear remained good. With many looks down to Dave, verbally expressing her fears and discontentment, she continued her way up the crack. In retrospect, it really shouldn't have freaked her out so much, her gear was good and there was plenty of it, but her confidence just wasn't there. After a short section of face climbing, all her stress dissolved as she finally felt comfortable once again. She headed to a tree belay ledge.
As she began to set up the anchor, she realized it was covered in ants. The ants started to crawl up her legs and arms. There was a ridiculous amount of ants, and some of them started to bite. She freaked out… there may have even been some tears. She tried to move up a bit higher on the wall, but they followed. Mentally toasted, she just wanted to be off the climb and opted to lower off. Practically sobbing, she said it was the most horrific thing ever.
Back to the safety of the ground, she continued to smash ants that remained on her. After sitting for a few minutes to regain a proper mental status and breathing rate, she put Dave on belay, and he followed her climb. Occasionally, she had to smash a stray ant on her arm. He cleaned the gear, but instead of going anywhere near the tree, he climbed farther up the wall and set an anchor there. Dave had suggested doing the same to Alex, but once she ran into the ants, she was having none of it.
Dave belayed Alex up to his anchor, and she was still not calmed down, so Dave suggested they could just lower off the climb completely. After some thought, she knew she wanted to continue the climb, and just needed to relax. She put Dave on belay and he began to lead pitch 2. After pitch 2, Alex was finally feeling mentally competent and happy again, but any prior thoughts of leading any other pitches that day were gone from her mind. The remaining pitches of climbing went quickly, but mostly unremarkable, and they soon found themselves on the summit.
After making a stop at the Curry Village store for some drinks, they headed to set up camp in the Crane Flat Campground. Kevin and Sam would be arriving later that evening. Soon after setting up camp and making dinner, their friends arrived… with LOTS of food!!!! After an hour or two of catching up, and mauling cheese, pretzels, salami and pepperoni, they all headed to their tents to sleep for the night.