Marybeth and I studied the forecast all week hoping to squeeze in one last backpack and few summits as the autumn rains become more and more frequent in the PNW. The weather in rainy Pass called for AM showers clearing in the afternoon on Saturday and then a bright and sunny Sunday. We decided to put up with the morning rain and head out to Snowy Lakes to see some yellow larches in the North Cascades. From there we would attempt Golden Horn (scramble class 3/a few class five moves) and Tower Mountain (scramble class 3). Both are on the list of Washington’s 100 highest.

We hit the trail at about 9:00am beginning on the PCT from Rainey Pass. There was light drizzle and mist blanketed the mountains, but we had confidence that by afternoon the sun would come out and reveal the cascades (and dry the rock). As we ascended to Cutthroat Pass the weather just could not make up its mind. The mist parted and the sun began to come out.. then the rain and mist would return in varying intensities. It was a day where you cannot figure your layering system!

As we crested Cutthroat pass the mist swirled around us and thickened as we turned left and headed along the ridge. The trail is in great condition, though there was some fresh snow in small patches along the way. We could only see the views every now and then for brief moments as the weather continued to be undecided. At noon the skies began to clear and we got our first look at Golden Horn and Tower Mountain in the distance. We stopped on a flat rock for lunch and admired the view. Of course as we packed up to the leave it was misty again.

We descended to Graiate Pass and soon after left the PCT at an unmarked junction turning right. We climbed on a lesser maintained trail for about 500 feet to reach Lower Snowy Lake… in another 100 feet we arrived at Upper Snowy Lake. Lots of the campsites there were on the muddy side, but we found one that did not sink under the weight of our boots. The rian had stopped and the mist was blowing in and out of the basin as we set up camp. By that that it was about 3:30pm. The sky was clearing to reveal the two peaks. I should see the Tower had some descent sized snowy patches on the rock. I could not see the summit block of Golden Horn from my angle, but assumed it would be similar. We decided to save the scrambled for the following day as the rain and sun were still competed and the rock was obviously going to be wet.

We settled into the tent to relax after the 10.7 mile trek in. I fell asleep. Marybeth read her kindle. The rain stopped and started outside. At 5:30 we cooked dinner and admired the beauty of the basin as the sky finally seemed to clear for good and brilliant stars illuminated the skies. The next day seemed promising.

Marybeth boiled water for a hot breakfast the following morning, something I am definitely not used to but accepted happily. It was freezing outside. At 6:00am it was still dark, but we could see mist clinging to the summits. We hoped it would drift away. We could still see the stars.

We began moving at about 7:00am toward Golden Horn. From Upper Lake we cut across to the mountain broad shoulder crossing several up and down hills to the base. The key is to go diagonally up across the scree staying below some steeper looking rocks aiming for the double rock horn (it looks like one large horn at first). We did eventually stumble across a faint trail. At the top of the ridge we found ourselves on a sandy shoulder between the two horns. We dropped out packs here and put on our harnesses. I took my summit pack with a small rope for a possible rappel off the summit that I had read about. We turn left here and walked around the horn and over a narrow ridge to the base of the summit block. there was snow on the ground a thick mist blew all around us. The summit block dripped water. From the base of the summit block we circled around to the back where there is a sandy bench. The final 150 feet appeared to as described: class 3/4 with a few class 5 moves. We took some tentative steps on the wet rock a few times always coming back down. The wetness and snow concerned us. The weather concerned us. A voice in my head echoed softly. It was Eric’s voice. It’s always his voice. “Always place good judgement over ambition”. We could have probably climbed it… but probably wasn’t good enough. I thanked him softly and left his ashes. He taught me well. We backed out of the climb and headed back.

When we reached the lake the mist had only cleared slightly. Where was out promised sunshine and clear blue skies? We packed up and headed out, opting to save Tower Mountain for another time as well due to the wetness and snow. As we passed Lower Snowy Lake and looked back the sky did clear revealing both peaks with blue skies. But we were soon socked in again by whiteness that was thicker than the day before! Only went we crossed to the other side of Cutthroat Pass did the mist finally begin to melt away revealing blue skies and brilliant sun. But the weekend was not a washout… the backpack was still gorgeous in the eerie mist and beautiful when we saw quick flashes of the views. A weekend in the mountains with a good friend is always a good time!

 

Eric had a long list of crack climbs on his list of must do cragging route. I’ve struggled with crack climbing ever since I began climbing.  I always preferred friction and face style… so when Seth invited me to spend a weekend at Tieton River Rocks, a crack climbing mecca, I gladly accepted in the hopes that I’d finally come to love jamming the way Eric did.

This was a laid back trip as we were joined by Seth’s four month old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy named Hans who had never been camping before. Ed, Seth friend who climbs mostly indoors also came as well Melissa (Hans’s mommy/Seth’s girlfriend). We left Saturday morning at 6:15am. I promptly fell asleep for most of the long journey. We sent up camp on Oak Creek Road near Rpyal Columns… Seth and Melissa’s new REI Hobitat tent made Ed’s half Doe look like a doghouse.

By the time we get to the base of Royal Columns it was noon. The wind whipped around up blasting dust particles under our sunglasses. Winds was in the forecast, but we hadn’t expected this. But it was time to climb!

Seth would lead most of the routes since he was best versed in crack climbing. I needed to get crack mileage in and Ed needed to learn outdoor climbing skills. We began on a 5.5 called Double Trouble… after climbing it Seth dubbed that it was really a 5.6 double crack system. We would find that everything in Tieton was graded about a grade lower than it really was. I cleaned the route and was surprised at how simple fist and hand jamming came to me… jamming used to scare me half to death as I feared that if i feel my foot would remain jammed at get ripped off. Irrational I know… but I had always been haunted by the thought. But now things were different… somehow I found that I actually liked crack climbing and wasn’t half bad at it too boot! Ed get halfway up the route before asking to be lowered… crack climbing after climbing in a gym can be a huge shock… the style is so different, as is the pain. Seth re-climbed to clean the anchor and rapped.

Next we hit up Twin Cracks, a step up at 5.6… but it was really 5.7 according to us. Again… I loved the jams… especially fist jams. At some point the sky got dark and we caught the edge of a rain storm as the sky spit on us… but it wasn’t bad enough to stop climbing and the half sun created a double rainbow. Feeling confident, I decided to lead an easy crack called The Western Front (5.3) rated three stars. Indeed it was a fun route (5.4 I would say). There was a mixtures of jamming and face climbing. Beware that this route shares an anchors with the pitch beside it so it can get crowded at the top.

By then it was getting late in the day so we headed back to the car where we were greeted by Melissa and a very excited Hans. We drove back to camp to find our mansion of a tent had been ripped partially out of the ground in the wind, while the half dome was still anchored to the ground. We fixed the situation easily though and settled in for dinner and a night playing Bananagrams.

The following morning we got up at 7:30am, but it was took cold (at least for Seth to climb) until (;30 when the temperature finally crested 55 degrees. We headed back to the columns. It was on my list to climb Mush Maker (5.7) as Eric had told me all about it and wanted me to climb it when i got better at cracks. I was better and I wanted to do it for him. Seth led the gnarly single crack which turned his hands promptly into mush breaking open his skin. He was surprised at the low rating and gave it a 5.8+ as he was lowers with bleeding knuckles. The route was as awesome to climb as Eric had described. I found lots of Seth’s blood in the cracks, but by hands managed to stay intact as i shimmied up the hand and fist crack. There were sections of pure crack climbing in one where all four limbs were jammed in the single crack making for some awkward, but fun moves. I rappelled off the top… There are no chains on this one, but a ton of slings are up there on a huge block.

Seth wanted to get in  the Cutting Edge (5.7). This was double crack so it was easier than Mush Maker. But there is a small overhung move at the top that provides a heart pounding moment! Even more fun to climb was 5.8 next to it called X Factor. This route has a double crack fist and hand jam crack that turn into a single crack halfway up. The guidebook says gear to three inches, but Seth reported that he wished he’d brought gear to 4 inches. Without it the pitch was run-out. After climbing the route, I would definitely agree that some bigger cams would have come in handy.

I attempted to lead Nimrod’s Nemesis (5.5) which followed double cracks to a roof where the guide described the path going left around the roof. The roof looked daunting and it could not see a way around the roof… it looked like you when over a left of it afterwards. I figured that maybe things just looked worst than they were from the bottom. After all, it was rated 5.5 (which meant it was probably more like 5.6) so the roof couldn’t be tat bad. I began to climb the double cracks, but the closer I got to the roof the more convinced I was that there wasn’t an easy way around the roof. I stuck in a bomber cam and asked to be lowered. I’d left Seth take this lead. I was feeling frustrated on the ground until I watched Seth pull the roof an holler “watch me!” as he did so… I’d never heard Seth say that. It was definitely an airy move. I followed afterwards and found that the holds were there, but the feet were just pasted on the wall smearing the the move just plain scary. Fun to follow… but I wasn’t ready to lead that. I need more crack mileage first. We’d rate the roof section as a 5.7.

It was 4:00 by then so we packed up and headed back… time for the long drive home. But now I love cracks!

 

 

 

After getting on some easier alpine terrain on Mt Pugh and rock climbing in Leavenworth successfully after Eric’s accident it was time to do something longer and more challenging. Seth and I arrived at about 6:45am at Barlow Pass on September 26. Our goal was to do a double summit cay and scramble Gothic Peak (class 2/3) and Del Campo (class 3/4).

From Barlow Pass we walked down the old gated road for about a mile until reaching Weden Creek Trail just before the road becomes flooded by the river (hence why  the road is now closed to cars) There was another trial turn off from the road earlier, but it just paraells the road for a bit before dumping you back on it as we discovered. The trek is pretty steep, but the trail is in good condition. We crossed several creeks with pretty waterfalls and were treated with some lovely views when we broke above treeline. There were a few class 2 steps along the way as well over a slab in the middle of the trail.

We made good time to the clearing that is Gothic Basin; a splendid oasis of tarns, boulders and mountains looming above. From here there are several trails  that one can take. We headed on the left fork first for a bit before figuring out that we were heading toward Lewis Peak. We turned back and took the right fork which lead over some talus and past tarns to Foggy Lake. Gothic Peak and Del Campo care clearly visible as you approach and the way is somewhat marked by carins.

Gothic Peak is to the left when you reach the lake. Donning our helmets, we decided to tackle this mountain first since it was shorter and easier. We followed the booth path up a steep slope to gain the Southeast Ridge. The terrain on the ridge was mostly class 2 with some class three sections. The talus was surprisingly sound and easy to walk on. There is also a section of slabs which can easily be crossed like I did, or one could elect to travel on the talus slightly below it like Seth elected to do.

The low angle edge reaches steeper terrain just below of the summit. We scrambled up the steeper, but good quality rock to the summit block. The two peaks were supposed to be rarely done, but a number of parties where on the summit admiring the gorgeous views of the volcanoes and Mountain Loop Peaks. I released some of Eric’s ashes into the winds. After admiring the view we studied the path we would take on Del Campo… it looked like the best plan would be to descend back to the lake and go up the Southwest Ridge. There are other variations to the scramble, but this option seemed like the safest.

We descending easily and followed well worn climbers trail along to East Shore of Foggy Lake. The trail leads up to a bench on the lower slope of Del Campo and then onto Talus. Once again we were amazed at how sound the rock was. They chucks of stone barely shifted under our feet and it was like climbing stairs. We ascended to the obvious notch between the South Buttress and the summit of Del Campo Peak. This is where the true scrambling again, exposed steep moves lead up to the notch. The rock was off good quality and handholds plentiful, but a far would result in severe injury for sure. From the notch we followed a boot path over alpine grasses and then some more steep rock on the opposite side of the notch. There was one other party on the summit admiring a different perspective of the surrounding peaks. The area certainly is spectacular and it is amazing that such rugged wilderness is so close to the cities. Eric summited this peak too… I freed a second batch of ashes.

The way down the tedious do to the technical nature of the rock, but not impossibly hard. At the lake Seth filmed another another one of my Ice Lake challenges, but refused to join me in the freezing cold water. Then we headed back to the trail head… I expected my toes to shamsh painfully against the tip of my mountaineering boots on the steep way down, but for some reason the pain held off until the final mile. What a perfect day in the alpine: 12 miles and 7,000+ feet total gain!

Well it wasn’t Feburary, but on September 27 Jeff and I headed out to February Buttress in Leavenworth to climb Groundhog Day. The wall sits just outside of Leavenworth in Tumwater Canyon. There is an obvious, but steep trail that leads up to the base of the three pitch route. Jeff had done the c;limb before, but had taken a not so fun variation on the third pitch last time and wanted to re-do it the right way. I just wanted to climb… I hadn’t climbed since Eric’s accident and though many people cautioned me about returning to technical rock so soon i felt it was something I needed to do.

Jeff led the route as I was hesitant to lead in case i have some kind of breakdown on the sharp end. Everything went well though and I was happy to be back on the rope. A standard rack with about 5 cams and a nut set will do on this wall. The the third pitch is the most fun, but make sure you head left from the chain anchors and head up  the steeper terrain… its actually safer and easier than the deceivingly easier looking path to the left (Jeff took this last time).

The route is rappelled from three chain anchors which were in good condition. I did not have any issues with rappeling… but to be safe Jeff had me hook up my rappel device before he took off and gave me a fireman belay even with my autoblock. The only problem I had was watching Jeff rappel. I got much more nervous than usual and would not take my eyes off him. But this does not put anyone in danger.

So in short it was a fun route without any heart stopping moves and major adrenaline rushes. The whole thing top to bottom took about three hours.

We headed over to Peek-a-boo tower in Icicle Canyon and attempted Yard Art… a three pitch mixed sport/trad route. I led the first half of pitch 1 before deciding to set up an anchor on a ledge and let Jeff finish some sketchy looking moves. Jeff finsihed the pitch… the second pitch features only two bolts and had no features for trad gear. The first bolt was up high and the rock looked unsafe. We decided to bail on it and play it safe.

 

 

Keeping my promise to update this blog as time allows. This was a while back so I apologize for lack of detail. I just don’t recall everything. Two weeks after the accident on Sept. 20 I joined Charyl and Phillip on a scramble up Mt Pugh. It is class 2 and very easy. We saw lots of dayhikers on the trail and we were probably overdoing safety with helmets, but after Eric’s death we felt better with them on.

We began walking through the forest at about 8:30am after being escorted through Oso by truck. The trail begins in the forest and is quit gradual in elevation gain. At 1.5 miles we reached Lake Medan where we stopped for a quick snack on a flat rock. The trail splits her. Left leads to camps and right leads up Stujack Pass. The trail up the pass is rock in places that cross talus and scree and a bit steeper. We made good time to the pass. From it becomes class 2. The route follows a knife edge that is often described as being difficult and scary. However, the path does not follow the top of the edge, but travels just below it so there is a wall on one side. The air on the other side is not that bad… For a climber this is hardly difficult, but a hiker might find it more intimidating.

We arrived at steeper trail after the knife edge and scrambled over a few easy rock section and up grassy slopes. Many folks were on the trail that day enjoying the blue sky and warm weather. The views all the way up to the summit were perfect. Glacier Peak, Rainier, Baker, Sloan, Shucksen… everything was visible from the large, flat summit. Evidence remains of the fire tower that once stood there and there are UGS marks. I stood on the summit and released some of my husband’s ashes into the wind letting the gray particles flutter into the sky. His first summit since his death.

The way down was, in a word, painful. The switchbacks were endless as our toes banged hard against our mountaineering boots. The trial seemed to never end! But we finally made it back to the car 8 hours after we left for the summit! An awesome day in the mountains. Pugh is not challenging, but the views are gorgeous on a clear day. Just make sure you leave plenty of time for the 5300 ft gain and 11 mile trail.

 

A week after Eric’s tragedy on September 12… I went back into the mountains with Seth to hike to the summit of Mt Dickerman. Mt Dickerman is a long the Mountain Loop highway. I have had done the trail twice before, but the last time Seth had climbed it there were no views. It was a clear day so we went back up so he could get a chance to witness the wonderful expanse of mountain scenery seen from the summit of Dickerman.

At 8.2 miles and 3950 ft gain… the trial takes a good amount of time. Seth is extremely fast though and since I’ve been doing lots of lef workout I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to keep up. The trail is very defined and not difficult at all. Elevation gain is pretty constant and not terribly steep. First the path switchbacks through the forest for several miles before entering treeline. Then it wanders though alpine meadow that features an abundance red leafed huckleberry and blueberry bushes! We picked some berries on the way up, but planned on making a long stop for some more harvesting on the way back.

The summit was crowded, but since it is rather large there was plenty of space to stop for lunch and enjoy the views that Seth had previously missed. I did not have Eric’s ashes at the time yet, but I remembered how we had climbed the peak right after arriving back from Iceland two summers ago. We had loved the trail.

On the way down we stopped for an hour and picked about 1lb of berries each. One woman thought Seth was a bear!

I have been lagging on my trip reports lately and I apologize for my absence. A turn of events in my life has delayed me from adding news posts. On September 6, 2014, on our first anniversary, Eric and I set off to climb Le Petit Cheval. Though Eric summit with me he never did return. He was killed in a rappelling accident on the mountain. This post contains a full trip report of that day in my usual style, but also includes the story of the accident. It is my hope that everyone can learn from this tragedy…

Eric and I drove to the large pullout on Milepost 165 on Hwy 2 at about 4am aftering sleeping in our car at Washington Pass. The sun rose over the mountains as we ate a quick breakfast watching the silhouette of Le Petit Cheval take shape in front of us. Our goal was the climb the peak via Spontaneity Arete (5.7).

I think we began at about 6:30am. There is a trail in the middle of the pullout (hard to see at first but marked by carins) That leads down talus to the trail below. The trial is easy to follow at first an descends to Early Winters Creek. Log jams provide an easy crossing here. From the creek the trail begins to ascend crossing into some rocky terrain. Carins mark most of the scramble route yrails. At one point we lost the trail altogether, and then rejoined in just above the first handline. This was just as well since the handline looked kind of ratty. The second handline was even worse and featured some core shots. We climbed this steeper scramble (maybe class 4) terrain without using the line since it seemed sketchy.

We continued to follow the trail through the rock bands until we reached the base of the route near some trees. If you go too far right you’ll know it since you’ll con across the bottom of the dirty descent gulley. We dropped out packs here and geared up. The start of the route was supposed to have slings to mark it, but there weren’t any. We set up an anchor on a tree. Eric lead the first pitch. It began as a scramble which led to an upper ledge. This ledge had a tree and could have been used as a higher belay. From here there is an awesome crack with a perfect fist jam. The crack continues with awesome hands and classic crack moves at abut 5.7.

The second pitch looked amazing from the large tree belay. I led this pitch beneath the massive roof to the right using the horn to get over a very exposed but fun move. After this the going was easy to the tree belay. We simul-climbed the next pitch which was mostly a class 3 scramble. Then we reached a large tower and crux of the route. Eric led this since he was much better at cracks. The beginning the the pitch is a 5.7 hand crack over a bulge followed by delicate 5.4 fingers. Eric made it up the pitch though the going was rough on the crux.. I found out why when i took my turn. The crack was a bit wet. I fell about 4 times.

We next did some simul-climbing through some easier terrain to pitch 6. I led this one as I like off-widths. The off width crack take a chicken-wing move well. From here with again simul-climbed to the base of the final pitch which Eric led to the summit. The sky was clear and revealed the awesome splendor the the Liberty Bell group and other Washington Pass summits. We didn;t stay long though… we were very thirsty and wanted to rest a bit in the shade and get a drink before descending.

There are two options to descend… a whole bunch of raps or descend the dirty loose, gulley beside the arete. We decided to take the loose gulley. After resting and drinking under some trees we began to pick out way down. The ground was indeed loose and we had to be careful to stay close together or take different paths to prevent rockfall on each other. It got very tedious however and with found a way to cross back over to the climbing route at the bottom of pitch 4. From here we rappelled and things went much smoother.

Finally we reached the base. It much have been around 6:30pm by then. We drank a whole bunch of water, had some snacks and packed up our gear. We left on our harnesses. We noticed some rappel stations above the sketchy handlines on our approach earlier and planned on using those instead of the ratty handlines.

Eric was moving faster than me at this point  and already had the rope strung through the first rappel station at the top of the first hand-line by the time I arrived. He went first. I asked him twice if he had on his auto-block which he confirmed twice. We mentioned a few words about being hungry and looking forward to dinner. Then he began his rappel. I hate watching rappels. Usually i turn away and sing so i don’t have to listen to the rope creak. For some reason this time I was watching. It was 7:15pm.

Warning… the following contains content that may be disturbing.

I’m an not sure which event I saw first. All i know is that suddenly the rope was whipping through the rap rings and Eric was falling. He had only tied one knot at the ends. I watched him bounce on the rock like a toy. Like he wasn’t even real. Like this wasn’t even real. And then he was out of sight. I don’t remember when I began screaming. During or the fall or after I could no longer see him. But I yelled his name over and over asking him to please respond. He didn’t. So I switched to yelling “Help”.

The core shots to the handline no longer mattered. The fact that I hated down climbing no longer mattered. I descended the first handline yelling for help the whole way. Climbers below began to ascend. They called up to me asking what was wrong. I told them my husband fell. They began searching for him. I descending the second ratty handline. They found him. I could see a climber leaning over a figure laying in a heap against some trees below me.

“There’s a pulse, but its faint.” He called up to me. “Stay where you are”.

I didn’t listen. I kept descending. “I know wilderness first aid” I said again and again. I saw his water bottle  in the rocks. And then I saw blood splatters. And more blood splatters. And then I was there.

It wasn’t him. It wasn’t us. I was outside of my body looking at a scene in a movie. So much blood. Blood pouring our of his mouth, ears and nose in volumes I never dreamed possible. His shoulder was not right. His neck was contorted. Everything about his body was all wrong. But I was in rescue mode.

“We need to do C-spine” I said.

There were two men. One named Paul and the other named James. We studied his neck and evaluated how we could get him into C Spine without causing more damage. We decided to shove much backpack under his head as best we could and elevate him a bit. We could not do  C-spine. I closed his beautiful green eyes that stared blankly. We clover him with sleeping bags and down jackets.  Carefully, I cleared Eric’s nose of blood. I put my fingers down into his throat and scooped out blood. I pulled his tongue out and held his mouth open removing blood as more pooled. If he was indeed alive I wanted to make sure he could breathe. But I knew. I looked for the shallow pulse. I never found it.

Meanwhile the other climbers were coordinating a rescue effort. Two climbers had driven to Mazama to call 911. Two others watched at the roadside. James’s wife waited halfway down the trail. James and Paul put up some orange flagging on the trees to show mountain rescue our position. They out up some the headlamps on blinking mode and lite up some orange glow-stick type rescue flares. Everyone had a walkie-talkie to communicate. I told them they had to call Jeff, one of our friends who is in Everett Mountain Rescue. The Sheriff’s office got a hold of him. Jeff was on his way…

I talked a bunch of James and Paul. I think they were unsure what to make of my calm demeanor. But Eric always showed me that panicing never solved anything. I had to be logical. I had to make good decisions. I had to take care of him and be calm. I asked them to check for his pulse a few more times. At one point Austin, a climber on the road, asked me for info regarding age, weight , height… and if his pupils dilated in the light. I opened his eyes with one hand (the other still holding open his mouth) and James shined his headlamp. No response.

I don’t recall every detail and things are out of order in my head. I know mountain rescue and the Sheriff showed up at the road. They had a meeting for over an hour deciding what to do. In the meantime i noticed that Eric’s body was getting cold. But I also noticed that his mouth was still warm.. and then I realized that it was probably only because of my warm fingers heating the small space. I began to realize what I already knew… but still clung to a tiny bit of hope. Someone passed by with a headlamp.. the light shown briefly on Eric’s bloody face. I was taken aback. I asked whoever it way to shine the light again in our direction. I hoped i was wrong. But i was not. Eric’s skin was ghost white. So pale. And I knew that he was no longer there. Beside me was only emptiness. I took my fingers out of his mouth and shut it. I turned away. Moments later a voice on the radio said there would be a body recovery in the morning verifying what I had already concluded.

I was given the option of staying and waiting for the morning choper. I didn’t see the need to stay on the mountain. I carried Eric in my memories. He was not in the body that laid in a heap on the slopes of Le Petit Chavel. James, Paula  I descended. They had created handlines out of my rope to guide the rescuers to us. We used them to aid in the descent. I even rappelled off of one of them… it was all unreal.

The sheriff deputy was the only one waiting for us at the road. He too was shocked by my calm. He asked me to fill out an accident report. When I took the pen he handed me he saw my hands, burgundy with dried blood. He gave me to wet wipes, but i couldn’t get it all off. Besides, blood covered me everywhere. James and his wife drove me to Mazama. Paul followed in Eric’s car. Together we took out our sleeping bags and slept on the dirt in the Mazama Store Parking lot. It was Midnight. Jeff had left at 11:30… he said he would be there in two hours with a friend so he could take Eric’s car back. Afraid he would be speeding we set up blinking headlamps around us before turning in.

I didn’t sleep. I just laid there looking at the stars. I sat up at the sound of every car that passed. It wasn’t Jeff until 4:00am. Only then did I finally cry.

Epilogue:

Eric was my best friend for 12 years. He was my boyfriend for 2 years. My husband for one year. During that time he made me a better person. He taught me not to whine, but to solve my problems. To think logically. To always be blunt and never flowery. To follow no one rules but my own. To go against society’s standards. To take chances even though you might also make a mistake. To be honest with not only others, but with yourself. To find happiness not only in the things that make you smile, but by making someone else smile. To always ask questions and not always accept the answer. To fight for whatever you are passionate about and that persistence pays off. And he taught me that I could love someone more purely and perfectly than I ever thought possible. Eric made me better.

And now his memory will continue to make me better. I was working on some things for him before he died… I will continue do so. I will be a better crack climber. I will have more climbing partners. I will project more at the gym. I will take more time to rest my muscles. I will fare better with change. I will get a job. I will not become dependent solely on one person for everything. I will control my stress. I will think more steps ahead in BJJ. I will be the person I was trying to be for him.

And I will go all the places we planned to trek. I will climb every mountain, crag and waterfall we intended to climb together. Eric and I planned a lifetime of adventure in the wilderness and far reaches of this world. My mission now in life is to make sure that each of these goals is met. I don’t care how long it takes to touch every part of Earth we talked about, but I will indeed stand on every peak and hike every track. And I will continue to hear him whisper “breathe” whenever I get struck on a rough move and “it’s been three hours. You better put on sunblock” every time it’s a sunny day. Though his body is no longer here, his words will always remain with me and they will make me a better alpinist.

And perhaps it is all of this that brings me solace. I know that my behavior since Eric’s death is not reflective of a wife who watched her husband plummet 80 feet down a rocky face to his death. But there are no questions in my head. Eric told me what to do. He was blunt with me. He told me he wanted a direct cremation. He told me to take the ashes to every mountain and trek I went. He told me he would want me to keep climbing. To keep traveling. To find happiness with someone. To keep grappling. To think logically. To never ever give up.

He told me all of this on several occasions. So I do not have to wonder about what he wanted for me. I simply have to carry out his instructions. Knowing that I can and will do everything that he asked of me gives me happiness. There are no questions. I know what I need to do for Eric.

Eric is part of the mountains now. His ashes already scattered on three summits… and more will be scattered in the years to come. But more than just the ashes remain. I remain. And with me I carry his memory. The memory of Eric, who he was and what he stood for, will never die. And that is my mission now. To be better for him and for me so that I can move forward with his memory close beside me.