|Joe on cockdiesel (5.13b)|
We finally rolled into the Panthertown Valley parking lot around 9:30pm. After changing clothes we quickly strapped on our packs and headed in to the A-Frame shelter down near Big Green Mountain. The 15 minute hike quickly turned to a 30 minute hike since some of the shortcuts have been closed and we had to backtrack and take the long way around. It was a beautiful night with a full moon and we could see everything around.
Two semi-important things to note here. I have camped, hiked, and climbed in Panthertown Valley since 2006 and have seen bears there, but haven't ever had any problems with them and I always always camp with my gun, unfortunately I left it in my car this time.
We set up the tent about fifty feet from the back of the A-Frame and threw all of our gear in there. Joe had placed all of our food for the weekend, Subway sandwiches, oatmeal, etc inside of a dry bag and then placed that dry bag inside of another dry bag that contained his clothes. We walked over to the shelter and tied up the dry bag about five feet from the edge, inside of the shelter. The bottom of the bag was at about eye level. In our tired and semi-retarded state we walked back to the tent and saw all of the gear thrown around in there and instead of cleaning it up we figured let's just sleep in the shelter. By now it was about 10:30pm and we were planning on getting up at 5:30am to start the trek to the face of Laurel Knob. Joe laid his sleeping bag down about four feet from the hanging dry bag and I set up across from him. And so it begins...
I slept like total shit, tossed and turned all night, and couldn't stop thinking about the eight pitches of pure bliss we would enjoy in a few short hours. My back was to the dry bag and I was looking out the other end of the A-Frame.
I don't know what time it was when it all started, but it seemed like the current situation lasted two hours when in all it probably only lasted about three minutes.
I will never forget the sound of a bear walking over pinestraw and dragging it's paws. I heard this for about two or three minutes until it finally stopped and the only thing I could hear was the increasingly loud pounding of my heart. The next step is what almost caused me to shit myself...almost...the creak of the shelter floor.
I have always been told that if a bear comes in your tent then you should lie still and play dead, but if you come to one on a trail to make lots of noise to try to scare it off.
A second louder creak in the shelter floor.
Both paws were in the shelter. I was maybe eight feet from the edge, so this bear could very easily be right behind me.
I knew the bear was close and my first thoughts were of death. I remember closing my eyes briefly to try to control my breathing and heart rate and accept what was about to happen to me. I expected one painful swipe and then it would all be over.
Fortunately that never happened, but what did happen will stay forged in my mind for years and years to come.
|You can see the remains of the dry bag hanging on the left hand side.|
"Shit dude I see his eyes, he's coming back!"
I leaned forward and looked out of the shelter to see the bear walking, (in my mind he was running at us full speed growling), back with a purpose. We both jumped up and started banging on stuff and yelling at the bear trying to scare it away. This did nothing. Little did we know that the bear dropped the dry bag right outside of the shelter and was just returning to take what he came for. When the bear was returning the first thought that went through my mind was to run. Joe is an enduro maniac and would have outran me leaving me to be helplessly slaughtered by the hungry monster approaching. Like they say, you don't have to outrun the bear just outrun one of the people you are with.
Seeing how we now had no food and were both terrified we figured it best to hike out, and head to the Wal-Mart in the neighboring town to get more food before the sun came up.
It was now 3:30am.
We get back to Panthertown Valley frustrated and tired around 6:30am and head back to the camp to get our gear and start climbing.
We had decided to start on the ultra classic Fathom but to keep things spicy we decided to do the 5.10d R direct variation. Not knowing much about this line and armed with the Shull guidebook and the iPhone Mountain Project app we found the line that we thought was it and started up it.
|Looking down from the top of the fourth pitch of Fathom to the original start of Fathom. What a beautiful wall!!|
In normal Laurel Knob fashion after the fifth pitch we were confused as to where to go. There seemed to be 3 different choices, ranging from 5.7 - 5.10. Don't really remember which one we took because the climbing seemed run out as hell and I ended up over lots and lots of lichen, wandering and looking for a bolt or anchor.
But finally the view from the top!
We were lucky because we didn’t have to do the hike again, our gear was stashed, and I think both of us had a halfway decent night of sleep the night before.
We decided to climb the Central Pillar of Laurel, 5.10. One pitch of 5.8, followed by two pitches of 5.9 and then ending with a pitch of 5.10, this seemed to be a lighter day for the both of us. A perfect send off shall we say.
Joe had decided he had had enough of the run-out friction slab and let me take the lead all day. Man was I happy he did that. The first pitch being only 5.8 was so much fun! It ate gear seeing how it was a sweet crack for the majority of the pitch. I think it had a bolt or two on it as well, not that it mattered with the amount of gear on it. The second and third pitch were just as much fun, because at the bottom of the second pitch you traverse out left and start up a somewhat polished quartz dike. This thing looked like the back of a huge prehistoric snake.
I don’t think I got much gear on either of those two pitches, and the bolts were maybe 25 – 30 feet apart, my type of climbing. J For some reason I don’t have that panic thing in my mind that most people have. At least that’s what I think, because I haven’t ever really been scared in times like this. Some call it reckless and idiotic, or maybe that I don’t recognize the consequences. I do get scared though, not much but just enough to pucker my butthole. I was almost at the top of the third pitch and I was almost at a bolt when what my right foot was smearing on crumbled and I slipped. “Fuuuuuuuuuckkkk me……” I whispered to myself, un-puckered, and continued. When I got to the chains I was actually kind of pissed off at myself for not checking my feet before I made that move and that I actually almost fell.
At the top of the third pitch I was getting tired and I know Joe was as well. With the general lack of color that the sky was giving off and the darker clouds in the distance I thought best that we just rap down and get the hell off of the mountain.
(Little did we know that the Frankenstorm was closing in)
Once on the ground I yelled up to Joe to start his rappel down while the rain started to come in. By the time we were both down and pulling ropes it was a downpour. Oh Laurel, how I missed thee.
I think the story ends well here.
Of course I could go into the conversations Joe and I had on the way back, or how happy I was to be home and have a hot shower, or even how I had to cancel a work trip to sit home and watch two feet of snow get dumped in Fayetteville, and what seemed like the end of the world was happening while being cut off from the rest of society. Or even better, the plan that Joe and I had concocted on how to prepare for the end of the world using machine guns, some home made dynamite, the dogs, and roaming sentries.
But I think all of that is best suited for another post. J