Fear and Laughter on Lost Arrow
As a child I always regarded Halloween as my chance to run totally wild. It was the best shot we had as kids at letting our imaginations wander free; sometimes into a dark unknown where we got scared, other times into a colorful Peter-Pan mindset where anything was possible. As an adult I always feel as though an important part of me is fading away when I let another Halloween pass without a bit of sheer and unfiltered wildness and a good scare. Simply getting drunk at a rowdy Halloween costume party doesn’t cut it.
This year I set out with fellow Patagonia Customer Service lads Rob Flesher and Andrew Marshall on a mission—to Yosemite Valley to climb Lost Arrow Spire and set up a Tyrolean traverse 2,700 feet above the Valley floor. In order to pull off this semi-outlandish stunt we had to first hike 3000 vertical feet up to the Valley rim, rappel off the edge to a notch where the spire meets the main wall, and then climb a few exposed sections up the outside of the spire…and then do all of the rigging for the Tyrolean traverse.
[Rob Flesher on his way back to the Yosemite Valley rim from Lost Arrow Spire. Photo, Dave Campbell]
It’s important to bear in mind that we’re not Patagonia “Ambassadors”; we’re the guys at Patagonia you chat with when you can’t decide which soft shell to bring on your next trip—we sit at desks all day drinking coffee talking about clothing and climbing. So, naturally we were armed with a stove, French press, gourmet grounds and packets of cream & sugar. As the saying goes, “if you bring a sleeping bag, you’ll end up bivying”; thus, shortly after we began climbing, our progress completely halted at a perfect ledge for brewing and it took us a solid while to get going again. I guess this is what happens when the office crew hits the walls of Yose’. Ironically we froze our hides off in the early hours of the morning because we didn’t bring enough clothes!
And so the day went on and higher we went. Caffeinated. Until we were all a bit tipsy with exposure, and slightly off our rockers. Years ago when I worked in Hong Kong, I had a coworker named Martin Voon who would say that all people, especially western men, have rats inside them; rats that are hungry and almost constantly squirming around within us. According to Martin, it is these hungry rats which make us go out and do wild, and at times, horrible thing, and the only way we can find genuine peace of mind is if we find a positive outlet - such as climbing - that will scare us senseless and thus keep the rats “fed” for a temporary amount of time. I’m not sure if I completely agree with this ideology, but nonetheless, I guess he'd say the three of us were feeding our rats up there on Lost Arrow Spire.
Eventually we topped out. Having Fat Tire beer & a jug of wine stashed behind a tree at the other end of the Tyrolean was probably the best tactical decision we made, as there would have been very little incentive to jump on a rope suspended thousands of feet above the ground without being able to look forward to those treats on the other side. When it was all said and done, the rats were well-fed and after watching the sun set over the Valley, we made our way back down the Yosemite Falls Trail toward Camp 4. Strolling through fallen leaves and past creaking branches I thought I caught a glimpse in the shadows of Halloweens of my past.
When we got back down to Camp 4 we bumped into Valley fixture Dave Turner and learned that while we were having our “big” adventure on the Lost Arrow Spire, he and Patagonia ambassador Colin Haley had climbed the Northwest Regular Route of Half Dome and the Nose of El Cap in a mind boggling 20 hours. I guess in reality our coffee guzzling office crew wasn’t on the verge of breaking any intrepid records, but then again, to a kid that’s not what Halloween is all about.
[Above, right - Rob Flesher and Andrew Marshall brewing up a few cups o' joe and sharing laughs thousands of feet above the Yosemite Valley floor on Lost Arrow Spire. Above left - Rob Flesher enjoying a well earned Fat Tire at dusk, Yosemite Point. Photos, Dave Campbell]