“Oh…. Crap…. We’re in about 3 inches of water,” exclaimed Chase as he peeked out the tent to check the damage from the midnight storm.  “Dig a trench!” he yelled, as he scurried to put his raincoat on.  If I had been sleeping, this midnight call to action would have been stressful, but with the pounding thunder and strobe-like lightening I hadn’t slept a wink.  As I unzipped the tent and crawled out into the storm, I noticed that our tents were sitting in a bona-fide pond.  The alpine can be unforgiving and unpredictable.

As Chase and I sprung into action, digging around in the muddy storm, Curtis and Joe sat lazily in their tent.  To Joe’s credit, I did see a trekking pole stab its way out of his vestibule every once in a while, weakly pawing at the mud.  Unfortunately, like an overeager intern, his efforts led only to more work for us. After the trenches were dug, Chase and I collapsed in our tent, wet and muddy from the storm. For the next few hours, Chase and I berated Joe and Curtis for their laziness.  We all joined in on gut-blasting laughter, the type that can only be induced by sleep-deprived hysteria. The Sawtooths are incredible.  After taking a six-mile shuttle, you are dropped off deep in the Sawtooth Wilderness Area.  As you walk toward the alpine lakes, Elephants Perch becomes more and more visible.  A 1,200 foot wall of perfect granite towering over the valley lakes, Elephant’s Perch begs to be climbed.

Unfortunately for us, the weather did not cooperate.  The first day, with a storm looming, we decided we should try Astro Elephant (5.10) because we could bail after the fourth pitch if it started to rain.   We didn’t even get to the fourth pitch.  Chase and I ended up bailing on some gear after the second pitch and Curtis and Joe hopped onto our rope after the first.  Curtis, caught in the middle of the second pitch in only his t-shirt when the storm hit, was shivering uncontrollably by the time we got off the rock.  After warming up and drying off, we slept well that night. Saturday, with the forecast predicting thunderstorms, we decided we did not want to replay yesterday’s fiasco.  We skinny-dipped (when in Rome?), went fishing, and by 2:00 pm realized that the storm wasn’t coming.  We knew that the first pitches on Direct Beckey (5.11) and Fine Line (5.11) were the hardest.  We decided to climb these pitches so that we could move faster the next day.  They were excellent. Seriously some of the best climbing I have ever experienced.  Hair-raising, butt-puckering, fun climbing.

Our plans of getting an alpine start the next day were dashed as we sat around the campfire and saw the lightening get closer and closer.  That night it rained.  It rained a lot.  It rained all night and we were shut down on our last day. Overall, the trip was an amazing success.  We didn’t get to climb much but we explored a new area, had an adventure, swam naked together, and got caught in a storm.  We all have Elephant’s Perch on our brain and we WILL be returning soon.

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