Climbing is dangerous! Every year many climbers are broken, maimed, and killed. Don't be so foolish as to trust your life to what you see here. I'm not a guide and neither is this web site. If you don't know what you are doing or where you are going, please take a course or hire a guide!
Ingalls Peak, South Face
August 11-12, 2000
I just didn't think it would catch so easy. After breaking out of a stunned stupor, I frantically tried to put out the fire...
What an odd trip this turned out to be. Marne was interested in trying some alpine rock. We'd been climbing sport routes together through the summer, and I guess all my talk had for once convinced someone of something. After some discussion, we opted for the standard route on Ingalls instead of The Tooth. I had recently soloed down The Tooth, and had some minor demons to dispatch on Ingalls. For her part, she liked the idea of an overnight trip.
We both arranged to escape from work a little early on Friday. I had to endure some chastising words for skipping the company bowling party. Yeah, a sunny Friday in Seattle and I'm going to forego a climbing trip to sit in a smoky bowling alley. That's gonna happen.
So I left work and met Marne at my house in mid-afternoon. We made a quick stop in Cle Elum for a disposable camera and sunscreen. By 5:00 PM we were walking away from the car at the end of the endless road up the Teanaway River. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn't blistering hot. We walked along at a comfortable pace, stopping a few times to make adjustments to Marne's borrowed pack and to strip off some layers.
**BEWARE, RANT AHEAD**
I appreciate a nice trail as much as anyone, and make no mistake, the trail to Ingalls Pass is well maintained. But what in the world is up with all those switchbacks?!?! I mean, there are places where the trail seems to be flat or running downhill slightly. And it is so tempting to just bomb on up the old trail, which is soooo direct. Ah, but we were good little hikers and stayed on the meandering highway.
Anyway, soon enough we came to Ingalls Pass. I'll never grow tired of that phenomenal view of Mt. Stuart. A slightly descending traverse landed us in upper Headlight Basin. This is another of my favorite places in the Cascades. I just love how the little creeks run in the deep, narrow channels through the meadow, and the then go crashing over the steep, glacier polished rock cliffs. We found an established spot to put up the tent and we were soon relaxing. I forget how nice it is to be able to get water from a creek. Five minutes with the filter replaced two hours melting snow with a stove. We sat and chatted for a while. Then I decided that, since I'd lugged the stove and pot up the trail, we should use it. Potatoes and cheddar coming up!
A few pumps on the stove, a little bit of fuel into the cup, and a flick of the lighter and the stove was lit. And so was my leg. For a couple seconds all I could do was stare at the quickly growing pyre. Marne was also stunned, but managed to nonchalantly say, "Loren, your leg is on fire."
No panic, no screams. After what seemed like minutes, I was able to move and made a feeble attempt to pat out the flames. Even though it failed, the movement seemed to snap me out of the trance. In a blinding flurry of hands, the fire was out. I sat there waiting for it to start hurting. The hair (and there is normally quite a bit of it) was gone from the top of my knee to the middle of my calf. And amazingly, that is all that burned. Like the alcohol on a flambé.
So it seems that the worst damage was to my ego. Mr. Mountaineer. Veteran of the volcanoes, rock soloist, winter climbing and skiing guru. And on a beautiful summer evening, in a wide open space, I light myself on fire. Pride goeth before a fall.
We ate the potatoes and went to bed, leaving the tent door open for while to let the burned-hair odor waft out.
We got a nice start in the morning, not alpine, but we were walking by 7:30. I hadn't walked directly to the route from Headlight Basin before, so I was focused on steering the correct course. We were twenty minutes out of camp when I remember that the camera was still in the tent. Not wanting to lose thirty minutes, and perhaps first crack at the popular route, I opted against returning to get the camera.
We followed cairns for a while, then aimed for the base of a buttress. Around that, I saw that we could have aimed a bit lower, but we were fine. We made good time and were sitting at the base of the oft skipped or soloed first pitch around 8:15. Because we came to climb, we racked up here and I led out. It was less steep and difficult than I remembered from my first visit. But I was in my mountaineering boots then, and rock shoes have a way of making things seem easier. I belayed Marne up and we scrambled to the base of main slab. Marne opted to let me do all the leading, so off I went, again amazed at how much easier it was this time. The two pitches went by in a flash and then we were scrambling over to the summit. It was nice to have it to ourselves on such a nice, sunny day. We snacked and talked and I even closed my eyes for a quick cat nap. Then we headed back to the rappel.
The rappel anchors are big expansion bolts, about as good as they come in the mountains. But their location makes getting started an awkward affair. I always end up sliding off the edge sideways. Functional, but not especially elegant. I went first, to set up the next rappel. Marne got some help starting her rappel from another climber. He was finishing up the route and was in mountain boots and had a full set of hexes jangling at his waist. I've never really figured out hexes, but they do make a nice sound.
We rapped down past the growing horde of people climbing and waiting to climb the various pitches. I was happy that we'd had the route to ourselves.
We scrambled back to our campsite and had a quick snack before packing up and heading out. The day was pleasant- sunny but not too warm. We took time to enjoy the views before we dropped over Ingalls Pass, then sped downhill to our car and a few beers. Zoom, back to Issaquah. Great weekend.
This page was last edited on
Tuesday, August 30, 2005