Let us probe the silent places, let us seek what luck betide us;
Let us journey to a lonely land I know.
There's a whisper on the night-wind, there's a star agleam to guide us,
And the Wild is calling, calling . . . let us go.

Robert Service — The Call of the Wild
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Day 7 - Ascending the West Wall

Day 7 Wednesday, July 18. At 5am the sky was clear and blue but the sun was not yet shinning on the peaks around our basin. Back to sleep until 9am. Since it stays light until after midnight, we are taking green Robaxacet muscle relaxants (1 capsule, 400mg methocarbamol and 500mg acetaminophen) to encourage a deep and restful sleep. Between those, the scotch and a black sleeping mask we are able to sleep quite comfortably and wake up very refreshed.

Today we decide to climb the west wall again and see if we can reach the ridge top. Everyone is in good spirits and we are all getting used to the 5550 foot altitude at camp. We climb the first wall in about 20 minutes and walk out to a viewpoint a glass across the valley, but we see nothing. So we pack up and head south across the wide valley to continue our climb up the ridge. It is steep, but we plod along and gain the top of the ridge by noon. Amazing views in every direction. We are looking south into the drainage we saw yesterday which drains a large backcountry area into Caribou Cry river. Distance down to the bottom of that watershed must be close to 1800 feet. We set up the scope and sight some individual caribou in groups of ones and twos on the slopes across a narrow side creek to the north. The sheep we have seen up until now have all moved out of their high pastures and are nowhere to be seen.

We eat lunch on top of the ridge and a rain cloud blows through. After lunch the rain stops and we set the scope bac up and look to the south. In the deep snowfields on the slopes to the south Steve sights a herd of 21 caribou. Sandy spies another group of four. All are cows and calves. We pack up our gear and continue walking up the spine of the ridge, slowing gaining elevation. The ridge is unlike any other mountain ridge I'm familiar with. Instead of a knife-like edge of busted basalt, this ridge is anywhere from four to about thirty feet wide, flat on top, and covered with a mixture of rocks, boulders and grassy areas. And the rock appears to be a mix of both igneous and sedimentary and even a bunch of conglomerate. I guess that even as high and steep as these ridges are, they were under water at some point in time. Relatively recent glaciation further complicates understanding how these mountain ranges were created.

We descend more or less vertically for a thousand feet back to camp in time for tea. Later, around 5:30 local time, dark clouds move in and it looks like another impressive storm is brewing. We race to prepare dinner. We only just finish boiling the water and mixing the meals (Black Bean and Sweet Corn Chowder + Sweet Red Bell Pepper Pasta for me - excellent!) before an intense hail storm forces us back into our individual tents to eat dinner. After dinner and a brief nap we emerge from our shelters to clear skies for tea and scotch. At 8PM we call Stan on the sat phone to confirm our move tomorrow. Twice we get pushed to voice mail and we disconnect. Finally, Phil says "Well, just leave him a message," which Steve does. At 8:30PM we get confirmation of our pick up tomorrow. About that time rain forces us back into our tent, but by 10:30PM the skies are again clear and Steve comes over to beg some scotch. Good thing we are resupplying tomorrow – I'm also almost out of scotch. How does this happen? To our friends and family who are unable to be here with us, we raise them a toast and send them our love.

20120718_WestWallRoute.jpg
To ascend the west wall we'll zig up to the left, then zag back to the saddle at the right, staying in the green.
photographer: Bill Moore
20120718_TundraTrudging.jpg
Trudging across the tundra, mile after mile...
photographer: Sandra Moore
20120718_GlassingForSheep.jpg
From approximately 6200 feet we could see in all directions. There were sheep and caribou everywhere.
photographer: Phil Taylor
20120718_PhilClimbingRidge.jpg
Phil reaching the ridge top
photographer: Sandra Moore
20120718_Orienteering.jpg
Trying to figure out exactly where Caribou Cry river is.
photographer: Sandra Moore
20120718_BacksideOfSheepValley.jpg
From the top of the west wall ridge, looking into the backside of Sheep Pass which flows into Caribou Cry river.
photographer: Sandra Moore
20120718_ScanningForSheep.jpg
Scanning for Sheep
photographer: Bill Moore
20120718_HereComesTheRain.jpg
We watched as an impressive storm cloud slowly approached from the west.
photographer: Bill Moore
20120718_DonningRainGear.jpg
Even though we had been watching the storm approach for an hour, it still seemed to catch us unprepared.
photographer: Bill Moore
20120718_ManyToasts.jpg
Many toasts on our last night in Caribou Cry Camp
photographer: Sandra Moore

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