We waited until the end of the weekend so that I could recover from a lingering cold and to avoid the 4th of July weekend crowds. It turns out that while I was getting better, story Kostas was getting worse as he had mysteriously picked up my cold. So with occasional coughing fits we made the drive at a leisurely 60 MPH to Big Pine on Monday afternoon.
Leaving the car at 2:50AM, here we made good progress to Third Lake and after a poop break and a small approach/route error, I started leading the 1st crux pitch at 7AM. The first pitch was a thin corner with some balancey moves required to move between shallow finger locks, we both thought that 5.10c is accurate. The climbing to the top of the lower tower was interesting and varied with Kostas and I swinging leads and climbing full 60M pitches. One of the highlights of the route was the chimney that we had to tunnel through, which was in a unique setting and had your choice of a fist crack or finger crack to guide your way up and through.
Topping out on the lower tower we could see dark clouds blowing in and hear thunder in the distance. Without any hesitation we kept pushing on, while keeping an eye out for shelter behind big blocks in case the clouds decided to dump on us. At this point, the altitude was beginning to get to me as my head was throbbing and I couldn't imagine taking another bite of my cereal bars. Likewise, Kostas was beginning to have coughing fits as the altitude increased the severity of his cold symptoms. On one particular pitch after crossing the notch, Kostas was face climbing and occasionally sending rocks downward in an attempt to maintain my attention. In retaliation, I curled up in a ball underneath an overhanging boulder and dozed off with two hands on the rope, feeding slack as required.
After some simuling and a bit of soloing we finally rappelled into the big notch, at which point we opted to go left on the quickest/easiest path to the summit. We tagged the summit at 6:30PM (11.5 hours on route) and then began the descent to Contact Pass and then Third Lake.
Around an hour after tagging the summit, I looked up to see Kostas in a familiar coughing fit, except this time he ended up puking. "Damn" I thought to myself, "he must have really been suffering". With a throbbing headache and severe nausea we pressed onward and after arriving at Contact Pass, I started getting that familiar feeling in my throat. With the rope in mid-coil around my neck I too let loose. I could see Kostas standing there out of the corner of my eye, while I was heaving stomach acid onto the talus and all he could do was swat the mosquitos away from my head. Within 5 minutes of puking, I felt significantly better as we had descended 2000 ft in elevation. Unfortunately, Kostas was feeling worse as he had developed a fever and was exhausted head to toe.
We made the descent back to our packs at third lake at which point Kostas decided that he needed to rest. I left him with my 8oz bivy sack, synthetic poofy jacket and balaclava so that he could try to get some sleep while I did the walk along the well-defined North Fork Trail back to the car. The plan was for him to get some rest and join me when he woke up. I was worried about leaving him there by himself but he assured me he could take care of himself and there was really no way for us both to stay comfortable in the chilly night air with the supplies we brought. Reluctantly, I ran off down the trail dreaming of water and non-bar-shaped food.
At 2:20AM I was awakened by the dome light of the car turning on above my head. It was Kostas. Thrilled to see him, I extended my hand out to congratulate him on his accomplishment: Dark Star, Car-to-Car 23.5 hours.
Notes: * Unrope way earlier, we stayed roped up way longer than we needed to. * Bring salty food. I am sick and tired of all of those sweet bars or "candy" as Croft would say. * Driving 60MPH in my Xterra I was able to increase my gas mileage from 16 MPG to 22MPG and I even got 27 MPG going from Lone Pine to Kramer Junction. This saved us ~$55 in gas over the whole trip. * Total Times: 21 hours C2C & 23.5 hours C2C