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Before the actual assault, they pre-climbed the first 300 feet and fixed two ropes in tandem. The rope on the first pitch went up fairly easily. They returned on the last day of 1973 to hang the second rope, but the weather was rough and they worked all day to secure the upper 150 feet.
Five days later they were back. They brought up both fixed ropes behind them, and then Bouchard led the first pitch from the 300-foot level, climbing freely about two-thirds' of the distance, relying on pitons and �triers (short ladder-like devices with web slings as rungs) the rest of the way. After 150 feet he set a belay, and Wilcox climbed, following Bouchard's lead over a series of steep ice-glazed overlaps and up through a small inside corner. As Wilcox gained altitude he pulled the pitons Bouchard had placed. The rock gave up the metal easily, an indication they were encountering poor cracks.
Wilcox led the next pitch, at least half of it unclimbable except with aid. He belayed at the top of a buttress while Bouchard worked up. The next 75 feet, leading to a sizable terrace, took a tedious hour and ended the day. The climbers pulled up their haul bag, scraped out a hole in the snow and settled into a comfortable bivouac. The temperature was about zero.
In the morning Wilcox led the pitch from the bivouac. Bouchard waited for two hours while Wilcox forced a mixed section of ice and rock, using free and aid techniques, and then hurried up to take the lead himself. He was still finding poor cracks, and near the end of his pitch he reached a crack that wouldn't hold a conventional piton. So Bouchard hammered home a "bong," a piece of metal that resembles a slice of Swiss cheese folded in two. Even that wouldn't grip properly, so he forced it in sideways and climbed past.
When Bouchard ran out of rope, 150 feet above Wilcox, he readied himself to drill a hole for a bolt that would give a solid belay. He fitted a sky hook into a flake of rock just above him and started drilling. Somehow the hook slipped, or a bit of rock broke. What Bouchard remembers is how much it hurt when the hook cracked him in the head as he fell off the cliff.
As he tumbled and bounced down the rock face, the rope tightened on the pitons, and one by one, like a zipper coming apart, they popped loose. Some seven or eight pitons, carrying nearly 20 feet of rope, came flying out of the rock, and then it was the bong's turn. But the bong held, and the falling Bouchard came to a jarring stop after 40 feet. It had cost him, though—somewhere during the fall Bouchard had cracked his right ankle against a rock and he sensed that it was broken.
Slowly he reclimbed past the life-saving bong, replacing pitons and moving up on the �triers. He had nearly regained his highest point when a gust of wind tipped him over. This time he fell only 10 feet, but he yelled to Wilcox that he couldn't complete the pitch.
Wilcox shouted back that Bouchard had to go up and finish the bolt hole. Again, despite the pain from torn ligaments (as the ankle injury proved to be), Bouchard inched up, hung in and began drilling. With his good leg lodged in a rung of the �triers, Bouchard dangled in the wind and hammered for 20 minutes to make a hole an inch deep. He placed the bolt, fixed an eye on the protruding end and clipped the rope into it with a carabiner. His first fall had occurred at noon; when he finally clipped into the bolt it was after two o'clock. He was 50 feet below the top of the cliff.
Using the bolt as an anchor, Wilcox, from below, lowered Bouchard about as far as he had fallen and then told him to start penduluming—stepping back and forth horizontally on the rock—until he had generated enough swing to reach a tiny ledge to the left.
Hurrying carefully, Wilcox went up to Bouchard's painfully gained bolt to retrieve the pitons. Then he lowered himself and swung onto the ledge with Bouchard. It was three o'clock and daylight was already dimming.