The Greatest Alpine Climbing Trip of All Time
A (probably) true story
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
It was one of those weekends when everything went right. The weather was perfect—sunny, not a cloud in the sky, and just cool enough to make the approach tolerable in a T-shirt, without sweating. The two climbers started to hike in with what they felt were very light backpacks, each wondering if they had, in fact, brought everything they needed.
The hike in seemed to fly by, and felt almost flat. The climbers were able to keep up a conversation the entire time, neither of them out of breath, and while talking, discovered that they agreed on almost everything, from politics to the best album by their favorite group (which they also shared).
They arrived at a good spot to camp two hours before sunset, with enough time to take a quick dip in the alpine lake, which was refreshingly cool, but not cold enough to be painful, as alpine lakes often are. They set up their tent, which was incredibly clean even though it had been used several times in the previous weeks. The zippers slid up and down like a knife through butter, and no bugs got into the tent during the setup, because there were no holes in the mesh. Also, there were no insects in the area.
The first climber pulled two beers out of their pack, ready to turn around and surprise the second climber, but found the second climber also holding two surprise beers—the exact same ones!
“Should we drink all of them?” the first climber asked.
“I don’t see why not,” the second climber said. Just as they cracked open their cans, which had somehow stayed cold during the hike in, a marmot approached, carrying a pizza box on its back. The marmot stopped about ten feet away from the climbers, arched its back and slid the pizza box off, and left.
The climbers warily approached the pizza box, but found the pizza to be still warm. They threw up their hands and laughed, clinked their beer cans together, and ate the pizza, which was conveniently the perfect amount, and did not leave them with leftovers, to tempt bears and other critters in the area.
Just then, a bear appeared, 250 feet away across the lake. The climbers froze as the bear spotted them and stood up on its hind legs.
“Oh shit,” the first climber said. The bear stared for just a second, then waved with one of its front paws, like a neighbor out mowing the lawn.
“What should we do?” the first climber asked.
“Wave back, I guess,” the second climber said. They did, and the bear went back to its business, then disappeared.
After they finished the pizza and beers, the climbers went to bed, both sleeping exactly nine hours and having very positive, lucid dreams.
In the morning, they rolled out of the tent refreshed and excited, and found two large, warm breakfast burritos next to their stove. They looked at each other, shrugged, and ate the burritos. They drank the French press of coffee that had also been left next to the stove. Then they realized there was a privy about 150 feet from their camp, something they had seen no mention of during their research of the climb. They both used the stunningly immaculate and aesthetically pleasing privy for very satisfying and efficient bowel movements, assuring that neither of them would have to poop while climbing.
Just like the night before, they both slept nine hours, and no one farted.
They packed up and walked to the base of the climb, only three minutes of easy hiking from their campsite. Just as they arrived at the base, a climber was pulling rappel ropes from the last rap station.
“Hey there,” the climber said. “I’m the first ascensionist of this route, and every once in a while, I like to rappel the route and make sure it’s nice and clean. I pulled out a couple of small loose blocks, but other than that, the route is in perfect shape. Looks like you two are going to have perfect weather today.”
The first ascensionist was right—just like the day before, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was perfect for climbing—not too hot in the sun, and not too cool, with a barely noticeable breeze.
The climbers began the climb, both offering to let the other lead the first pitch, and then agreeing that it really didn’t matter, as the entire route was supposed to be great.
The climb was great—12 pitches of engaging, well-protected climbing, alternating 95 feet of splitter handcrack with 95 feet of exposed face climbing. Each climber used exactly the entire rack on each pitch, with three pieces of gear left over to build a secure anchor at the top. The rope never tangled, and each climber felt as if they had gotten lucky and led the best six pitches of the route. Both of their climbing shoes, which had as of late begun to smell like rotting raccoon carcasses, didn’t even smell. They also both remembered to bring chalk, but used it very sparingly.
On the summit, they found two almond croissants, two cups of coffee, and a puppy. The first climber, who had been thinking about adopting a puppy for months now, was elated, and popped the calm little dog in their pack, with its head sticking out of the top. The climbers rappelled the route, and their ropes never got stuck or tangled, and no rocks were dislodged.
They arrived back at their tent with the puppy an hour before sunset, and despite the fact that there had been no clouds or precipitation in the area, a double rainbow appeared behind the peak. In a patch of snow near their tent, they found four beers, which must have been left there by the first ascensionist, they assumed. But since the first ascensionist was nowhere to be seen, they figured the beers were fair game.
The marmot from the night before came by with tacos and fresh guacamole, which the climbers ate as they watched the perfect sunset, and then went to bed. Just like the night before, they both slept nine hours, and no one farted.
In the morning, just as the climbers were starting to pack up, a helicopter landed next to the lake. The pilot jumped out, jogged over, and invited the climbers along for a ride back to the trailhead. They should take their time, the pilot said, but whenever they were ready, they could jump in the helicopter, where the pilot even had a puppy-sized headset for the dog. So, they did.
Back at the trailhead, they each found five dollars.
Brendan Leonard’s new book, Bears Don’t Care About Your Problems: More Funny Shit in the Woods from Semi-Rad.com, is out now.