As the sun set, Stefan and I discussed our predicament. We still had a long ways to go to get to the summit and we were having trouble route finding even in the daylight. However, it was supposed to get well below freezing that night and we had nothing more than light gloves and a puffy jacket each, so bivvying would be VERY cold. Climbing would keep us warmer, so we decided to take our chances with getting lost in the dark, and kept going.
Stefan led out heading right from the ledge, and up another corner and eventually on to some sort of outside corner. I swung leads, continuing up the corner, then into a chute until rope drag stopped me somewhere just shy of the top. Stefan led off again, over the top of the Third Tower and along the ridge, at which point we simul-climbed until we reached the final headwall, perhaps over about 4 pitches’ worth of climbing.
Our route description stated there was 6-8 pitches of 4th and easy 5th class climbing directly to the summit register, so we expected to be past the crux of the climb by this point, and perhaps on terrain that we could quickly simul to the summit. These hopes were dashed as we reached the base of the headwall only to see a formidably steep & blank wall rising above, with massive routes overhead. Stefan tried traversing a bit to the right, where things quickly became very exposed and the going did not look feasible. There was a crack and what looked like lower angle terrain to the left, so we committed and chose that way.
We scrambled down left, wallowed through unconsolidated snow. Keep in mind that we were wearing rock shoes at this point, so this was VERY cold! Stefan led up the thin finger crack and disappeared around the corner. After what seemed like a very long time in the darkness, he pulled up slack and I followed. The crack felt pretty hard since by that time my hands & feet were numb from the snow and my muscles were rigid from the cold. I went around the corner, and then had to downclimb a ways and around the corner. Rope drag had stopped Stefan.
The rest of the night was a bit of a blur, although it seemed to never end. Each pitch seemed to be the same as the last: climb up an awkward chimney or OW, usually with sketchy or non-existent pro, often scraping out snow to find holds inside or pro placements. Reach the top, traverse around to avoid roofs, get cliffed out, downclimb until you have nearly reached your old altitude, and then around a corner and traverse to the base of the next chimney/OW, at which point rope drag becomes unmanageable and you have to stop. Make sure to climb through and stand in plenty of snow during this so that your fingers burn and your feet stay semi-numbed. Repeat ad infinitum.
I have no idea where our line went that night. All I know is that we were somewhere to the left of the crest, and the climbing seemed harder than easy 5th! Most of the wide pitches seemed harder than our crux pitches on the Third Tower. Rope drag kept pitches to about half a rope length, and between the wind, taught rope & being around corners, we could not communicate with each other, which cost us a lot of time. On several occasions I couldn’t tell when I had hauled up slack to Stefan or if the rope caught up. I got in the habit of throwing together a Z-C system off the anchor with klemheist knots tied from climbing slings to haul through the rope drag.
Although climbing may have kept us somewhat warmer than finding a nice hole in the rock to bivy in, I’m not sure exactly how much warmer we were, as I was very cold climbing through the snow with my thin gloves and climbing shoes, and standing in the snow at belays in the wind, usually half-hanging.