by O. J. Anderson
|part 4 of 9|
The Home of the World Order has a natural defense mechanism: 700-foot cliffs surrounding the base of the castle. There is an access road curving up the south side of the butte, but Jack and Jake know better than to plan that into the initial assault. They’ll secure it after they take control of the east side of the butte. Bring in the main body.
Jack points to the digital printout from the drone. “What’s this?” About two-thirds the way up the cliff on the north side is a black dot.
“Looks like a shaft,” Jake says. “Ventilation? Sewage maybe?”
“It’s our way in,” he says.
Jack Creed then begins to brief the two crews. They’ll gear up and load Brogan’s vans with the glue cannons. Jack and his crew will unload at the base of a vertical crack system running up the north side wall. Brogan and his men (B Crew) will pull low-side security until A Crew enters the shaft.
“Two fast attack rope teams will scum the crack, then make the traverse to the shaft entrance. Looks like about three rope lengths over. Once we get in we’ll set up a zip-line and haul up the rest of A Crew and our equipment. Brogan, once we’re all inside, your crew will take up a position at the base of the access road. We’ll open up the gates from the inside and signal you in. Then we’ll set the demo and blow this place to crap.”
“Got it.” Jake nods. “Terminate with extreme hostility.”
They punch fists.
Jack says, “Let’s do it.” Waves his arm in a circular motion over his head.
Brogan shouts, “Fire ’em up, knuckleheads!”
The starters whine. Engines rev. Doors slam shut. The three black vans race down the dirt road headed for the butte. In the back of the lead van, Jack starts slinging on his climbing rack. Big wall rig: hexes, power cams, tri-cams, nuts, bongs, brassies, mashies, pitons, aiders, daisies, quick draws, and about a hundred or so more biners. Everything but the Port-a-ledge and crime novel. His only protection will be a 9-mm strapped to his leg and the speed at which he ascends the face. He cracks his knuckles. Limbers up.
“One minute out,” Brogan says.
Smith, Jack’s rope partner, is already backfeeding the climbing rope. He hands Jack one end of the rope. Jack loops a figure eight about twenty-four inches in, then runs the end through his harness and reroutes the figure eight. Gives it a tug. Good to go. Chalks up his hands.
The van skids to a halt a hundred meters from the wall. One of Brogan’s men flings open the door. Jack and Smith jump out and sprint for the rock. The other fast attack rope team, Jones and Simms, follow close behind. They are hauling up the anchor kit: power drills, anchor bolts and hangers, static rope. It’s a hefty load, so Jones will lead the entire route; Simms will climb the rope using two mechanical ascenders tied off to leg loops.
The remainder of A Crew readies the gear and takes up covered support positions around the vans. The threat could come from any direction, but they have good visibility, so they cover the entire field of operation with three custom-made Hauzer & Gurlet 8.32mm sniper rifles with armor piercing rounds.
Jack hits the wall. The first pitch is a fairly simple slap and scum up to a thin crack system a hundred feet up. He rates the section a cozy 5.9 and only throws in two pieces of protection. But once he gets his fingers into the crack, he finds that it is a fragile, chossy crumb cake. Never been climbed before. The sound of pebbles ticking off Smith’s helmet follows him up the face.
The pitch ends where the crack widens to roughly an inch. A good place to throw in some cams and set up a three-point belay anchor. After setting the cams, Jack hitches in some webbing to the three biners, evens out the tension, and ties in the belay system. Gives it a few sharp tugs before leaning out from the rock in an L shape and putting his whole weight onto it.
He calls Smith up.
Below, Smith unties his belay and begins climbing smoothly.
As Jack hauls up the slack, he can study the route, plan his moves. It shouldn’t be a hard climb unless they are attacked. The next few pitches range in difficulty from 5.9 through 5.11a, maybe b. A pretty good climb under any other conditions. The crux will come about at the transition point from ascending to traversing.
Traversing is never a pleasant experience. No more crack. Looks like a smooth, almost featureless section of rock. He’ll worry about it when he gets there.
Only a few minutes later Smith reaches Jack’s position and ties off to his anchor. Jack drops the belay.
“I don’t like this rock,” Jack tells him. “Too junky.”
“It’s like climbing a stack of cookies.”
“Right. Take a fall here and all the gear’s gonna zipper out like the back of a prom dress. I’m gonna shorten the pitches, throw in more gear. We’ll do it in three up to the traverse.”
“Got it, boss.”
Before he unties, Jack looks down and sees the next rope team making their way up the crack. The vans look like toys.
* * *
Copyright © 2007 by O. J. Anderson