To Condor #26 (or whatever her true name is),
One fine day, I took a friend up Teapot Dome (Regular Route). It was a little gnarly… Not too well protected up there, and my partner Charmaine actually broke a hold right where I got a little spooked. Weird.
So anyways, we summit, and a bunch of condors started soaring around. We could hear the wind in their feathers as they gave us some rather close and majestic flyby’s. Charmaine’s eyes were beside herself.
I knew exactly where to go next.
So we trucked it up to Condor Crag. Saint Valentines Day Massacre is a classic, and I’ve had good condors up there before. Batta-bang: Just after I summitted, and put Charmaine on belay, some giant friggin’ bird landed barely ten feet away from me. Sa-WOOSH!
So this bird was just sitting there, staring into my god-damned soul. I was on my ass, belaying Charmaine, and struggling to maintain my focus because I’m so damn stoked.
What do you know? This giant bird – a She Bird, as I would later find – starts creeping up on me. Holding still, I figured her vision might be based on movement. You know, like a T-Rex.
Then I notice what she wants: my helmet. I had removed my (white) helmet, and placed it next to my ass. She Bird is intrigued.
Unfortunately, condors will regularly ingest white or milky plastic – mistaking it for bone fragments – and sadly die of intestinal strangulation. So now I’m caught in a dilemma; several hikers had gathered to witness things unfold, and I was going to have to stand my ground.
Boom, there she is. Damn-near face to face. Better yet, I was slightly downhill from her, so her head was actually slightly above mine. I lift my eyes to meet hers, and then lower them to her giant talons. I was not looking forward to hand-to-hand combat with this animal (especially with an audience).
Peck, and another one. Remember, this helmet is right next to my tukuss, and now its under attack.
“Git!” I swat my hand by her face, unwilling to make contact. She is uninterested. My futile swipes were nothing more than a show to her.
Giggles erupt from my soul. I quietly “yell” to Charmaine to “get up here. Now.”
Suddenly, She Bird flips the helmet over, and the noise of plastic on rock startles her. Wha-WOOSH, she flaps her ten-foot wingspan – two feet from my face – and jumps back about seven feet.
Slightly miffed, She settled into a rather resentful stance, and continued her suspicious gaze, head-tilting and all.
Charmaine then popped her head over the rim, and her eyes nearly pop out of her head. She crept over to me to enjoy the bird, which we did for some time.
Finally, the setting sun said it was time to go home. We made to rappel, and I went first. I got to the first ledge, and called off rappel. Charmaine proceeded to come down too, and a hiker shouted up,
“He’s peckin’ at your rope!!!”
Charmaine and I looked at each other for a split second before I shouted,
“Go! Go! Go!”
Whizz. Down she came, and I could see Condor Butt sticking out over the rim above. The second Charmaine unclipped, I yanked the rope back and forth and watched the Condor Butt flap back over the rim.
That was the most careful 200 feet of rope-checking I’ve ever done.