I've never been more terrified in my life.
I met Daniel in the campground yesterday morning. He and his girlfriend, Cece, were on a little road trip from Lander, WY, and he was looking to climb to the top of the tower. I thought we should try Assembly Line, which goes at 5.9 (but totally feels like 10b+). We arrived at the base of the climb around 1pm. There was a guide leading his client up the first pitch of the climb we wanted to do, and they were moving pretty slow. We ended up waiting for them for nearly 2 hours before starting the route.
I'd checked the forecast before heading out, and it said it would be sunny, but there would be thunderstorms the following day. Sounded okay. It was only 3 pitches, so I thought it would take about 3 hours to do. Unfortunately, by the time we started, the skies were already changing and there were more clouds than there were before. Daniel led the second pitch, a sustained hand crack about 130ft long. By the time I climbed up to him, the wind started to pick up, but the clouds didn't seem filled with rain, nor did we see any lightning. So I preceded to climb the next 100+ft. It said there were bolted anchors somewhere, and I spent quite a bit of time trying to find them. I gave up after I saw the first lightning bolt about 15 miles away. I quickly built an anchor and put Daniel on belay and he started climbing up. When he was about half way up the pitch, I saw 4 more lightning bolts, and the wind was blowing stronger than ever. I yelled as loud as I could, "Daniel! Climb as fast as you can, I think there's a huge storm coming!". I don't think he heard me, so I waited for him to get a little higher. Looking over at the clouds every 10 seconds, I started to feel an unease I've never felt before. I felt so overwhelmed and scared, and honestly I thought we would either be stranded on the top of the tower in a thunderstorm, or we would get struck by lightning. We're carrying loads of metal carabiners and metal gear.. I feel like we're just asking to be struck.
I called down to Daniel, "I really think we should bail!!" He was so patient with me, and even though we were 100ft from the summit, he accommodated to the situation. I proceeded to down climb to him, and we quickly reassessed the situation. I quickly put in two pieces to lower Daniel to the anchors. In the mean time, we heard the thunder rumbling and crackling just a few miles away. I've never moved so quickly on a descent before. I knew my feeling of fear was jeopardizing my rational thinking of the situation, but Daniel's calm reserve really helped keep me from freaking out. We quickly re-threaded the anchors for a simul-rappel, and lowered down to the first belay ledge. The ropes were stuck in these cracks but we managed to loosen them out on the way down. Then the ropes got super tangled up and we spent another 5-10 minutes trying to untangle them. The thunder kept getting louder and closer, and the air suddenly felt still and hot. Finally we lowered to the ground, pulled the rope, but Daniel's got stuck and wedged on a pointy rock feature. We pulled and pulled and no luck. We both agreed it was the best decision to get the heck out of there, leaving his rope behind.
The minute we got down to the parking lot, enormous lightning bolts scattered the sky directly above us. We rushed back to the store in town and it began raining buckets. We were drenched instantly. I've never been so happy to be off a mountain,...