The Search

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The Tarryall Mountains

It was a Fall Sunday during what should’ve been the slow part of the year. My Colorado lodge in the Tarryall Mountains had burned to the ground, and I was there dealing with it. I was sharing an old log cabin, which had not burned, with an 18-year-old intern—so, I was not alone. On the day in question, I was piddling around doing various things that needed to happen while rebuilding. That afternoon, Lee (the intern) had some leisure time and came up to the building site to let me know that he wanted to go on a simple and physically easy hike. He was going to head up the Ute Creek Trail toward Bison Peak and would plan to be back to the cabin before dark. Since he’d been on several backcountry trips with us in the past and I wouldn’t need his help with the work that I had planned for the afternoon, it sounded reasonable to me. And so, I gave him my blessing.

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Metabolic Acidosis (aka Bonking) on the Colorado Trail and Elsewhere

Mountain biking in Colorado
Mountain biking in the Tarryall Mountains

Ryan had never bonked before, at least in the metabolic shock overexertion sense of the word. When he started to bumble around and kept losing more and more of his edge, I knew that something was up and figured that’s what had happened. Not really realizing what was going on, he kept on trying to mountain bike further up the Colorado Trail, although with diminishing returns. The big patches of snow that still littered the trail, even though it was June, were probably a good thing since they ultimately turned us all around. His disrupted mental and physical state likely made the retreat more palatable to the 13-year-old, since he wasn’t one to be prone to turn around before his goal was reached, regardless of whatever difficulty he faced.

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Candy Bars on Mt. Hunter

Indigestion on Alaska’s Mt Hunter.

Climbers out on the Kahiltna Glacier near Mt. Hunter
The Kahiltna Glacier near Mt. Hunter

I now concede the fact that it was undoubtedly the five candy bars I ate in celebration of successfully getting across the avalanche debris field that caused the distress. I should’ve known better, but for a variety of reasons, it’d seemed like a good thing to do at the time. At least, I reasoned once back at home, the whole thing had taught me a good lesson.

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Lost, but not Forgotten

Where did Garrett go? A misplaced backpacker out in the Wind River Range backcountry.

The Mountains
Gearing up for an alpine climb

The camping place we were aiming for would mark the end of our day’s walk. The destination was more of a “likely looking map location” than a formal campsite. But I knew that it would be easy enough to locate, given that on the map it appeared to be only a few hundred yards beyond where the Middle Fork Trail forked in from the west and not too far beyond Stough Creek. After further map study, it looked to be only about 4 miles beyond our lunch stop, which meant that we had only about 2 hours of walking time after lunch left to get us there. It would be a straightforward and leisurely afternoon of walking, I assumed, as I grabbed one more handful of lunch.

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The Cup of Coffee on Huayna Potosi

Climbing Huayna Potosi in Bolivia without a morning cup of coffee.

Ice climbing practice on Huayna Potosi
Practicing ice climbing in Bolivia

It was cold and restless sleep at our high camp on Bolivia’s Huayna Potosi. As I think back, it was actually more like quiet time, except for the constant banging of the tent flap out in the frigid, high altitude night. When I’d gone out into it briefly, I’d marveled at how clear and full of stars the sky was. But that marvel was tempered by my personal acknowledgment that ultimately the clear skies would just mean even colder temperatures. At least, I reasoned, since there was no threat of snow, I wasn’t going to have to get up and shovel any of it away from the tent in the wee hours of the morning. Over and over again, I pushed myself deeper into my minus 25- degree bag and several times checked to make sure that it’s hood was cinched tightly down around my head. That checking and tightening, along with a persistent need to go outside and relieve myself, periodic dozing off, and a mental organization of the rope-up logistics occupied the bulk of my supposed sleep time.

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