He was not a big person and since I outweighed him by 60 or so pounds, I was confident that I could hold him, if he were to break through and fall into a crevasse. There was no doubt that the sometimes-bottomless cracks found all over glaciers were running underneath us everywhere, although most were hidden beneath thin layers of the snow and ice of the Ruth Glacier. Probing out the route as we moved was tedious, but imperative—especially during the summer months when things were melting more than freezing. We knew the crevasse field was there, but were hoping to find a relatively safe way through it that could be used as a way up onto the ridge for our whole group.
A group of backpackers attempts to climb Lizard Head and learns the true meaning of climbing.
Lizard Head is a big peak just to the north and east of the well-known, long and breathtakingly majestic line of mountains, ridges and spires in the Wind River Range, known as the Cirque of the Towers. On one particular trip, we backpacked with two groups of 7, via different routes both coming in from the east, into Bear Lake. The lake sits just on the east side of Lizard Head and would be the location for our backcountry base camp. Once there, we set up two close, but separate camps between the lake and mountain with the plan to use them as a base from which to explore the area. Since it was during the Fourth of July holiday, we knew that there’d be a lot of people in the general area, but that few, if any, would venture into that, more out of the way, neck of the woods. Our plans included a non-technical ascent of Lizard Head, fishing in area streams and lakes as well as a special Fourth of July supper, which was to include freeze-dried hamburger patties- a cutting-edge item back in the 80’s. Continue reading “Hamburgers and Lizard Head”
Climbing Huayna Potosi in Bolivia without a morning cup of coffee.
It was cold, restless sleep at our high camp on Huayna Potosi. As I think back, it was actually more like quiet time, except for the relentless banging of the tent flap out in the frigid, high altitude night. When I had gone out into it briefly in the middle of the night, I’d marveled at how clear and full of stars the sky was. But that marvel was tempered by my personal acknowledgement 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 bag and several times checked to make sure the sleeping bag hood was cinched tightly down on my head. That checking and tightening, along with the persistent need to go outside and relieve myself, periodic dozing off, and mental organization of the rope-up logistics occupied the bulk of my time. Continue reading “The Cup of Coffee on Huayna Potosi”
The stillness was almost eerie. I’d never been on a mountain summit when there was anything less than a stiff wind blowing. Since I didn’t have to try and find any sort of wind break, there was extra time to sit and take it all in. A pure luxury. There was plenty of time, no approaching storm, all kinds of sunlight and we all had full water bottles and snacks to spare. Continue reading “The Summit”