He hadn’t felt very strong, ever since lunch. His backpack felt increasingly heavy and the big uphill into Pinto Park was yet to come. He was not a complainer and was intent on not becoming one at this point. He wondered if it maybe had something to do with the water he’d gotten out of the creek during the break before lunch. He realized that he hadn’t even looked at his water in the bottle before drinking it. What if it was full of all kinds of weird stuff, he wondered to himself.
A mysterious thirst is quenched.
The sixteen empty soda bottles sat on the counter in the Cerro Colorado store for two days, before the shopkeeper finally stuck ‘em down with others. They’d been a good conversation piece sitting out there in the open, but he’d found a spider in one of ‘em just that morning and since he needed to move them anyway, he just did what needed to be done and put them into some of the empty slots in the wooden Fanta case down on the floor. After he’d tidied things up, he thought about dragging the whole box of empties out from behind the Sabrita’s rack where it would be more visible, but realized that if he did so, it would just be in the way and would make things look disorganized, and so he just put it in the back room.
The second part of an adventure climb in the Wind River Range
So, back to our climb. We’d envisioned what the scramble up to the rope-up spot and to a lesser extent the first pitch would be like and were mentally prepared for both of those. But things above that point were increasingly fuzzy, although we were confident that it would all become clearer once we got that far. Better not to confuse the issue, we’d determined.
Climbing an unnamed buttress in the Winds…..
In Two Parts………..
There’s a place deep in the heart of the Wind River Range that we called Golden Lake. There are no marked trails that go there and if you look on a map there’s nothing with that name. There actually is a lake up there, but it has another name. It sits in a basin of sorts, along with two others. The basin is actually a glacial cirque which sits at the top of an obscure drainage which leads down to the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River. The main lake of the three is full of Golden Trout. Thus, the name.
It wasn’t the easy way out of the predicament, but we chose the more physically painful of the two options and climbed up the steep saddle that led us out of Paradise Park and down into Hell Canyon. As we began setting up our tents and otherwise organizing our campsite at the theoretical end of a long day of backpacking, I did what I should’ve done at least a few days before and read the entry in the guidebook for Rocky Mountain National Park and environs that discussed the area where we were currently setting up camp. There was no ambiguity in what it said, which was simply that “there is no overnight camping allowed anywhere in Paradise Park”. I was sure that I was just reading it wrong the first time I read the words, but they were the same the second time around and I realized the besides violating federal regulations if we stayed, even more importantly, we might just be doing something really negative to the location if we went ahead and camped there.
There had to be a solution, she kept thinking, but it wasn’t jumping out at her. Nothing about the situation made any sense. The only part of it that she was certain about was that a logical person just wouldn’t act like that. Her mind was working hard to come up with an answer, even if there wasn’t one. Maybe, she continued…….. and then her train of thought was instantly broken as she stepped across and put her weight up onto her left foot, which she’d perched solidly up on the top little platform edge of a half inch thick flake of granite. She reached over to the slab, pinched a small nubbin’ of a crystal between her right thumb and index finger and then pulled herself completely up and off of the cheat boulder and onto the almost vertical 60 foot tall rock that stood apart from the others. She was then, fully committed to the climb. In that instant, she’d gone from being a psychologist to a rock climber.
Missing a Tutuburi
The countryside opened up as the trail left the Valley of the Iglesias. Our group of seven had passed a young Tarahumara (the indigenous people of Mexico’s Copper Canyon) earlier in the day and I’d asked about Nacho Kino, an old Tarahumara man that I’d met while mapping the Silver Trail a few years before.
I could tell the story from the trip about the Swiss barmaid that was hovering around outside my tent late one night asking for my tentmate, Matt. Or the one about Matt and I racing our Swiss guides back down from the top of the Argentine Miroir (a famous rock climb) to a nearby café where our group was waiting. Both occurred in the midst of an adventure trip that the two of us were leading and which included a wide variety of people of varying ages including teenagers, a doctor who was even older than me and my non alpinism-experienced wife. As one of the leaders, I was making every effort to look out for the well-being of the group, but nonetheless, those sorts of “things” kept happening.
We called it the Valley of the Dinosaurs mostly because of the monstrous rock formations that were scattered all around. Besides just overwhelming the high mountain valley with their size, they breathed a strange sort of life into the area that had convinced me from early on that the whole place was on the move. I could never pick out any one thing that caused me to think that—it was more like a general, overwhelming and deep in the gut feeling that had me convinced. I was consumed by the place’s pure and simple beauty and a feeling that the whole area was way more alive than me from the very first time I blundered into it. Through the years, I took every opportunity to return and while the physical cost of getting there was never cheap- without fail, it was always worth it.
We topped the ridge on the dirt road and began dropping quickly on our mountain bikes into the valley. We all knew that it’d continue to get warmer and greener as we descended from the Bolivian highlands, but our thoughts at that moment were mostly focused on what awaited us at the end of the ride. For each person, those anticipated rewards were different- a warm bath, a cold beer, hot coffee, a dry room. And so, we thought of those things and little else as the town of Sorata came increasingly into view.