Tuesday, October 19, 2010

July 18, 2010 - Climbing to base camp

Watch for links to video below, and click on the pics for larger versions!

I got up early today so I could have breakfast at a little place on Shasta Blvd (isn't EVERYTHING on Shasta Blvd here? haha) , but before I went for food, I scouted the location of the climbing store where I was to meet up with my climb team. There were a few people starting to congregate out front, but he 5th Season's doors were still closed, so off I went to grab a bite. Tasty… eggs benedict, some pancakes, and the like.

Afterward, I headed back to the store, which was now open, and met my guide for this trip, Rich Meyer. He's a big, burly dude with a big personality, and I figured we'd get along just great. My fellow climber was a guy named Rutherford (uh… really? Who names their kid "Rutherford"?), a slight, and gooshy fellow of what looked to be about 38 , sporting some goofy glacier glasses, pasty skin, a weak chin, an unbelievably wicked combover, and a very quiet walk-behind-the-man kind of GF/wife in tow.

Apparently Rutherford has climbed a lot of huge mountains in Europe, South America, and other places in the world, and rattled off an impressive resume of major peaks when Rich asked him what mountaineering experience he's had.

That was a bit of a surprise, given his appearance… but then appearances can be deceiving. No matter how you slice it, though, Rutherford is a weird dude, and so is his partner/wife/GF.

I found out later on the trail that she is from Russia... maybe she doesn't speak any English, or is a quiet mail-order bride or something… but I'll get to that whole bizarro experience on the trail in a minute haha)
Nevertheless, my paltry experience just sounded stupid by comparison. haha

The three of us finished our preliminary gear check out back, stashed the stuff that didn't make the cut, and it was at this point that Rutherford began wondering aloud to Rich about things his GF would do while he's gone for the next 3 days, since she wouldn't have a car.

Wait, what? Why doesn't she drive you to the trailhead so she can keep the car? Ohhh… she's a halfwit… I see. And she doesn't drive, and the implication is that she's also completely incapable of figuring out her own program while the big bad nerd-climber is away? Wait, why didn't you guys think of this before coming here in the first place? You've had months to figure this out.

The Hotlum Bolam Ridge is the spine of
rock about halfway up that runs upward from left to right,
starting just left of center
He made the decision to leave her behind, carless for three days in Shasta City while he conquered the mountain… (so weird), and then we all struck out in separate cars caravan-style northward, heading around the western flank of the mountain toward the trailhead. As we drove, the route we were to climb came into view, too... pretty incredible.

Our turnoff was Military Pass Road, a long, very dusty, and bumpy road that twisted up into the foothills and snaked around the northwestern side of the mountain to the North Gate trailhead. Here, it was officially time to get climbing. We parked the cars, changed into our climbing gear, and took the last civilized bathroom breaks we'd have for a while.

Me, the awesome Rich Meyer, and the impossibly weird Rutherford
On our way past the Forest Service trailhead signs, we registered, paid our summit fees into a dropbox, and ohhhh yeahhhh, picked up the obligatory poop bag packs. Yeah… you have to carry your crap off this mountain, too :-)

*ahem* I will now detail the standard poop kits provided by the Forest Service:

1. A brown paper bag with some kitty litter in it

2. Large fold-out paper target (!!) for aiming properly

3. A pair of ziploc bags

So when you need to take a dump while on the mountain, you take out a kit, pull out the paper target, unfold it on the ground and put a rock on each corner, and hope your aim is good as you shoot for the center of the target. When you're done, fold in the corners and roll it up like some crazy, weirdo poop burrito, put that into the paper bag, then put that roll of warm happiness in the Ziploc, and then put the whole thing into the second ziploc. If you're careful, I'm told, you can use each one twice, which precludes the need for carrying more. They're bulky, and they take up room and add weight to your pack, so less is better. AWESOME! Hahaha

With all our crap sorted (so to speak), we at last headed up the trail for a 4-ish hour climb into the moraine at the snout of the Hotlum glacier where we'd pitch our base camp.

Beautiful, dense pine forests on Shasta's north side
It was a hot day, but there was plenty of shade to be had, and with Rich in the lead, me second, and Rutherford bringing up the rear, we talked and hiked. Mainly, it was Rich and me talking. He'd shout something back over his shoulder, and either Rutherford or I would answer, but then Rich and I sorta settled into the usual "why we climb" kind of discussion… the risks we take, the people that die doing what they love in the mountains… nothing too out of the ordinary or sobering, but it lasted about 40 minutes, throughout which Rutherford was mostly quiet, only chiming in a few times.

At almost exactly an hour up the trail, Rutherford speaks up behind me.

Rutherford: Uhhh… guys… Can we stop for a minute? I can't be here. There's something I have to take care of.
Rich: (thinking Rutherford had to take a dump) Sure, man… We can just wait here while you go do your thing.
Rutherford: No, I mean there's something I have to do. I really can't be here.
Rich: Yeah, seriously, no problem. It's cool… we'll just wait here and…
Rutherford: No, I mean like I have to go do something.

I was just as confused as Rich at this point. "WTF are you talking about, dude?" is what I was thinking. HAHA

Rutherford: I've just been thinking for a while, and I realized I shouldn't be here, and there's something I have to go take care of.
Rich (realizing what dude is talking about): Ohh, wait wait wait hang on a minute… you mean you need to TURN AROUND and go back down?
Rutherford: Yeah.
Rich: Ohhhh… wow… *stunned* Hmm…. Well, this has never happened, so
Rutherford: Yeah, but I'm really ok, I'm fine. I just can't be here.
Rich: What's wrong? Are you not digging the conversation? Was that bumming you out, or what?
Rutherford: No, the conversation isn't what sparked this… I just can't be here.
Rich: Are you feeling ok medically? Are you lightheaded or feeling dizzy or sick or anything? Are you hurt? I mean, I don't wanna get into your business, and now I get what you're saying, but by the same token, you have to understand, I'm responsible for your health and well being up here. I can't just let you turn around and go back down by yourself, so you've gotta give me SOMETHING that tells me what's going on. All three of us would have to go down to take you back if I don't think everything's cool.
Rutherford: Nonono, I'm totally fine… I just realized I really should go take care of this, and I can give you guys back the group gear I'm carrying, and such…

Heading toward the alpine zone after
Rutherford's bizarre departure

It went on like this between them for a bit, Rich doing his due diligence, me going "OMG! WTF!" every five seconds at this dude's el bizarre behavior. Made me wonder if the talk about why we climb WAS getting to him, and he was feeling extraordinarily bad about leaving his strange wife behind for three days—carless—while he's out on a mountain enjoying himself. He denied it, but, still… I dunno.

Anyway, after it was determined that nothing was wrong with Rutherford *uhhh… relatively speaking haha*, an arrangement was struck for him to go back down the trail alone and immediately contact the head of SMG to let him know he got down ok. Then we traded tents and shuffled some group gear around, and then Rich and I continued the cruise up to 10,000 feet and a comfy basecamp in the glacial moraine.

Finally above treeline... and onto
the lower snowfields
 We made good time and found a good spot in the moraine near some pure, running glacier water streams, pitched camp, and cooked a hearty dinner. We had way too much food for the two of us now, so we ate heavy and enjoyed every bite, storing up our energy for the coming summit climb tomorrow.

A breathtaking sunset washing us in bright pink and orange hues combined with brilliant colors out over the valley and behind dramatic outcrops of nearby rock were our reward for today's hard work.

The final grunt up that snowfield leads to 10k basecamp
 The views from there are phenomenal, too. Rich and I put on some puffy gear to keep warm as a light breeze kicked up, and stayed up for a while chatting, but ultimately went to bed early for an alpine start at 2am.

Realllly looking forward to the climb tomorrow.

Sunset from 10,000 feet on Shasta is a beautiful thing.

No comments:

Post a Comment