Under mysterious circumstances, my avalanche shovel was stolen right from our campsite on the north side of Shasta.
As you may or may not know, we often have to melt snow for water, which means we usually need to scrape off the top layer of snow to find clean stuff underneath, and that is best done with a shovel.
But frankly, Denis and I didn't even bother to take our avy beacons, shovels or probes up the mountain this time, because from an AVALANCHE perspective, the snow conditions were pretty damn stable... we only brought my shovel for snow melting duties. It's a proper BCA avy shovel… metal blade (none of this plastic-bladed garbage that can get the people you're with killed if you're trying to dig them out).
So we do our thing at 10k the first night, everything is fine. We have our little area of clean snow that we don't walk through or pee around and every so often, Denis would go fill up a garbage sack full of clean snow, which I would melt for water. All is well, right?
We get lots of water melted and have a few liters leftover for when we got back to camp after summiting. So the night before summit day we packed pretty much everything into the tent in preparation for zipping it all closed during the summit climb.
We left the shovel stuck in the snow outside the tent. We go to to sleep, wake up at 3am, shovel was still there.
So we battened down the tent hatches, figuring the shovel would be fine where it was during the day... and with literally NOT A SOUL on our side of the mountain that we could see or hear anywhere, we got on our way up the mountain to the summit. We're gone all day, and we continue to see NO ONE on our side of the mountain, either on the route up or, on the way down, either.
We summit, head back down to 10k, walk back into camp, and as I'm walking past the clean snow area where my shovel was stuck in the snow with its orange handle poking out, I was like "annnnd it looks like camp is saf… HEY! That's not my shovel! That's blue! WTF..."
I pull the thing out, and someone has sure enough replaced mine with a carppy blue plastic bladed avy shovel--and taken mine! That can only mean one thing: they HAD to have come up from the parking lot past our camp at 10k, stolen my shovel, and then gone back down below us… otherwise, Denis and I would have spotted them in one direction or the other.
There's a code of honor in the wilderness... you don't fuck with peoples tents, gear, campsites, stuff. YOU DON'T DO IT. Seriously, what kind of jerk does that??
Denis suggested that if someone had an emergency and needed to take the shovel and we weren't there, they can have anything they need from our camp to save that life--and I agree with him. But try and get a message through the rangers or a note or draw in the snow or SOMETHING to let us know... But in these conditions, on this mountain/aspect, at this time? It was pretty damn unnecessary.
(And on that point... thank god it was a mild weather outing. In a more serious place, little details like that can be the difference between life and death. Luckily, I'm just out an avy shovel.)
The larger point here, of course, is this: THE MANUFACTURE OF PLASTIC AVALANCHE SHOVELS SHOULD BE BANNED! They should be illegal on any mountain with snow, and anyone caught with one by a ranger should be subjected to stiff fines.
I know if one of my climbing friends showed up with a plastic shovel on his pack and mine was metal, I'd make him trade me shovels before starting out. That way, if I get caught in an avalanche, he's digging me out with my METAL bladed one, and he assumes all the risk that comes with buying the plastic one.
I hope whoever stole mine dies in an avalanche because one of
their jerk friends brought a plastic shovel. OK, I'm not THAT pissed. But at the very least, I hope mine breaks
immediately. Screw every single one of you Backcountry Code Of Ethics Violators. You probably don't even pack out your own waste, you dicks.