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Thread: Extreme challenges

  1. #1
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    Extreme challenges

    When I was in my 20s most of my close friends were certain that I would die before reaching 30. I guess they were wrong. From their perspective I was always living on the edge. I got close but I never really pushed my mental and physical envelope.

    That changed on my 35th birthday. I was working at Mont Bell in Capitola. The head guy was Doug Robinson, the first guy to climb the face of Half Done without using pitons or other fixed aid. The whole crew were way better climbers than I could ever be. I became friends with Keg, a crazy but damn good Japanese rock and ice climber. We hit it off because I have a few loose screws myself. Anyways we hatched a plan to climb Mt Shasta via Cassaval ridge in mid December on my birthday. Shasta is hard enough in the summer and it's the 5th highest peak in the lower 48.

    Did I mention that it was a drought year with minimal snow cover? So instead of snow and ice we would face lots of loose volcanic rock until we hit 11000 feet.

    We planned on taking 3 days and going ultralight. No extra food, fuel gear. Oh yeah food, lots of power bars. You ever try to eat a frozen power bar? Not possible without breaking your teeth. Walking around with power bars stuck inside your thermal underwear just to warm them up enough to bite into something that tasted like sawdust sucked.

    Day one from the car to 10500 feet at the base of the ridge was a boulder hopping slog nothing more.
    We set up a megamid and tossed in our bags and crashed for the night.

    Day two would turn out to be a life changing epic . With no snow we picked our way around up and over pumice spires.

    Finally we reached the snow line hours behind schedule. It was warm the snow was soft and in our haste to make the summit we missed the warning signs of water trickling down the rock faces.

    We reached the summit at around 1 pm and Keg solo mixed climbed up a 200' chute of rime ice and rock. I passed on that, totally out of my league. We headed back down. We had planned on going down the ridge to camp but down climbing the loose rock faces was not a option. The gully on the North side of the ridge had snow and seemed to be the best choice. We started down.

    We were tired and not thinking and did not take a good look at the surroundings. It almost killed us.

    There were rock walls on both sides of the gully and as the sun went behind the ridge the temperature dropped. That water trickling down the rocks started to freeze. We were 800 or so feet below where we entered the gully when the rocks started to fall. At first it was just a few here and there and it was easy to dodge them. Then we realized that the water had gotten behind the rocks and was expanding as it formed ice and was frost wedging and popping the rocks loose. We were zig zagging piles of falling rock. A softball sized one hit Keg in his backpack and sent him flying head over heals into a self arrest.

    We were in deep Doo. He looked at me wide eyed and said I am open to suggestions. I spotted a house sized boulder about 1000 feet below pointed at it and said one word "run" he said yes and we took off as hard as we could. Rocks were wizzing by us. Two ducks in a shooting gallery. Somehow we made the boulder. Once behind it Keg grabbed me and pointed out into the gully the entire gully was being scoured by dinner plate sized rocks taking 50' bounces. I can still see them and hear the tone in his voice. "If we are still out there we are dead."

    We stayed there for 3 hours when the rockfall stopped then headed towards camp.

    The moon was out we were happy to be alive. Shasta however was not quite done with us.

    The wind came up and then the clouds and snow. Ridge camp: we arrived at midnight the wind was insane. The megamid was shredded. Luckily we had set anchors and we still had backpacks and sleeping bags. It was freaking cold , way below zero, no way to crest the ridge in the wind. We needed to go down, down from our 10500' camp so we continued down the gully in the dark. At about two am the wind thankfully stopped.

    Sometime later the gully narrowed and we found ourselves at a 100+ foot vertical to overhanging wall of mixed ice and rock. Keg looked at me and in all honesty said, I think I can do this but I don't think you can and there is no place to set and anchor for ropes. I replied there is no choice if we stay here we die from rockfall in the morning or the cold tonight. We have to down climb. I will go first so if I peal off I won't take you with me.

    He just said take it slow and easy. Plan every move and make sure the axe pick and crampon points are solid. I shook his hand and said one way or another I will meet you at the bottom. Turned my headlamp up full and stepped into the face.

    I have no idea of how long it took. My entire world was focused on a ten foot circle of light. I just remember " being". Then my foot touched down on snow. The words out of my mouth were I'm down I made it. Keg was right above me. He just said , that was magnificent, best climb I have ever done . Then he was standing next to me and said " you are a Samurai,"

    We pushed on, out of food and water, pushing each other on, post holing through thigh deep snow drifts. We made the highway at dawn after going hard for 26 hours we were shot. Somehow we got to the truck and drove to the 7-11 in town. Keg was passed out, we were severely dehydrated. I stumpled in. I guess I looked like hell. The clerk said did you just come off the mountain? Should I call you an ambulance? I mumbled no bought 6 Rebecca's mighty muffins and six 64 once Gatorade jugs.

    I rousted Keg and we each slammed three bottles and ate three muffins. Then I went and bought round two.

    Later that day we reached Mont Bell. The gang looked at us and said so you didn't climb it did you with that storm. Keg said yes we did and we have summit photos. Then they asked if either of us got hurt. Nope. Doug tossed and envelope to keg. It had cash in it. We had a dead pool and nobody picked summit with no injuries. Matter of fact we figured Eric would die.

    The look on their faces when Keg told them this tale was priceless.

    I thought I knew my limits, nope. When faced with death as the option, your body can push far beyond the limitations of your mind. Knowing this has helped me push though so many other challengesClick image for larger version. 

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    Last edited by TriGuy; 10-05-2019 at 11:49 PM.
    "The only thing that we learn from torture is the depths of our own moral depravity"

  2. #2
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    That's a helluva view...And you got those pics the hard way......Ben
    “Eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation” - Mrs. Miller, third grade homeroom teacher...

  3. #3
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    "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger". Friedrich Nietzsche
    "A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity, an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty” ---Sir Winston Churchill

    "Political extremism involves two prime ingredients: an excessively simple diagnosis of the world's ills, and a conviction that there are identifiable villains back of it all." ---John W. Gardner

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Grubb View Post
    "What doesn't kill us makes us stronger". Friedrich Nietzsche
    "That which does kill us makes us wish we had a do-over" - Unknown Author...
    “Eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation” - Mrs. Miller, third grade homeroom teacher...

  5. #5
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    Thanks for that, TG. You took me to place I have never been nor could. I had a bit of leg quiver just reading it, as I was there with you.
    Best first hand account of the year here to my way of thinking!
    ...............
    ”Life is tough; tougher if you are stupid.” — John Wayne

  6. #6
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    Give the man a Putzaler Prize for best travel narrative in 2019!
    The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible - Arthur C. Clarke

  7. #7
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    Fear will push you to some magnificent places! Or kill you.
    This is your mind on drugs!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike View Post
    Give the man a Putzaler Prize for best travel narrative in 2019!
    Definitely.

    Hunter
    "Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values. The two are not rivals.” - Martin Luther King Jr.

  9. #9
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    I had never heard of rocks popping off the face of an extreme slope because of ice forming behind them. That was chilling from the telling in more ways than one and the danger was vivid. I can’t wait to see that in a movie scene of great peril at some time.
    ...............
    ”Life is tough; tougher if you are stupid.” — John Wayne

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by wacojoe View Post
    I can’t wait to see that in a movie scene of great peril at some time.
    I think I remember seeing something similar in "Vertical Limit"......Ben
    “Eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation” - Mrs. Miller, third grade homeroom teacher...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by wacojoe View Post
    I had never heard of rocks popping off the face of an extreme slope because of ice forming behind them. That was chilling from the telling in more ways than one and the danger was vivid. I can’t wait to see that in a movie scene of great peril at some time.
    It was probably the most intense survival mode I have ever been in. I mean, at first it was just a clattering of a few rocks coming from here and there. Nothing abnormal, then it was wheel barrel loads and we started to realize we were not in a good spot. We would hear the rocks and turn to see where they were coming from and dash cross slope to get out of the way. Pretty soon it started to get higher in volume a Keg got hit . While we were running rocks were falling by the dump truck load and whizzing past us. 100 yards from the boulder and safety we had to crest a small lateral ridge which slowed us down but also deflected some of the rock. Once behind that boulder there was a constant shower of rock fragments coming over the top as rocks would shatter on the uphill side. We sat side by side using our packs to shield our bodies and our helmets to protect our heads. A couple of boulders were large enough that the big one we were behind actually shuddered from the impact. We spent 3 hours enduring that. I never ever want to experience anything like that again.
    "The only thing that we learn from torture is the depths of our own moral depravity"

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