Unplanned Bivouacs: Dreadful or Delightful?

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mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 26, 2012 - 06:50am PT
In keeping with Tradition, the unplanned bivvy can either make you or it can break you. But you'll always remember it.

My first, and best, was on top of Bugaboo Spire, August 1970. It was the year Rick Christiani (WTF!) was there the week before we showed up.

"We" being Bullfrog (Mark McAllister), Muskrat (Jeff Mathis), and Mouse (moi), "de Flames," come to burn down the house. Christiani left the day after we arrived. Jeff knew him from the valley that spring.

This was the summer of Mungo Jerry and the Spirit in the Sky (I think I'm the only one besides 3 others I know who ever bothered to go hear Norman the Green Bomb).

Muskrat and Mouse went up the East Ridge on Bugaboo, and the climb was an eye opener, a mind boggler, and solid 5.8. I put us a little off-route and created a (blush) harder way to go, or so Muskrat estimated. It took a bit of time, so we kind of rushed things.

This causes trouble. You don't think things thru. And again, we had no concept of an alpine start. We were really new. Our lack of equipment proves it. We had down jackets, I had Millar mitts, and a good watch cap. Jeff used a nylon butt-bag over his head.

We had the summit, but erred in the descent. We ended up 150 feet down the East Face. I went first, and the rope wasn't long enough, so I had to hand-over-hand (never could have done it on a single line) back up some to a spot where I could anchor. Jeff joined me. OOOOPS.....

Never mind how I got us up the chimney, I did it. I was never so scared, but I was having the time of my life.

We had to sit on top all night, sharing the La Fuma pack for our feet. It was very cold, not too windy, and absolutely clear.

I don't know what time the full moon started its shenanigans, but there was a partial eclipse. We were facing the snowfield at the bottom of the East Face, and Marmolata, Snowpatch on our right.

We sat there and enjoyed the show, not sleeping, just blown away. Hours later it clouded over, there was snow, but not a lot. We rapped the East Ridge, picked up some gear we had stashed at the bottom--our crampons and our heavy boots, which we had planned on picking up after descending the Cain (?) route on the other ridge--and went back to Boulder Camp, Bullfrog, and the marmots.

Just another walk in the park for de Flames, but ISYN, the two ass-bites who preceded us on the route were guides employed by Hans Gmoser (nice man) and one fell on the 4th class at the top of the Eat Ridge, breaking a leg. Never heard what became of him, as they got off the peak the day before us. I guess he got choppered out, it being the Bugs and all.

If I could, I would hit "replay" and suffer the cold again.
TwistedCrank

climber
Dingleberry Gulch, Ideeho
Apr 26, 2012 - 07:35am PT
Dreadful at the time, delightful in retrospect. That's why you should keep going back for more.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 26, 2012 - 07:39am PT
I was about to honestly aver I had never suffered an unplanned benightment.
But then I realized that I had; the PTSD had masked it. I thought I was gonna die.
But I didn't. Actually, I thought I was gonna die on some planned ones.
Sol Wertkin

climber
Leavenworth, WA
Apr 26, 2012 - 07:51am PT
http://vimeo.com/7039520
nutjob

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Apr 26, 2012 - 12:08pm PT
I like having a smooth ascent up a route that is challenging for me, but I sorta feel like I'm missing some of the magic if I don't end up with an unplanned bivy. At this point, the line between planned and unplanned is a little blurry.
khanom

Trad climber
The Dessert
Apr 26, 2012 - 12:17pm PT
If you prepared for a bivy just in case, is it still unplanned?

I carried bivy gear doing the Thunderbolt to Sill primarily because we were uncertain about our unconventional return route, which indeed proved to be far longer and way more involved. So we planned to be prepared to, but not actually bivy if we could help it, even though we ended up bivying.

In retrospect this strikes me as planning to fail through not failing to plan. Or something.
t*r

Mountain climber
love, trust, pixie dust
Apr 26, 2012 - 12:26pm PT
i like sleeping outdoors, so i'll pick... delightful!

if it happens i vow to LIKE IT GOSHDARNIT. even if it's not 'til years later that i appreciate it...
Myles Moser

climber
Lone Pine, Ca
Apr 26, 2012 - 12:30pm PT
Do we not live for the unplanned Bivy? The Adventure of unknown. The walking out once the moon finally rises or the sun. Realizing that the end was no where near.


But then Some just like suffering.


Bringing bivy gear just "in case" means you always looking for the most comfortable site.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 26, 2012 - 12:41pm PT
Khanom, if one goes to an other planet one would expect to bivvy.

If one is going on a day climb, one would not. We did not plan, we were nooby buzzard bait.

Experience is the largest factor, in my opinion, in determining the planning. I avoid planning in general. I'm an adventurer. Some would say my attitude lacks maturity. I admit to the charge. Call me John Muir, who did not seem to mind where or when he took rest. It was all the same to him. As long as I live through it, it's same-old.

I am thinking of one other episode, which happened on the Salathe. We could no way do the trough-like 5.9 into the alcove below EC Spire, so we bivvied on the ledge there and ended up on top of the Spire that night with one pitch above fixed.

The first bivvy was not planned, but we were prepared. The second night, on the Spire, was planned, in that we had expected to spend a night there and feeling it necessary to rest, for the previous night sucked rocks, we elected to sleep there instead of pushing on. We'd be a day late, but we were on vacation.

Where there's and old Boy Scout, be prepared to wing it.

Do a good turn daily, folks.
Jan

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 26, 2012 - 12:45pm PT
I've had four unplanned bivouacs - the Matterhorn, the Grand Teton, Trashi Labtsa Pass in Nepal, and El Portal.

Here's the one from El Portal, 1972.

I had come to Yosemite for the first time since returning from Europe. It was the first stop of a circle tour I was doing that summer. I left San Francisco where I was going to college and took the bus up from Oakland. Of course things had changed in Camp 4 as Jim Bridwell was now the oldest climber there. I got along with the young guys ok though and when one particularly warm and friendly guy suggested that we go to El Portal to have a few beers, I readily agreed.

No one else wanted to go, perhaps because he had a tiny sports car. All went well until we ran out of gas on the outskirts of the town. The only gas station was closed so we walked a mile or so and had our beers anyway, and then were faced with spending the night. We found a park-like place, near a housing subdivision, selected a large bush and crawled under. Neither one of us was dressed warmly as we weren’t expecting to be outside all night. Close snuggling was therefore a necessity, and he was great at this without the slightest hint of sensuality, which I appreciated since I had just met him the day before. We talked, we laughed, we snuggled and laughed again.

When light came we went to the gas station to wait until they opened, got a gas can and refreshed his car. After that it was time for breakfast at the local café, which is where Bridwell and a couple of his “boys” found us. Ever responsible in his own hedonistic and psychedelic way, Jim had worried about us late into the night and had come looking.

Now, 35 years later, as I was thumbing through the guidebook, High Over Boulder, I recognized my bivouac companion from a photo. I had either never known his last name or forgotten it. I'm wondering now, if anyone else remembers this incident?
donini

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 26, 2012 - 01:26pm PT
My unplanned bivouacs always seem to be in inhospitable locales like Alaska and Patagonia so I don´t think delightful is a word that would fit. I had one once on the West Face of Sentinal, a much nicer venue you would think. Unfortunately, I ended up sitting in a blood constricting belay seat clad only in shorts and a t-shirt. A miserable night punctuated by streams of invective I hurled at the cars passing below full of people, I was sure, headed to the (heated) Mountain Room Bar.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Apr 26, 2012 - 01:32pm PT
After a one day ascent of South Face of Conness, Rob Lesher and I spent forever on the lunar plateau looking for a stashed pack. After finally finding it, we took the long hike out and eventually ran out of steam below treeline.

We slept in big trashbags filled with pine needles. A very long, cold, pokey night followed.

But the stars were unbelievable!!
Sierra Ledge Rat

Social climber
Retired in Appalachia
Apr 26, 2012 - 01:37pm PT
By definition, unplanned bivouacs are MISERABLE, especially if it is cold.

The night seems to drag on forever. I hate being so damn cold.
snakefoot

climber
cali
Apr 26, 2012 - 01:44pm PT
92' or so,
josh and I fire the harding route on keeler after averting a near deportation with the local woman ranger asking us for our camping permits. near the last pitch, I avoid the so called easy summit pitch (inspired by wild stories of walts' solo), instead opting for this incredible 5.10ish? double crack system straight up the face (anyone know what this is or who bagged the first).....we get to the summit of whitney near sunset and the descent is all iced over. We have no headlamps so we go back to the cabin and barge in on some germans. all night we spoon while laying on our single 10.5 for cushion, no love though. was cold but not so unpleasant that we couldn't sleep here and there. awoke to a beautiful morning and hiked outta there.

Credit: borrowed edited photo
Fat Dad

Trad climber
Los Angeles, CA
Apr 26, 2012 - 01:50pm PT
Dreadful of course. Whenever you end up spooning some stinky hairy dude you've been climbing with all day because it's better than the alternative of not spooning him, you know it's pretty bad.
Reilly

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 26, 2012 - 01:52pm PT
A few more are coming back. Don't discount Climbers' PTSD.
Or something else I can't think of.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 26, 2012 - 02:02pm PT
In Yosemite, I've had several that were fairly warm.
Not exactly delightful, as I usually wanted something slightly warmer.
The most comfy was on top of the East Buttress of El Cap when we were working on a new route.
We could have gone down to the valley floor, but wanted to work more on it the next day, and my partner happened to have a space blanket (which was great for stopping any light breeze).
It was warm and we actually slept well. Having plenty of water from the stream helped too.
wayne burleson

climber
Amherst, MA
Apr 26, 2012 - 02:11pm PT
About halfway up the Stovelegs in October 1982 with John Gilardi. We had no hammocks or headlamps. Hung in our harnesses and tried to rig loops of rope to sit in. I remember waking up upside-down at one point. We had a plan to go from the ground to Dolt. It was a bad plan, given our skill level, but we stuck with it until there was no light... We were too scared to move on in the dark so just sat tight until dawn. We could even figure out how to open up the haul bag without dropping stuff so we didn't really eat or put on extra clothes... The next day we climbed on to El Cap Tower and just hung out and slept. Pushed on to Camp 5 and the top the following days. We were young... so yes, delightful in retrospect.
Ol' Skool

Trad climber
Oakhurst, CA
Apr 26, 2012 - 05:05pm PT
My cuz Frankie B needs to chime in here with his account of pulling an all-nighter standing in a haulbag on the Column- must have hurt, what with the Hilton (Dinner Ledge) just below.
For me it was running out of light and groping (non-sexual in nature, of course) my way onto the only sandy, boulder-free 8' section of trail in the switchbacks between Vernal and Nevada. Just enough room for 2 bags, cramped (still non-sexual). Morning revealed there wasn't a smooth spot in the trail for a quarter mile in both directions. Could have been a long night, turned out OK.
survival

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Apr 26, 2012 - 05:11pm PT
My cuz Frankie B needs to chime in here with his account of pulling an all-nighter standing in a haulbag on the Column- must have hurt, what with the Hilton (Dinner Ledge) just below.

Ouch. That IS one of the winners of the lame bivy award!!
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