Unplanned Bivouacs: Dreadful or Delightful?


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mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Original Post - Apr 26, 2012 - 09:50am 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.

Dingleberry Gulch, Ideeho
Apr 26, 2012 - 10:35am PT
Dreadful at the time, delightful in retrospect. That's why you should keep going back for more.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 26, 2012 - 10:39am 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

Leavenworth, WA
Apr 26, 2012 - 10:51am PT

Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Apr 26, 2012 - 03:08pm 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.
Myles Moser

Lone Pine, Ca
Apr 26, 2012 - 03:30pm 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 - 03:41pm 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.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 26, 2012 - 03:45pm 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?

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 26, 2012 - 04:26pm 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.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Apr 26, 2012 - 04:32pm 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 - 04:37pm 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.

Apr 26, 2012 - 04:44pm 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 - 04:50pm 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.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 26, 2012 - 04:52pm 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 - 05:02pm 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

Amherst, MA
Apr 26, 2012 - 05:11pm 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 - 08:05pm 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.

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Apr 26, 2012 - 08:11pm 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!!
Dingus Milktoast

Gym climber
And every fool knows, a dog needs a home, and...
Apr 26, 2012 - 08:28pm PT
My last unplanned bivi was with Brutus and Em on the north face of Norman Clyde Peak. I can still see his wicked but tired grin the next morning when he produced liquid water he'd made by melting snow in a nalgene against his body during that freezing night.

Miss you bro.


Trad climber
minneapolis, mn
Apr 26, 2012 - 08:35pm PT
had two unplanned bivys, both in the High Sierra, which taught me that skinny guys with 5% body fat subsisting on maybe 400 calories of GU for the past 12 hours would do well to avoid unplanned bivys

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 27, 2012 - 02:22am PT

I think one of the big factors in how much you suffer is whether you have to bivouac after a successful climb or you still have more climbing to go. Psychologically it's a lot easier if you're done with the climb.

Another big difference is whether everybody's the same gender or it's a mixed group. Age and marital status makes a difference too. Young, single people in a mixed group can make a party out of almost anything. Older folks of the same gender or long time marrieds, not so much.

Luckily, I always bivouaced after the climb and in a gender mixed situation. One of the several advantages of being a single woman climber.

Social climber
Apr 27, 2012 - 02:38am PT
It also depends on what expectations there are on account of your having an unplanned bivi. Do you have a freaked out mom or spouse in town wondering if yer alive or dead ?

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 27, 2012 - 02:51am PT

Good point.

They too need to be prepared by being told that the unexpected can happen and that times of return are only tentative within certain limits.

Probably there should be an agreed cut off time at which point they notify others that you're missing. I think they worry less if you have an agreed on procedure set ahead of time.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 27, 2012 - 07:08am PT
Taco Tribune
Sunrise edition

Sleepless in Merced for many nights, I finish a refreshing bivvy in my own bed, rising to find a vista of stories...

Jan?!! Om eye god, that was you in El Portal? :)

That is a great Bridwell story. I like JB, always have. He defines the phrase, "a prince of a fellow." (I realize that opinions on definitions vary--we are not here to praise Caesar, however. And he has dossed down in some incredible situations, one of which I will relate in a bit.) But, Jan, that sounds like something he might do. We'll keep that one. Gold star. Two in fact. One for the JB story, the other for its homiletic value in portraying the evils of drink. ( and one more of these dang deals :) ).

I love the comments you make about the completion of a climb being a mitigating factor in relative enjoyment of a bivvy situation. Have you read the article by my good friend Annie Rizzi who had some choice words for the mixed-gender climb? You probably have; if not, it's a recent post by Grosser Man. You sound like a person I want to talk to in person. Thanks for your input. More more more.

who would think a bivvy would be needed for the Carbon Wall? The time was late when Bruce Price and I got finished and headed back along the bench to the descent route via Swan Slab. It was so dark we opted for the doss. It was one of those excellent nights, but dark. Not cold, but we opted to build a small fire. I listened to his tales of the COLD F*#KING BIVVIES in the Dolomites and moved closer to the fire, probably. One night in a hundred. Next a.m. I found a bitchen sporty tweedy hat that I kept for years, which somebody had dropped (and don't tell me it was your hat).

With regard to your E.Buttress yo-yo thing, I take it you are not in the Robbins camp, along with Pratt and young Tom, regarding the ethics of the continuous ascent on longer routes? A very serious question, here. I mean it. No finger-pointing, just curious. Sounds like an early version of you; not knowing you personally, it is hard to figure, though.

The space blanket is the most single over-looked item in a climber's arsenal in the fight against "the elements," especially wind, everyone's bane. Thanks for the reminder. Gold star.

Wayne, I gotta say it here, it's unavoidable:
The best-laid plans of mice and men, aft gang a-gley.

DMT, (the mention of N.C. Peak tweaked this) nobody planned for any situation better than Norman Clyde, the hundred pound pack that walked like a man, simply because he was always ready by virtue of carrying the "whole she-bang." When I heard him speak at the AAC meeting (planned remarks, I would think) in 1970, about which I have posted, he assured us there was no "Norma Clyde" in that pack, he wanted to clear the air of that vicious rumor and retire that joke about the "whole she-bang."

This is one helluva lot nicer than waiting for the sun to come up or the fog to lift so one can move and shake some warmth into ones bones.

There is a spirituality involved in spending the night outdoors. Not many of us do it after scouting, or military service, but the ones like you guys who do it know what I mean. You realize how frail and expendable we are and that even thought he/she may smell bad and have lots of live things growing in the hair, your partner is warm and willing to share. No sexism in my house.

I am going to share some more stories a bit later so I will remind myself here: Half Dome, North Dome Gully, the Tower, JB and Schmitz on the Quarian. No more adventures in foreign lands like BC. "Never been east of Fallon nor north of Banff, though it's farther to the east than Fallon." No wonder old Mousie gets lost so much.

Gold star for t*j just cuz you wanna have fun.

There are many more stories out there. This thread is fated to last a while, I feel.

And after a rest like I got and the news from overnight, I must say, as did Curly Bill on the streets of Tombstone,


Th- th- that's all, folks.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 03:03am PT
Half Dome on a Friday night in August, 1974. Day two. Thank God Ledge.

Half Dome is the architectural masterpiece of the Sierra Nevada. The Northwest Face route, back then, was "Better than Zappa, but not as good as Captain Beefheart."
-My own Robbinsian observation on this climb

Jerry Coe and I parked here just at dusk, but we figured, "Awesome bivvy. Let's stay here tonight." DON'T!
We spent the night back to back, just barely uncomfortable enough to wish we had pushed on through. It was perfect weather but we would have made the top easily and could have spent the night blissfully looking at the whole sky, not just one quadrant of it; we could have slept stretched out; we could have done it right. The pitches beyond Thank god are easily done, and certainly no problem if you have a good headlamp. There is no romance in spending the night on that ledge. And no good reason to bivvy there. Ask around.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 28, 2012 - 03:16am PT
Since you asked, here's another fun bivy.

I got in to writing up my bivys in response to a really funny story that Layton Kor sent me about his bivouac on the Grand with a French girl that he had met and climbed with in Europe. It's part of his Scrapbook Stories that I hope will be published some day.

As you can see, the summer of 1972 was a really fun time for me.

The Grand Teton

I flew into Jackson Hole the summer after I had returned from Europe. I was going to school in San Francisco, and had just visited my parents in Colorado. My first surprise was the discovery that although it was the gateway to a National Park, there was no public transportation. Not having much money, I decided the only thing to do was hitchhike to the climber’s campground.

Soon I had pickup loads of drunk cowboys cruising by yelling insults and throwing empty beer cans at me. It seems they didn’t like climbers in any form and they had spotted the crampons and ice axe strapped to my pack. Welcome to Wyoming! Of course I later learned from an ST post by Jim Donini, that climbers deliberately picked fights with cowboys in Jackson, so then I could understand my reception a little better.

Eventually a park ranger came by and gave me a ride. He told me it was against Wyoming law and government rules to give a hitchhiker a ride, especially in a government vehicle, but he felt sorry for me. And so I arrived at the climber’s camp in a National Park truck.

Shortly after my arrival I met Hank and Dan who were drinking beer and discussing their climb of the Grand the next morning. Hank was a tall construction worker dressed in cowboy boots and hat; Dan was a short and gentle college student. I asked to join them and they readily agreed. The next morning we set out and had a splendid day together, being all about the same level of competence.

Distances were long however, and we were still descending through the meadows when night fell. We were tired and really didn’t want to run into bears or moose after dark, so we opted to bivouac under a large overhang. Being the only woman with two guys, I got to be in the middle, which was warmer for sure, and we ended up laughing, talking and singing most of the night. In the morning we continued to the campground, ate breakfast, and went to bed.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 03:26am PT
North Dome Gully. It is not a place to be screwing around in at night. If you are lamp-less, for gosh sakes, stop and find a place to crash. I came down this way after climbing the S.Face of Washington Column with an impetuous fool named Crazy Larry. He had a couple of well-earned nicknames besides Cowboy.

He was worried that he would be late to work in the morning. So he led me down the path and it was total darkness and we either had no lights or no batteries. It's a gully for gosh sakes. There are lots of bushes and trees, so no light gets in to the spots which are potentially lethal. The slab? He pendulum-ed across in the dark, messed up his ankle, and I had to clean it! Not to mention help take some of his load so he could negotiate the rest of the gully hobbling. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Never attempt this idiotic maneuver. The slab just disappears and if you go down there sliding, you won't stop. It is a death-trap. Wait for daylight, for gosh sakes.

Remember, the way goes high, above the slab. If I have got this wrong, some one correct me. If I am right, which I feel is the case, some one back me up. I have been down the NDG at least six or seven times and I still don't like it, even though it isn't all that nasty in the daytime.

Bottom line: I should have let Larry go ahead on his own if he needed to get down that bad, and just bivvied on my own.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 28, 2012 - 03:34am PT
I came down that in the dark with a guy named Chuck Ostin
who was famous for starting climbs in the afternoon and finishing in the dark.

And yes, sometimes a bivy is preferable to a descent in the dark.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 04:06am PT
Thanks for the Wyoming warning, Jan.

The West Face of the Leanng Tower. March, 1971. One pitch from the top. One pitch above the "Evil Tree."

It is barely adequate, not recommendable for bivvies. There just isn't much space, as I remember it. I led the tree pitch, the last half in darkness. I had no headlamp back then. The irascible Dillis Millis cleaned it in total darkness and we were piton pounders back then, so it was quite a light show as he bashed the steel and granite. A regular 4th of July show.

The boys really cocked this one, up, down, and sideways, not to mention backwards. We had brought, we thought, though it wasn't the case at all, four quarts of water. We wanted to go light, but not that light. We mis-communicated and paid a price. No water in a miserable spot, a couple of Rolaids for supper, one each for breakfast, maybe. They were peppermint.

Don't spend the night on this ledge. Avoid it, or at least have lots of water. The thing about the Tower is this: it's all overhanging, so hauling is as good as it gets. Take the whole hog. You will be staying at the Ahwanee, for gosh sakes. Live a little!

On one of their attempts on the Aquarian, in the Spring of 1971, Jim Bridwell and Kim Schmitz were bashed on the head by a very nasty storm, lots of wind, big wind, and soaked through.
I got this from Kim as he was coming down the talus from the climb, with JB bringing up the rear. Kim told me they, "almost died up there." It was a near thing, and he regretted not having one good really thick sweater instead of a fairly thin blend of wool and something else which, on looking at it, was a downhill skier's sweater.
I didn't talk to Jim, he just looked at me and rolled his eyes, dragging a finger across his neck, grimacing. He shook his head and muttered, I think, "Never again." Always cryptic.
They had not planned on the water works near the top of the climb, which is apparently riverine in that section of the Captain. Soooooooo, beeeee-waaaaare.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 04:15am PT
Dillis Millis told me about Ostin, even more of a mystery than...well, there's plenty of Ostin in other threads.

I always pictured him as being a muscular Herbie Swedlund with a faster car.

Ever climb with Herb? I never got to. I have to tell you about running into him as he came out of the 4 Seasons, but not in public. Thanks for the rap, Jan.
Clint Cummins

Trad climber
SF Bay area, CA
Apr 28, 2012 - 04:22am PT

> With regard to your E.Buttress yo-yo thing, I take it you are not in the Robbins camp, along with Pratt and young Tom, regarding the ethics of the continuous ascent on longer routes?

Yes, we were not following that model.
This particular climb was the big grey corner out left of the East Buttress and has a fairly short season - too wet from Horsetail Falls in the spring, too hot in midsummer (unless it's a cloudy day), and then daylight gets pretty short in the fall.
I had previously climbed ground up to the base of the corner, which has just a tiny seam for its first 25' or so.
I didn't want to scar up the crack by slamming pitons into it,
so the plan for a minimal impact climb was to come in from above and
see if we could even do the moves, then maybe bolt the crux blank section.
I'm really bad at stemming, so I tried fingertip liebacking the seam,
but could not link this even on toprope. My partner could stem it, though.
We cleaned a lot of dirt out of the upper dihedral.
I went back a couple more times, but we never freed it on lead.
Abandoned it, and later it was done by others as Lost in Translation.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 28, 2012 - 05:31am PT
I would never have equated Herb Swedlund with Chuck Ostin myself.

I knew Herb from conversations in the student union in Boulder and
beer drinking in the Sink. We were at a few mutual parties as well.

Later on in the winter of 1974, I bumped into him in Kathmandu.
We went out to dinner a couple of times and he introduced me to
Al and Jennifer Reed when Al was still working at the American Embassy.

Herb had passed through Rolwaling Valley where I was headed to do my
ethnographic research. I think it's safe to say that he did not appreciate
his Third World experience. Of course whenever things got rough up there,
I had cause to remember his warnings! He did give me excellent advice
however, on what was available and what supplies I would need to porter in.
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Apr 28, 2012 - 08:15am PT
they can do wonders for the generation gap:

differing perceptions
differing perceptions
Credit: Tony Bird
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 10:08am PT
Tony, Tony, Tony,

What's an old hard guy like you doing out of bed this early? If this is all you can think of, I pity you.

I wish Felix the Cat was on Saturday a.m.s, myself; but he/she isn't so I am here with the old farts.

As long as I'm here, this is for all the old hard guys/gals. (It could take me a bit to type it out. Stay tuned.)

Peter Paan

Peter Pain he was
with the Norwegian
but the Flames
melted the klister,
the wood bright burnt orange,
away from the skin.
So he Bard the damn thin instead,
away like an angry Gym Bird,
like a TM guru,
the words of mem
or he might never
see the top.

But Peter Paan
(not his real name)
descends from the line
of Laarson the Caterpillar man,
who dropped an A
but never took the Entrance Exam
nor even a Quickie Quiz.
This is a test of his Commitment,
gas like a holy man,
him proud to be big bro
to such a bright gang of youths
who belong to the f-f-flames
for all time.

Why did the chicken cross the road
if he was afraid
of the truth?

the chicken instead of the road,
the old man back to where he started,
he suddenly farted,
up the squeeze,
out on top after all
to bright blue sky-sun;
the anger bled away on the breeze.

He gets on his knees to give thanks,
but they are too sore
to serve that need.

Everyone said, "Yes. He's back."
But he never left.
It was Peter left.
Then everyone left
in a pique,
in a huff:
more anger yet.

puffin-stuffin' off-width,
done by "thrutch and clutch,"
along with desperate

"My, what technique you have, Grampa.
What kept you?"
"All the better to scare myself, child."

Yet we have joy.
"Five-nine-y as hell, boy.
It's Miller time again."
Except there was no Miller time
back when
we raced,
//en rappel
and my time won.
"Loser buys the Schlitz."

We're buds in a frenzy
a way to get away,
what wer are not yet
in the Camp 4
cool as Flames on a hot summer day.



Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 28, 2012 - 01:21pm PT
With all due respect I don't believe that spending a night in a dirt gulch
in Yosemite merits being called a bivy. ;-)
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 01:37pm PT
And a big sh#t-eating grin back at you, Smiley Reilly. You've "caught me out," but I thank you for the respect.

Semantics, you know, shades of meaning, really the same as pottering over the difference between 5.10a and 5.10b. Potato, tomato. Bivy, bivvy.

"Don't give me no alphabet soup."--TM

If it's dark, cold, you'd rather be in bed with your lady--it's a bivouac.

It may not qualify as a "climbing bivouac."

Well-pointed-out, as Roper, the pointing-out-the-obvious master might write.

Planned, un-planned, you got a kid, you are still a parent.

We cool? I gotta go water my plans.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Apr 28, 2012 - 01:48pm PT
One man's embarassment is another's unplanned bivy.
I've plenty to be embarassed about too.
How embarassing was it to set out on a FA high in the Cascades in October
with nothing other than a day pack and a T-shirt and a cotton anorak?
It was so nice and warm during the day! Of course the bloody Scot I was
with sawed logs with a vengeance the night through! ;-)
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 02:01pm PT
Actually, be-nightment may be equally embarrassing.

Of course, we are both prone to confusion due to residual PTSD.

And I am shameless. It is useless to attempt to embarrass me. I got little enough to be proud of except that I am still alive in spite of the blunders.

Social climber
Greensboro, North Carolina
Apr 28, 2012 - 03:44pm PT
I've had two of them. Both dreadful.

Door Number 3
Apr 28, 2012 - 03:49pm PT
A few years ago two friends and I were trying to climbing a new route in Argentina. We were slow and had to bivy. We had all agreed before the climb to go super light and try to do it in a push. When I hunkered in down for the night on the ledge in my raincoat, I was surprised and envious when my friends pulled out their big puffy jackets :(

1:40 in the video for the bivy shot

mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 04:00pm PT
Riding my bike to the library
Horn-honking guy in the car calls me over
Just now
He offers me a ride to the Valley on Saturday next
And it's free
I'm giving you all the warning I can
I'm bivvying on top of LCR
Not been on that Cathrock before
Gotta plan the campaign today so:

Who's on the Gunsight right now? :), or not

Anyone up for some spliffin and cliffin?
See me in Camp 4!
Or make a reservation!
I swear on my scout's honor this is a legit invite.
Cherybabushka, Vitaliy?
Quo vadis.

Mouse Been in Merced too long.

Trad climber
Washington DC
Apr 28, 2012 - 04:17pm PT
Hey Mouse, what is your real name? I am trying to place you as I am sure we ran into each other over the years.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 04:31pm PT
Brian J. Bermingham
son of Boomer and Bobbie, proud t'say.
I cannot for the life of me place your name.
Are you a long-time Northwest climber, because the only ones I've met from that area are the one-of-a-kind Floyd Turner and a friend of Cowboy Larry Moore named Ron, who had done some Squamish climbing...

Wrong District?

What, me lost?


Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Apr 28, 2012 - 05:35pm PT
Hey Mouse;
You need an avatar.
Not the ST generic one.

mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 05:39pm PT
Good move and gosh, thanks.
I was leaning toward a cool pic of Charlie Sheen with shades or Arnold making a telling point.
Wait til the scanner comes next week.

Mickey is not the mouse avatar for me, even though his creator was an hon-whore-ary Sierra Clubber.

The Sierra Club Bulletin, vol. 40, #4, April, 1955

Walt Disney Named Honorary Member

For "his magnificent contributions to a widespeared appreciation of our wild life"....such movies as The Prairie, and Beaver ___ ....

"Disney is like a sun ripening the gain for the wilderness advocates..."

We need...an army of Disneys...blah.

Besides, I really hate cold and ice is cold. I never even went on the Matterhorn ride when I was in Disneyland in '58.

But you're right. I am avatar bait.


Trad climber
Washington DC
Apr 28, 2012 - 07:19pm PT
No Mouse, born in Modesto, grew up climbing in the Valley.

Trad climber
AKA Dwain, from Apple Valley, Ca. and Vegas!
Apr 28, 2012 - 09:47pm PT

mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 28, 2012 - 10:00pm PT
Must be a hemp rope.
Triple twist.
Tasty and cheap.
Half-ropes, anyone?
I mean half-a-rope.
I doubt any mouse could eat a full-course rope--in one sitting, anyway.
Thanks a "mil" for the suggestion.

Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 29, 2012 - 02:39am PT
Last bivouac story.

Bivouacing in the Himalayas is of course, a relative term when traveling with traditional Sherpas. They generally don’t carry tents or tarps, or even sleeping bags. They curl up together in their clothes, utilizing overhanging rocks or caves instead, cooking on wood fires as high as 19,000 feet. Though to me, there is not much difference between sleeping under an over hang or out in the open, to them it matters a great deal, as I was to learn when I crossed Trashi Labtsa Pass which connects with the Mt. Everest region,

I had two young Sherpa girls as porters as we followed a well equipped Italian expedition, and preceded an even larger German one. To cross the pass one had to ascend from a 7 mile long flat glacier at 18,000 ft up through a hanging one to another valley at 19,000 feet, and ultimately the pass itself at 19,700. We chopped steps before the sun rose and hurried above the place where Edmond Hillary and Charles Riddiford, were nearly killed by rock fall in 1951, when they were the first westerners to visit Rolwaling. Huge rocks as large as cars, hung precariously in the overhanging ice awaiting the slightest melting before they came crashing down.

We three had planned to sleep in a cave atop the pass and attempt Par Chamo, a 20,293 foot peak above it. As the afternoon passed on however, high storm clouds started to roll in. Since we had no tent and neither of the Sherpanis had sleeping bags, I decided it was time to descend. We all agreed that we would camp above the hanging glacier and its rock laden couloir, cook dinner, and continue only after it had frozen again. When we got to that section however, the girls spotted the German group down below complete with large numbers of Sherpa men from other regions.

Both girls started down the narrow ice chute. While I was trying to catch up to them they descended into the depths of it, carrying all of our supplies including the climbing rope and my crampons, with them. They both got scared when they discovered that the ice steps of the morning had melted. For greater traction, they decided to take off their Tibetan boots which had poorly tanned leather on the bottom with wool on the top, and were stuffed throughout with dried grass. As my heart sank, they down-climbed barefoot gripping their boots in their teeth.

Somehow I managed to down-climb in my mountaineering boots without falling, and then they took off running again. Normally stonefall in this coulour was continuous yet we ran downhill for 20 minutes and nothing fell. The girls were constantly murmuring prayers to Guru Rinpoche, the saint who brought Buddhism from India to Tibet. When we got to the bottom, it seemed that half the mountain avalanched down the icy path we had just run, and I said to myself, “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in the mountains”. The girls meanwhile told me, “See memsahib Jani, we know the right prayers”.

After that I ate some noodles and crashed out on the glacier with an ensolite pad, a huge expedition bag, a down vest, down pants, and a down parka all inside of a bivouac sack. The girls along with about 25 Sherpa guys, crowded into the kitchen tent for the night amidst much giggling and joking. The Germans were of course tucked away in high quality tents. I slept like the dead and awakened only in the morning when one of the Sherpani brought me my morning bed tea amidst much exclamation, as three inches of snow had fallen during the night, and my bivouac sack was completely covered. More impressive, they seemed to think, was the area of sleeping bag around my face, which was covered in ice and frozen stiff from condensation. All of the Sherpas were incredibly impressed that the American woman was the only one who slept out all night. Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself, “Any fool can survive outdoors with 25 pounds of down gear. The really impressive feat is that I climbed to 19,700 feet yesterday and got down that suicide couloir alive”.

Recently, I had the fun of telling this story to Phurba, the grown son of Purdigi, one of the Sherpani. Phurba has climbed Ama Dablam and Everest more than once and worked as the laison officer for an Annapurna expedition thanks to his college degree and knowledge of English. His uncle Chhiring Dorje meanwhile, survived the spring K2 disaster in which eleven people, including some well known western mountaineers died. Chhiring was able to belay one of his cousins down the infamous Bottleneck after the fixed ropes were destroyed. They made it without falling, even though the cousin had no ice axe. This epic occurred after Chhiring had already summited K2 that day without oxygen. Thanks to email alerts from his office to his worldwide friends, we knew already that night that he had made it down alive and was sleeping in a tent, and not out like so many others, bivouacking their last, above 8,0000 meters.

Trad climber
Newcastle UK
Apr 29, 2012 - 05:23am PT
In 1976, I visited Chamonix for the first time, with my then partner, Les Morris. Were were part of an international crew of scruffs and misfits on Snell's Field, and were along with all the other happy campers evicted by the Police, equipped with dogs and guns. (That's another story).

Amongst our adventures was one unplanned bivouac. BITD British climbers had a standard ticklist which for many started with the Brown Whillans on the Blatiere, an alpine rock climb of some quality, with a relatively notorious off width crack low down.

Catching the first telepherique of the day we got off at Plan d'Aiguille, hiked to the base, but found ourselves beaten to it by a French party of three. It didn't matter as they pretty fast, were seconding together and soon put some distance between us.

The climbing was great, solid golden granite, blue skies all set off by Alpine views, and while not as fast as the French team we were moving quite well and made rapid progress. I recall at one point on a hanging belay looking up and seeing a slender white glider cut through the blue above us, close enough to hear the roar of the wind. Not too long after that some wisps of white appeared, not particularly worrying, but they were notable in a sky that had been universally blue.

We elected to take a short cut onto a the ridge on the left, (the West Face lite option) and when we reached it could look across at the Grepon which until then had been hidden from our sight.

The view was alarming . A huge black mass was tumbling over the summit of the Grepon and stretched off to the right without break. We quickly got ourselves sorted and began the descent to the Grepon glacier. Some easy down climbing, (I don't recall abbing) got us down to the glacier, during which time it had started to rain and sleet, in torrents and sheets. By the time we reached the glacier it was dark and lightning began to strike the summit of the Grepon and Blatiere,

The flash and bang were simultaneous, the ground shook and you were left with a snapshot on your retina of whatever your eyes were seeing at that moment. Thankfully the glacier was dry, and we worked our way down in the dark, not needing to use head torches, the lightning being frequent enough to light the way!

By the time we reached the moraine we were soaked through and it had started to snow, A large boulder offered some shelter and we crawled under it and got some respite from the storm. The rest of the night we spent spooning in an effort to retain what little warmth we retained.

Eventually the storm moved on, this coincided with a grey dreary dawn. We eased ourselves out of our squat and headed back to the telepherique where we joined other victims in varying states of disarray. As we waited for the first car, others appeared who clearly had had a much worse time of it than Les and I. Lots of them looked like sh#t (and we were pretty bad!) And had spent the night 'en route', at altitude taking the full fury of the storm without the protection we eventually found.

It was a very salutary experience, a classic alpine storm that came out of nowhere, was violent and non negotiable. If you were in it - you 'got it, and good and proper' (Back then there was no Gortex etc, and even the best gear was pretty piss poor, you were certain to suffer)

I think we scooted of to the Dollies soon after!

mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 29, 2012 - 08:05am PT
Jaysus, Guru Rinpoche, John Muir and Hugh Glass!!!!

Bravo, Jan. Not only a harrowing tale but one worth framing. Bravo!

And Blakey, I can't say much. Gobsmacked comes to mind.

Stories like these two are exactly why I like California.

Endless bumps! Gold stars for each and thanks.

Trad climber
Ouray, Colorado
Apr 29, 2012 - 08:24am PT
California is okay, mouse, especially as the West Coast´s gateway to climbing in Utah and Colorado.

Trad climber
Apr 29, 2012 - 09:08am PT
Nice one Blakey!!!

Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
Apr 29, 2012 - 11:47am PT
did somebody say disney?

here's what i think about every time goofy and darth vader show up in the ST banner:



Mountain climber
Okinawa, Japan
Apr 29, 2012 - 11:50am PT
At the top of the infamous 1,000 foot couloir, altitude 19,000 ft.
You can see why we are rushing to get over it before the sun hits the ice.
And how the steps would disappear once the melting began.

To keep all in perspective however, the Sherpas have in the past,
drug yak down this couloir and have many interesting tales of pulling
them out of crevasses.

Trashi Laptsa Pass, Rolwaling,Nepal

Trashi Laptsa Pass, Rolwaling,Nepal
Credit: Jan

Trad climber
Newcastle UK
Apr 30, 2012 - 03:07pm PT
All this reminiscing has got my memory juices flowing..........

The year before the trip to the Alps I describe above, so in 1975, I was as a callow 19 year old youth, fortunate enough to get on a trip to Baffin Island. I was one of a party of eight or sop climbers from the North East of England - all of whom were pretty experienced alpinists, and a couple of which had been to, or resided in the Valley for a while.

While Baffin had been visited a number of times, and of course Asgard had been climbed well before, it had not caught the imagination of the then 'modern' big wall climber until I think Doug Scott's trips @73 and 74 highlighted the potential of it's fabulous walls.

Ours was to be a mid summer trip to explore the opportunities around the Weasel Valley. We did all of the usual malarky, flying in to Pang on an ageing Dakota that popped rivets as it bounced through the air. A short stay in Pang married us up with the pre ordered supplies and allowed a degree of negotiation with the local Inuit about hiring a boat ride up the fjord.. This all took several days, during which time two of the group decided to hike up the fjord ahead of the group with HUGE packs.

Anyhow one at the Overlord camp, the stars (i was not one) had a look at ULU peak a few miles up on the right. An abortive attempt was made, with retreat being forced by what looked like a long blank section that would have required rivets or bolts - neither of which were on the agenda.

Anyhow, when the A team party came back, one of them, Ken Rawlinson could see I was itching to get on something and suggested we had a look at the Central Pillar of Overlord.

Overlord towered above the camp area and comprised of three distinct and huge pillars come buttresses. The Left hand one., the least steep of the three had been climbed by a Japanese party
the year before. the central pillar had been attempted the year before by Doug Scott, but we were aware that they had retreated when on of the party had been hit by stonewall. The right hand pillar was as we were aware, virgin.

Anyhow, we opted for the central pillar, Ken pulled together the rack, which I recall was memorably light, 'you've got to give it (the mountain) a chance Steve', he said with a wink. So with a few nuts, sling pegs and crabs, off we went. We set off up the pillar and the climbing naturally drew you to a line on the right hand side - there, after a few pitches of stepping climbing up slabs and grooves we found the first of a number of pegs and nuts, marking the descent route used by Scott's party the year before.

Being summertime we just climbed until we started to get weary, pitch followed pitch and at about 1/3 height we came across a genourouse rubble covered ledge that was suitable for a bivi. I think it even had some moss! We cleared space for our bags ate some grub and crashed out, pretty exhausted.

At some point however, I was awoken by the a strange sensation accompanied by the loudest noise I'd ever heard. The ledge was shaking violently and it was clear that the cliff was being rent apart. there was little to do and nowhere to hide, I curled up in my bag making myself as small as possible, while for what seemed an eternity the mountain shook, the vibrations being interspersed with what were clearly massive impacts close to our ledge.

Eventually the roar subsided, what followed was a smattering of large, but modest in comparison crashes and bangs. I eventually plucked up the courage to poke my head out of my sleeping bag to see two huge columns of dust rising up the couloirs either side of our pillar. the air was thick with the smell of sulphur and almost felt electric, probably static in the dust. Ken too had surfaced and was out of his bag, wide eyed looking at what had passed. We stood gawping at the colds of dust, slowly rising up the full height of the south couloir. He had just started to gabble something out, when the relative silence was broken by a noise even louder that the one we had just experienced! Snapping our heads to the right we saw the tip of the hanging glacier opposite break away and tumble to the valley floor, I''m guessing multiple thousands of tons of ice ended up in a huge cone below the fracture, this was spectacle heaped on spectacle! A second or so later we felt the blast of displaced air followed by a relative silence.

I can't recall what we said, probably something very English like 'that was loud'. We had been lucky in the selection of our bivi ledge, it was on the crest of the pillar and a vertical wall above us gave some protection, i don't think any stonefall hit the ledge, a miracle given what had broken away.

It took most of the day for the dust to settle, and for us to gather our wits about us and continue. we concluded that there musty have been an earthquake to have dislodged materials on both sides of the valley. Later in the trip we met a Japanese party who had been on Thor when it hit, they had been lucky to get away and off unscathed.

We were on the route for another two days with another bivi two thirds of the way up, throughout Ken was in charge, pointing me in the right direction. The quality of the climbing was outstanding, sustained 'VS' (5.6) interspersed with occasional E1/2 (5.9/10). The main difficulties culminated at the top of the pillar. A hanging belay at the base of a slender ramp that cut up the face for a hundred feet or so. The junction between the ramp and wall was fractured by a good finger crack which guaranteed success. This was important as by now, 40 odd pitches up, we didn't have enough kit to reach the first of Scott's absiel gear. Up was the only option.

We cleared this obstacle, and the breche beyond, and this brought us to the summit snow field. From the valley, this sliver of white looked tiny. Up close it transformed into a 200' slope of granular ice. We had neither axes or crampons, so i set up a rudimentary belay, sitting on a perfect edge of dry granite, with my legs dangling above a 4000' cavernous drop. We tied both 9mm ropes together, I gave Ken my Stubai hammer, and with two of these (and in EBs) off he went. cutting buckets for his feet in the granular ice he worked his way up. Eventually cresting the slope. It was a nerve wracking half hour to say the least. I took my socks off and put them on over my EBs, and with him walking down the glacier i set of up the line of holds.........

The walk down the glacier in EBs wasn't sooo bad, but lordy, had we cut it pretty fine! and Ken had been phenomenal; unflappable, good humoured and never less than 100% certain we would make it. (That said the relief in his eyes when he saw the crack in the back of the ramp pitch was pretty apparent).

The rest of the trip was not as successful, two other efforts led to interesting adventures around summit lake and Asgard, tales for another day perhaps. The other lads had success on Turn weather, Tinfoil and Northumbria. We encountered Charlie Porter ferrying his loads up to Asgard on his lonesome, and I'm guessing we must have met or past Rick Sylvester somewhere up there.

Here's the killer. Being 19 and poor, I didn't have a camera. I have but one photo of the peak, thankfully the memories are pretty vivid.

it's a measure of the level of commitment on Baffin that the route, all 4000'+ of it at 5.10 A0 is only
a grade V! I think Scott and Hennek climbed the right hand pillar in 76?

Oh the happy days of youth!


The Japanese Route on the left. The Central Pillar  guess where... The...
The Japanese Route on the left. The Central Pillar guess where... The Scott/Hennek line takes the right hand pillar.
Credit: Blakey


Gym climber
Berkeley, CA
Apr 30, 2012 - 04:32pm PT
Jan, Blakey, both of those are pretty serious and cross the threshold from "merely uncomfortable" to "I'm lucky to be here."

Trad climber
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Apr 30, 2012 - 04:39pm PT
The only time I thought my friend Kevin and I would have to do an unplanned bivy in a cave was when this batshit crazy old bastard buried us inside while we explored for ten hours. But nope, we dug out the six feet of rocks, logs, and dirt the dude entombed us under and were having a beer at the Posse East next to UT in under two hours. Best beer I ever tasted. Seeing the stars through the last bit of rock collapse and dust was beautiful.
mouse from merced

Trad climber
merced, california
Topic Author's Reply - Apr 30, 2012 - 06:27pm PT
Jim, Oklahoma is OK for the same reason. There are really good jokes to be made about the okie invasion, but the best is that the realized they were closer to SLC than they wanted to be.

An okie once named his daughter Nina May so he wouldn't forget her birthday. When Nina May had her own daughter she named her Ada May.

Git it?

For the record, I hate seeing California's name being shortened to "Cali." But I understand WY the posters here do it. Most cannot spell it, let alone the name of the Golden State. Kind of the same logic in calling the greatest governor we ever had "Arnie."

Doh. How's that for a nickname, Jim?

Rick A

Boulder, Colorado
May 3, 2012 - 09:20am PT
Came late to this thread and it’s filled with good stories.

Stich-you were in a cave and when you tried to get out the entrance was sealed? What a horror! You should sell the movie rights.

Blakey- Blimey! You put socks over EBs to improve traction on wet rock? That is something I’ve only heard about in the ancient lore! Didn’t Joe Brown do that on the first ascent of Cenotaph Corner?

Jan-Sherpas going barefoot to handle treacherous ice? I’ve heard of barefoot rock climbing, but ice? Now that’s hardcore.

MFM-Count me as another curmudgeon who does not like "Cali". I wrote a piece in Climbing when Bachar died and the editor substituted "Cali" for "California" without telling me. Still irritates me.

Jebus H Bomz

Reno, Nuh VAAAA duh
May 3, 2012 - 09:33am PT
I'm going
Back back
Cali Cali
with a
banjo banjo
on my
knee knee
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Topic Author's Reply - Jul 17, 2014 - 09:41pm PT

How did this get past us?

Going up, by Joe Fitschen, in the story about the FA of Liberty Cap  b...
Going up, by Joe Fitschen, in the story about the FA of Liberty Cap by Powell, Robbins, and JF.
Credit: mouse from merced

More bivvy stories lurk round here--
Let us stop to lend an ear
To tales of woe from yesteryear.
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