share your personal climbing writings here


Discussion Topic

Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Messages 121 - 131 of total 131 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>

Social climber
Jun 1, 2015 - 07:33pm PT
A faint but distinct buzzer goes off, I look at my watch it’s 4:00am
I do not want to get up, but I force myself.
It is so dark and very cold (on the north rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison) at this hour.
I light the stove.
The water is already in the pot and ready to boil.
I shake Buc “he’s my longtime friend and partner on this adventure”, gesturing that he be very quiet.
The water begins to boil. In a few seconds strong coffee is ready.

The cob webs clear after two sips of the strong stimulating beverage.

I pour Buc a cup and hand it to him while he is still in his sleeping bag. He is grateful not to have to move, just yet.

There are no human sounds in the small camp ground at this hour.

We power down as many calories as possible, with extra on the liquids.
We have been hyper/hydrating for the last 48 hours and I feel bloated.
I hope that I am hydrated enough for the grueling task ahead.

I sneak over to the outhouse and. my time table is off.
“Oh well, I tried”.
(It’s still very dark)
When I get back to camp Buc is up,
He’s dressed, ready to go.
I’m already dressed also. I even have my climbing shoes on!
Having packed everything necessary for today’s task last night, all there is to do is grab my half of the rack and a rope, and hit the trail.
We are the first out of camp. We have no one in front of us and have our pick of any route on North Chasm View Wall.

A brief flat stroll through the forest brings us to the Cruise Gully.
We start the long decent from the rim of the canyon to the Gunnison River almost 2000 feet below.
At first the going is easy scrambling, but it got steeper by the minute.
When we got to the start of the granite cliff, the rappel anchors were already in place. All we have to do is thread our ropes through them and go.
With doubled 165’ ropes we made really fast time.
We are being very careful not to do anything that would dislodge any loose rocks or cause the ropes to jam while we are pulling them behind us. One repel and then another and yet another go without any problem. At this point we have only a bit more roped descending to do and it is back to steep down climbing and scrambling with no need for the protection of a rope.

In the far distance we here the muffled sounds of voices and the clanking of gear.
We have a good head start and with that we should have no trouble staying way ahead of whoever they are. We have no idea if they even intend to do the same route that we have chosen but we aren’t taking any chances.

By now it is full day light although Route we have chosen is still in the shade and will be pleasantly cool for some time.
A few more minutes of steep hiking and we are at the base of our climb “The Cruz”.
“The Cruise” is a 1500’ 5.10+ free climb. It’s very steep and strenuous with exceptionally solid rock. (For “The Black” that is!)

Buc and I are in good climbing shape and the route is technically well within our abilities. We flip for who leads the first pitch. This will set the sequence for the rest of the climb since we will be leap forging pitches all the way up unless one of us gets freaked out (after all, “It’s always desperate in the Black!”)

I win the toss and charge up the first pitch. It’s moderate and goes smooth and swift.

The second and third pitches are off width and squeeze chimney, they’re strenuous but reasonable and really fun if you like off width climbing.

Pitch four is Buc’s and I can tell that he would rather I had drown it since it’s a thin finger crack in a dihedral and also one of the two crux pitches of the climb.

I take a moment to restack the rope and make my stance as comfortable as possible. Buc arranges the rack so that the smaller wired pieces are close at hand and can be accessed with a minimal amount of effort. I give him the nod that tells him that I am ready to belay. He reciprocates with the same gesture and makes the first moves off the belay stance. It’s hard right away and he is placing gear at every opportunity. I think that if he keeps this up he will be running out of the smaller sizes before he gets to the belay stance more than 130’ further. At one point he gets an especially good stopper in and asks me to tighten up the rope. It’s his lead and I do what he asks. He takes tension, not for a rest, but lowers down and cleans out the gear from below. Think that he has made a good decision and am comforted to know that he will have more of a selection when it gets harder further up the pitch. Placing small wired wedges for protection and using mostly thin finger jambs while stemming on the tiniest of edges on both side of the corner he makes slow but steady progress. All I can hear from him is heavy breathing and the occasional requests for slack and tension. I try to be encouraging knowing that at times he is at his wits end in desperation. At one point he commits to a sequence that he can’t reverse and slips. It really wasn’t a very long fall but still it was a fall. At the end of every fall there is a rest. He takes a moment to regroup and then with rejuvenated stoke he cruses the rest of the pitch without hesitation. Moments later I hear, “Off Belay”.

I had exhausted every possible position at the stance that I have been anchored to for an hour. My feet hurt and my legs were cramped. I was looking forward to moving again.
Seconding this pitch is way easier with a snug rope from above. The moves although thin were actually easy when the fear of falling was taken out of the equation.

The belay stance at the end of the 4th pitch was relatively comfortable and spacious although a bit sloping. This point also happens to be where “The Cruz” and its sister route “The Scenic Cruz” joins and follows the same line for the rest of the wall.

I thought that the last pitch had taken longer than it should have. I was rested and anxious to get underway.

The 5th pitch was nothing like the 4th and required totally different climbing styles and gear selection.

This pitch starts off through over hanging lodged boulders that are so precariously placed it seems as though the pressure of the various jamb locks could dislodge them.
I moved as quickly as possible through this section placing a minimum of gear although I did get a few pieces.
The exposure was wearing on me, as this pitch got steeper and more strenuous with every move.
It involved steep hand and fist jamming with sections of two or three sequential moves between gear placements.
I must admit that when I did get a piece of gear in, it was bomber.
I was starting to get really griped and pumped out of my mind when I powered through the crux roof and made a last desperate reach for what looked like a good hand jamb and it was just what I hoped.
I can’t say enough about this jamb. It gave me a boost of confidence that allowed me to rally.
In many of cases where there are good jambs there are good gear placements this was no exception. At this point, although everything was still extremely steep, I had some good gear in place and had a reasonably comfortable stance. I could put allot of weight on my feet and I was able to turn loose with one hand and shake it out and then the other. It felt good and secure to shake out but I really wasn’t resting.
I knew that I was really only a little over half way up this pitch. If I hadn’t been so pumped I think that this section would have been quite enjoyable.
The way that I had franticly placed the gear on that last desperate crux section was causing rope drag. The extra tension was wearing me down drastically. It was turning a technically moderate hand and fist crack, into a night mare.
It was like I was hauling a bag of cement up the climb with me.
I knew that I had to do something about it and that was going to eat into all the time that I had made up.
I placed a really good piece and took tension I started to lower myself back down the pitch.
This really confused Buc. He hadn’t been able to see or hear me since I turned the roof.
It really wasn’t that far, but it was so steep that it took my breath away.

I lowered myself over the roof and pulled the gear that was causing the drag and it was like night and day.

Buc could see me as soon as I lowered over the roof and fully understood what I was doing.
Now I had the task of reclimbing that strenuous roof again but this time I had a top rope.

I got back to my high point in no time and with newly found energy motored the rest of the pitch.

Buc had very little difficulty seconding the pitch. He did have some trouble getting one of the pieces that I over placed in a desperate moment. Otherwise he fluidly powered through the whole thing and was at the belay stance in no time.

We both felt some relief that the two crux pitches were behind us but we had a long way to go and the last two pitches had eaten up allot of time.

The cool shade of the morning was a thing of the past and the sun was out in full force. It was driving its intense rays deep into the white pegmatite quartz and radiating through the granite, while burning and swelling our feet in shoes that were too tight in the first place.

The next two pitches were without a doubt “world class” text book hand and fist jamming. The sort of cracks climbers dream of and seek out their whole climbing careers.
We savored these two pitches of moderate though sustained movement. After the difficult terrain we had been through previously these pitches were a vertical walk in the park.

Once again we made fast time and our enthusiasm returned. We were at a point where the exposure wasn’t affecting us as it was several pitches back although, believe me, it was still there.

At the ledge at the end of the two luxurious crack pitches we took a short break to take our shoes off and eat a little and try to hydrate some. We were over 1000’ from where we stepped on to this rock. We were tired and ready for it to be over and if we kept up the pace it soon would be.

At this point Buc was getting tired. I could see it in his eyes and his slow movements. I asked him respectfully, if he would let me lead the pitches for the rest of the climb. That would allow each of us to rest as much as possible between physical exertions. He looked up at the sun and then at me and said “be my guest” knowing that the rest of the climb was going to be a cruise for him.

I put the rack together as fast as I could and started out what is known as the “Becker Traverse”.

I move out the traverse edging on thin holds to the first bolt and place a wired stopper over it and clip in to it. The bolt looks as if it would hold body weight but I sure did not want to test it. Climbing on more thin holds at a fairly stiff technical difficulty I came to the second bolt and it looked better but I still had to thread a wire over it. Luckily, I found a few small stopper placements that helped offset the utterly pathetic excuses for protection. I moved a few more feet to the left and found the third it was almost completely out of the rock but I threaded it anyway. At this point I started to climb straight up and I fortunately found some small but good nut placements that protected the rest of the way to the belay ledge.

The belay ledge was a fairly comfortable place and I had some excellent cams in.
Buc moved through the traverse cautiously. It was equally as scary for him as it was for me.

Once again, we switch the Belay. I rearrange the rack and then place a piece as high in the crack as I could reach. I clip in and off I go. What appeared to be a few easy and straight forward hand jambs turned out to be much harder than I anticipated and I nearly fell off!

With my adrenalin way up after those few desperate moves, I climb moderate rock to a small, and very exposed belay ledge at the base of a gnarly, loose, and basically grim looking face. Vertically, we were 150’ below the rim of the canyon. I clip into the fixed anchors and put in as many extra pieces as I could find.

I realize as I belay Buc up to the tiny ledge, that we are very close to the top, but the climb isn’t over.

At this point we are both fatigued and dehydrated and our judgment is somewhat slowed or impaired.

For the last time, I organize the rack the rack while Buc restacks the rope and puts me on belay. I climb straight up off the belay ledge to the bottom of a giant insurmountable roof.
I’m forced to traverse right on small but surprisingly solid holds. I was pleased to find the rock on this pitch also accepts a variety of different gear.

I was placing protection sparingly for fear of rope drag. In fact I was running it out way past the point of safety. I was getting enough decent placement opportunities that I was confident that there will be more. I actually enjoyed the free form sequences of the moderate moves on this pitch.
Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that the angle of the rock had lessened by a few degrees

I become so engrossed with the moves that I was making on this section that I wasn’t aware of the fact that I was more than 50’ out from my last protection placement. If I were to fall from this point it would mean a fall excess of 100’. Buc could have never caught a fall that long, nor would the anchors in the belay have held.
I immediately, I put in two really good cam devices.
I was safe again!
I jammed up the short but very steep final crack section.

This had been an exceptionally long pitch. I was out of rope, and despite the long run outs with no gear placements, I was just about out of equipment to build a solid belay.
It took some time and ingenuity but I finally put something together that was sound enough to hold a fall.
I yelled that I was on belay and Buc was at my side in hardly any time at all.

I told him to just keep climbing past me and belay me from the guard rail at the scenic overlook on the rim of the canyon.
The climbing wasn’t much more difficult than walking but in our exhausted state I felt that we should use the rope until we had actually reached the top of the canyon wall.
I heard the words “off belay” and I pulled the gear that I had placed and scrambled up to the top.

It was almost comical to be actually climbing over the tubular guard rails at one of the scenic over looks. There was a group of tourists at this airy spot. One of them asked Buc where he came from. Buc pointed and said, “Down there”.

After sixteen pitches of sustained climbing few things feel better than sitting down and taking my climbing shoes off.

We limped (barefoot) through the high desert forest back to our camp.
With our arms loaded with uncoiled ropes and the gear hanging on us in a total mess.

The smart thing to do at this point was to consume as much water as we could but that wasn’t what we had on our minds.
We wanted a beer and then we wanted more beer!
The cooler was well stocked with crushed ice and our favorite beverage.

We downed the first one while we cut the tape off of our bruised and swelling hands. My feet were still hurting!

We actually made fast time on the route and there was a fair amount of day light left.
We took a slow stroll back to the scenic overlook where we topped out.

We lounged at the very edge of The Black Canyon with a beer in our hands and our bare feet dangling over the abyss
I reveled in the act of not climbing!
I was at peace, without any since of urgency!

Evening is wondrous on the north rim of The Black Canyon!
As the angle of light crosses the narrow gorge it accents features that are totally invisible throughout the day.
Every species of the local wildlife come out of their deep shaded shelters and roam about the rim of the canyon.
It’s a unique and diverse social hour devoted to worshiping the coolness before dark.
The birds sing in (seemingly) rehearsed harmonious chorale, as cricket and locust provide rhythmic background.
The scent of sage and juniper is an almost visible fragrance.
Cactus radiate with vibrant red and yellow blossoms and briefly, their menacing thorns, disappear.
Strange people appear out of nowhere to share the experience of this breath taking extravaganza of sensory abundance!

We stare in awe of the magnificence of” The Painted Wall” with its white pegmatite dragon dancing across its expanse.
We could see the tourists on the south rim watching us as we in turn watch them.
The distance across the canyon at this point seems less than the depth.
We silently reflect on the events of the day. Most of the thoughts were in a jumbled mess only to be sorted out at a later time.
We are humbled by the power in this canyon and honored that we were allowed safe passage.

As the evening turns to night, the warmth that we were enjoying fades.
I revel in the cold and welcome its chilling bite. I know that after I have absorbed as much cold as I can stand, that there is hot food and a warm goose down sleeping bag waiting.
We become acutely aware that had any one thing gone wrong, we could still be on the wall facing a bitter cold night without food, water, or warm clothing.
We tremble at the thought of one us getting even slightly injured! Those thoughts are too harrowing and are dismissed immediately.

We left our camp in the warmth of the afternoon with only a cooler full of beer wearing only tee-shirts, shorts and barefoot.
No flash light and the absence of even a hint of moon light made the short journey back to our camp seem more perilous than any of the pitches we had climbed earlier that day. Those beautiful flowers of the Choia Cactus were now villains waiting to attack!
We moved at a snail’s pace and all we could think of was our overpowering exhaustion.
The seemingly interminable journey down the pitch black trail finally ended.
I hadn’t eaten so much as a morsel in longer than I could remember but in this emaciated state, sleep was my only desire.

I slept soundly until I was awakened by the aroma of fresh brewed coffee.
I had an unquenchable thirst, and a ravenous appetite!
Buc was preparing a full blown breakfast and it would be ready shortly.
The acids in the ice cold orange juice felt magical as it flowed down my raw throat.
While waiting for the call to breakfast I enjoyed the stimulating effects of the high powered French Roast while basking in the soft and warm streams of sun light filtering through the canopy of Juniper.

A very satisfying breakfast worked wonders!

dee ee

Mountain climber
Of THIS World (Planet Earth)
Jun 3, 2015 - 09:16am PT

By David Evans

Randy, Craig and I gazed up at the dark foreboding east face of the North Astro Dome as Randy pointed out the line. I could see his line but there was one important thing missing, stances to drill the protection bolts from. If only it wasn’t dead vertical we might have a chance but, it was vert from bottom to top and not a ledge in sight. I expressed my doubts but Randy reiterated his lecture of the hike out, the point of which was that ” it would go” and that there would be no aid used.

It was April 1978 and the climbing world was engaged in a passionate ethical debate. The insidious Euro practices of “hang-dogging” and “rap bolting” were creeping into the American climbing scene and we weren’t having any of it. Climbing was about style not numbers and we Cali climbers were diehard purists. Our magnum opus would not be tainted by aid.

Randy was adamant and insisted that if either one of us used aid he would literally pull us off the climb, leader fall or not. He was a year older, more worldly and we believed he meant every word.

Craig was first to lead and after some struggle had the third bolt in. Spencer, Craig and Randy had started the route a week or two before and placed the first two bolts on that day.

I was up next and started climbing with a trickle charge of adrenaline boosting my pulse rate. The rock was perfect brown and red varnish with small positive edges. The moves were 5.10- with the hardest passing the second bolt (that Spencer had drilled) at mid 5.10. I got a couple moves above Craig’s bolt and prepared to drill. The only problem was I couldn’t let go to hold the drill! Craig hollered up that the trick was to hold the drill next to the edge that my left hand was on so that I could hold both the edge and the drill at the same time. I felt like I was going to fall over backwards. Starting the hole was a struggle but once the hole was ¼” deep or so I could hold myself in with the drill alone. After some effort I got it in and repeated the whole scene again 10 feet higher. I was gassed and lowered off.

Then it was Randy’s turn. Climbing smoothly he made his way up past my high point occasionally making comments about the beauty of the rock or the quality of the moves. We were all in agreement; this route was of the highest quality, 5 stars on a 5 star scale. Randy got another bolt in and started traversing right as he could see a good flake 20 feet or so away that might offer a stopper or hex placement. The traverse was easy but the flake was crap for pro, he couldn’t get anything good in and it was too steep to drill. We could all see a good stance another 12 or 15 feet to the right and Randy decided to head out that way. We begged him to try again for pro at the flake because the runout to the stance was horrendous. His reply was, “there is no pro, I’m going for it.”

The traverse immediately got more difficult and looked harder still further on. Randy carefully worked his way out from the flake and soon was 8 or 10 feet away where he stalled out. He was only a few feet from the stance but the last move was the crux. The phrase “watch me” was repeated many times. A couple more inches and then his foot slipped. The fall would be huge. With the slack and stretch in the rope he was looking at a 60 to 80 footer. Craig was hip belaying and was ready to both yard in the rope and run backwards to catch the fall. I was pacing and my hands were sweating uncontrollably.

Somehow he held on and desperately scrabbled back a few feet. Randy muttered to himself and us, “I was so close, if I could just…..” He launched again. He must have wanted it bad. Once again the scene was repeated including the slip, we were starting to freak out. I yelled up “Randy you HAVE to get some pro!” He looked at it again and returned to the flake to rest. We relaxed for a few minutes while Randy rested but suddenly the sound of the tap, tap, tap of drilling drifted down. Craig and I looked at each other in surprise and then up at Randy. Sure enough he was drilling with BOTH hands free. “What’s going on up there,” we yelled? The reply,” I’m on a hook!”

A hook, what the hell, that’s aid! Where did that come from,” we asked? Randy’s answer regarding the hooks origin was vague at best but suddenly the humor of the situation dawned on us. Randy was using aid and we had to pull him off!

We agreed to warn him first, “We are going to pull you off,” we yelled. The reply was an emphatic “noooooo, don’t do it!” Craig readied himself, “OK Randy, here goes.” “Noooo!!!!,” again. Well, in the end we didn’t pull him off. How could you pull one of your best friends off even if he had been so pompous? We couldn’t do it.

Randy banged in two bolts at the flake and called it a belay. He explained that since it was a belay and that a hanging belay is aid anyway it was OK. It was an interesting rationale and not entirely without merit.

That was as far as we got that day. Randy lowered off, we packed it up and headed home. The hike out was animated by an even more spirited ethical debate and much heckling of the guilty party.

It was the end of that Josh season and the route sat undone until November when Randy and I returned without Craig or Spencer. I’m not sure what priorities they had that prevented them from being there. After all, what could be more important than finishing this stellar line?

I led the first pitch to the hanging belay. The quality of the climbing was only surpassed by the spectacular position of the line. Each section was 5.10-, the varnish was beautiful, the pitch was perfect. Watching Randy climb to the stance I was kicking myself for not bringing the camera.

Randy took the sharp end and made the traverse to the good stance without any trouble. Soon he had a bolt in and continued to the big ledge one pitch from the top placing two more bolts along the way. After awhile an “off belay” drifted down. I followed the traverse and found the last move hard. It felt about 10c to me on a toprope. It would have been insanity to run out the whole traverse. The rest of the pitch had more 10- moves. He brought me up and I cruised the final steep but easy 5.8 crack to the summit.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Jun 3, 2015 - 09:44am PT
I posted this as its own thread back in '11 but it only got 4 responses, LOL.
I'm posting the link cause the accompanying pic is half the story.

The Good Places
Feb 13, 2017 - 06:52pm PT
bump for the deleted jefe post.

bump for telling time by the natural evolution of a favored and private and repeated camp place.

bump for the reason we go to work.

bump for the realness, that fear-stink and the endorphins to make it all seem like a good idea once more

El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson
Feb 13, 2017 - 07:13pm PT
You got me cowboy

The Good Places
Feb 13, 2017 - 07:16pm PT
don't clam up there, podnah, 'sokay to mix the sublime in with the web-swill. it's all a big burrita and damned if we don't need some metaphysical cilantro in this hawg.

Ice climber
Feb 13, 2017 - 09:01pm PT
Never saw this before.

Thx tB

Big Wall climber
Terrapin Station
Feb 13, 2017 - 09:18pm PT
Still one of the best threads EVAH!
Don Lauria

Trad climber
Bishop, CA
Feb 14, 2017 - 01:37pm PT
I first got to know Steve Roper on the back side of Half Dome in 1966. He and Chuck Pratt were camped beside us (me and Michael and Valerie Cohen) in preparation for a NW face climb. Both ours and their intentions were foiled and, as it worked out, Steve and I hiked back to Happy Isles together.

That evening in Camp 4 Roper asked if I had ever done Phantom Pinnacle. Nope! I hadn't, but I was anxious to do it, especially with someone who knew exactly where it was. It was agreed - we would get an early start in the morning.

With Steve rousing me at 6 AM the following day, we were off and running. With no hesitation at any point along the approach (we walked from Camp4), we arrived at the pinnacle. Roper kept asking me if I thought I could lead the final pitch which he considered the crux. Hell, I didn't know. If he thought I could I would certainly give it a try.

I remember little of the interim pitches - they went by so quickly, but I do remember the final pitch which was my assigned lead. When Steve arrived on top he immediately set up the first rappel while quizzing me on my reaction to the last lead. Three rappels later we were on the ground.

As we walked back and approached Camp 4 around 8:30 AM, Steve stopped in his tracks and said, "Come on we're going back to the Lodge for coffee!" I asked why and he replied, "S##t, if we go back this early no one will believe we did it."

new york
Mar 15, 2017 - 11:51am PT
Below is an emailed story I sent to my family who don't really know anything about climbing, or the out of doors, so a little extra detail. Yesterday I had asked my friend Vicky to send me the photo of a bear I took in 2009 so I could show it to my son Conor.


Here is the first bear that I met in Yosemite - it was July 2009.
He was like a little teen-ager bear, really, though he looked about the size of a St. Bernard on steroids.

In all my prior experiences staying in Yosemite's Camp IV, I had never actually encountered a bear. On more than one occasion, I have woken up and and been asked by my site-mates if I'd heard or seen the bear the previous night. Someone would leave a "bear box" (a big brown metal locking food storage bin) open and the bears would get in and ravage what they could. This event would then be attended by all manner of yelling and shooing to chase the bears away. Finally, the rangers would roam through Camp IV with these clackers, the sounds of which were intended to drive these hungry beasts even further away.
Of course all that racket was nothing compared to my own formidable thundering that I would personally broadcast throughout the night within the confines of my own little tent. In short, I would snore through it all, invariably oblivious. Had I heard the bear ? Nope. To my dismay, I'd admit I hadn't heard a thing. I had missed another chance to sight a bear. Shoot!

I had seen a bear once, though, when I was 10 years old in the Adirondacks. On that hiking/camping trip we were way out in the back country of the High Peaks region camped atop a huge waterfall. I think it was on this waterfall trip or perhaps another trip that I discovered I was a sleepwalker. On one trip I was sleeping in a cabin in the mountains that had bunkbeds and I was nestled up in a top bunk sound asleep. Next thing I know, I'm slamming into the wooden floor, and I must confess, not my favorite way to wake up in the middle of the night. What the hell !!? At the time I really didn't have much in the way of an explanation for this mishap, I just got back in bed and went to sleep again. This waterfall trip was different, though. We were in tents and I had zipped myself nicely into a sleeping bag, safely ensconced in and amongst a few other kids. This time, however, it was no wooden floor that woke me up. There was no jarring event that jolted me awake. Rather, I seemed to dissolve a sort of veil to regain a normal consciousness that revealed I was walking along a muddy trail in nothing but a pair of underwear and some heavy woolen socks. It was full on middle of the night, but the moonlight apparently had been bright enough for me to negotiate some muddy trail that traced along the right side of a brook. Holy smokes, some kind of a trance ! Sleepwalking or sleephiking ? Maybe crashing awake, merging into a wooden floor didn't seem so bad by comparison as I tried to make sense of my current situation. Well there I was alone for whatever reason in the middle of the woods, and I figured the brook beside me must lead back to the waterfall. When I had finally awakened from my altered state, I had been walking downstream, so I decided that I would reverse course and hopefully make my way back to the waterfall and campsite. I walked and walked some more and still no waterfall. Could I somehow be above the waterfall and was I now walking away from camp? I don't remember being afraid, but I think it was that uncertain pivotal moment that I decided to call out to my counselors: "Sir" Bill !!` "Sir" Dave !!
Our counselors were addressed by their first names, lending a kind of intimacy to their relationship with the kids, but the "Sir" part balanced the respect and proper stations that existed between the two.
"Sir" Bill !!!- I yelled again into the night some few more times without results. At ten years old, I had by then acquired a sampling of some rougher vocabulary and when my yells went unanswered I began to yield to less reputable diction. The proper balance between stations went right out the window. I recall very well it was just after I had taxed my lungs with, "Goldammit, where the hell are you !! " that I first saw the flashlights up trail in the woods bouncing towards me. It turned out I had been walking upstream in the correct direction after all, it's just that I had sleptwalked a long, long way from camp, let me tell you.

Owing to my little impromptu hike in the middle of the night, when we moved camp the next day a strategy was devised to keep me from wandering again at the new campsite. There we slept in a big lean-to which is a wooden log shelter with one side fully open facing out into the campfire area. You could fit about six kids in a lean-to sleeping side by side like matchsticks in a box. The idea was to insert me right in the middle of the pack so I would have to step on someone to get loose. With this sleeping arrangement in place we all hunkered down for the night.

It was I among all those matchsticks that first woke up in the middle of that night. It wasn't a crash landing on a wooden floor or walking along a muddy trail that woke me, it was a noise. We had all of our food in a stuffsack that we had suspended on a cord from a tree branch. This way the chipmunks would have to work harder to access it. The noise I heard was no chipmunk, though and the big hulking shape that was just outside our open lean-to was a bear. He was making short work of our food sack. I woke the others and we all shined our flashlights on the bear as he swiped at this edible punching bag until it was beaten down onto the ground. We watched with our eyes and mouths gaping wide as the bear galloped away with the prize in his jaws. There wasn't much we were going to do but watch and it was over and done with in a matter of moments.

Everyone was up and around after that. We set out pots and pans on logs as an alarm bell of sorts in case the bear decided to come back, but he didn't. In the morning we followed a trail of food packaging remnants which led us to the ripped and torn food sack which was empty. We did recover some small food items including a carton of eggs that were unscathed. Nothing noteworthy occurred afterward in terms of any further nocturnal shenanigans on that trip.

40 plus years later, I am still sleeping in the dirt with some regularity but another bear sighting had always somehow eluded me. In the grand scheme of things, maybe that's a good thing. During my July 2009 trip to Yosemite I remedied this deficiency in good order, easily making up for my hitherto lack of bear sightings. In years past I have traveled to Yosemite by myself and have had good success at finding and vetting climbing partners amid the Camp IV scene which is the climber's campground. Entry to Camp IV is currently $6.00 per night. Before the internet, you would recruit a partner from hand written notes posted on a physical bulletin board hung on the back side of the Rangers's Kiosk. There are apps now for that, but I still resort to the hand-written method. I'm not sure how I met Vicky that trip, but she was on a cross-country climbing odyssey by herself. Her boyfriend had begun the trip with her, but he somehow couldn't stay the course and he had left for home awhile back. So she was happy to partner up and we were climbing compatible which helps a lot, as it covers a broad range of criteria.

One day after climbing, we were in her Volkswagen Westphalia bus when she called out in her French Canadian patois that a baby bear was just off in the woods to my side. Oh, shoot, I had just taken out my contact lenses to clean off the dust of the day and I couldn't see a thing. We rolled on by and I missed yet another one.

The next day we decided we would go climbing at the base of El Capitan a 3000 foot monolith of granite that towers into the sky dominating the Yosemite Valley. We could climb just short routes at the very bottom of El Cap that would go up only a rope's length and then we could come down and do another short venture on a different line. It had rained just a bit that morning, so we had hiked up and were settling in at the base of El Cap to let the stone dry out before we started the first climb. The base or bottom of the cliff is littered with a jumble of rock debris and talus that has sloughed off the huge soaring cliff above. The long term bombardment of these rocks over the years creates an open gap of rocks very close to the cliff where the trees don't generally grow. It is a median of open talus and rock debris that stretches back from the cliff a ways until the tree line begins to take hold just outside the bombardment zone away from the cliff. As it happened I was in this open talus zone facing the cliff with my back to the woods only a few yards behind me. I was up on a pedestal of rock looking up at the cliff when I had the urge to turn around. As I did so I was looking straight at a bear just a few feet below me who had designs on my pack where my sandwich lay tucked away for later. With a wave of my hands and a shout I leaned forward and the bear scrambled off back into the woods. This was the teen age bear and he was run off pretty easily. Not to be denied documentary evidence I had Vicky give me her camera as the bear moved around and started to head up the open talus slope at the base of the cliff to our left. Common sense should have prevented me from this endeavor, but when I have I ever been accused of having that? As he moved along tight in with the cliff at his right shoulder, I stalked a ways behind on his left at the inside edge of the tree line. The open space of the talus slope spread out for about 40 yards between us. I'm sure he knew I was there but suddenly the trees I had for cover were gone and there was nothing between me and the bear but open talus. I guess he didn't like having his back up against the wall because he launched into a full on charge straight at me. He was covering ground effortlessly and immediately I knew there was no sense in running because he would be on me before I could take three strides. All I had was the camera that Vicky had given me and I watched him barrel towards me at full speed. I stood there facing him yet somehow didn't register any deep fear of the charging bear. Maybe I didn't have time, too. I somehow knew he was bluffing. He ran up to within 8 yards of me and screeched to a halt stamping both feet down at once chuffing a great "harumph! noise as if to say, "and let that be a lesson to you !" At that moment I snapped the picture on the camera and that was his cue to turn around and amble away.

In case you didn't know, I've never seen a mountain lion, and I hope I never do...




Mar 15, 2017 - 12:08pm PT
i adore the dull-end of culturally prescribed ambition.

thus i find meself authoring new me's at nearly every boot-pivot.

though i look around and see compatriots
that vehemently pursue success and end up dumb and fat
and lazy though still yearning for acclaim like our
very own "pud"
Messages 121 - 131 of total 131 in this topic << First  |  < Previous  |  Show All  |  Next >  |  Last >>
Return to Forum List
Post a Reply
Our Guidebooks
Check 'em out!
SuperTopo Guidebooks

Try a free sample topo!

SuperTopo on the Web

Recent Route Beta