Ghosts utterly fantastic red underwear


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A long way from where I started
Dec 3, 2008 - 02:35am PT
More please. I can smell the kelp.

Okay, a few more tidbits. But first, you have to understand the background, so you'll know that the real surprise of the whole trip wasn't what Tami and Nikki got up to in the tents (which, if you knew them, wouldn't really be that surprising), but that I didn't die on the approach.

The whole thing happened a little over four years after my first son was born (followed very quickly by number two). During that four years, I didn't really sleep, and climbing was something I got to do for a few hours every couple of months. When the chance to get into the mountains for a couple of weeks came up, I just jumped on it without really thinking about what I was getting into. Which was to take the ferry across to Vancouver Island, drive up to Campbell River, and throw two week’s gear and supplies into a float plane, which would then fly up up up until one of us could boot all the stuff out an open door and onto a glacier below Mt. Sir Frances Drake. The plane would then return to CR where we would all hop in and fly across the inlet to a logging camp on the mainland side. At the logging camp’s dock we’d shoulder packs with minimal bivi gear and a couple of days worth of food, and head uphill to where we hoped to find the airdrop. Or whatever of the airdrop had been left to us by the wolverines and ravens.

It sounds all romantic and quaintly adventurous, in an alpine sort of way, but… well… See, most of you don't really know Tami, although you’re familiar with her work. And probably only a handful of you know Don Serl and Greg Foweraker, and I’d be surprised if any of you know Nikki. But they were all super athletes. All legs and lungs, and all at the top of their physical games. Gods walking the earth. Well, okay, Tami had short legs, and couldn’t go as fast as the rest of them, but nonetheless she’d done something more in the last four years than change diapers and drink.

And most of you don’t know the Coast Range, either. You think a couple of hours on a forest trail followed by a couple of thousand feet of scrambling is A Serious Approach. F*#k that. Our airdrop, assuming we could find it, would be at about 7,500 ft, and we would be starting our hike to it on a dock at sea level. We hoped there would be logging roads to 2,000 ft, but after that it was 5,500 ft of steep coastal jungle. Four years of whiskey and diapers was not adequate preparation.

Fortunately, although the weather in Campbell River was pretty good, the mountains on the mainland were socked in with cloud, and our pilot said that while he could probably get his plane, and our gear, up there somewhere, there wasn’t much chance that we’d be able to see the glacier, let alone be able to make a pinpoint airdrop. So, as Tami said, we hung out, talked, screwed the pooch, and Nikki ingested unfriendly microbes. Everyone else fumed at the delay, but I was just thankful that my death had been postponed, and pushed the idea that while our original plan looked unworkable, we could still salvage the trip by ferrying both us and our gear up there by helicopter. It would, of course, grieve me to miss out on the wonderful alpine experience of doing it in the classic kelp-bed-to-summit style, but…

So Reto Glass did his alpine version of “dropping the grunts into the jungle clearing.” It’s scary, watching the tips of the blades just inches from rock walls on either side, but oh my, that man could fly. And we only had to walk a few feet to a nice rocky bench to set up camp. I think he even scared himself though, because he landed well out on the glacier when he brought Don, Greg, and Nikki up in his second trip.

That night the weather went to sh#t, and although Greg and Nikki had started in one tent (them being a couple), Nikki’s worsening condition, and summer-weight sleeping bag, soon had us change things so that she was wedged tightly between Tami and I – Don and Greg being far too tall to sleep on the outside in any three-person combination. (And of course, Tami and I were definitely the hottest, but we didn’t want to make a big thing of that.) There was something of a side-to-side slope in the tent, so Tami, having a synthetic-fill bag, got the low side. She makes light of it all, and now claims that her bag only got wet on the outside, but I was there, and I know she got pretty thoroughly soaked. But it saved Nikki's ass.

As to the rest of it, well, the weather eventually turned back to summer and there were glorious summits, new routes, goats doing interesting things, fabulous views, and, on the hike out, when I pitched head first into a hole in the forest floor, a lot of comments about “if we don’t pull him out, I wonder if his legs will just wave around like that forever,” and “Haw haw, those red long johns sure do look funny upside down.”

And of course there was the final sting in the tail when the floatplane pilot who picked us up at the logging camp made a major mistake. Not getting off the deck in big waves at 100 mph is something very few people live to talk about afterward.


Dec 3, 2008 - 02:12pm PT

I just knew there was another layer to that Ghost handle.

Mountain climber
The Deep Woods
Dec 3, 2008 - 03:31pm PT
"Coastal Ranges" is technically valid for the time it was used - but does not correspond with official naming policy and has not since the mid 1970s. In Canada we use a four-part naming heirarchy for groups of mountains - an individual mountain or peak is within a range, which is within a set of ranges, which is within an area of mountains. All of which together form the Cordillera. For instance - Skihist Mountain in the Cantilver Range in the Lillooet Ranges of the Coast Mountains, which is part of the Pacific Cordillera. To call the Coast Mountains "the Coast Range" is to trivialize them. All of which has nothing to do with underwear, but whatever.

As a former journal editor, though, I thought you had to be up on geographic nuances like that Ghost?

Social climber
Vancouver, Canada
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 3, 2008 - 03:46pm PT
Oplopanax take a Zanax so you aren't horridus.

The coastal mountains of BC have always been known to me as the Coast Range. My parents called'em that. All my friends call 'em that. In Washington state they're the Cascades and those soggydoggy mtns on the Olympic peninsula are the Olympics. On really sparkly days in Vancouver you can see far in the distance clouds lurking atop the Olympics. It rains more there then it does in Tofino.
Oregon is only a place for garnering speeding tickets and one Mt Hood where teenagers seem to go to die slow lingering deaths from hypothermia. These are then written up in condensed form in Readers Digest.
Oh, and here we call the Rockies the Rotties or, as Anders pointed out, the Rubblies. Take yer frikkin' helmet already.

But I digress.

David and I both made mention of the flight outta there.

It was the scariest ride I've ever had in a small fixed wing aircraft. I've had more hairball rides in helos and a ride once on an L-1011 that made me kiss the ground when we disembarked but the ride outta Bute Inlet that sharp afternoon was a slam banger.
We had descended the hulking shoulder of trees from our last bivi around treeline to arrive at the upper edge of the cutblocks around noon. It was an easy cruise to the floating logging camp where the surprised summer attendant ( the woods were closed for fire season ) graciously shared his pot of stew with the five smelly mountaineers. We also had showers there - yey! - and Don used the phone to call in a flight to get us back to Campbell River.
Summer afternoons on the big inlets of BC often receive strong winds with a big chop on the water. This was one such afternoon and by around four p/m when the Beaver arrived to fetch us the pilot was already cussing he should have just left us till later when the winds would have dropped.

We piled into the aircraft. Nikki and I were in the very back scrunched into the two little rear seats. Our big packs we perched on our knees. Greg and David were next in and Don sat up front next to the pilot. We bid a fond adieu to the very kind logging camp attendant.
The plane taxied out into the chop and the pilot powered up the engines. We took off into that strong headwind gaining speed which immediately took on a very frightening slamming as the pontoons of the aircraft pounded into the two-foot chop. As the speed increased it seemed the entire airframe would be beaten apart.
As David said, not getting off the deck was not a happy time.

But worse was to come.

The pilot turned a one-eighty to taxi up the inlet. He said he could possibly lift off if we were out of the chop. With a tailwind and a high center of gravity and now on a following sea, we were not in a good position and....the aircraft broached.......turning sideways as it slid off a wave. The pilot was swearing out loud now wishing on his mother's grave ( was she even dead ? Dunno. ) that he hadn't made this trip. Don turned to us in the back and gave a sick grin that said "Ohfucckkk". There was a sticky silence among the rest of us passengers. Even the blackflies what had boarded with us were saying little blackfly prayers.
Nik turned to me and said "You know if we go over you and I are last out, eh." and the weight of my backpack seemed to double.

I think we taxied for nearly an hour. Forty minutes? It was a long time. We rounded Purcell point and found slightly less chop on the water but an obligatory diagonal take off which took much longer for the aircraft to achieve lift off the water. I can tell you I never felt such great relief as when those pontoons cleared the water.

But we were not quite done.

As we flew into The Spit at Campbell River, where the seaplanes land, some foolish yob in a small boat was in the landing zone. Over the loud hailer the pilot gave full vent to his fear with major spleen...
" GET THE F*#K OUT OF THE WAY " he came in for his final approach. You never saw a boat move so fast. I think that fisherman figgered he was gonna be torn a new arsehole by a Beaver if he didn't skedaddle.


Dec 3, 2008 - 05:36pm PT

Tami is a great writer.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Dec 27, 2008 - 08:49pm PT
I second those sentiments.....Great story. A crisp change of clothes in froggy weather can be miraculous.

I spent a lot of time in Salt Lake City in the early eighties skiing and came to know about the sacred undergarments that local piety required from the faithful. I was so taken with the whole concept that a sacred undergarment party ensued the very next weekend with next to nude mandatory. A fine hedonistic time was had by all!

Social climber
Vancouver, Canada
Topic Author's Reply - Dec 27, 2008 - 10:04pm PT
Many thanks to MH2 and Steve for your kind words. Apologies to MH2 for takin' so dang long in responding. December was NUTTY. And it HAZZNT STOPPED being nutty.

Dec 27, 2008 - 10:14pm PT

Tami is a nice apologizer for apologizing for not responding to a simple declarative sentence.

If I had a time machine I would use it to skip past parts of December.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Oct 29, 2009 - 10:16pm PT
Tami Bump!

Trad climber
Canoga Bark! CA
Oct 29, 2009 - 10:49pm PT
When I was growing up in the PNW, we all wore the wool "union suits".

Mine were gray, though....
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Oct 29, 2009 - 10:52pm PT
After all this, still no photo of the red underwear, with or without their seasonal occupant.

Trad climber
Canoga Bark! CA
Oct 29, 2009 - 10:55pm PT
Is this it?

No, wait. Dammit!
Mighty Hiker

Vancouver, B.C. Small wall climber.
Oct 29, 2009 - 11:21pm PT
Success! Including photos of the aforementioned unmentionables.

Trad climber
Oct 29, 2009 - 11:27pm PT
Using my trusty 2-cup cup I kept bailing

that's good stuff.

Ice climber
Oct 30, 2009 - 12:05am PT
Why are there so many threads mentioning Tami's underwear??

Very nice writing, Tami!! Now how about some cartoons, eh?

Captain...or Skully

Social climber
Idaho, also. Sorta, kinda mostly, Yeah.
Oct 30, 2009 - 12:15am PT
They're Ghost's Utterly Fantastic Red Underwears, Dammit!
It's in the Title.

There were some pics, somewhere.........

Ah, There it is!

Trad climber
Canoga Bark! CA
Oct 30, 2009 - 01:28am PT
I was wrong - that's no union suit!


Social climber
Vancouver, Canada
Topic Author's Reply - Oct 30, 2009 - 02:48am PT
You fekkers want my cartoons you gotta buy my books !!! HAHAAH !!!!!

My UNION SUIT was , ahhh, WHITE.........until it was NO LONGER WHITE but a lighter shade of pale.... :-D



Trad climber
sorry, just posting out loud.
Oct 30, 2009 - 03:38am PT
already did, trying to replace my old book. hasn't arrived yet. frickin amazon.

holy crap, those are really red Ghost.
Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
Oct 30, 2009 - 02:07pm PT
A bit of PH obscurity to match the aforementioned coloration...

If music be the food of love
then laughter is its queen
and likewise if behind is in front
then dirt in truth is clean
My mouth by then like cardboard
seemed to slip straight through my head
So we crash-dived straightway quickly
and attacked the ocean bed

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