Trip Report
Lost To The Sea, by Disaster Master
Thursday November 25, 2010 8:38pm
Lost to the Sea
Paul Humphrey
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Credit: Disaster Master
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The ocean is a monster. It waits, then rises up and scrapes away everything in its reach. It does not discriminate. Around here, the sea's grasp is particularly harsh, dominated by strong undertows and riptides. Every so often a “rogue wave” will sneak through the breakers, seemingly out of nowhere. These
large waves can carry old growth logs to the rear of the beach in an instant(or grab and take objects out just as massive) all in the span of seconds.

This beach was new to myself and my friends. I had stumbled onto access for it only a short time before.
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Credit: Disaster Master
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The locals and native people, it was clear, had been coming here for a long, long while. Along the shorewere scattered giant boulders, cleaned and solid from their interaction with the sea. I called them Found Rocks, and they were gems to us. Above the beach loomed a gray sandstone spire. This was Oregos, the Yurok god of fishing. It was the spirit in this spire that controlled the flow of salmon and eels into the Klamath river's mouth beside us. It could have held a couple good sport routes too, but I make it a habit not to climb on people's gods.
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Credit: Disaster Master
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Below Oregos's flanks local tribal members stood spread out on the shore, perhaps five or six in all. They held homemade gaffs; hooked spears. All were studying the wash before them. Suddenly one gave a call, and the rest responded and rushed into the shallows. They were after something, but what? The youngest
let out a whoop and twirled his gaff over his head. Impaled at the end was a three foot eel, still writhing as the eel-er placed it in a bag on the shore. That was wild!

What a magical place. We lost track of time as we unlocked the secrets of unknown boulder problems. These really were problems, difficult, and we were often completely engrossed. A few times we were nearly drenched when a sneaker wave would ride up behind us. We'd grab the pads and sprint inland. It seemed like a game of tag and the worst we got were wet ankles.

We must have seemed strange to the eel-ers as well, a small mob of boulderers with giant squares of foam strapped to our backs. We roamed the beach, ignoring the sea as we stared at the boulders, conjuring lines.

There was a lot to look for. Each stone lump seemed made from different types of rock. One was sandstone, the next chert, another mostly serpentine. Even the largest, over 25 feet high, had driftwood logs on top of it. We spoke of how Adam had lost his slippers near this place, grabbed by the sea in an instant.
Myself and Sean Leary were surprised once when we suddenly found ourselves in three feet of water one day near here.
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Credit: Disaster Master
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A rogue wave caught us by surprise and nearly swept our packs out. This beach was not always hospitable.

I heard shouting. I looked towards the river's mouth and saw an eel-er running towards me, gaff in hand, waving his arms above his head. What the hell? “Eel-er in the water! One of our eel-ers is in the water!” he shouted. “Oh, sh#t, do you see him? He's wearing a blue coat.”

I looked out to sea and saw no sign. “Where did he go in?” My adrenaline was raging.

“Down there by the river's mouth, at the point of the south spit.”

I looked again. The river was pushing hard out to sea that day. To make things worse the surf was coming at the mouth diagonally, while the wind blew in a third direction. This created a huge zone of what kayakers call “funny water”. There's nothing funny about it. Currents swirl and dive, and there seems no way to tell where someone submerged might surface.
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Credit: Disaster Master
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I called to my friends. “Hey, a fisher got swept out! Get up on the boulders for a better view. He's wearing blue."

The eel-er besides me was grateful. “Thanks, man. He went under five or ten minutes ago. We've called the Coast Guard.” He paused for another look out to sea. “We haven't seen him surface. I don't think he's with us anymore but I need to take him home, man. I need to get him to his family.”

This was heavy. Everyone on the beach now faced west, hands cupped over our eyes to cut the glare. I tried to be methodical in my search, moving my gaze slowly from the outside surf in towards the beach. This ocean was alive with seals and sea lions. They swam and fed in the same area we were searching, totally at ease with such harsh waters. I mistook one for the lost man several times, and my heart would leap to my throat. But it was always a seal. I saw no blue jacket. An osprey dived into the ocean in front of me, emerging into the air again with a salmon in its claws. That wet world was not for humans.

I looked up and down the beach. My friend Adam was running north, in case the man had been carried that way. Andre and Kopovi searched from the tops of other boulders. No luck, though.

After what seemed far too long, the Coast Guard helicopter arrived. Its familiar orange shape dived low over the breakers. Back and forth it swept, crewmen peering from the side door. Twice the rescue swimmer was lowered to the surface on his thin cable. Each time though, what they thought might be the eel-er was a broken buoy or net float. We could do nothing else. We packed up and left, passing more rescuers on the trail out. The ocean had slapped everyone on that beach in the face with a dousing of harsh reality...

The sea is a mirror, a placid reflecting pool with just enough surf to please the ears. It is almost inviting.
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Credit: Disaster Master
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Not a cloud in the sky either. This was a day to set your soul free. Two weeks had passed and the crew was wandering Lost Rocks, the first place I ever climbed. Chunk after hunk of polished sandstone stretched out of sight down the beach. The energy of the group was contagious. Half had never been here before and babbled as they ran from rock to rock.

Kopovi and Adam were with us too. They had helped in the search for the lost man. Unfortunately, his body had still not been recovered. We had learned that his grown son had been swept out as well, but managed to regain the shore. What a different day that had been...

I let my mind relax and tripped out on the details. Landslides in the sand, little crabs near the breakers, and new problems. The sand level can fluctuate up to 20 feet here in places, so each trip is a new one.
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Credit: Disaster Master
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How humbling. What a day. I laughed so much my cheeks ached.

Lost Rocks inspires odd behavior. Boulderers (often nude), trippers, stoners, and natives are most likely to be encountered. Even the tourists who find their way here seem to finally loosen up. Today was no exception, especially for Adam and me. We climbed in a fury, only half conscious of the passing time and the individual moves. We were lost completely in the magic.

Sometimes we were too lost. At one point I was about to make a committing dyno 10 feet up a beautiful triangle of sandstone. Adam and Kopovi were supposedly spotting me. Unfortunately, Adam was too far gone then to be of much help. And Kopovi was distracted by the arrival of a blonde female boulderer on the scene. I threw, exploded off and landed flat on my back, surrounded by my “spotters”. At least the sand was soft.
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Credit: Disaster Master
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Eventually the fog came in. Our arms had faded into satisfied coals. I felt made of rubber as we trekked out along the surf. The beach was not finished giving up surprises though. At one inlet, a sandal had washed up on shore. It was filled with the most amazing creatures. They were sea worms as long as your
fingers, with white, red-rimmed shells for heads. The strange creatures had grown all through the straps of the sandal, over 30 in all. Lost at sea, they floated about on their private ship, the SS Tommy Hilfiker. Absolutely amazed, we continued on, charged by this unusual beauty...
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Credit: Disaster Master
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Have you ever been in a car crash? cruising along, great song on the radio. Then BANG! Instant mood change. Instant downer. That's what it felt like when we came to the next rocky point. On a boulder facing the ocean someone had painted bright blue graffiti. “Alt H. 2000.” It had not been there in the morning. Beside the rock was a paint can that must have washed up that day. The jerk had forgotten his rain pants as well. It seemed like a case of opportunistic vandalism.

We were enraged. We grabbed rocks and scraped at the paint with no results. So we heaped sand on it and piled rocks on top of that. Who did this? We thought we had seen everyone on the beach that day. The only suspicious one was some loner who kept riding up and down the beach on his ATV. We usually don't see those on the beach. We took the paint can and set off to see if we could find the culprit. This place and day had seemed almost sacred. This Ass had defiled the temple.

At the far end of the beach, near the river, we noticed some tents going up. The ATV tracks led there as well. We wondered aloud what the heck was going on here? As we neared the tents we saw children, some native, some not, playing tag, a BBQ grill and lots of folding chairs.

I approached an older woman. “Hi there. Sorry to intrude, but someone graffiti-ed a rock down the beach today. It really bummed us out. We were wondering if you might have seen anything suspicious.”

To my surprise the lady laughed. She turned to a thirty-something man beside her. “Did you write on that rock?” she asked in a lighthearted way,her voice reflecting a lifetime of cigarettes.

“Yea,” he replied. This was the ATV rider. He looked at me as if I was intruding. I wasn't sure how to respond.

“Are you folks having a reunion or something?” I asked.

“We're preparing for a funeral,” she said.

“For the fisherman who was swept out?” I guessed.

The rider turned to me. “Yea, that was my Father, that's his name I painted over there.” He looked on the verge of anger or tears. “I was the other one who got swept out.”

It was if we had been hit with psychic rockfall. I was blown away. His dad and the blue jacket went out to sea, and blue paint came back instead. He had seen it as a sign to make a memorial. Those were probably his father's pants beside the writing. This was not the vandal we had been expecting. This was a man in pain. I took a deep breath and pointed at my friends. “Me, Kopovi and Adam here were across the river that day. We helped look for your dad. We're all sorry he's gone.”

The man's eyes glazed over. “That's f*#ked up,” he whispered, lowering his head.

“We'll leave you be, man,” I said.

We walked up the winding road behind the beach, staggered by the past few weeks experiences. We could see the man below us sobbing against a boulder. Such great sorrow. What do you say to that? Some things come full circle and some remain unresolved.
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Paul Humphrey in The Pit Of Dispare, Lost Rocks, Klamath, CA
Paul Humphrey in The Pit Of Dispare, Lost Rocks, Klamath, CA
Credit: Disaster Master
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We had parked on the shoulder of the hill above the river and the beach. My starter was out, so we could push start it there. Behind where we parked is a white metal cross, a memorial to unknown others. I placed the blue paint can there. Too bad he did not put his Father's name here instead, I thought. Then again, in grief I may have done the same. There, near that cross, we spoke our own memorial to the lost man.

As we did I looked west. Past the cross, through a break in the flowering azaleas, I could see the funeral party. The tents were up, the kids still played, and the sea was glass. The late light had just turned golden. To the north, the mouth of the river emptied into the sea near where the eel-er was washed away. In the same space we searched weeks before, a pod of whales was playing, leaping from the sea; making their own memorial and celebrating Life.

  Trip Report Views: 7,367
Disaster Master
About the Author
Paul Humphrey is now fighting stage IV Melanoma, a deadly cancer. More of his story to come...

To follow Paul's curent disaster go to

For poetry:

Disaster Master

Social climber
Born in So-Cal, left my soul in far Nor-Cal.
Author's Reply  Nov 25, 2010 - 08:43pm PT
I wrote this back at the turn of the century. It was published in a slightly different form in "Wild Humboldt Magazine".


Boulder climber
Andy Cairns
  Nov 25, 2010 - 09:36pm PT
Wild for sure. Thanks.

  Nov 25, 2010 - 09:54pm PT
Beautiful and moving story.

Trad climber
Hustle City
  Nov 26, 2010 - 12:14pm PT
Thank you for posting. Good luck!

Trad climber
Nothing creative to say
  Nov 26, 2010 - 12:42pm PT
Ezra Ellis

Trad climber
North wet, and Da souf
  Nov 26, 2010 - 02:21pm PT
Great story Paul, thanks for posting up!
Toker Villain

Big Wall climber
Toquerville, Utah
  Nov 26, 2010 - 02:46pm PT
Makes you think,..

ß Î Ř T Ç H

Boulder climber
  Nov 26, 2010 - 04:13pm PT
"The boulderer's task is to worship at the alter of essence, to pursue with monastic devotion that single goal..." (John Gill)

Trad climber
Santa Clara, CA
  Nov 27, 2010 - 12:25pm PT
Nice write up. Thanks.

from out where the anecdotes roam
  Nov 28, 2010 - 10:55am PT
"Our arms had faded into satisfied coals." just great, the contributions you make here, DM.

touched some personal memories, having been a boulderer in shelter cove the year after a dc-3 crashed into the rocky surf off the end of the runway there.

the community was still shaken by the rescue and recovery efforts, the ghosts remained.,-ca-airliner-crashes-along-coast,-june-1971

also a GF and i got sloshed out of a cave by a rogue wave south of the cove. low sand condition revealed the cave that season, and it was well above the reach of the ocean at that tide level. luckily it ended well for us, and felt like our little fest had been in some sense annointed but also pretty humbling and a good lesson about the power of the sea.
Tony Bird

Northridge, CA
  Nov 28, 2010 - 11:12am PT
I make it a habit not to climb on people's gods.

good habit, paul.

did some beachcombing in that area last summer--impressive place, strange moods. thanks for explaining some of it.

Trad climber
washington indiana
  Nov 28, 2010 - 12:30pm PT
Good Stuff. Hope you are still writing as you have a great gift for expressing your feelings in the written word. Best wishes.

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  May 13, 2011 - 02:16pm PT
Thinking of you, Paul.

Social climber
  May 13, 2011 - 03:48pm PT
Paul, I really enjoyed reading your story. It touched me in several different ways having been a local at Pistol River on the southern Oregon coast.
I have first hand experience bouldering the rocks and sea stacks along that rugged coastline.
More often than not my beach bouldering sessions were solitary with out a spot or even a pad.
The tone of the story echoed respect and reverence for each of the elements that comprised the tragic and very emotional event.
The comradiery between you and your friends, the pain and despair of a son's loss of his father,the native fishing culture,and most of all the omnipotence of the ocean.


Trad climber
cesspool central
  May 13, 2011 - 03:51pm PT el-eeler

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Jul 30, 2011 - 09:53pm PT
Thank you. Your life and Supertopo posts are a memorial to the celebration of life.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
  Jul 31, 2011 - 12:39am PT
You finally achieved weightlessness...

Trad climber
Santa Cruz
  Jul 31, 2011 - 01:44am PT
How does one even begin to capture what this man was all about? Gawd I miss him. Susan

Trad climber
  Jul 15, 2014 - 06:57pm PT

Steve Grossman

Trad climber
Seattle, WA
  Jul 15, 2014 - 07:48pm PT
Nice find amyjo!

I hope that it is nothing but on-sights and boat drinks wherever Paul is...Indelible ST character. And his Balls are still in your hands! LOL


Trad climber
Montuckyian Via Canada Eh!
  Jul 15, 2014 - 08:06pm PT
Coool....Thanx for sharing...


Boulder, CO
  Jul 15, 2014 - 11:05pm PT
I have a copy of the Wild Humboldt Magazine with this story that Paul and Eric sent me.

And yes... his balls are still in my hands. And on some rock in Vedawoo.

And Gym lives on.

miss you bro...

Social climber
Wolf City, Wyoming
  Jul 16, 2014 - 08:54am PT
I'd missed this one.
So evocative.
Thanks for all the bumps leading to today. And thanks to Paul for his and all the rest.

Time to find some dry roof boulders here in rainy vedauwoo and spread some Blitzo ash magic....

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  Jun 9, 2015 - 07:11pm PT
Another favorite.

Social climber
humboldt nation
  Jun 9, 2015 - 08:14pm PT
thanks paul, i miss you bro

Trad climber
The Illuminati -- S.P.E.C.T.R.E. Division
  May 29, 2019 - 11:43pm PT
Worth a read.
SC seagoat

Trad climber
Santa Cruz, Moab, Bozeman, the ocean, or ?
  May 30, 2019 - 05:36am PT
Worth a read....oh indeed.