Trip Report, Sept 30th, 2002, 3:30pm
Filed by Cletus, on behalf of Cletus and Gapertimmy
First, let me say that the rumors of our deaths have been greatly exaggerated. Although we did certainly have a few close calls, we are now back in the relative safety of our respective workplace environments (read: cubes), both shaken, but victorious. Let me briefly outline what began as two cascadesprayers’ simple goal of getting fresh tracks and turns in the 4-5 inches of new snow that had fallen on mighty Mt.Bachelor in the last 24 hours, but became an epic struggle between man and nature; a story of trials and tribulations, joy and sorrow, tragedy and triumph, riesling and horsecock.
It began with a post on cc.com, that strange purgatory for TPS-bound climbers, overactive sprayers, habitual chestbeaters, and northwest wankers alike.
Muthu feggin freshies!!, said gapertimmy.
Reports of many inches of fresh white pow filtered in, and was greeted first by disbelief by the denizens of this virtual plabfest, then followed slowly by acceptance, and finally, inspiration.
I put the word out to Gapertimmy – gather your gear and prepare to climb this beast! “Would it go?” he asked? “Yes, today, the mountain will go.”
I raced to grab my equipment, hoping desperately that I would not forgot any essential tool that we might need to overcome the challenges that lay ahead. Expedition weight down parka, harness, 30m 8mm super dry rope, axe, helmet, full avy gear – peep, probe, shovel, etc, crampons, and more, all went flying into my bag. My breath came quickly, in anticipation of the rarefied atmosphere that we would be heading into. Supplemental oxygen? No, this time, we’re doing it the right way.
In no time at all, we were standing at the base of the fearsome Northwest route. 5 inches of fresh had fallen in the last 24 hours, making for a varied and questionable snowpack. We knew it had been warm the day before, and with such a thin snowpack, the gradient was off the charts. We put ourselves on high avie alert. Tim, being the staunch traditionalist and hardman of the expedition, went without crampons - relying instead on his natural dexterity and skills honed during many attempts on Black Butte, the Cinder Cone, Pilot Butte, and the other top climbs in the area. Being new to the region, I chose to play it more conservatively, and promptly strapped on my points at the base.
Anticipation was high, and even though the wind suddenly picked up to gale force at this point, we were both thrilled to be given the chance to try our strength against this famous testpiece.
As the winds began to really howl around us, creating major snow transport and further destabilizing the already overloaded snowpack, we went over the route again, now fully cognizant of the dangers that lay in front of us. After much deliberating and some contentious debate, we decided to mount a full frontal attack on the north facing “Bunny Col” (aptly named as such for the hugely deceptive slope which often lulls climbers into a false sense of security and then hurtles them down mercilessly against the jagged rabbit-tooth shaped rocks at the base of the pitch), before proceeding to our high point on the far side of the “Butter-Knife” traverse, which required delicate 5.2c A0+ moves on an exposed fin of rotten, chossy rock peculiar to the dark side of the cone.
We headed up directly on our line, but with the now hurricane-force winds battering us back at every step, it was slow going. The wind blew in all directions, violently exposing us to the infamous weather that this mountain is so…infamous…for. I appear to have stuck myself to…myself.
Before we knew it, we were badly disoriented and quite off course. We struggled forward for what seemed like hours more, but were soon brought to a halt by the ever-steeping pitch and fierce downslope winds that sprang up at that increased elevation.
Weary and beaten, we huddled together for a moment to regroup. My right leg was now fully numb from the bitter cold, and Tim’s left hand had been the unfortunate recipient of one of my crampon points during his valient, life-saving grab of my outstretched foot as I slid by and nearly plummeted to my death over a cliff-band below. We needed fuel. “Horsecock…” Tim croaked. Right. I reached into my pack, and then realized what had been forgotten in my haste. NO! A more horrible fate than this I could not imagine. Stuck in the death zone, at 6000 feet, slowly freezing, and with no HC to warm our bellies for that long sleep that comes eventually to all climbers. I had meant to bring a nice riesling as well to celebrate our summit, but had forgotten even this last amenity.
We sat for an eternity there, just below the summit. And then, just as we were prepared to give it all up, we heard it. Whuck whuck whuck whuck…the unmistakable sound of an A-star heli, flying through hell itself to air drop a package of Horsecock in our hour of need! When we hadn’t checked in from the summit via my cell phone, Tim’s wife must have realized that we had been pinned down, and had sent help.
Incredibly, the drop was successful, and having been recharged, we battled our way to the top.
If he wasn’t married, I would have kissed Gapertimmy out of pure joy. Oh, who are we kidding? We made out like it was prom night in the back of my VW bug.
But the inclement weather necessitated a short stay on the summit, so we clicked in and began our descent. Tim, breaking from his traditional climbing style, straightlined the face, laying down some nasty new school 11s in the fresh pow pow, dood. I followed close behind, finding the pitch and deep snow quite harrowing. I nearly lost it once as I rocketed off a small windlip and over a gaping crevasse. Considering that we were in the no-fall zone, I was lucky to be able to recover in time.
In the end, we made it down to our base camp without major injury. We then called in the heli-lift for pickup, since my entire lower body was at this point numb and Tim’s left arm had gangreened to the elbow and would likely have to be amputated. But miraculously, we have both since recovered full use of our extremities. It was a fortunate day indeed.
And that’s where I’ll leave it for now. If anyone wants more details, we’ll happy to discuss over a couple of beers here in town. I owe Timmy a lifetime of brews for saving me, so if you’re ever in town, please do let us know so I can begin to repay my debt.
Until next time, and humbly yours,