Sobo posted a message today that made me realize that I had once joined him for an afternoon of ice climbing when he was up north about 10 years ago. I've climbed with a lot of random people over the years; most of whom I've forgotten and probably wouldn't recognize - however for some reason certain encounters stand out.
Climbing with sobo was memorable for 2 reason... We climbed well into the dark and upon topping out on the second climb (Ripple - a classic mellow ice route that forms fat and sticky every year from October - March) I turned around and saw the comet Hale-bop glowing on the horizon above the canyon wall. It was a beautiful sight -- the stars glowing bright and this huge burning comet right in front of me. I think of the comet everytime I climb Ripple (which is at least a few times / season)... and only many occasions I've sat at the belay anchors and described the sight to various climbing partners.
The second reason it was memorable was because sobo had a space blanket taped inside his helmet and when I asked him why he told me a long story about a forced bivy on some Cascade wall. I went home and taped my own space blanket inside my helmet and lo and behold a few years later found myself stuck on a route well after dark. It was cold as shit and after we dug a little ledge in the snow I pulled off my helmet and with pride showed my partner the space blanket that was still taped inside.
Apart from sobo I've experienced a couple other memorable climbs with random people - including a rather frightening experience where some random guy whom I had never met till that morning (I called a random number posted on a bulletin board) decided to solo an ice route. Half way up his pick broke and he hung on one tool freaking out and screaming obscenities for 15 minutes until he got up the nerve to downclimb to a ledge where he could replace his pick and finish his solo. All the while I was standing at the base mentally preparing myself to watch a guy fall 100' to his death.
Random climbing partners are kind of like one night stands... if the climbing or company was good then you'll have a clear recollection. Likewise if the climbing or company really sucked you'll remember the story for years!
Any good stories out there about random people you've met and climbed with???
So Top 3 Bad Partner Stories:
1. My Own Mistake
A partner of mine gave his buddy my number and told him I was generally down to get down in the backcountry. This poor guy called me way....way after sober thirty asking if I wanted to skiing near lolo pass the next day. My response..."Hell yeah I wanna go shkiing, why not get an early start at it, pick me up at 6am." Just to make sure I wouldn't forget I set an alarm then and there. God knows when I got home that night but in those days I was catching the occasional sunrise.
This part is a bit hazy, I was totally blacked out, but this is what I've gathered. I was awake and packed when he got there. However I forgot my goggles, gloves, shell, water food, basically everything except my headlamp little first aid kit and knife I always left in the top of my pack. I was ravenous and made him pullover so I could get a delicious gas station breakfast sammy (you'll hear more about this later, it came back). We were the first car in the parking lot and made great time over the first ridge.
After topping out on the top of second I needed a nap. He agreed to do a run and come back up and wake me up. I threw down my skis pulled the hood to my DAS over my head and passed out. Well before said partner made it back up another party found me and they must have thought I was dead because they went WFR on me (not it full ppe) I think they were a little let down because like most nonresponsive patients I was just tanked.
Well I came to, we did a few more runs, built a booter and headed home. It was 5 or 6 at night when my hangover decided to walup me. I was doubled over after a full day of skiing on the side of the road barf blasting the asphalt.
We did partner up again and of course I was sober, but I have met other climber skiers that have actually heard this story and it was told in good light. I would never do that do that to a partner without being in the condition I was in. So let this be a lesson. DON"T MAKE PLANS WITH SOMEONE YOU DON"T KNOW IF THEY ARE HAMMERED!
2. The Lonely Marine
I went to Red Rocks with a guy that was super motivated, somewhat in experienced but a good guy. It ended up being a sport climbing trip, but the prize is in the puddin. I awoke to heavy breathing in our two man tent. After a seconds awareness I realized he was rubbin one out. So I made every conceivable "hey I am waking up sound." It didn't work, he just kept after it, so I finally piped up and shot out a laundry list of profanities then got out of the tent and slept in the dirt. We don't together anymore.
3. Headwound Hippie
A dear friend of mine had a tragic ground fall that resulted in some brain damage. At least that is the excuse use to describe Nick behavior. Nick is 6' 5" manimal. You can smell him from a block away, he lived in the woods, and had/has a pretty organic view of the world. Anyone that has met him has at least 10 Nick stories. After my first Nick experience I swore I would never tie in with him again..... I was wrong.
We shuttled from the Tokositna to the Kahiltna to meet some friends on the Buttress. My partner was going to climb with his wife and I was going to climb with our friend Mike. At BC we learned that Nick's partner hadn't showed up and he was now soloing. He had taken off the day before. All the way to 14 camp we found Nick Artifacts, you know the things he didn't think he would need like his skis, his shovel (borrowed), his saw (also borrowed), and his rope. and rather than bury them he just threw them on the side of the trail and put a wand next to them.
We found Nick at 14 recovering from some mild AMS. He had almost made it to 17, 3 days after leaving BC, and coming in from sea level. his reasoning. He reasoning, he brought 12lbs of various grains and that is it for food. He bought and I tent and a -35 degree feathered friends bag but didn't have money for anything else. He was wearing a 1960 drab green arctic suit with a white fake fur collar and bunny boots. Somehow he ended up climbing with us and eventually short-roped to me. At 17 camp I awoke to a pooping sound. Upon further investigation I discovered Nick sitting on his CMC dropping a bomb.....while cooking breakfast right outside his tent.
Then on summit day I led and broke trail avoiding the autobaun to Denali pass. I was rope to Mike then Nick and the weather was such that once we got around the pass the visibility wasn't so great and the wind was blowing so hard that I was only able to communicate with Mike. We summited in a lenticular and it was on the summit that finally saw how messed up Nick was. He sat down around 19,500 or somewhere near the bottom of pig hill and was done moving on his own. So helped him along for a while, then had to load his 6'5" frame on my 5'9" stick figure and carry him back to the fixed lines that we would now have to use.
Thank god we ran into some other people that helped us get him back to 17 camp, because after breaking all that trail and then Carrying his huge ass down 1500ft I was beat and Mike and I probably wouldn't have been able to safely get him down.