Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Back to the Begining

Well, it is another sleepless night of fighting off leg cramps. I actually went to see a doctor today. Over the past few weeks my leg cramps have grown progressively worse. Yesterday, they were almost constant. I searched the web for ideas and tried everything including chocolate milk, dill pickle juice, bananas, stretching, Ibuprofen, vigorously beating the offending muscle, gently massaging the offending muscle, gatoraid, ice, and heat. For the record, heat was the only thing that seemed to work. I think Molly was finally fed up with me jumping out of bed, hollering and beating my thigh every 20 minutes so she scheduled an appointment. I explained to the Dr my symptoms and his actual response was to shrug. For good measure they took some blood. I suppose there is a price to pay for living "hard and fast", not that I am very fast. The doctor helped me to see the (obvious) answer to my pain. Park it on the couch for a few days. Easy for some, but hard for me.

So, tonight as I tried to force my self to sleep I started thinking back. While wandering down my foggy memory lane I realized that I probably had some pictures somewhere that needed to be put out on the internet. Couple that with my new found addiction to blogging and here we are.

When thinking back over our adventures one thing that strikes me is the number of failures we've been through, and I don't mean that in a negative way. People tend to see failure as a very negative thing. These people don't hang out with me very long. I have found that my addiction is adventure. Adventure, by its very nature, is laced with failure. I mean like 85% failure rate. I find that failure is what makes success sweet. Which brings me to a story....

In 2003 I discovered (through the internet) a mountain called Pingora. This thing is a beautiful tower of white granite that can only be summited via a technical route (ie you need rope, harnesses, etc). The name is Shoshone for a "high and inaccessible place". If that wasn't enough, it is buried in the middle of the Wind River mountains. It is situated in the center of a circle of granite spires, aptly called the Cirque of Towers. To even get into the cirque you have to hike 8 miles one way, crossing Jackass pass (I have seen on the internet that it is called that because that is the only person that would cross it). The first 5 miles are relatively easy until you reach Big Sandy Lake. The last 3 are a grueling trudge with massive elevation gain. To make it even more remote, one must drive 40 miles of rough dirt road to even get to the trail head. And the dirt road starts about 70 miles from the nearest major town. Oh, and its bear country. To a young, Iowa climber with no backpacking experience and a relentless addiction to adventure, this was irresistible.

On July 26, 2003 the plan was set into motion. Molly and I found ourselves bumping our little Corolla down the 40 miles of wash boarded roads to the trailhead. The plan was to camp out at the TH and then head in the next day. We figured we could bust out 8 miles in a day, climb Pingora on day 2 and head out on day 3. Oh, where we in for a cruel surprise.

Here is a shot of us on the road. You can see the mountains we were headed for in the background.

After a restless night of sleeping (we were not used to sleeping in bear country) we packed the bags and prepped for glory. One of the first things we noticed was the incredible amount of mosquitoes. Of course, I convinced myself that the mosquitoes were simply attracted to the cars and as soon as we leave the TH we would leave the mosquitoes. Molly was not convinced but I had the keys.

We packed the pack with everything we had. We were set for anything. I think we even had down jackets. While this approach follows the boy scout motto of "be prepared", it does have a downside... very heavy packs. Now, most seasoned backpackers will have a story about how crazy heavy their bags were on their first trip but I think we have most of them beat because this was not only our first backpack trip but also our first serious alpine climb attempt. So we had ropes, cams, biners, stoppers, etc. Furthermore, being a somewhat chicken climber, I packed plenty of climbing gear.

Here is a pic of Molly posing between the packs. Note the mosquito net and, of course, the smile. I think she is starting to realize what my plan really means.

So we shouldered our pack and set off. Another bad sign was that we had to help each other lift our packs to get them on. Word to the wise, if a pack feels heavy when you start your 8 mile up-hill walk, you are in trouble. Here is Molly on the trail. Note that my theory on the mosquitoes doesn't seem to be holding.

So the trudging began.

After a bit we reached a nice meadow with a beautiful stream. I was sure we had gone at least halfway to Big Sandy. Afterall it is only 5 miles. I checked the map. According to it we hadn't even gone 0.5 miles yet. I somehow convinced myself that the map was wrong. Here I am before checking the map.

We stopped for a drink and a snack. We watched fish in the river and took picures of the flowers. We pretty much did everything we could to avoid putting our packs back on. Eventually though, we had to. And off we went. We walked and walked while the mosquitoes bit and bit. At one point I collapes onto a log and was immediately swarmed. I decided to try a little experiment. For one minute I killed only the mosquitoes that landed on my water bottle. Here was the result

We kept walking. After a while my hips started bleeding from my pack but we kept walking. Later a friend used a saying that seems to describe that walk. "It was like I died but they wouldn't let me." I think it took us over 8 hours to walk the 5 "easy" miles to Big Sandy lake. I vividly remember collapsing on the banks of Big Sandy. I was done. Full on bonk. If it wasn't for Molly, I probably could of died. Fortunately, she had enough juice left to cook up a warm dinner.

That day I felt the sting of failure in a physical way that I had never experienced before. I had pushed to my physical brink and yet we were supposed to do 8 miles that day but only did the 5 easy ones. I wanted to hike out the next day but my hips and feet were too sore to let me carry a pack. We talked of abandoning our gear or stashing it and coming back later. This is the price for adventure.

It took two day for my hips to recover enough to let me wear a pack again. But in those two days I found the things that really talk to my soul. Things like hand washing dishes in an icy mountain river

The joy of living simply and quietly with my wife

How much I miss a warm shower

or a bathroom with no mosquitoes

How good a Slim Jim can taste

But most importantly the joy of a difficult dream. The day before we headed out, we started up toward Jackass pass with just daypacks and I got to see Pingora.

It was still more than 3 hard miles away but that was as close as I got on that trip.

The hike out was not as bad as the hike in but was still rough. I think it only took 5 hours.

This is the first year (2008) that I have not been back to the Wind River mountains. We have headed in there 5 times now with the intent to climb Pingora and I have yet to even touch it. But the dream still lives! I am already planning our 2009 trip, just don't tell Molly.

Here are some random pics of that 2003 trip.

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