Posts Tagged ‘Wind’

After Mt. Gladwish, we all ran a bit low on energy and opted for a half day follow-up.  We did the usual, split into two groups and hiked further up the never-ending valley for a few more kilometers until the last hut, aptly named “Top Hut.”  From there, an optional day hike went further up the dense forest without a track.

Due to decreasing energy levels, James was the only one who went up with Christian for a few hours while the rest of us, lounged about, cooked, baked, read, slept.  Andy whipped out his super coffee maker fancy thing that impressed everyone–even the non-coffee drinkers.  The sun shone and we relaxed!

The next day was not quite so relaxing.  Our two groups decided to go slightly different routes to get to the same place.  One group went further up the valley then cut up a shoulder onto the ridge and the other group cut up first, then followed the ridge.  According to our plan, we would meet up somewhere along the ridge, follow the ridge a ways, then drop down the other side to a small tarn (alpine lake) before dropping all the way into the Ahiriri Valley which would be the next day.

They were not kidding when they mentioned immediately going up a steep shoulder.  It started out in a beautiful beech forest where the ground had so many decomposed leaves, it cupped your feet and cushioned them as they pushed us upward.  A track kind of existed with a few orange markers here or there, but it seemed more like a small maze of herd paths through large amounts of slippery tussock grass once we got above the beech trees.  Now, that grass is fine to go up on, but will put you on your ass at least once or twice descending.

The weather seemed to hold through the morning, but as we went up toward the ridge, the cloud cover grew greater and threatened unpleasantness.  The ridge was magnificent with views into each valley and the surrounding mountain tops blanketed in glaciers.  That is, until we lost visibility.  We could see a decent distance, but not much would help us; lucky for us, we took bearings when we noticed the rapid visibility decrease.  It was also pretty easy just following the ridge because all we had to do was not go off of it, making sure it went down on either side.  We did have enough visibility to see about 100 feet in front of us and about the same down either side.

Wind began to whip us and the gortex made its show.  As along as we kept moving we stayed warm as it tried to rain a few times.  Eventually, we saw the tarn and headed down off the ridge carefully through the freshly slick tussock and snow grass caked with prickly matagouri and spaniards.

When we got to the tarn, the camping looked interesting to say the least.  James and I began setting up the tarp between two large boulders, low to the ground with only sitting head room, while the others set up tents over very large bunches of snow grass.  It proved for an interesting sleep as we attempted to form ourselves around the awkward lumps.

We set up an area to didymo, which has been contaminating the water systems in New Zealand.  Between watersheds, the DOC (Department of Conservation) has asked hikers to wash their boots in a salt water solution which kills it off.

With energy running low and not much food left in the ration, we took a day off by the tarn doing first aid classes and the like.  A few people ran back up the ridge to explore a bit in the afternoon, but otherwise, we lounged about, gave Kyle another haircut, and played rummy.

The evening displayed our best “last night stew” abilities.  We divided ourselves into teams after we pooled all our remaining food besides a tid bit for breakfast.  One group made pasta pasta pasta led by Ryan, Haley made stew with all the random things left, and I made a heaping cornbread.  Then we divided everything up between ourselves and for once, everyone was almost full.

In the morning, the weather cleared up for the most part and we headed downhill about 800 meters to get to the base of the Ahuriri valley and find excellent campsites in a beech forest at the bottom.

The route seemed easy enough on the map, but we picked a slightly different ridge to descend without realizing it.  Instead of hiking back up, we decided to make do although we definitely ran into problems near one gully which dropped into a 30 foot cliff and we had to hike up a bit anyway, but we made it down in one piece to see the clouds make crazy ridiculous shapes across the sky.  I think New Zealand gets the crazy clouds award.

While making camp, we got to make a wish on 11:11 on November the 11th, 2011.  All of us set various alarms so none of us missed it.

After setting up camp, we walked back about 15 minutes to the road head at the base of the valley with empty packs, empty fuel bottles, and our trash to get resupplied.  Resupply was glorious along with new tent groups and a bag of extra food that Amy had promised to add to our rations to appease our appetites.

I was in a new tent group with Heather and JD and Heather and I experienced JD cooking his pink sauce to put on pasta at three times in one ration period.  It’s pink because it’s a mixture between a white sauce and tomato sauce (since there is never enough tomato sauce).  It made an excellent dish for an empty stomach though!

Looking back over the ridge we walked, the Dingle Burn Valley on the Left and the Ahuriri on the right


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After not sleeping most of the night due to the pounding, incessant wind, we managed to prop ourselves up while Roger, rather cheerfully told us that we all needed to wake up and set up the tent we broke down so we would have more room and not lay on top of each other.  Shuffling around trying to find whose stuff we slept on and get out, we threw on rain gear for the drizzle and all pitched in to set up the tent.  Roger boasted about how he and Sean turned their tent into a tent pole repair factory the night before and they had somehow fixed them all, although some still looked sketchy.

The wind had died down to a lower velocity and an immense fog had obscured the whole valley and any views we had of the mountains that surrounded us.  The dry river braids that were only a few feet from our tents had begun to run again with a decent flow, a mix of the rain and melting snow from above.

Since no one slept more than about three hours, if we slept at all, we hunkered down for another day staying pretty much to ourselves in our tent groups only leaving to go to the bathroom.  As soon as the other tent went up successfully, we all went back to sleep while the wind did not force us to make a shift schedule.

Kyle, Ryan, and I all passed out until about 1 p.m. when our stomachs began to growl for lunch, which we made in the vestibule as the clouds spit spurts of rain at the tent.  When we satisfied our stomachs, we played hours upon hours of rummy since Ryan had cards.  We did nothing else until dinner.

Not long after, the dread came back.  The wind picked up, bouncing around on the mountains and hitting us at all angles.  Sighing, we created another shift schedule, but this time, instead of four shifts, we only had three which compromised our sleep for a second night in a row.

Kind of lucky for us, the shifts ended around 2 a.m. when the wind turned to a downpour of rain, further raising the once dry river braid beds.  Too tired to get out, we hoped it would not overflow to foot and a half bank and curled deeper into our sleeping bags begging sleep to come.

Sean woke us up at 8:45 and told us to grab breakfast and hot drinks and meet up at 9:30.  Despite our slight grouchy-ness from lack of sleep and the confined area of the tents for two days, they decided we needed to head off to our previous plan of splitting up in two groups.

I went with Roger’s group to go make a higher camp and work on skills while Sean took Haley and Tracy to do a traverse through the Potts Valley where the Lord of the Rings was filmed.

We hiked up and found a good, flat area to camp near a few glacial erratics to protect us from any wind that might spark up.  As an extra layer of protection, we double poled the side not protected.

After working on a few crevasse rescue techniques, we all wanted to eat and get some sleep.  Since it was only Roger and eight of us, he said he would take five of us up a day and the other three could rest at camp until we came back in the afternoon to work on skills and such.

The next day, we had set a 5am leave time which seemed absurdly early, but we managed.  The day’s group consisted of Hidde, Heather, James, JD, and myself for an attempt of peak 2236.

Going up the left gully as before, we roped up on the glacier and slowly plodded our way up the glacier toward the peak.  The ridge we chose to hike up was on the further side, so we would follow the glacier much farther up than before and wrap around the backside of the peak.

We soon came to realize that the sun foiled our plan and we should have started considerably earlier than the already obnoxious 5 a.m.  Yet, we couldn’t have started earlier due to the intense fog that had narrowed visibility down to about 10 or 15 feet.  The sun melted the snow quickly and we began to posthole to our knees.  Within half an hour, we postholed to our waists.  We slogged along.  James broke trail for a good while up a sleeper section of the glacier while the rest of us continued breaking through the thigh deep snow and making an easier path out.

At one point James paused, only long enough to hear Roger yell from behind him, “James! Don’t stop! Just keep going as fast as you can until you can’t go anymore!”  James yelled something back about keeping a sustainable pace and Roger’s answer bellowed back, “Just go and when you can’t move, someone will take over!”  Typical Roger comment.

We got fairly close to the point where we would wrap around, but the snow became so deep and we postholed with every step.  We ended up having to turn back because through the deep snow we could only make about half a kilometer per hour.

When we got safely back to the edge of the glacier, we chose to do an anchor clinic and a bit of ice climbing for the afternoon to bask in the sunlight that we had so missed the past few days.

Easing ourselves back to camp, Kyle bounced out of nowhere with an intense amount of energy and shouted, “guess what’s different!”  Without much energy, we all had a few guesses but none hit the mark and his excitement seemed to grow with our lack of discovery.

After about half an hour, he finally gave in and took off his hat and we saw that he had Ryan and Jonah chop off his long pony tail.  He was so attached to that hair, I thought it would never come off, but it did.

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After the long, tiring day, we all slept soundly very early before the sun had managed to set.  Again, we had to wake early for the re-ration helicopter to come.  Half asleep, picking the sleep snot out of our eyes, we staggered into a group and waited.  Roger and Sean had mentioned something about weather coming in and the decision to fly or not to fly always came down to each particular pilot.  Basically, if the weather turned bad too quickly, we would end up pretty hungry until the weather went away and the chopper could land with our food.

Lucky for us, the sun still lit up the morning and the helicopter flew in more or less on schedule, although it did arrive a tid bit late.  With it came news that the New Zealand All Blacks had won the rugby world cup in a very good match as well as the weather report of 40mm of rain coming very soon.  As swiftly as the chopper had come, it left.

We sorted out the food, did tent debriefs and arranged ourselves into new tent groups which Roger and Sean decided to modify to make sure people who had not grouped together before shared a tent.  I went with Ryan and Kyle for the remainder of the mountaineering section.

In our new tent groups, we cooked breakfast and went through the who’s going to do what when routine.  We wanted a cook rotation so one person had to cook dinner and then breakfast the next day, then we rotated.  If anyone needed help, they could ask for a sous chef.

After a hearty breakfast, we grouped together to discuss our last ration together and what everyone wanted to do.  With a lot of discussion, we decided to split into two groups, one to go make a higher camp to work on more skills while the other group made the last bit more of a backpacking trip and went over into an adjacent valley to explore.  At first, I wanted to go explore; I itched to move more.  But, then I realized I wanted more practice with the skills and joined that group.

While we debated routes and food rations since our newly formed tent groups had to have some modification, the sky began to darken well before sunset as clouds crept in to cut out the light.  It seemed as though the clouds wanted to give us that wonderful present in the form of 40mm of rain and soon.

We broke the meeting to secure our tents, anchors, any loose item strangling around camp.  Roger came around, thinking he was funny, and began tugging on every anchor of our tents, trying to see if they would come out.  He had all of us add more grossly heavy rocks to make the anchors even bigger.  Good thing the riverbed had plenty of large rocks near so we did not have to carry them too far.

Annoyed, Hidde retaliated and went over to test the anchors on Roger and Sean’s tent, finding one loose.  It began to drizzle, so we crawled into our tents, cooked in the vestibule and hunkered down for the longest night of the whole semester.

The rain came in spurts, sometimes heavier than other times, but always sideways, bent by the gust of wind that whipped through the valley.  At first, we did not quite appreciate the heavier rain.  When it rained harder, the wind did not kick up quite so badly.  At a drizzle, the wind howled through the valley trying to smash our tents down despite their position alignment with the valley.

As we tried to sleep, we would hear the gust beginning deeper in the valley and brace ourselves by each reaching for one of the three poles to hold it up from within.  Sometimes we wouldn’t have time to grab them sufficiently, so from a laying down position, our feet would shoot up, still tucked in the sleeping bag to support the poles.

This lasted until a pole snapped.  Shit.  We all rallied, getting our rain gear on and getting on top of the broken pole quickly before another one could snap.  I grabbed the other two poles from the outside while Kyle and Ryan made a quick change of the broken pole for a spare.  A few others ran to help us out.

A massive gust circled up in the valley and shot down on us, bouncing off the adjacent mountains which made it seem as though the wind wanted to attack us from all directions.  I had the two poles firmly within my grasp, but the wind came so fiercely that I had to lean all my body weight into the gust while holding my grip tight.  This happened many, many times during the night, too many to count.

While we fixed our broken pole, another tent broke one and everyone scrambled around to fix it.  Somehow, everyone seemed to work together well, despite the shouting to be heard above the roars of the storm and the sideways rain blurring our vision.

After about an hour or two of this, the other three person tent had a second pole break.  Instead of fixing it, they broke down the tent entirely and threw Hidde in with us while Tracy and JD jumped into the four person tent.  The quarters were tight before in the tents with three and four people, but with four and six respectively, it became interesting.  Between the four of us, we set up shifts so only one person had to be awake at a time.  Hopefully, this way, we could all get a little sleep at least.

I had to wait awhile for my shift and had to try to make my restless, anxious mind calm down enough to get a wee bit of sleep in.  It felt like right as I went to sleep, I was nudged to wake up for an hour between 12pm and 1am.  Multiple times, I had to race out of the tent, hold the tent poles, fix anchors, tighten the strings, add a rock here or there.  At first, to stay awake, I paced outside feeling the wind whip inside my jacket hood trying to expose my head to the rain.  Once I felt awake enough, I would sit in the vestibule until I heard a gust of wind coming and jump out.

Finally, 1am came round and I woke the next shift, wriggling back into my toasty warm sleeping bag.  I did manage a bit of sleep until 4am rolled up and I was woken up for another shift.  The wind still raged and I paced outside in wonder of the storm, tightening anchors and making sure the other tent did not need anything since I was already outside.
Since we had planned on meeting up at 7:30 am, before my shift ended, I went over toward Roger and Sean’s tent to see if they still wanted us to gather up through the mess.  I found one of their anchors had busted, so I fixed it while they told me to tell everyone to just hunker down to wait out the rest of the storm.

We continued the shifts another hour or so, then it just rained and we slept until 8:15 when Roger woke each tent and gave us the news.

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The morning started out innocently enough – patches of blue, a spot of sunshine, a light breeze through the tussock grass and a bowl full of tasty granola/oatmeal mix with some soy milk powder, cinnamon and vanilla.  We packed everything up at a decent pace having a few problems here or there dividing up group gear, but overall it went ok.

Meeting up where we had the campfire the night before, we split into two groups as planned, Roger taking the two three-person tent groups which included Jonah, Ryan, Tracy, Haley, JD, and myself while Sean took the four person group to insure that if one group had to crash camp somewhere outside of our destination, everyone would have been self-sufficient and we wouldn’t miss tent poles or some miscellaneous essential item.  After acting completely as a large group almost the entire time during the sea kayaking section, this brought about a whole new change.

We traveled at a decent pace up the Cameron Valley on a trail, or “track” as they say in New Zealand.  They also call hiking, “tramping” among other words they’ve created, much to our amusement.  Sometimes the track went up a bit to avoid a steep section around the Cameron River which ran through the bottom all the way out to the lake where we got off the bus.  Other times, we walked right next to the river, or in the river itself.  Luckily, it was not very deep in most places, although it was damn cold glacial melt water from the Cameron Glacier located at the top of the valley.

Walking up the valley.

Beginning a semi-schedule of walking for an hour or so, then taking a ten minute break seemed to work fairly well which allowed everyone a drink of water, a snack, or a bathroom break and we didn’t have to keep stopping every time someone needed something or other.  It changed drastically from my normal walk around two, two and a half hours, then stop and take my boots off for a snack, or a revolutionary idea of “lunch” and not just repeated snacking.  That was one thing I had great difficulty with: the lack of “lunch.”

At one point, Roger decided we wanted to walk more through the gravel bars near the river instead of on the track higher up on the westside of the river.  Since the gravel made walking a bit easier than battling the unevenness of the tussock grass, we all agreed heartily.  That is, until we either had to wade through a fast-moving portion of the river or bushwhack (bushbash in Kiwi talk) back up to the track above.

By now, clouds rolled in and a light mist began on and off.  Enough that I wanted the rain shell on, but could only have a tank top underneath before overheating battling the New Zealand bush back to the track.  I had a nice bit of condensation going on for a bit which only made me a bit chilly later.  Through the bushbash, we learned much more thoroughly about the matagouri and spaniard plants which poked and pricked us up ridiculously and we could very quickly identify them.  Unfortunately, we could not always avoid them.  Once we had to get this nice spread eagle stance and actually grab hold of several chunks of another one and swing ourselves over a large patch of matagouri with a spaniard in the middle.

Once we got back to the track, we promptly took one of our ten minute breaks or so, but had to keep moving since the weather had begun to turn on us and the mist became constant.  We had left camp first in the morning, but due to our half hour bushbash, the other group caught up to us while we grabbed a quick snack, happy to have found something that resembled a path with trail markers in the form of poles with orange paint on the top.

Examining the map, we realized we only had about two and a half kilometers left, so we decided to stick together and walk as one big group.  What a difference!  We all clearly had different paces, but we tried to stay somewhat together and have an awareness of where everyone stood.

At a short break right after a large intersecting stream crossing, it began to snow.  Big, thick, heavy snow flakes began to fall rapidly, at about an inch per hour.  Moreover, it began to stick as well!  We hit all four seasons in one day, which became a very common theme in the mountains in both the mountaineering section and the hiking section later on.  We had fall in the morning, then summer heat, then spring rain, then winter snow — all before two o’clock in the afternoon!

We trudged on up toward the hut, but by this time many people began to get tired, cold, and hungry.  I was just hungry and my usual hiker appetite just kicked in automatically and I wanted to devour everything in sight.  When I get hungry hiking, I also tend to become a wee bit grouchy which began to happen quickly.

By the time we reached the hut, a fresh blanket of snow-covered everything and it showed no sign of letting up any time soon.  As we set our packs down, I layered up super quick because I only had a tank top and a shell on to keep from overheating while hiking, but the temperature only registered about 30 degrees Fahrenheit on my mini backpack thermometer.

Everyone seemed to want to take over the hut since no one else had, but we decided to set up our tents anyway, so in case anyone came, we could move back out quickly.  We tried to divide up tasks, but mild to medium hypothermia began to set in for a few people and they couldn’t function very well.  They went inside and the rest of us set stuff up and meandered inside to get warm.

Hot drinks came first to warm up the blood and also when still too hot to drink, they made excellent hot water bottles to stash inside our jackets or in our heavy ass boots to dry them out.  Roger chuckled and began giving us drying tricks which at first we were very amenable, but by the end not so much.  Particularly the sock drying trick of putting them on our stomachs and then insulating them between our body heat and a puff coat.  While it functionally worked quite well, it smelled like shit — or rather super smelly hiker funk feet and made us smell even worse than we already did.  The hot water bottle rolling trick worked quite well and had less stench.

Sean and Roger thought it was apropos to give us a hypothermia lesson once everyone got decently comfortable and several people found they could pick out where they had reached on the hypothermia scale.  I knew I wasn’t because I can recognize the signs in myself fairly easily from caving for a while.

Eventually, all the hot drinks ran through us and we had to make trips to the long drop, or privy, or in Canada according to Roger,My genius idea. thunder hole.  This meant walking out in the billowing windy snowy mess about fifty feet.  Luckily, we formed a decent path through the snow from everyone having to go, but at first I regretted my decision to bring fake crocs full of holes!  I remedied the situation by putting each of my feet in large plastic bags, and then putting them in the shoes which ended up working decently well.

Another unforeseen problem that arose was the snow on top of the tents.  Apparently, the hilderberg tents did not really enjoy having more than an inch or inch and a half of snow resting on them and they would rebel by a tent pole, or multiple poles snapping under the extra weight.  In this, I found a several structural flaw and began to not like the tents more than before.  My previous issue was the amount of strings.  Anyway, we set up shifts to go out with the broom conveniently located in the front of the hut and brushed the snow off.  This continued through the night with someone actively removing the snow at two-hour intervals.

Still not wanting to stay out in the cold, we all decided to stay in the hut that night which had 9 bunks.  To accommodate all twelve of us, we had several people double bunk, not only for space, but it also gave a new element of warmth.

When we awoke in the morning, a little over a foot of fresh snow had fallen and gave the area a whole new look, especially in the sun instead of a partial whiteout in which we arrived.

In a quick moment of "clearness"

Our tents in a quick moment of "clearness"

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Exhausted after our party, we managed to wake up and get moving again in the morning sad to leave the comforts of the four walled hut.  We decided since the weather patterns seemed iffy for the next few days, we had to plan our last moves decisively in order to not miss our pickup.  While we weren’t too far, we still had to get back through the Bermuda Triangle, and manage to have a day off to finish up the section, do some paper work and prepare mentally to see other people.

We had a bad weather forecast for the afternoon, but the morning seemed to hold out for us to leave the hut.  We would get to the Bermuda Triangle in the afternoon unless we left before the sun woke up, so we decided to head for Rams Head for the day and have the afternoon off to watch the wind make new willie waws which never lost their amusement factor.

Cruising along, we did not quite understand just how imminent the incoming weather would become and Tracy get fairly stressed out toward the end in a “just need to get there” mode.  Then we realized, if we didn’t “just get there” we could face 40 knot winds (decreased a bit for the sounds) and that did not seem like fun…total fun type 3, the fun that’s not really fun at all but it’s somehow still better than work or school.

Excited for Rams Head, we sailed on in and scoped out camp trying to find flat spots without too much cow dung and did not fall under giant widow makers.  After much ado, we all settled into our spots and chilled out until Sean gave us a “land management” discussion.

Right before we gathered, the wind picked up rapidly and a few anchors of our tent weren’t too strong.  All of a sudden we heard an “ahhhhh!” come from our tent and realized that the anchors popped, collapsing half the tent down onto Hidde and Jonah who were reading or dozing.  Ryan and I ran to help fix it so they could climb out and help us secure the lines better.

Halfway through the discussion we heard several snaps.  Turning in the direction of our cleverly created double tarp, we realized a few of the lines had snapped despite reinforced anchors and we had to run and take them down until we could engineer something more stable.

Later in the afternoon, Nick and Sean finally let us explore the haunted house on the premises which had a considerable amount of dust covering absolutely everything.  It did not, however, seem that creepy and no ghosts appeared much to our dismay.

Since we couldn’t move early the next day, we did towing practice instead because a long spit blocked a considerable amount of wind coming from the west and southwest.  Nick introduced the practice with a long and hilarious anecdote about a towing incident that he had to do right there by the spit with another NOLS course.  It ended up with a kid who couldn’t stay upright in major waves getting held onto by the other instructor while Nick towed both of them.

After the wind died down and we finished towing each other in triangles, we moved through the Bermuda Triangle over to Lovely Bay.  I’m not sure the bay actually had a name since it didn’t appear to on the map, but Nick insisted that it was Lovely Bay…probably because it was lovely.

Getting through the Bermuda Triangle for the second time peacefully made us question the severity of the nickname that Nick attributed to it.  It gave us almost no resistance and only good views in all directions.  Since we had two large crossings to complete near it, we did not stop to climb to the top of a nearby hill this time, but we headed into our last beach home of the section where we spent the next day and a half.

At the tail end, we found a stray muscle buoy (which we imitated Nick’s kiwi accent to pronounce it boooy) and we towed it into the bay.  This provided endless amusement for the last few days on land and in the water.  They are actually quite large and unwieldy, even to tow.

Campsites at Lovely Bay were tight and sparse.  We had to use every available inch and have spaces overlap a bit, but we worked it out soon enough.  That night, several people slept out on the beach, so the tent space didn’t really matter anyway.

On our last day not near the road, we all played around, managed to squeeze in the paperwork, and had endless fun with the buoy.  Heather managed a handstand on it with a few spotters, while Jonah and JD managed to balance each other on each end of the buoy with Nick’s help by providing a stick.  The buoy even rolled back into the water at one point and no one wanted to swim out for it due to the cold water.  Instead, we used tons of the driftwood sticks lying around on the beach and threw them past the buoy creating small waves that sent it back to ankle-deep water where we grabbed it.

That night, we recapped the entire section by each remembering a day going around the campfire in a circle.

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The big weather bomb hit during the first night we spent in Tawa Bay.  We awoke the next morning to see scores of willie waws spontaneously forming on the points at either side of the bay.  Imagine a tornado of water rising up out of nowhere and spinning uncontrollably wherever the wind whipped through.

Sitting on the beach wrapped in our warm sleep clothing and some hot drinks, we all watched in awe.  Going out in the boats would not happen that day–or the next few that we found ourselves stuck there due to the wind, whitecaps, and willie waws.

Instead, we found other things to do.  We did the final re-ration for the sea kayaking section where we shuffled up the tent groups again to Tracy, Haley, and James; Heather, Kyle, and JD; and Jonah, Hidde, Ryan, and myself.  While sorting out the food, we realized we were short one food baby.  Only one culprit came to mind: Wilbur.  Damn you, pig!  All the bumper bars were in that particular food baby which didn’t bother me much, but everyone else missed their energy bars with the equivalent of a golf ball of butter in the mix.

With the new tent groups, I owe a few new introductions:

Jonah hails from Seattle, is super tall, and always energetic.  He enjoys making funny, slightly weird noises back and forth with JD in their own little language and he likes playing with buoys.  Plus, he talks in his sleep, to everyone else’s amusement.

Hidde was our only European, coming from Amsterdam and NOLS was the first time he slept in a tent, but he adapted extremely quickly.  He hates hydroskins and loves hot cocoa–to the extent he can drink a whole liter of it at a time.  Oh and he doesn’t like cinnamon.

Ryan plays rugby, into cross-fit, and loves rafting.  He cooks fantabulously, especially pancakes, biscuit/roll things, and basically anything he thinks up.  As one of the first risers, often without an alarm, he always had the water on for tea or coffee in the morning.

After searching everywhere for the missing bumper bars, we gave up and listen to Sean tell us about “Life, the Universe, and Everything” which explained just that from 4.5 billion years ago to today, complete with life-size examples, although not to scale.

When the weather did not let up enough to go paddling the next few days, we had to find other ways to amuse ourselves and keep from going stir crazy.  We went on a game frenzy which included Ninja, Yeehaw, Pterodactyl, Vegetable, Animal Sounds Elimination, and Hand Patting games.  We played quite a bit of Ninja which somehow always ended with JD in the top two if not winning completely.

Another day, we went on an adventure up the creek.  Since no exact tracks existed around the campsite, we simply walked up the creek until small rapids started and we’d jump to whichever side looked easier to bushwhack, or “bush bash” as they say in New Zealand.  Many times we hopped across to the other side when the brush got too thick.  The whole time we were not directly in the creek, we battled supplejack vines which sometimes would appear out of nowhere, seemingly simply to trip us to make us stumble.  We got back at them by eating the ends of a few which tastes just like asparagus.

Eventually, the grade went up more steeply, the brush became super thick, and the rapids got bigger.  There we stopped, some of us on large rocks in the middle of the creek and had a snack break to look around peacefully instead of getting whacked in the face by some branch or vine.

We followed the creek back as well, but somehow ran into a few new obstacles like a 10 foot mud bank which we managed to climb up by using a mixture of each others knees and pulling from above.  That little adventure was probably the best thing besides watching the willie waws in that few days.

When we could finally get back to paddling and the wind died down enough, we made a short move over to the Matai Hut where we set up camp and prepared for a party.  The preparations became so extensive, Jonah and Kyle formed a party committee and took it upon themselves to organize the events of the evening, which included dressing up, desserts, and of course, our new-found love: games!

After a few day trips, baking, and roll practice, we began to move in and plan.  Ryan and I embarked on cinnamon rolls which turned out pretty damn good.  He even made frosting based on tang which had a slightly weird tangy taste and color, but ultimately became the best imitation we could make out of the supplies we had.  Heather worked on carrot cake and got it cooked all the way around (which became a problem in the other attempts), Tracy made fudge, Nick and Sean made brownies.  Basically: sugar, sugar, sugar!

While it drizzled outside, we made lanterns out of light-colored nalgenes and headlamps to make ambient party light.  The events switched between desserts and games.  Limbo, which became a battle between the two gymnasts, Heather and Haley was highly amusing.  Merf Merf provided plenty of laughs and was a spin-off of charades.  One of the funniest hidden talents discovered that night was Nick’s ability to freestyle rap.  Maybe it had something to do with his dry suit on upside down as his costume.

In the end, we all succumbed to the crash of the huge sugar high that we ran on and fell asleep scattered about the bunks in the hut and the floor.  The next morning, still on the top bunk, JD asked for the pan of fudge to lick it clean and seemed like the only one who had any appetite for more sugar.

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After looking around Buena Vista, horribly pronounced by Colorado Natives, and noticing that all the motels said, “No Vacancy” I looked somewhat puzzled.  Then a truck drove up and a guy got out.

“Hey,” he said, “you look like a hiker!  Need a ride up to the trail?”

Thinking I had nothing else to do, I said sure!  Nice guy, Scott, I think, who was heading further up the road to hike a small loop with his buddy.

I had already resigned myself to not really doing much that afternoon and somewhat wanted a shower and a bed for a night, but if motels have no vacancy, I knew it would be too expensive to stay.  I walked a grand total of maybe a quarter mile to a campsite by the creek.  Unfortunately, I could still hear the road, but I set up my tent and read two chapters of a terrible book which I have kept reading just to tell Tom I read it to the end and did not like it.  It got somewhat better around 240 pages in, but not fantastic.  It’s Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry.  Not a fan.

In the morning, I found myself pretty motivated and went the first 10 miles before lunch when I hit the 4×4 road up to Mt. Princeton.  It was far too late to try to hike it, but I sat there and ate lunch and prepared myself for a 5.7 mile road walk.  Luckily, I had enough iPod battery to just iPod it out and jam to some tunes.  I found myself getting more and more annoyed by the constant jeeps passing me coming down from the mountain.  It was not that I was mad because people were climbing it…I knew these guys weren’t climbing shit by how fat they were!  My favorite was a jeep that had some kind of skill attached to the front grill and had a probably close to 400 pound man driving it who got out and took a picture of the ranch sign below then waddled back in to the jeep to drive off.  Yeah…he climbed a 14er…right.

Irritated, I came upon Princeton Hot Springs three miles into the hike and saw commercialness at it’s peak!  I was particularly intrigued by a 400 foot waterlside into a hot spring pool (that seemed more like a super heated swimming pool) until I learned it was $15 to get in plus $2 for a towel.  Hmmm. Swarming with kids.  NO.  I marched on, walking by all the traffic that seemed to point and wave at me like I was in a zoo.  Jamming to tunes.  Then I spot a general store.  Bingo!  I stopped in and got myself a nice 24oz PBR to hike out and a Snapple to drink in the meantime.

Pleasantly sitting by the curb, drinking my Snapple, a couple came up to me and started chatting.  I was suspicious when the guy had a t-shirt on that said “Property of Jesus” but decided to humor them since they seemed nice.  This happened for five minutes before they started telling me about their pro-life views and how the guy’s mom had wanted him aborted yatta yatta yatta.  I raised my eyebrows.

“So, why did you stop at the store, just the Snapple?”

“Oh, no!  I stopped for beer!  The Snapple is because I wanted to sit and they said I couldn’t drink the beer here!”

Then they seemed less interested and went away.  I then continued the 2.5ish miles to the Chalk Creek Trailhead where I would finally get off the road to camp for the night.  Unfortunately, the last mile the mosquitoes decided to swarm me and I beat off as many as I could but they kept biting and biting!  I put on my bug balm but they didn’t seem to care too much and kept biting, so I kept walking swinging my hiking poles and hands at them.  I figured leaving the guts of their comrades on me would deter a few, but nope!

As soon as I crossed the creek, I found a spot to camp, set up my tent and sat in it drinking the PBR.  It never tasted so good!  I watched as tons of mosquitoes tried to get in and then I smashed them with great pleasure between the screen and the fly.

The mosquitoes were even bad in the morning!  I have never packed up so fast and scrambled out!  I went a little over 12 miles over not too difficult terrain.  The only people I passed were two groups on horseback…neither of which gave me trail magic despite not having to carry anything themselves.  The first group was three fat guys who seemed to have never seen a hiker before and took pictures because they didn’t seem to believe that anyone would want to hike almost 500 miles.  The second group came up and a guy was telling a pre-teen looking girl that the mountain lions only eat dead things, injured things, and little girls from Houston, Texas.  Ha! Sure buddy…

I found a good campsite a little past Squaw Creek and a little before the turn off for Mt. Shavano and Mt. Tabegauche.  I set up my tent just before the rain!  Yes!  I could not find any good bear branches, so I rigged something to at least get it away from the chipmunks and squirrels between two trees…although it only made it about 6 feet off the ground.

The next morning, I got up at 4am and left by 5am with my pack unloaded and filled with two liters of water, extra layers, a few bars, granola, and my camera.  Luckily my dying headlamp worked enough until dawn and I hiked up toward Mt. Shavano.  I had text message service in my tent and my mom had told me that it was 30% chance rain until 11am when it went up to 40% and at 1pm it would go up to 60%, so I got an early start.  The bit through the treeline didn’t seen too hard, but partly because I could see much besides trail trail trail and I really wasn’t thinking about much at 5am.  I took a break at treeline, which was at 12,200ft and saw two people ahead of me.  I began to close the gap toward the saddle, but never quite passed them.  The hiking up to the saddle and a little beyond wasn’t too bad, it was pretty much an uphill slog with super cool views of Salida and the surrounding mountains.  Then a bit past the saddle (which was at 13,400), it became a large pile of large rocks and herd paths split off everywhere.  I just picked the most direct and headed upward.  When I got closer to the other two, we began waving to each other.  Then, “ERRRRRRG” came from above and I knew it must be a false summit.  Surely, it was, but not a bad one.

On top, I got views for the first time on a 14er, albeit cloudy views.  I took pictures and ate a bar while chatting with the other two.  I really just wanted them to do Tabegauche because I wanted someone else there.  If the sky was clearer, I would have gone no problem, but I would feel far more comfortable with someone else there too.  They said they were not going to.  I sat for about 20 minutes enjoying the view until others came up.

Then a guy named Drew came up, followed by Rawd, and a young couple from Colorado Springs and I chatted with them.  We all discovered we were playing the “I’ll go if you go” game for Tabegauche peak which was 1 mile away — 600 ft down and 500 ft up.  When we realized we all badly wanted to go we decided if we were going to do it, we had to leave then, so we did.  Going down was a class 2 scramble that reminded me of New Hampshire, but less steep.  Herd paths zinged everywhere, but it was really follow the ridge to the saddle, then follow the ridge up.  We all made it over an up in about 40 minutes, which was good considering the ridiculously loose footing it was going up Tab.

After a five minute pow wow on top, we looked at the clouds, which had gotten a few shades darker grey and decided to move because the only real way back was up and over Shavano, the way we came.  Going back proved much tougher as we scrambled back up and over Shavano.  On the way down, we went slightly differently, but then merged back toward the main path finding a couple in the saddle still planning to continue up despite the darkening clouds.  Since there was no thunder, they deemed it ok despite it being 12:30 and our weather warning.  Once back to treeline, we slowed a bit and then split ways at the bottom where I saw Justin and Andy who had just done Shavano and were camping just before me, more toward the creek.

I went back to my tent, finished my book — terrible ending, and 15 minutes after I got in, the rain, thunder, and lightening came.  It was pretty intermittent, as in, storming for an hour, off for 15-20 minutes, then storming again.  I relaxed in my tent, while Justin and Andy decided to press on to get closer to the road to stay in Salida.  I decided that I only needed half a day in town and slept.  Right before sleeping, Gismo and Napper came by and chatted for a while, but pressed on three miles.

Quite unmotivated in the morning, I got a late start, almost 7:30am.  Mostly because I had a large hole in my favorite socks and I had to wear my other socks.  I went on and ended up finding Gismo and Napper at their campsite maybe a quarter packed up and I talked to them for quite a bit.  After I climbed the one climb of the day, a mere 700 feet (however, unmotivated), I stopped for a break after I saw a second bear run off.  I dried out my tent in the sun and Gismo and Napper passed me with a mountain biker.  The unsupported mountain bike race was already passing me…they started Monday and already 6 had passed me.

I caught back up to Gismo and Napper while two other bike racers passed us and chatted with them until the road to Salida.  At the bottom, we were chatting and jokingly, Gismo yogied us cold beer from Sarah and her two dogs, Bear and Lexi.  Nice!  Then, as I was trying to hitch out, Cookie Monster and Hop-a-long came out and hitched into town with me with a Texas Hippie.

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