I Have to Cross What?

Prior to my days as a cyclist, I had hopes of climbing Mountains.  I wanted to climb the Big 4 Volcanoes in Washington State.  Rainier 14,410 ft, Adams 12,277 ft, Baker 10,779 ft, and St Helens, 8365 ft.  I made the last 2, Adams I was turned around by a storm and had to tell the guide where camp was (that’s its own story) and Rainier was just too damn.  After 4 attempts I gave up.

I learned a lot when I was on the mountains though, and with the exception of St Helens, I had to be careful of crevasses!  These are gaps in the glacier.  Some are less than a foot across, and some, like this monster

At 11500 ft, the Ingraham Glaicier, this monter was huge and the guide was NOT happy I wanted a picture!
At 11500 ft, the Ingraham glacier, this monster was huge and the guide was NOT happy I wanted a picture!

are just huge!  One problem with crevasses, is sometimes they are covered with a slim crust of snow.  This means you can fall through at any time!  This is one reason we were always roped up while on a glacier, and the reason the guides used long poles to check for glaciers where we camped!

Long probe looking for hidden crevasses
Long probe looking for hidden crevasses 

No one wants to get up to pee in the middle of the night and fall into a huge hole!

Some, like the picture above, the guides plot a route to go around it.  Some that are a little smaller, they bridge with ladders, and boards, to make crossing easier.  And some, you either step across or jump across!  (Yep, jump well!)

Now, most climbs to the summit have an alpine start.  This means you leave in the middle of the night!  This has many advantages for safety, but, a guide once told me, it has an added benefit.  People crossing a glacier when it’d dark outside, can’t see how deep it is!  This means they don’t get scared!  Later, when it’s light out, they can be scared all they want, if they don’t cross, they don’t go home!  As far as I know, everyone has crossed coming down! (if not, I am sure there are NO pizza deliveries that high!)

To stop someone if they fall in, we learn “self-arrest”, throwing ourselves on top of our iceaxes (without impaling ourselves in the process) to keep them from falling too far.

Faceplanting for climbing school!
Faceplanting for climbing school!

I decided I wanted to learn more, so I went on a week-long Glacier mountaineering course in Denali National Park with Alpine Ascents inc.   In this course, surrounded by giant mountains,

Mt Hunter with Foraker shadow

I was given the chance to jump into a crevasse twice (once to be rescued and once to rescue myself) while my rope team stopped me from falling too far.

 The Crevasse

Then I was part of the team to do the rescue.

Let me tell you.  I am honestly not sure which is harder on a guy’s body.  Coming to the abrupt stop when you jump in,

Stephen Hanging

or damn near being pulled into the crevasse by someone else falling in!  I got home, took a shower and my upper thighs were one big bruise!  We won’t even discuss other parts of the male anatomy that feel pain!

We were taught how to tie special knots that allowed us to prussic up the ropes.  These knots slide up a rope, but not down, so you alternate and “walk” up your rope.  In the picture above, the lower guy is someone who fell farther into the crvasse before being stopped by his team.

I made it back up, but LORD that was hard!

Coming over the top!
Coming over the top!

Now people wonder, why the hell I would do this.  Well, I will tell ya, the very next day it came in handy!  We were off to climb a small peak called Control Tower (cuz given it’s proximty to the Denali basecamp landing strip, it could be the tower)

Control tower day of climb

We had no problem on the way up

climbing control tower

And I made it to the top, no problem

 Strohs Summits

However, on the way back to our camp, in what looked to be a flat, easy section, I stepped on the wrong spot at the wrong time, and broke through!  “FALLING” I yelled as soon as I felt it let go, and my rope team threw themselves on the ice axes! I only went as far as my shoulders thanks to them and they popped me right out.  But damn, for a second there it was scary!

This is what I was up there for though. Big mountains, adventure crevasses, avalanches.  Flying by ski plane so close to mountains you could touch them!

Flying in 7

 

 

The guy with the arms crossed tumbled 3000 feet on Denali the week before I met him
The guy with the arms crossed tumbled 3000 feet on Denali the week before I met him

 

 

In all my climbs and attempts, never once did I balk because of a slope, a rock climb or a crevasse.  I had faith in my skills, and that of the guides.  I completely trusted the rope team and they trusted me.  Pushing 50 is too old to try again, but no one can ever take away my memories!

One Man’s Adventure is Another Man’s Version of Hell

I have an old friend of mine, named Steve, who is one of my staunchest supporters in whatever endeavor I choose to go on each year.  He is the first to like my statuses when I work out, and to give me a boost when I feel like I am sucking big time in my training.   Everyone should have a Steve in their corner.

That being said, Steve is also the classic example of my post here today.  There is no way in HELL I would ever get him to do the things I do.  I see them as fun and adventure, he sees pain and discomfort!

Nothing demonstrates this more than my trip to Alaska!  A few years ago, I had the opportunity to take a skiplane to Denali base camp for a week-long Glacier-Mountaineering trip.  It was beyond cool and I learned a lot!  When I got back to work, I was telling the group about it, and I mentioned the “poop pot”

AK 35  Poop pot

Yep a small barrel with a styrofoam rim (surprisingly comfortable I might add) for pooping.  A way to keep the glacier clean and pristine.  “I’m out!” was the last I heard from Steve on that matter!  To me, it was no big deal.  Climbing mountains there are many things you have to do differently (google “blue bagging” if you are curious!) so this was actually a better alternative than I was used to.

This isn’t the only thing that makes people shake their heads in dismay.  This same trip, I had a 40 lb pack and had to drag a sled with at least that same amount of weight.

AK 31Tony towing

I knew this was the plan, so I trained, just as I do now, for months in advance.  To others this seemed like the Bataan Death March, pure hell on Earth.  I loved every minute of it!  And my reward?  Made it to the top of Control Tower

AK 73 Strohs Summits

And sipped wine while waiting for my plane!

AK a122  wine at base camp

Let’s take it closer to home.  We have a close friend who thinks it is entirely too dangerous to ride on the road with traffic.  “You ride there??  Doesn’t the traffic scare you??”  Another warned me to not ride on Hwy 2 up to Stevens Pass.  “I’ll follow you with my flashers on if you want!  It’s too dangerous!” No worries at all.  I rode it no worries at all.  I just stay vigilant and watch behind me when the road narrows. the reward?

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I made it to the top of Stevens Pass!  Hell Yeah!  This helped me finish the High Pass challenge!

Let’s go a step farther back.   Wine.  I will admit, back in the college days I drank Cello Lambrusco (picture alcohol infused Kool Aid).  My gorgeous wife Michelle has worked hard over the years to get me to develop a pallet for red wine.

 

But we have friends who will only drink white wine!  I now prefer reds (Can’t go Wrong with Dusted Valley or Ross Andrew wineries by the way!) , but there are many whites I like as well.  Finding new wineries and new wines is an adventure on its own.  In fact next month, Michelle and I are going to the Mecca of wineries in Washington State, Walla Walla for a weekend of tasting! Limiting yourself to only one or the other deprives you of so many good experiences.

I guess what I am trying to say here is this.  There may be something that you’ve decided to do.  A run, hike, climb or ride, and other people will tell you that you are nuts!  Its dangerous.  Why would you want to do that??  I am saying ignore them.  Hell, you only live once!  You can either give it your all and cross the finish line flying wheels

Drink Excellent wine

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Climb a mountain

AK 70 climbing control tower

Run a river

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Or you can listen to others and not try anything!  Like I said at the beginning, my buddy Steve, I firmly believe, thinks I am certifiably nuts sometimes.  But there is no better supporter of any and all my adventures.  Grab your dreams, work for your goals, who cares if friends and family tell you they’d be miserable if they even thought about trying it.  If you believe you can do it, if you get off your ass and try, if you give it all you got, then chances are, you are going to make it!

One of my top 2 pictures ever!

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I love this picture. It was taken as my group approached the Denali Base Camp area. In essence, ski planes took off and the had to take a hard left through “One Shot Pass”. Aptly names, cuz you only have one shot to make it. Otherwise you smack into Mt Foraker.

I was looking for another pic, and found this one so I wanted to share. Another day I will share the other “best pic”