Day Six: Cabin Fever

Yummy Ice is Better Than Yeti Noodles

I awoke at 4:30 am. I was ready to make a summit attempt that had already been canceled. With nothing better to do, I turned over, filled my pee bottle, and rearranged the socks and gloves that were drying inside my sleeping bag. I listened to the hard winds that were blowing outside. The temperature had dropped noticeably inside.

To distract myself, I listened to Russian Easter music on my MP3 player. The staccato beat of the choir would keep most awake, but the familiar liturgy soothed my soul. I focused on the repetitive chants and hummed along with the rhythm. It was the second week of Lent, and I had given myself plenty of leeway to maintain my state of readiness. Since fasting was not an option at high altitude, I drank hot chocolate and ate sweets—caloric and moral boosters. I felt I was being tested, but I failed to understand the test.

A still, gentle silence woke me again. I must have fallen asleep during the mass. A bright light shone through the window casting a frosty halo above Jefe who was still sound asleep. I basked in the glow of the light until I realized that its intensity was due to sunlight reflecting off a thick crust of snow on the wall. At first, I thought the night’s storm was so strong that the snow sought its own refuge inside the Box. I then realized that the condensation and water evaporation from our bodies was merely frozen in place. Jefe eventually woke. He was equally stunned by the winter spectacle. When the other’s rose, they laughed at our miracle of ice. With my spirits being lifted, I cried out, “Gelato!” Why settle for hot water in the morning, when we could enjoy a fresh, ice cold treat.

Body Ice is Better Than Yeti Noodles

Body Ice is Better Than Yeti Noodles

The group and the guides were slow getting up; however, hots arrived promptly with the announcement that it was 5° F (-15° C) outside. The wind speed was estimated around 35 mph. Unfortunately, the sensor on top of the Box froze at some point during the night. The winds outside swept around the Box like a fervent housekeeper trying in vain to stop the snow from piling up in front of our door. The mood inside was despondent. We sulked, ate a long breakfast, and occupied ourselves until a guide came at 10 am to give us a class on self rescue. She taught us the basic technique, and we practiced on two ropes that were attached to the ceiling. I appreciated the refresher; but, when it was my turn to practice, I got tied up by a Kleimheist knot, which slowed me down. Although we didn’t race to the top, we enjoyed climbing above the others in the room and pretending to hit an imaginary bell on the plywood roof.


Self Rescue Self Rescue

The weather settled a bit during our lunch break. I ventured outside to take photos.

The Weather Outside is Frightful

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Pacing back and forth in front of the Box, I tried to work off my frustration. I put my crampons on and practiced front-pointing, crossover stepping, plunge-stepping, and backing down the slope. The exercise settled my mind and wore my energy reserves down. By the time Jefe came outside to find me or to release his own frustrations, the weather had taken another turn for the worse. We played around on the incline that lead to the Public Shelter. Visibility was poor, but we had fun posing for pictures like real mountaineers on top of a summit.

El Jefe en la montaña

El Jefe en la montaña

El Jefito en la montaña

El Jefito en la montaña

Jefe and I eventually escaped the cold and went back inside the Box. We joined the others for a demonstration on crevasse rescue.

During the class, we learned how to establish a 2:1 pulley system and a 3:1 pulley system (Z pulley). Our instruction was excellent, but I struggled to keep up. In comparison to the Drop-C method the DAV teaches, I found the pulley systems more complicated and time consuming to establish.

Taking Notes

Taking Notes

When I got a chance to practice, I quickly became frustrated by the number of steps in the process. I lashed out at Jefe, my training partner, who had meticulously recorded all of the steps in his notebook. (Sorry again, dude!) At the time, I wanted to rescue our victim not read a lengthy instruction manual. I was also a bit huffy given the fact that the guides said RMI has no expectation that participants contribute to a rescue. While I realize they are ultimately responsible for the safety of the participants on their tours, I wanted to learn more so I can eventually go out on my own, non-guided trips. By better understanding the differences between the methods, I wanted to weigh the options and learn the advantages and disadvantages of each method. The guides were right: they make the calls on their trips; however, self reliance is extremely important even if you are on a guided tour. Each team member must be familiar with the proper techniques, be willing to use them, and be able to work with the other team members to make a successful rescue. As I was reminded during my trips last year, good guides lead a group; bad guides lead you astray.

Dinner gave me a chance to cool down and reflect on the day’s events. I was sad that our trip was coming to an end, especially because we never made it above Camp Muir! I wished we had more time to train outside. I also wanted to explore a bit farther up the Mountain like taking Cathedral Gap to the Ingram Flat. I had heard so much about Disappointment Cleaver. I was extremely disappointed that we didn’t even get to see it.

My spirits lifted when a guide joined us for an after dinner treat. In response to feedback and with further encouragement from the group, he gave us a quick course on map reading and orientation. He explained map scales, coordinate systems, and magnetic declination. We charted our route for the next day.

Waypoint Distance Bearing Altitude
Moon Rocks 900 m 163° -800 ft
McClure Rock 2000 m 175° -2000 ft
Glacier Vista 950 m 217° -800 ft
Paradise 1700 m 180° -1000 ft

 

Using Werner Munter’s time calculation method, we determined that it would take us 3.6 hours to hike back to Paradise.

It was late by the time we finished our calculations. Most of the group was ready for bed, but I wanted to talk more about risk assessment (Munter’s reduction method or Reduktionsmethode). I hoped I could get the guides to tell us why we didn’t push any higher. Was it really the weather or was it our experience level? What was their assessment of the group? I decided to keep my mouth shut. I didn’t want to create another incident so I quietly went to bed with out saying another word. Don’t ask; don’t tell—perhaps I had finally learned an lesson.

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