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Michael Lewis
Taking a nap



Joined: 27 Apr 2009
Posts: 584 | TRs
Location: Lynnwood, WA (for now)
Michael Lewis
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Taking a nap
PostTue Jun 23, 2020 3:26 pm 
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Stuart seems like one of those dogpile listbagger peaks so I wasn't going to put up anything beyond a lazy image dump but then something happened: I actually had fun.

Names have been altered to protect the identity of the offenders involved. Except me. Pichael Lewis.

9 years ago I had attempted Stuart with Josh Lewis and Matt Lemke. We had just done a Cannon-Enchantment-Aasgard loop and my legs were done too. We came over Longs Pass and slept at Horse camp. The next morning I was still stiff so I slept in. An evil green alien bug started biting my neck and I awoke to that very same reality, prying it off like a poorly executed ping pong serve. I kicked rocks while they were adventuring. They returned roughened and victorious. Some tape off my ice ax was spared for a battle scar on Matt's hand from a devious glissade. Josh told tales of deep dirt and glory. I was kicking myself for not joining but I could not compete with their Aasgardian level endurance. After years of kicking dirt I felt ready to tackle the dirtiest of dirt packs and I was the dirtbagger to do it.

Was I in the best shape? No. But I went for a jog the other day so when Mr. F pm'd me if I was up for "Cascadian Poo Chute" I said I'd be down. Like water down a porcelain throne. There was going to be a group of folks joining and we were going to use our own tents as precaution... 'cause corona. I don't like to pack heavy so without group gear this posed a challenge. The trick to dirtbagging when you want that peak is: pack only enough to survive. So microspikes instead of crampons, lightest axe possible, rain poncho for a tent, no filter, poptarts. I went for a jog that night and did a hard workout too just to shave off those extra grams of sweat. Which I gained back by drinking a gallon. Then lost by dehydrating via climbing. Probably would've been more efficient to just stay in shape. Anyway...

Mr. F picked me up early on a gloomy Saturday. Eastbound 90 was closed at our exit so a detour on a coned off one lane route stuck behind a crazy hoarder lady barely crawling with her hazard lights on like a pilot car through a work zone and we were back on track. Somehow everyone got to the trailhead late so we all showed up together. Some of them had climbed Rainier with me back in August so even though that climb sucked and we never hang out, it felt like getting the band back together. I looked at their gear. They had crampons, filters and the whole kit and kabootle. Would micros be enough? "I feel like I under-packed" I joked nervously. Mr. J signed the group permit, Double D got his poker face on and Barker set a blazing pace up to Longs Pass. Mr. F and I took sweeper. The poncho became my pack cover as the mist soaked my swimming trunks. At least I was prepared to get wet. I felt so much nostalgia having been to this pass a dozen times it was like being home but exciting.

Atop Longs the wind started up. Although hard summer pack, the snow seemed soft enough for a glissade. Barker dropped in as the guinea pig and blazed down to the trees. I whooped down after. Everyone joined in for the warm-up glissade all laughing. Even in the deluge this added to the stoke. We tromped through the soggy trail (which is completely under water this time of year) to Ingalls and crossed the log to horse camp. We took the climber's bootpath up the Cascadian and I was actually glad about the rain: it was like glue on all that sand. Everything stayed put with no dust clouds. Barker and I took turns setting the pace until we got into scrambly terrain. Because I didn't value my cranium enough to bring a helmet I was climbing above the others and we beat feet up to snowline where there were promised to be bivy walls. I love it when the stoke makes approach time fly cause the return journey would prove agonizing.

steep and cheap
steep and cheap

Some older mad lads were descending after their successful climb in this tempest so we aggressively interrogated them on where good bivy sites are. Apparently they were all up and down the ridge to our right and even though it was stupidly obvious I felt like Santa had reappeared in my adulthood. Probably hypothermia setting in. So I struck off to find a good spot to turn my poncho into a villa. Pancho Villa that is. Barker having more wits about him found a perfect rock wall and graciously gave it up. He also lent me his spare tent stakes so that I didn't have to resort to sticks and stones. Thanks guy!

As I was trying to get numb fingers to tie down my guy lines while it pissed rain a goat with a mossy stick hanging off its rump was stalking me.
"We should name him Phil" Barker suggested. I was less amused. I'll be miserable enough without a goat chewing on my stuff thank you.

After multiple "shoo"s and "get out of here Phil"s I had to do something about this Phil character who was like a 200 lb kid with spears on his face just looking for attention. Finally the wet and cold induced diuresis took effect and I walked to a pile of rocks way out from my tent looking at Phil in his cold dead eyes while conducting business. Before I was even zipped up the demented animal was coming in for the treat and I clambered away. Here's his mug:

Phil. Or was it Gary
Phil. Or was it Gary

Wondering if this dinky rain poncho thing was going to flap my face all night I decided to guy out the extra line and get that puppy as tight as possible. The wind was picking up. A nap proved it worked. Hungry now, I proceeded to the expired macaroni which I then burnt to the bottom of the pot. Covering my mistake, I popped open a can of chili and mixed the crap out of it. It tasted awful. But I gotta burn some calories so down you go. Getting as far as I could the rest would be saved in a tupperware for tomorrow. Cleaning the pot was a major pain. I scraped the black noodles with the steel lid from the can. Eventually I slipped and cut my index on the tip. As I type this the painful memory of my cooking is translating into real pain which then gets interpreted by your brain as painfully boring reading.

poncho villa
poncho villa
gloom
gloom
sky turning red
sky turning red
closing in for the evening
closing in for the evening

The sky turned red in the south and I thought of that stupid saying that's never true except when it is. Laying in my non-windproof bag under a staked out poncho I breathed in the sands carried by the wind and closed my eyes. Darkness ensued and all I could think of was what a miserable mistake I was making. Hours went by. Left side, right side, back. Is Phil out there scheming to chew my pack? Terrible dreams made every shivering wake a bliss and when the sky cleared and first light dawned I was determined to make some pleasant memories.

Barker came over perhaps telepathically sensing I was awake. "It's 5:30. We're going to head up soon."
"You guys go up without me, I need to wait for the sun to hit the snow and thaw it out. I'll be making coffee"
In retrospect, I think he took this to mean I wasn't coming. I took that burnt pot and made some fowl instant coffee that I used to wash down poptarts. I grabbed barely enough gear to survive and looked up at Stuart. The sky was clear but the sun had only just started to touch the snow. I wasn't sure I could get up there before noon. I could see them way up the snowy face of the False summit. One of them loudly exclaimed "It's like a staircase!" Well heck! I can handle a snowy staircase.

So I put on the micros and started balancing on that dinky corsa up totally frozen neve until I got into the bucket steps. I cranked up the volume on my mp3 (phone)and started singing along terribly. After about 20 minutes and 500 feet of gain I got into some sketchy shaded ice where glissade paths cut the steps. I had to chop with the adze to get sure footing. A rockpile above was an oasis and I desperately clinged to the ice to get to it.
Once at safety I watched the sunrise and the rest of the group disappear behind the False summit notch. Some water and a snack and I saw the snow was finally soft enough to kick into. "Oh yeah! It's go time!"
I started kicking up to their tracks and then followed the lovely bucket step staircase to the notch at about 9k. The furious work took all my attention so no photos. Unfortunately you'll have to settle for this description.

At the notch Mr. J was chilling. I guess a sketch factor on Hood a while back put his sketch meter below the terrain above and he was hanging back. The route to the summit looked like 3rd class but with lots of shaded snow hanging onto it. Near the top was what appeared to be a hillary step looking snow wall. I agreed it looked imposing. But I didn't come all this way just to guess I couldn't do it.
"What do you think the percentage chance of you making it is?" he asked.
"I don't do those anymore," I said bluntly "I measure in factors and it either goes or it doesn't" trying to sound all wise and stuff. "So 50/50 I guess?" facade fading.
"Well I'm just going to watch from here and chill"
And indeed Mr. J kept his word.
But I had suffering to do and continued up.

And by up I mean down because unless your psychopath who enjoys icy class 4, the best way to get to ridge was down and across. Being not of entirely sound mind I found out the hard way at first then down climbed and did it correctly. I could see the other three had started a route connecting the snow on the side of the face which was still shrouded in shadow from the false summit. With only micros on for me that was not a viable option so I looked for an easy class 3 route through the rock until I hit the top of the ridge. There was ice, slime, black lichen and not much to like. But the holds were bomb proof. Once on the ridge I started making my way along the edge of a cornice when for the first time that morning I saw Barker negotiating some icy rocks just a few feet below me.
"What the f***?! Mike?!" he exclaimed sincerely surprised. "I thought you were staying at camp!"
"Sure fooled you didn't I?" I replied cooly. Okay that's what I wish I said. "Nope." Lame reveal

From there we shared our strategies for navigating the mixed snow on the rock given different equipment. I would follow the cornice and they would stick to icy snow and scramble. We kept about an even pace and got to the wall below the hillary step. Or maybe it was the hillary step? On the left was a steep snow field with cracks and the middle was a class 3 wall. To the right was open air down to the Sherpa glacier or something. The void. Barker kicked steps up the snowfield while the rest of us opted to scramble the wall. I was delighted to discover the imposing looking snow wall was an optical illusion and made easy work of it. Barker summited first and I followed on easy but awkward class 3 to the summit slabs. Double D and Mr. F caught up a few minutes later. We all had some quarantine snacks to share. Mr. F had sour gummies, Double D some dark chocolate and I pulled out a small antique flask filled with Jack Daniels. After a taste I told them it was Jim Bean but one of them noticed the Tennessee flavor. We signed the giant Mazama papers and sat around waiting for the snow to thaw. We waved to Mr. J who was probably taking a nap. After some bad pictures it was time to go.

logging that register
logging that register
glaciers way down there
glaciers way down there
360 summit pano
360 summit pano
mountains in the sky
mountains in the sky
oh we're taking pictures
oh we're taking pictures
hey we're taking a group picture
hey we're taking a group picture
I don't think he heard you
I don't think he heard you
did it turn out okay
did it turn out okay

I had to stay back being helmet-less but occasionally found myself pushing it. Reversing my route proved to be a little tricky. This is where I went. O shoot no it isn't.
An older mountaineer appeared out of the sky on the rocks above me and I was suddenly aware of my predicament. There were many groups vying for the summit today and even people coming up from the Sherpa col. I let people pass and tried to stay high. Eventually it was time to drop and the reverse mantling began until I got back to the others and Mr. J who was patiently chilling. Upon taking a poll we realized he had 90% of the water in the group and being a good natured humanitarian offered to share it with the rest of us foolish peakbaggers for our descent. I removed my boots and socks to reveal some skin damage starting on my ankles. Double D assessed that it should be bandaged ASAP and my stubbornness gave out. Only a brief break and Barker, Double D and Mr. J were cramponing over to the False summit snowfield facing in and moving cautiously.

Mr. F stayed back while I wrung out my wet socks (something I'd be doing a dozen times today). He noticed I had changed into swimming trunks for the glissade.
"You're going to freeze your balls off in those ripped up shorts. How about I give you my glissade pants? I won't be using them."
"Wow how kind!" trying and failing to not sound sarcastic because genuine words are hard for me to find. Mr. F if you got this far, Thank you for making my day!

We wondered why everyone was facing in and moving slow and most importantly, not glissading. I don't drink often in the mountains but carrying extra weight down is a sin.

I pulled way too much whiskey from the flask. "If I die make sure when it goes into the 2020 Accidents in Mountaineering that it reads "Glissading while Drunk"

With liquid courage brewing in my belly I quickly donned the micros, bragged that unlike crampons I could glissade in them and plodded over to see why everyone was being so cautious. The snow was soft but holding each step like an infant. A brief bit of peril over a rotten moat bridge and I was right next to them facing out.

I plunge stepped a few feet to move my fall line off of them and go, "alright! Let's do this!"
Surfing through on my ass I saw that my ax braking was reactive so I let it rip. "WOOO HOOO!"
I flew past all my comrades, then quickly overtook the Sherpa Col pair and even some stragglers.
"C'mon the water's fine!" I shout back. They're all still facing in. I shrug and continue recklessly.
My fall line started taking me to Sherpa so I slowly dug in my feet to a cartoonish stop and like an excited puppy bounded to the top of my next line which would spit me on some rocks.

go home fone your drunk
go home fone your drunk

They were all way up there now! Hoping to share I pulled out my phone to document it.
"Pro Glissading tip: Always aim for the rocks" I say to nobody while shooting down like a drunken bobsled. I begin to coast to a stop when my feet slam into a boulder and the momentum has me standing: "Nailed the landing!" I shout out loud to nobody again.

I ran a couple more of these and then started down skiers' left to maximize glissading. The last run was a 400' riot and took me all the way to within a few feet of camp. I probably dropped 1500' in less than 3 minutes. I looked back to see who was joining me and disappointed to see noone.
Their loss I suppose. As I stumble into camp I hear some joyous shouts and then FINALLY somebody is going for it. My grin was stuck.

I was euphoric. I wrung out my socks, dried out Mr. F's pants, and walked barefoot to a creek to get freshly melted water. Oh life is good right now!
I slowly packed up and listened to music while the rest of the party glissaded down. Barker got in first but unfortunately none of them took the skier's left route so they had to stop and shift the fall line constantly to avoid rocks. Oh well. My buzz was still going as I had lunch and looked out for Phil who was nowhere to be seen.
When they all got back I packed up, surprised that the poncho was dry, and went over to chat.

I asked them if they'd seen Phil to which Mr. F goes, "You mean Gary? Yeah I haven't seen him today."
So I guess the goat is Gary now. I must have missed the naming meeting. Anyway, it would seem they needed some time to recoup the energy I stole from them for my wild glissade so I opted to head down first, certain they'd be too far behind to be a rockfall hazard. I thoughtlessly said I'd wait at the horse camp, drunkenly unaware of the consequence of losing sunlight on the snowy side of Longs Pass.

As I lumbered down I tried to glissade small steep patches but the runnout was terrible so I quit that sh** and just skidded on gravel marbles over slabs like a normal person doing my best not to fall on my ass. About half way down the coulior I realized I had forgotten to put pants on and that the sun had already turned my legs into Mr. Crabs. Too much whiskey is the lesson on that one. Damage already done and not wanting to add to the already unbearable heat, I just plodded down as quickly as I could, stopping only to wring out my socks and dump out the sand in my boots. I heard some scattering behind me and a Kiwi couple (I'm judging on accent) disappointed me by not being my gang. A little anxious but not yet worried, I chugged water and waited a few minutes hiding from the sun behind a boulder. I couldn't see them in the coulior anywhere. Perhaps they were just slower? I Marched on down to the trees to get to a safer place to wait where I must have creeped out the Kiwi girl who quickened her pace. Back down-under the protection of trees I took a real break and ate fake food (poptarts) and recieved my one and only mosquito bite for the trip (which is super rare for me but it still itches). I let another 20 minutes go. Anxiety was rising. I walked to the first little creek before horse camp within view of the climbers trail and felt the cool forest breeze for 20 more minutes while I wrung my socks again. The bandages were in tatters now but I didn't dare look at the damage until home.

Now I like to brag when I'm able to keep up with Matt Lemke or Fletcher (who are probably going slow for me) but at this pace I couldn't be that fast. I got to horse camp and a couple was setting up for the evening, also vying for Stuart. I sat there for 20 minutes again, wringing, checking the time. Then it hit me. If Longs Pass froze over and the steps weren't good enough, I wouldn't make it over the pass. I stupidly told them I'd wait but they all had crampons and frozen snow wouldn't be a deal-breaker for them. Now keep in mind I wasn't entirely sure if I was ahead, or behind them. I was moving at a snail crawl afterall. Even the old man from near the summit had long passed. Shadows began to stretch over the woods as the breeze became chilly. I showed the couple a picture of my friends to see if they'd seen them pass. An uncertain confirmation told me I had to leave a message with the couple. "Tell them I had to get over Longs Pass before it freezes since I don't have crampons." They said that sounded about right, they'd pass it on and I should get moving.

And I moved like the wind. Not sure if I was ahead or behind. Either way it was getting late. Splashing up the still underwater trail I caught glimpses of the snowfield up to longs, shadows growing over it menacingly. I chugged water, donned the micros and began stepping up the icy sloped steps to the pass. There was just enough give to feel safe. At the top there was still no sign of anyone. The wind was icy and strong now. The sun was beginning to dance on the edges of Fortune and Ingalls peaks. One final time I wrung out my socks to dry then layered up and ate the cold disgusting leftover chilimac from the day before. It tasted better. A group hiked up and over the snowy pass. "Have you seen this man?" I investigated with a shoddy photo of Double D.
"Yeah, maybe. I did see an Indian fella. They were about a half hour behind in the coliour and moving half as fast"
Close enough. So I guess they were wayyyy back there!
I stayed until sunset then, still no sign of them, resigned to continue alone.

Parting shot
Parting shot

Feeling reassured, I laced up my now painful feet into soggy boots and sauntered down. No music this time. Distant waterfalls, birds and grinding tread were my jam.
I followed the familiar trail at an easy pace looking back periodically. About at the Longs Junction I saw a bright red backpack. It was Barker! Alright! the gang is back there. From there I confidently strode knowing he'd catch my slow damaged feet at the trail head. Sure enough it was only a 5 minute wait and then one by one they showed up in 15-20 minute intervals.

Thanks team for being supportive and staying positive and making Mount Stuart Great. And thank you Mr. F for the ride and helping make dreams happen.
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awilsondc
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Member


Joined: 03 Apr 2016
Posts: 909 | TRs

awilsondc
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PostTue Jun 23, 2020 8:39 pm 
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Poncho Villa looks like a sweet little cabana for a siesta!  Damn bro, ok... I'm going to sound old here but this sounds like some adventures I had in my early 20s.  Fly by the seat of your pants stuff, but nicely done!  Stuart is a good get, I still have super fond memories of my summit a couple years ago.  Such a good peak to have in the bag!  Thanks for the write up!  rocker.gif
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FiresideChats
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Joined: 20 Jan 2014
Posts: 328 | TRs
Location: San Juan Islands
FiresideChats
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PostTue Jun 23, 2020 10:18 pm 
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That was fun.  up.gif
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GaliWalker
Have camera will use



Joined: 10 Dec 2007
Posts: 4236 | TRs
Location: Pittsburgh
GaliWalker
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Have camera will use
PostThu Jun 25, 2020 9:20 pm 
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Yeah, that was a fun read! up.gif

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'Gali'Walker => 'Mountain-pass' walker
bobbi: "...don't you ever forget your camera!"
Photography: https://www.flickr.com/photos/shahiddurrani/albums
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