Monday, April 11, 2011

Valdez to Cordova III

While our friends slept in their comfy burrows forces were conspiring against them. Far away in another place, a fading beauty named the Warlock and his henchman, WAC, were following the trio's progress closely.

"Make them suffer, Master!!"

"Patience, you dolt," snapped back the Warlock.

Dawn broke slowly and snowy. 18" blanketed the ground by the time Ox got breakfast going. The route up to the glacier was steep, so the team decided to scout the route that morning leaving the camp set up. After a few hours of deep trail-breaking, the glacier was in sight and it was time to peal the skins. The turns were soft and quick as they raced silently through the trees back to camp. Snow continued to pound throughout the night. The storm showed no signs of letting up at the next dawn, but Ox, Hog, and Badger broke camp determined to make progress. Snows had erased all evidence of yesterday's skinner, so they opted to jettison some food to make weight. With the sleds loaded the uphill slog commenced. Honey Badger broke trail while Hedgehog and Haul Ox took the two sleds.

Pepper Jack: You are dismissed!

Snow continued to fall, but visibility was good in the trees. Badger had to help pull the sleds up the steeper sections and Hog and Ox had to swap in and out of the power sled position (1st sledder). As vertical grew between them and the camp, vegetation was getting smaller and more spread out. The route chosen the day before led onto a thin strip of land separated by two chasms. Above tree-line visibility went to zero. After a short deliberation, Chasms Deep camp was carved into the snow.

Chasms Deep Camp with Meteorite & Satellite in the Background

That evening after 48 hours and 30" inches the snow let up and visibility returned. Badger and Hog used the window to put in the skinner (again) to the toe of the glacier. This scouting mission not only established the route for the next day, but was important for breaking a wide trail for the sleds. Flurries continued through the night, but in the morning the trail to the ice was still in good shape. However, visibility was decidedly poor. Despite this, Honey Badger, Haul Ox, and Hedgehog headed up into the white.

Once on the glacier with the yesterday's scouting trail behind them, the real work began. Slow, deliberate travel through deep, untracked snow all whilst in a whiteout. A 12' piece of thin cordelette tied to a ski pole functioned as a whip. The trail-breaker would use a fly-fishing technique to slap the snow producing a distinct mark in the snow that was used to locate where the sky ended and the earth began. Higher they climbed with no landmarks. A break here and there would reveal large land forms prompting our friends to hastily correlate the features to the map. Two days of whiteout travel brought them to the cusp of the high point of the quest. Evenings typically cleared enough to reveal the grandeur through which they traveled. It would also reveal an inefficient zig-zag skin track.

Ox Navigating / Breaking / Whipping

The next morning spirits were high as they were only 400' from the high point. Armed with a compass, map, and whip; Ox began to navigate. We quickly gained the apex and were heading down a gentle slope. The hard earned vertical began to melt away slowly, but not slow enough. Something was not right. The GPS was consulted. The gizmo whirred, beeped, and clacked. Diodes flashed on and off in brilliant colors. It's gears toiled together as it ground out the answer:

"Beep, boo, beep, beep, ANALYSIS: You are fucked," it said in it's best robot impression.

The course was corrected and the team climbed East, paying closer attention to the compass.

"ANALYSIS: You are still fucked."

Fortunately the batteries quickly died on Know-It-All. Ox held steady on the easterly course. They climbed up out of the drainage back to the high point of the planned route, 4,850'. The whiteout would not yield, and Ox's gaze was fixed upon the needle. But East kept climbing: 4900, 5000, 5100, 5200, and at 5300 a large mountain appeared out of the fog, wind, and snow blocking the way forward. It was time to regroup. Defeated, Haul Ox, Hedgehog, and Honey Badger began the arduous task of building another camp for the night. Spirits were low.

The Navigator and the Power Sledder

"Excellent work, Master! Listen to them swear. They suffer! They suffer!," WAC cheerfully exclaimed.

"Stop your non-sensical rambling, you idiot, and put on "Hoist," growled the Warlock.

Hurt and humbled, WAC complied.

- Hedgehog

1 comment:

  1. I have to say that using the 12' cordlette "whip" would have been more effective if the 3rd person could whip the power sledder and also the navigator. Thought for next time...