Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Valdez to Cordova V

The options were clear and after much deliberation the travelers came to a decision. Wasatch skiers don't get shut down. Turning back would never be an alternative. Hedgehog was concerned because they were definitely not in the Wasatch.

Phase I of "Operation: Creative Swear Combinations" involved exiting the glacier. Sleds were put on furlough and Ox, Honey Badger, and Hedgehog set out to discover a route. Travel was slow, zigs and zags, back and forth, up and down, and finally a path presented itself through the surreal landscape. They were back on terra firma for the first time in a week, but all was not well. A cliff blocked the way to the bushwhack. Honey Badger and Ox rappelled down in order to survey the landscape from a small hill. It looked doable but their fears about the hateful bush whack had been confirmed. The group decided to make "Crag Camp" at the edge of the cliff and set off to retrieve the sleds. Safe glacier travel protocol may not have been followed to the letter.

Hedgehog and an Ice Arch

Honey Badger Practicing Safe Glacier Travel

Departing "Crag Camp"

The bush whack lived up to the hype.

"Sweet and sour chicken nuts!," declared Hedgehog.

"Rooster cocks!," observed Ox.

"Frozen mixed vegetable dicks!," opined Honey Badger.

"See WAC, they are losing there minds! Just as I had planned!"

"Oh master, you are ever so clever!"

After 6 hours Hedgehog, Badger, and Ox managed to descend the 400' of vertical to the banks of the Rude River. The Rude was mostly open water with precious few snow bridges. When the river bent left, the thicket hugged the right side and the snow-covered gravel bar would be on the left. Cross or fight the alders? This decision had to be made annoyingly often. Sometimes there was a bridge, sometimes not. At first the crossings were novel and nerve-racking but they quickly became commonplace and mundane. The valley began to widen allowing the Rude to separate into a multitude of small channels, many of them still frozen. Crossings became much less hazardous allowing the pace to quicken. Spirits rose and as the light began to fade an idyllic campsite appeared.

The next morning Ox, Badger, and Hedgehog lingered. The sun that was filtering through the high, thin clouds was sufficient to dry the gear in the tents. Things were looking up. Technically they were traveling on the West Fork of the Rude River and the confluence with the East Fork lay a few miles off in the distance. Overnight temperatures had reduced water flow to mere trickle allowing for efficient travel.

Where East meets West, the valley triples in size. West Rude had the good fortune of meandering through a narrow valley blanketed in shadows; the Main Rude suffered no such luxury. River water was not locked in ice and open water returned both wider and deeper. The Rude Valley endured the full effect of the sun. Snow on the gravel bars had all but disappeared. Gravel and drift wood as far as the eye could see. Ski boots and sleds would not make for easy travel over this wasteland.

A Bleak Reality

"Astronaut cocks!," posited Hedgehog.

"Kitten penises!," noted Ox.

"Platypus nuts!," announced Honey Badger.

However, there was no turning back. They had to pull, and pull they did. For hauling sleds, ice is better than snow which is better than river rock which is preferred to gravel which is far superior to wet sand. Gravel and wet sand to the horizon with patches of ice. The siren song of the ice lured them into the wet sand. The Warlock grinned. Muscles strained. Aches, first dull then sharp, howled their displeasure with each step. And then came the rain.

"Operation: Creative Swear Combinations" was in full effect, and spirits were once again leveled.

"Master! Master you have defeated them!," cackled WAC.

"Their spirit was strong but now they are weak. Put on "A Picture of Nectar!" Play it loud!"

"You are a clever and tricksy master!"

But that old Wasatch stubborn "I don't get shut down" mentality was engrained in the psyche of the travelers and despite being far from home progress continued....


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