Behind the Gram 2014 – #4 Forbidden Peak Dusk, AKA, How I (Almost) Ruined Our Climb
Caption: The soft hues of winter over Forbidden Peak on Saturday night.
Technical Details: Captured with the iPhone 6. Instagram LoFi Filter.
Story: Soon after pulling my bare hand out of my glove to snap a quick shot of the evening light on Forbidden Peak with my iPhone, during which it was instantly stung by the biting east wind and single digit temperatures, we had the tent erected and were inside ready to hunker down for an extremely cold night by Washington standards. All we had left to do was fire up the stove, melt some snow for water and cook up the dehydrated dinners. Then it was off to sleep for an early morning run up Eldorado Peak.
I must have dug through my backpack at least four times before finally being convinced that I had indeed left the stove in the car, some 5,000 feet of rugged climbers’ trail below. The stove that was going to cook our dinner, provide a warming beverage and, most importantly provide our water for the next day’s long mission, was very much out of reach.
It took me a second to come up with the words to share with my climbing partner, Matt Henry, who had carried the rope because I had the stove, and who was relying on the same Whisper Light for his comfort and joy. In the end I took the most direct path. “I left the stove in the car.”
And so began the process of creating water by any means necessary, the most efficient of which is to sleep with bottles of snow in your sleeping bag until it melts, at which point you add more snow, and repeat until the bottle contains more water than snow.
We’ve been having some odd weather here in Washington this year. Today, as I write this, it’s 15 degrees warmer than normal. On the particular day that I took this photo, it was about 25 degrees below normal, or, if I did the math right, about -5 degrees at the 7000’ elevation at which we were camped. Fine by arctic standards, but in the temperate Pacific Northwest, this is somewhat unusual, and serves as a shock to the system. All of which makes sleeping with bottles of slush in your 15 degree sleeping bag sound less than ideal, but such was our plight.
Two things of note happened in consequence. First, we tested whether or not a dehydrated dinner (Mountain House in this case), really needs to be rehydrated. We kept an open mind, but in the end must strongly recommend adding water, as per the directions…If you have that luxury.
Second, for the first time in my life, I slept in every single stitch of clothing I was carrying. My torso was covered with the following:
Short Sleeve Capeline Shirt
Long Sleeve Shirt
Thick Insulated Shirt
Nano Puff Jacket
Expedition Weight Down Jacket
The bottles of slush were the little spoon, and my camera gear (which was misbehaving due to the low temperatures) was the big spoon in the snuggle party that happened with my gear in my sleeping bag. A couple of damp ski boot liners down in the bottom of the bag rounded out the party.
In the morning we were able to spare some ice water for cold oatmeal and managed to summit Eldorado via the non-technical but uber-classic east ridge. The cup of tea I brewed up in the parking lot 10 hours later in the dark of evening was the best I ever had. Lesson learned. Double check the stove.
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