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Saturday, June 10, 2017

"Treading Lightly" (concluded) Plus, a "glacading" video for your amusement

In regard to extreme outdoor endeavors: Embrace them as challenges...un-forgettable, un-regrettable moments of triumph that carry us through doldrum times, or when such things have slipped beyond our grasp.  Box Canyon Mantra: 

Few things short of lightening turns me around short of an outdoor objective. Unfortunately, on this day with nary a cloud in the sky, I won't be able to count on lightening to bale me out of my Box Canyon "mantra." In one ear whispers Einstein, "The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits."  While in the other ear, Peck counters with, "One extends one's limits only by exceeding them." What to do... 

 So here I go again, in search of limits, clinging to a vertiginous slab of frozen snow by slivers of boot-edge, and reevaluating the cascade of slippery choices made that gets me into fine messes. FYI: Adrenaline is an excellent lubricant. 

Bobbie, watching me push on for a summit before she has to head down in time to go to work. Maybe I need to get a job... 
It's one thing to be brave and conquer—revel in post-summit cheer at the pub and retell a story for the umpteenth time to anyone drunk enough to give a shit—another thing entirely to become a regrettable "statistic" by doing something stupid. If you take only one thing from this post beyond purdy pictures, it should be the realization that the line between "hero" and "stupid" is fine. 

Adrenaline is a two-edged sword. Sometimes it can be the "juice" that propels you beyond normal limits to glory, other times it's an evil drug that pushes you one step over the "line" (picture Wiley Coyote, looking into the camera...poof). 

With a hiking pole firmly planted downslope for balance and support, I chip at the iceberg slab of snow with the edges of my boots, trying to carve a small platform where I can stop, rest, and reevaluate my predicament/fate/destiny/demise. If I could just "edge" up another couple hundred yards to an island of bare ground, I'd be able to sit down, rest trembling legs, and think things over. 

go for it (damn Nike slogans), only to wonder/worry about getting back down later. Whether a kitten, kid, or Geezer, down is always more problematic than "up," especially on icy slopes where boots have a way of ending up over your head and sends you off down-mountain on an "unforgettable" bobsled ride without the bobsled.

Bobbie and Gayle heading down

I try not to look down as I sidestep up to the "island." Finally, a bare patch of ground that allows rest...before taking on the next slab (Hey, I was feeling better). The sun beats down. I am sweating profusely even though underdressed in t-shirt and shorts. That's when I begin to notice the snow underfoot softening; setting an "edge" is easier by the minute. 

Secure footing makes quick work of reaching the "pass." I'm relieved that, at least on this day, my "epithet" will not contain the word "stupid."

Snow continues to soften, so fast, actually, that I worry about breaking through the crust and having to post-hole my way off the mountain. It's feast or famine, alone in the wilds; fear-joy-fear-joy. The wintery scene is dreamy. But in this "dream," I'm beginning to long for July... when fields of wildflowers supplant snow, and the only worry is lightening. 

Given all the ice on the way up, I'm surprised to find a pond at 12,000 feet melted off.

Lifting my gaze from the pond, I can see Red's neon orange summit of rock, glowing in the sun. "Red Mountain" is a almost a misnomer. "Orange" would be more accurate, even though it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue with the same ease.

The final push up Red is one of two-steps-forward, one-step-backwards. Snow or soil, it's more productive to use "all fours." A sudden resurgence of adrenaline occurs at the realization that, after such a sketchy beginning, I'm actually going to summit. I shall tread the snowy "Dragon's Back," take his portrait as he sleeps off a long, long winter.

Almost there!!!

There's really not much of a "peak" to Red #1, more of a nub, really. But the peak is not the "draw" for me. "Red" is all about treading the "Red Dragon's Back," reveling in its serpentine, burnt orange spinal cord as it leads the eye down valley to Lovely Ouray's crevice, Ridgway valley, and beyond...all the way to Grand Mesa. It boggles my mind; the most colorful ridge line you will ever lay eyes on, if not the most beautiful spectacle in the world.

I realize there is redundancy among the following photos. Alas, which "child" do I sacrifice?
Now let's have a look from the summit...

And now a lesson in how not to glacade off the mountain...


  1. You're right about Bobbie not leaving you alone, although she would have probably been glissading right along next to you! Just wish the road had been plowed so I could have joined you up on the Dragon's Back, but I seem to be missing that "Death Wish" gene ;-)

    1. You need to walk the Dragon's Back...after the snow melts, or most of it. You were almost there, so you know you can do it. Come back for a week during wildflower season.
      Oh, and Andre is at work putting in for a permit to do Subway Slot Canyon 2nd week in October...REPELLING TOP DOWN. Up to 8 people allowed. Just saying :)

    2. So does Bobbie know you will be leaving Ouray before the end of October??? ;-)
      Count us OUT on the upper Subway route. I am just thankful to have survived the lower hike!

    3. She's the one who gave the OK when Andre called!!!! We'll need to get there at least a week early to take the "class" on route, gear, and what to expect. They won't let anyone guide in there, so we better be prepared because we're on our own... a frightening thought, yet exhilarating :)

  2. Yes, there is a very fine line between hero and stupid. I do, however, understand your draw to get to that higher place. The Red Mountains are my favorite in your photos. Love all the spectacular photos and the video was quite impressive!! I'm thinking Jim's hip will be really bad around the second week in Oct...just saying:)

    1. I know...my hip flares up every time the lawn needs mowing :)

  3. I definitely no longer have the "death wish" gene, maybe never did. Even boulder leaping was something I did carefully when working alone in the mountains, I knew no one was around to get me out if I broke something and we didn't have cell phones back then, or even radios. Still, I have said it before, I am so glad you document this stuff so beautifully, so I don't have to ever try to do it, Ever! Loved the video, Mark. Crazy Man.

  4. Yep, Bobbie needs to be there at the bottom to catch you as you slide past! There is still so much snow. Do you ever remember having this much left in the middle of June? I do remember Black Bear not opening until near the end of July on the last day of our trip one year.

    1. Yes...but it's been a while. A cool, wet spring stalled the snow melt, as well as added more snow. They will be lucky to get Imogene open by the time you guys are ready to leave!!!

  5. Great post Mark. If you can squeak out one post a month like this one we will be happy. You gotta do a photo book guy, take out loan and go for it. Maybe you could find a sponsor, it would be ashamed to let these pictures fade into obscurity. What good is research if you don't enlighten the World with it?
    Ouray is going to be overrun with the Chinese soon, a vast market right in your back yard. Hell you could sell 'em out of your Subaru right on Main St.🤔
    Wear you hiking boots the next time.

    1. Thanks Sonoma :) Are you offering that "loan?" :))

  6. Freakin' amazing photos! You are one crazy old fart...but I admire you for it!

  7. hey you do a book!!! Why did I not suggest that!?!?!? Yearly!!!_The rants from Ouray !Walden creek rv


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