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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

On True "Adventure;" Confessions of a Malcontent with holes in his Genes


It's easy to say I'm not cursed, that I am blessed: lucky in just having the chance to come...steal a moment in such a high place. Andy Kirkpatrick, Psycho Vertical.

There's a malignant discontent (inside), without a climb there will be no peace. What do I want, why can't I be happy with what I have?  Andy Kirkpatrick 

Because you are an addict, Andy, a mountain-induced adrenalin junkie, always eager to run away in search of the next fix...the high that doesn't last quite as long as its predecessor. It's a vicious circle.

So I stand before you naked and unafraid—an aging male "addict" with "holes" in his genes—staring down the unlikely barrel of a septuagenarian shotgun, promulgating outdoor adventure drugs from the BCB pulpit. Da pusher man.
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I'm told that the criterion for "adventure" is that it must involve an undetermined outcome. Thus, in and of itself, it would follow that ordinary "life" does't qualify. Sitting here typing up this post, waiting to accompany Bobbie to Walmart (ugh), I think I agree. After all, the "outcome" of life is not "undetermined," (picture Grim Reaper biding his time by a bell that will soon toll for thee). By deduction—if one regards said premise as true—there must be adventure in order to have a "life." Of course we could argue till the bell tolls over "what constitutes the threshold for adventure,  but if you ask me, it has to be more than just living, breathing, working...going to Walmart, anddare I say it, RVing, if it doesn't "skirt the edge" once in a while. I mean, what's the point...longest life wins?



It's pleasing to this old man, the realization that more than a few, if not most, of our unplanned, ill-equipped, "leaky-boat" outings rise to the "undetermined outcome" definition of adventure..not one of which took place indoors!  Ok, maybe one...

Take Monday, for instance... 


With a forecast that called for thunderstorms to crank up at noon, we chose to do a hike that was above timberline. I mentioned the forecast to Bobbie, only to get her standard, "Never miss out on an adventure because of a forecast." I know she's right... we've had scores of eventful and memorable outings on days with stay-indoors-and-hide forecasts.



I shrugged with grumpy indifference, filling my hydro-pack with ice water and stuffing Zone Bars into a zippered compartment. Someday they're going to be right, you know, I quipped, getting in the last word. In defense of our poor judgement, we did leave earlier than usual... like Zero Dawn Thirty, or so it seemed to me. If you want to enjoy the Rocky Mountains in July and August, you must be an early riser.

Analytically Anal male that I am, the glass-half-full side argues that "undetermined outcomes" is good blog fodder. It's like Paul Zweig said in, "The Adventurer," Man risking his life in perilous encounters constitutes the original definition of what is worth talking about. Spot on, Paul. Otherwise we are left to talk about our trip to Walmart...

However, on the Glass half empty side, well, listen to how Vilhjalmur Stefansson (My Life with the Eskimo) so humorously explains what adventure really means: "Having an 'adventure' shows that someone is incompetent, that something has gone horribly wrong...usually an exceedingly disagreeable experience. An 'adventure' is interesting...in retrospect, (mainly) to the person who didn't have it."  
Hmmm. Sounds vaguely familiar :).



I felt weary. Maybe it was the early hour, or that my legs were flat from back-to-back-to-back "adventures." But hey, retirement done right is supposed to be hard. Heed Neil Young: "it's better to burn out than fade away." Or, my favorite, Warren Zevon: "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead." 



We pointed Sue Bee south toward the "adventure zone," unsure of destination and weather. Not wanting to waste time driving when we could be hiking, I hung a right onto the infamous Black Bear Pass jeep trail on Red Mountain Pass. The temperature read 38 degrees
How about doing Beck? 
Okay.
A plan is born.

A couple rough miles up a rutted, rocky road, I squeezed Sue Bee into a wide spot. The morning's brisk air held our breath in suspension. Packs donned, we began the long uphill trudge to Senator Beck Basin. I was encouraged by the abundance of wildflowers nearing their peak. Mood loosened, along with hamstrings, quads, and the rhythm of our pace. Wilderness and fresh air always puts Grumpy back in his box. 



Recall from my Serendipity post , now faded from glory and headlines, that we tried to summit Trico in June... a 13er, still under the influence of winter snow. That's it in the above photo, our route being the ridge, ascending from far left to right. We tiptoed across steep slabs of snow, and up sections of vertical rock so rotten you could almost smell the decay. We gained the ridge and run it, eventually turned back by pointy wedges of snow that fell away on both sides. Twas better to "live to hike another day" than end up an idle "statistic." 

That photo also demonstrates the broad, awe-inspiring nature of Senator Beck Basin. For scale, notice Bobbie in the lower left corner...dwarfed by vast, unpeopled wilderness, with air so thin it refuses to sate desperate lungs. 

Sometimes the best plan is to not have a plan. Look where we end up. Lord, between the wildflowers and the fact that we had it all to ourselves, well, our "adventure" couldn't have had a better "outcome." Still, the day was young; plenty of time for machinations from Mother Nature...


It was about "here' (above photo) that we noticed a previously unseen "trail," etched into the scree at the base of "yonder" mountain. Always before, in the dozen or so times Bobbie and I hiked to Beck's Basin and beyond, we went left instead of right of that mountain. Going right would put us in new territory, with, perhaps, "undetermined outcomes." 
Let's do it.
Suddenly, we are both energized...more interested...more alive...connecting new "dots."

The "trail" peters in and out, but, per rule-of-thumb, when in doubt, go up. Besides, we're on the flanks of what appears to be a 13er, and this time there's no snow to wade...only wildflowers.







Until this. Wouldn't you know, just beneath the summit of our 13er, we must negotiate a little "undetermined outcome."

The steep slab of snow extended top to bottom of our 13er, effectively blocking a summit and exploration of new "dots." We pulled up at snow's edge, eyeing the "situation." Neither of us are good at turning back, especially after such an "investment" in time and effort that grows beyond a certain "tipping point." 
But we've come so far, climbed so high, and are sooo close.

I say to Bobbie, If we cross, we need to find another way down and/or around. I don't want to do this bitch twice. 
Okay.
Okay.
Wait while I check the snow; if it's soft enough, maybe I can carve steps for you to follow across.

I inch out, spooked by the hardness and verticality of the snow slab. 
Probably froze hard up here last night. 
Don't look down! 
I know...
Planting my Walmart hiking pole on the downhill side for support (lord, why do we pinch pennies on gear?), I tried to etch the sides of my boots into solidified snow. It was hard work, stomping around at 13,000 feet. It didn't take long for me to become totally winded.

Not halfway across, I stopped to catch some breath. I looked down, tried to imagine the "ride" should either of us slip. It's fucking steep; no way to arrest a 190 pound "freight train." A 400 foot straight-as-a-pin bobsled run, followed abruptly by the deceleration zone...i. e., clumps of tundra and wildflowers, appropriately, to mark my final resting place.

Bobbie begins her crossing; right hand planting her hiking pole, left frozen from clutching snow.


To be concluded...

18 comments:

  1. Literal Cliffhanger....waiting for Part 2! :-)

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    1. Thanks, Hans, But you know I survived cause it's written in past tense :)
      But I could be hurt!!!!
      mark :)

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  2. Mark...
    You couldn't have posted this with more perfect timing... on top of a couple other perfect timing "nudges" today... maybe it'll succeed in getting me out of that ditch I dug ;) Many Thanks!

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    1. "Saddle up," Brian. There are no "ditches" in the mountains...only canyons and high country that soothes the souls of "square peg" men in a world full of only "round holes." I feel it too, some days.
      mark

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  3. Don't Fear the Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult should be playing on your headphone next time you cross that slippery snow field. Spectacular pictures of the July wildflowers thIs year. Perfect day for an adventures hike!

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    1. Missing the you and Jo this year, pal :(
      mark and bobbie

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  4. Wish we were there to join you two! Love the post. Biting our nails for the conclusion. -Love Caleb & Kelli

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    1. And I'm biting my nails for your "conclusion." :)
      Thanks you guys... love and luck, mark

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  5. I like that Stefansson quote about 'adventure'. Ive had a few exceedingly unpleasant experiences in the great outdoors.... now I know what to call them.

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  6. Yeah, Chris... "Armchair Adventurers" miss out on our "exceedingly unpleasant experiences," and end up talking about trips to Walmart :)).
    mark

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  7. I kid you not...on Tuesday I had a sudden notion that something bad happened to you! It freaked me out...now I am left to wonder, is it you or Bobbie that has an accident...?

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  8. Okay, I'm off to Walmart while you scale that steep bank of snow :-)

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    1. Should l expect a full writeup in your next post? :)

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  9. While waiting for the conclusion I came across an article on Greg Norman in the July issue of People mag and was struck by the similarities between the golfer and the mountain man of Ouray; lots of similarities between two 62 yr olds, so you see you are in good company.
    Stay Thirsty my Friend

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    1. Thanks Doug...But I only wish I was only 62...ahh, those were the good old days ...
      mark

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  10. Love your opening quotes! The best adventures are so often those that are unplanned and have your heart in your throat. Where you don't appreciate it til you arrive safely back to level ground. John never likes to turn back and loves creating new trails. Sometimes it is just us and the mules. Great adventure so far! Can't wait for Part II!!

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    1. John and I would get along great !!!
      mark

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