Thursday, March 10, 2011

Altitude & Wilderness Instruction

Adventure beckoned. I needed to climb a mountain and Tundra was willing to participate. Last night when I was packing my gear, Tundra followed me all around the house. She knew I was going for a run into the wild. I asked Tundra if she wanted to go and she quickly acknowledged with a resounding, "Woof." I assumed that meant yes in Husky/Malamute language. Little did Tundra know what she was actually agreeing to with that bark! The forecast was sun and blue skies, so I set my sights on a winter ascent of South Suicide Peak. I've climbed this peak multiple times, including winter, spring, summer, and fall. The upper ridge line gets thorny, especially in winter--so I knew a summit with Tundra probably wasn't going to happen. Nonetheless, I adventured out with her to teach her the ways of the wilderness.

Tundra and I commenced our spiritual wilderness adventure at 6:45 a.m. from the Falls Creek Trail head. The temperature was 4 degrees with a stiff wind. With snowshoes and trekking poles, the icy climb up Falls Creek was manageable. However, the "groomed" trail quickly ended and I was forced to break trail the remainder of the way. If you have ever hiked Falls Creek trail, you know how difficult it can be in summer, let alone in winter with snow and post-holing (even with snowshoes). I was nervous throughout the climb due to avalanche debris littered throughout the "trail." I've done this trail several times, never once contemplating the probable danger. Note to self. So, the journey continues.

Tundra decided to rest after an icy steep climb to the ridge line. She dug a small pit to keep her from sliding down the mountain. Seemed like a good idea to me!

This is the view looking back at our journey. The fun started at sea level...and only continued.

This is approximately where I made a judgment call to end the climb. You can clearly see the summit of South Suicide in the background. If I was by myself, the short bit of ridge would have been easy to navigate with crampons and ice-ax. However, Tundra's crampons are not Black Diamond--only the natural kind that God provided her. Given the cornices, icy glazed snow, and narrow places to walk, I wanted her to arrive home alive. Strangely, I didn't feel disappointed about turning around with the summit clearly in striking distance. Perhaps it is because I have done it multiple times before or perhaps the bright sun clouded my ambition--or perhaps I have some common sense--but, I told Tundra we are going down and she didn't object.

The descent proved more difficult than I anticipated. The snow had an icy glazed top layer, which made walking without metal spikes unsettling. Tundra required assistance and coaxing to make her way down. In fact, I had to carry her in a few tricky spots. Not an easy thing to do!
Tired dog!

Tundra and I arrived safety back to the truck. The total outing was 6 hours. I picked her up and put her in my truck, immediately falling asleep. As I write my blog 4 hours later, Tundra is laying by me sleeping. I wonder if she will want to go with me next time?