The turning of gears: Part 1

Camera accounted for atop the summit - but not for long
Or maybe this should be called the returning of the gears. This summer I've witnessed three instances of astounding and unlikely gear returns, and the stories are almost as interesting as reading about the newest  8aNu bouldering extreme radness. These are actually the human interactions which (in a well-written form) make any "climbing story" worth reading (and hence not really about climbing).

 It was dark out, and had been for some time. Not just general inner-city "neon haze" dark, or starlight and moonlight in the mountains dark. It was "deep-woods dark" and I'd been missing any number of obstacles (fallen trees, creeks, snow) that had stood in front of my stumbling figure for the preceeding hours. I'd been awake over 40 hours and hiking or climbing for the prior 22. But I didn't realize it had been a mere 22, and I was convinced that it had been more like 25. And this was yet another reason that the marked trail junction, when I finally limped onto it, seemed masochistically proud of the "5.8 miles" remaining to reach the car. I figured we'd missed our hoped-for 24hr "in a day" window.  My headlamp had been flickering in and out of functionality since it had bounced and slid down an icy snow slope somewhere above an alpine lake. I had downclimbed (downcrawled?) kicking frozen steps with wet tennis shoes, putting my knees in the divots, and finally clawing at the divots with bloodied fingers as I kicked more steps. My feet had already been confined to rock shoes for 4,000' of granite that day, so what was the harm in spending a few minutes intentionally slamming tender toes into the ice?  That had felt like hours ago, but was probably more like 45 minutes, 2 miles, and a crossing of treeline. From the trail junction I can recall the eery blue LED of my ipod, and the bizarre tranquility expressed by the BBC announcer as I passed the miles listening to a radio recording of history shows on the origin of Greenwich Mean Time, and the astrolabe. When I reached the car at 23:45 into our "day" scott had been there long enough to already have the jetboil and some hot drinks fired up. I emerged from the dark carrying my upturned helmet in my hands like an empty offering plate, a supplicant worshipper from the woods, praising the NPS for at least extending the road THIS far. We soon realized that the car wouldn't start, and I was too tired to care. With no cel service and an NPS ranger station audaciously closed at 3AM, we had no choice but to sit tight. I fell asleep in the front seat wearing my wet shoes and chalkbag. And somewhere in the dark behind me, my $400 camera lay missing.

Only P2 of L.I.B. but already too high to be dropping your gear off the route
From a hanging belay 6 pitches up Colchuck Balanced Rock's 'Let it Burn' (1000', 5.12a, Hasson-Holsten 2010) Scott violated a generally-accepted principle of locating oneself in such a position - keep everything clipped in. It could have been his shoe, which would have been worse to lose. And it could have been his helmet, which would have exploded to bits. But dropping his stuffed-into-a-pouch rain jacket was pretty bad as well. Especially as I nervously slabbed my way towards the factor2-avoidance potential of some protection, only to hear him suddenly cursing and shouting from back down at the belay. After completing the route and descent, his search turned up nothing, and we hiked out minus one new jacket.


(This story is invented, but is probably not as interesting as the reality)

Here's my "I can't believe someone is going to find
this camera 3 years after it gets lost" face.
Some time in the fall of 2008 (true) a group of friends--climbers, firefighters and outdoorsy types all--headed up to Mt. Ruth for a late season ascent of the Ruth Glacier. The mellow outing provided staggering vistas of Nooksack Cirque, the Northern Pickets, Slesse, and fresh snow on the high peaks. The week after their climb it snowed several feet, burying the steps they'd kicked as well as the camera they'd dropped along the way...

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