Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Coming Down From Hooker In a Toad Strangler

Originally posted on April 16, 2008


Lightening was popping but still several seconds separated from the accompanying volley of thunder but at 10,000 plus feet, I was in no way feeling comforted about that. I had fortunately made it past the friction slab part of the decent where two 1000 plus feet vertical drop-offs were separated by a severely tilting five feet wide slab of granite before the rain drops began to fall. The friction slab was technically not that difficult because your boots would stick right to it allowing you to walk up or down. However, the mental aspect was daunting because one slip and a couple feet later you would be flying. Trying to do that in the rain wouldn't have helped the mental aspect of it. The rain was falling in a real toad strangler as Pablo would say. Soon I passed the friction slab and was hustling down the mountain as fast as possible. At about 10,000 feet, the gentle slope gives way to a nearly vertical slope consisting mostly of rocks and a few clumps of grass gripping tenuously here and there. The clouds were now very dark and ugly, the temperatures were dropping faster than a rock and I was sweating bullets out of fear and exertion.

Earlier that day, I had left from camp at a relatively late four in the morning and after five hours had reached the summit. It was a cloudless warm day and as I ate my breakfast of fruit, nuts and chocolate, the sun seemed to bore holes right through my skin. For an hour or so, I wrote in my journals and lounged like a lizard. Then I did something that I shouldn't have done, I closed my eyelids to check for holes. Well into the afternoon, I woke up still bathed in sunlight but ominous clouds were over the horizon and moving my way fast. As quickly as I could, I had slung my daypack on and was scrambling down the summit and across a mile or two wide flat mesa on top of Mt. Hooker. I knew I was going to be real close to being in serious trouble.

I started down the nearly vertical slope and immediately slipped and fell deeply bruising my hip and leaving me something to remember the trip by for a couple weeks beyond. More carefully, I kept going trying to hang onto what I could while looking over my shoulder for the next step. My legs started shaking with the exertion and I knew I was close to my limit by the time I finally reached the saddle pass and started almost running down the maintained trail along its flank. Several brief periods of hail would hit me every time I thought I should slow down, and give me some new energy with marble sized shots to my upper torso and head. Finally about three hours after I set out, the rain began to pass just as I made it to camp and fell into my tent steaming in moisture and body heat. I learned a valuable lesson that day and one I am not soon to forget

No comments: