Mar 6, 2011

The assault on Bomber Mountain - 7, tossing cookies and pita at Lake Helen

My ticker rat-a-tats a couple hard beats as eyes absorb Lake Helen. 

A treasure tucked miles from harsh-life.
Water calm as slate.
Coned with rock walls shedding boulders like two ton dander.  
Only touched by a few hundred hikers each year. 

Fish led the charge around Helen to secure a campsite. 

click pic for high def

We walked a quarter mile to the west side of the pond and set camp on a flat above the trail. 

Fish was toast, Sherpa looked wobbly.  The altitude was kicking them in the stones.  They could use a smile, so I stealthily removed the pita bread from my pack and yelled "Incoming!!” while chucking the sack of whole grain at Fish.  It was supposed to gently glance off his back, but my bad aim whacked him squarely in the back of the noggin.

“Ouch” he said with iced monotone.

Sherpa snickered.
Popped ripstop tents, then collapsed.  The cove of pines behind us would serve toilet duty. 

Perfect weather, 70 and breeze.

The tree line cutoff is 10,000 feet.  The only thing surviving up here in thin air is krummholz, or “crooked wood”.  An evergreen sapling takes root, as cold temps and dry, abrasive wind twists the shrubs into gnarled bones.  

<---- This krummholz is likely  > 50 years old, despite the stubby stature.  Explains why they don’t allow fires up here.  Chopping down crooked wood for flame would have long-term impacts, and the downed, rotting brush needs to stay untouched to feed the anemic soil.

"Blah, I feel terrible" Fish bemoaned, color drained from his face.  Sherpa was mute.

I grabbed Fish's filtered water pump and slipped down to Helen to bottle up her glacier-fed drink.  The pump was inefficient, nearly caught carpel tunnel on the 150 stokes to fill a 32 ounce Nalgene bottle.  If the altitude or alpine rats didn’t get me, elbow lock would, courtesy of that blasted pump.

Returned to camp after 40 minutes of pulling water with that horrid snail pump.  We napped for a
couple hours and adjusted to less oxygen.  

“I feel horrible, but the books say the best way to beat altitude sickness is to drink fluids and stay active.  Let’s go for a walk,” Fish suggested.  We stepped a mile north along Helen, Fish was ferreting out good trout fishing spots for tomorrow.

“Nearly tossed my cookies, was this close to barfing when we arrived at the lake,” said Fish, pinching his fingers together.  “If I got sick, probably would have headed back down the trail to the car", he said. 

Altitude sickness was also poking Sherpa with a headache and dizziness while draining the energy tank.   

My hat blew off.

We explored Helen for two hours, then returned to camp for dinner.  On the menu was chicken and noodles, rice and freeze dried corn.  Whoops, I spilled most of the corn on the ground while preparing it.  No worries, invoked the ten second rule and quickly scooped it from dirt directly to pot.  After we finished eating, I casually mentioned the corn was filthy and the specs were dirt, not black pepper.  They were too beat to care. 

The mountain tops surrounding Helen blocked the falling sun by 7:15 pm.  I watched the digital temperature gauge on the compass spin from 72 to 37 in 30 minutes.   

sun failed early, dropping down a shadow wall and the temp with it

We piled into Fish and Sherpa's tent for our nightly Pow Wow.  Warmed up the dome and planned out tomorrow.  "Beard, our tent's warm, you can leave now" said Sherpa. 

Headed back to my tent, hit the sack with two layers on the legs, three up top.

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