Apr 26, 2011

The assault on Bomber Mountain - 13, no plane, no gain

Big Bertha post alert:  this mother will eat your bandwidth, spool the Internet turbos.

Windy clip atop Bomber, a smidgen under 13,000 feet.  Hope your Droid does video, roll it:

Our goals were to topple Bomber Mountain and to sniff out the elusive B17 WWII bomber plane.  Climbed the mountain, check.  But no aluminum in sight. “Darn, no plane,” said Fish with disappointment.  

I gave Fish and Sherpa a wink, “By golly, we came here to find the plane, I’m gonna find that stinkin’ plane.  I’ll skirt around the top perimeter of Bomber before spilling over the opposing face we climbed.”  

They scoffed and slipped on their angry eyes, trying to convince me a boulder bonk to the brain would wake me in heaven.  They were probably right.  They failed to scare me down the mountain the way we came up, a less steep and safer descent.  So we gave each a nod and grunt, I was off!  Note:  had the movie 127 Hours played before our mountain hike, I'd probably reconsider the solo airplane search.  How would I play my electric piccolo with only one arm?

 My hat didn’t blow off.

According to the topographic map, I needed to descend a quarter mile before heading west and skimming south atop the northwest rim of Bomber round the Golden Lakes. I worked efficiently, trotting at times.   

It was great, out there alone high up, Wyoming spraying shale in every direction for miles.  A tiny sparrow tweeted, the first bird I’d seen for days.  Appeared she was pumping her feathers double time to stay afloat in the thin air.

Sherpa camera'd the photo below after we parted and I headed along the northwestern rim looking for the crumpled B17 bomber.  Beefy boulders were tossed like piles of dice, they shrank me to insignificance.  Bring it on, Bomber!

I wheeled west towards Cloud Peak Mountain, a lifeless slab of granite that chews 13,200' of sky.  It could play stunt double for the rock on Prudential commercials.  Cloud was on our ascension hit list, a secondary target, but it wouldn’t play out this trip.  We'll climb it later on in 2011.

To the north of Cloud Peak is a sizable crystal green glacier containing enough mass that it's tinkled runoff for 3,000 years.

Kept an eye on the Ironman watch, wanted to land at the bottom of Bomber roughly the same time as my friends.  Three hours to climb, I estimated two hours to descend.  Kept an eagle lock on the landscape, squinting for a torch of sun off metal that would beacon me to the aircraft.  No luck.  There were several false peaks and no lookout points where I could see out more than a few hundred meters ahead or above.

After nomadding for 30 minutes and not finding the prize, adrenaline fizzled as nerves pulsed.

I didn't want to get lost.  

Two options:  

A) Keep following Bomber south until I came to a spot that angled less sharply.
B) Cut it short and take the angry express slide down to the Golden Lakes.  

I was concerned about getting lost or trapped on southern route, it’s disorienting up there. You can see for many dozens of miles, and while you may only see one or two lakes from the ground, you can see ten from above. Which one exactly was Florence? Was it that one or the other one over there? From the top, they looked close together, but I knew they were actually several miles apart. Descend at the wrong angle by a few degrees and you'll end up five miles from where you should be. 

Golden Lakes, triplets.  Looks close, but the lake in the middle is one mile away.
Option B, I'd take the short and steep route.  Locked onto three lakes that I recognized from the map, the Golden Lakes.  They are tiered, number one flows into two, two to three and three to Florence. Descend down to the lakes, follow them southwest and I’d in theory kiss Florence. 

I boarded the elevator down to the first Golden Lake.  Dropped 100 feet and estimated the pitch at 60 degrees.  It was nasty, especially with pebbled footing.  The small rocks washed out like polished marbles.  Perhaps I should pull back up and head south a ways before descending, the angle waters down in that direction. I tried to climb back up, but it was impossible.  The damage was done.  Gravity bullied up with low friction footing, making climbing out a no go. “Elevator goin' down, hold on tight,” I said, then went for it. 

the start of the rock coaster down to the Golden Lakes, don't slip...
Triggered two rock slides and decided it would be best to descend at an angle, crab style.  Move across the bowl rather than straight down. This way, if a large slide started, the boulders would fall to the side of me and not crack my cranium. 

It was terrifying.  

I loved every minute of it.  

My heard pumped and my face had a big goofy grin on it.

looking up from halfway down to Golden Lakes

I could see the first Golden Lake, It’s right there, just a little more to go, I kept telling myself. The closer I got, the farther away it appeared.  

No doubt,  one tumbling rock from above to the head, it would’ve been lights out. Mental note: next trip, pack a full-face motorcycle helmet. 

If something happened, hopefully the search crew would peel the Panasonic from my skeleton hands and enjoy the sweet digital slideshow.  

Bomber was doing her best to beat me.  The rocks shriveled as I came down, but were loose and knife-edge sharp, itchin’ to open up a leg. 

After 45 minutes of fighting through the slide, I made it to the first Golden Lake.  Relief!  Sat on my butt to respawn and looked up ahead. 

Discouraged, I wondered if Sherpa and Fish were already at the bottom at Lake Florence, grilling steaks and radioing in helicopters after me.  

At that moment, I noticed two figures approaching from 300 yards.  Is that…it couldn’t be…yes!  What in tarnation where they doing here?  They were supposed to be a half mile east taking the easy street to the bottom.  

Trotted up and asked, “If you guys are lost, and I’m lost, but we find each other, does that put me back on point?” They were too shot to respond.  Bomber had deceived them too, they got off track and were sucked into the same Golden bowl that I was.  Fish was breathing hard, “We heard two rock slides over there, that must’ve been you.” 

“Yep, that was me, surprised I didn’t see you ladies until now.”

Bomber had nearly done us in. 

pumping liquid glacier
We squatted for a few minutes at Golden Lakes while I tried some desperate humor to cheer them up a little.  Refueled on Nutter Butters, pounding them down like apes on bananas.  Whipped out the filter and quenched cotton mouth with ice water.  

And Monkey Mix, we chomped on what looked like gooey nut vomit. Fish somehow found the world’s only unhealthy trail mix, a Target-sourced heart attack of chocolate blobs, peanuts, candy-clustered cashews and crushed coconut.  It’d melted and looked as if a chocolate grenade had fragged inside the clear pouch.  Yum, it was like eating from a colostomy bag.

almost there, we wrestled rocks like this for hours
We climbed down to Golden Lake number two and three, Florence was patiently waiting below.  It was reassuring to see that familiar icon again, after duking with Bomber for a solid five hours.  

Sherpa looked good, Fish was not saying a word.  It was the first time I'd ever seen him bite his tongue for more than 18 seconds.  Fatigue was chewing his quads.

At 1:40 pm, we made it to Lake Florence's trail.  

We had successfully carried out the assault on Bomber Mountain, but not without a couple asterisks.  We weaseled out of the trap Bomber set for us, but missed the B17.

Lake Florence with veins of footpaths


  1. Wow what an adventure! Amazing pictures as usual.

    Electric piccolo huh? I thought as much.

  2. Anonymous8/09/2011

    The b-17 isn't that hard to find. Check out our trip report on (www.mnray.net)

    1. Geeze, there's always a one-upper in the group.


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