May 8, 2011

The assault on Bomber Mountain - 14, Moses and the serpent

12 points if you weed out Fish
No tarrying at the base of Bomber Mountain.  Quads were jelly and we were anxious to kick back at Mistymoon Lake and lance blisters on our pickled feet.  

A half-mile down the trail, heads bobbed above the horizon.  It was the first glimpse of intelligent life in three days.  Two young men, let's call them Moses and Larry.  They had an interesting array of mountain garb.  While the three of us were layered in synthetic threads that slough UV rays, water, and marmot scat, these two Mennonitish gentlemen were wearing Wranglers and Fruit-of-the-Loom white cotton tees.  Moses had a thick Carhartt winter jacket wrapping the Wranglers, Larry was sloshing a one-gallon milk jug of water.  His drink was on fumes, maybe 20 ounces of water left.  Moses was saddled with a twelve-pound flannel cotton sleeping sack and a small pack we hoped housed a tent and maybe a special button that summoned rescue dogs.

Fish asked where they were headed.  

“Cloud Peak."

“Uh, Cloud Peak is thatta way a few miles, you can’t see it from here,” Fish pointed in the opposite direction they were hiking.  

“Well, how far is Lake Florence,” Moses asked?  

“A half mile behind us, but Florence is at the base of Bomber, not Cloud.  You should have wound your way around Mistymoon Lake and headed northwest to meet up with Cloud,” Fish clarified.  

We learned these Mennonite/cowboy/serial killer/random human beings started at West Tensleep Lake, putting their odometer at 10 miles and counting.  It was already 2:00 pm, experts recommend summiting no later than noon to avoid storms.  

They were obviously lost.  

They intended to summit Cloud Peak, then return back to West Tensleep Lake the same day, a round trip of 24 miles.  Although we were initially discouraged about our missteps on Bomber, we suddenly felt like professional mountaineers after crossing these two fellows.  

One more thing...Moses was wielding a Moses-style shepherd’s staff, you know, the same one used to part the Red Sea when the Israelites fled Pharaoh and his hoofing iron-chariot Egyptian army.  Not sure what that was all about, as a shepherd’s staff was surprisingly not in any of the backpacker magazine buyer’s guides I'd studied before the trip.  I really wanted to snap a picture of Larry and Moses for this story, but wasn’t able to discreetly.  
 
We hiked home to Mistymoon Lake, crossing the tape at 2:40 pm.  Eight miles in seven hours.  My two friends collapsed in their tent.  Before Fish retired, he mumbled:  “Let’s call the assault on Bomber Mountain a draw.  Our climb today was probably at least as bad as giving birth.  It hurts like hell, but in the end, it’s worth it.”  

I was wound up from the hike, so walked over to the Moon and pumped three gallons of green water.  



Napped for an hour, then chatted with Fish.  He saw Larry and Moses heading around Mistymoon Lake and back towards Lake Helen.  We assumed they gave up on Cloud Peak and were returning to West Tensleep Lake.  Hope they made it okay.



As dusk spun the sun orange, we dug into the deeper topics of life.  The Christian, Agnostic and Hindu debated the theory of evolution, creation and the order of the universe, especially our solar system.  I tried my best to convince them our solar system is so orderly and controlled that there must be a higher being, God, that architected it.  There's too much going on there to chalk it up as happenstance.  

We asked about how old we believe the earth is.  Facts about planets, stars and moons.  The puzzle that Pluto has been reclassified as a minor planet.  How the Earth’s magnetic force-field is generated and without it, we’d fry like jalapeno poppers from the sun’s radiation.  Politics, separation of church and state, abortion and capital punishment.  You name it, we covered it.  Nothing was off limits.  It was an interesting, animated conversation.  Nobody got punched.  

The naive nincompoops (kidding) agreed to disagree with me on nearly every topic.  

Fish stared at the mountain topo map with disgust.  “Hey, they shortchanged us.  The maps marks Bomber with a max elevation of 12,400 feet.  But if you count the altitude indicators, it’s actually 12,800 feet where we stood.”  This bothered him a bunch, he rambled on for 20 minutes.  To me, it was just a number; we made it to the top whether it was 12,400 or 12,800.  But Fish made a valid point, the map was marked incorrectly.
 
Our night banquet served rice and noodles for Sherpa, freeze-dried lasagna for Fish and me, with a side of insta' tates.  The lasagna package was labeled in large letters "WITH MEAT!".  What in world does that mean?  With those quote marks, I was  curious what type of meat it really was.  Perhaps skunk tail, frog legs or goat tongue?  Maybe platypus liver?
 
Our final pow-wow in Fish's tent was bittersweet.  Bitter since this would be out last camp on the mountain, sweet that we'd soon be heading home.  Also bitter for Sherpa due to the two rubber snakes waiting for him in his sleeping bag.

While discussing tomorrow's return hike to the car at West Tensleep Lake, Sherpa fidgeted, then extracted the snake.  

“What the…?!”  

Fish and I snickered.  He smiled and tried to figure out which one of us was was guilty.  We asked him why he didn't jump, he explained "I took my son Rohan to the zoo before the trip.  Saw a python there, and conditioned myself to look at it without being frightened.”  

Fish and I guffawed.  

Had a mental picture of Sherpa at the zoo with his family, having a staring contest with the serpent's black beady eyes.  It must’ve worked, as he's mostly cured of his snakeophobia.  
 
Our favorite conversation that final night revolved around food.  Real food, you know, absolutely anything but ramen, Nutter Butters and Crystal Light toilet water.  We agreed that pounds of pizza would be folded and forced down our pie holes the next day.  I could smell it already.  
 

2 comments:

  1. I took my two boys to the places you mentioned in the early 1970s and since then I visited the Big Horn Mountains once or twice almost every summer until I was 73 years old in 2004. Now at 85 I look back at those backpacking trips as some of the most memorable experiences I had in my life, mind you I climbed in the Himalayas too. Every thing changes and the Big Horn Mountains is no exception in regard to crowds. When my boys and I went there we sow very few people and sometimes none at all. Nowadays I am content to go to the top of Green Mountain in Lakewood, Colorado where I live now. I must add that I see occasionally someone in his 80s going to the top too, but that is a rarity. So, if you are young and fit keep it up, and do as much outdoor stuff as you can do and afford. Do not forget your boys and also thank your wife for being so understanding, better yet, take her along.
    Happy outdoor life.
    Gil Gonzalez

    ReplyDelete
  2. I took my two boys to the places you mentioned in the early 1970s and since then I visited the Big Horn Mountains once or twice almost every summer until I was 73 years old in 2004. Now at 85 I look back at those backpacking trips as some of the most memorable experiences I had in my life, mind you I climbed in the Himalayas too. Every thing changes and the Big Horn Mountains is no exception in regard to crowds. When my boys and I went there we sow very few people and sometimes none at all. Nowadays I am content to go to the top of Green Mountain in Lakewood, Colorado where I live now. I must add that I see occasionally someone in his 80s going to the top too, but that is a rarity. So, if you are young and fit keep it up, and do as much outdoor stuff as you can do and afford. Do not forget your boys and also thank your wife for being so understanding, better yet, take her along.
    Happy outdoor life.
    Gil Gonzalez

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for the note, check back for my response!