Author Topic: Alaska Stories for Mike.  (Read 1350 times)

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Offline Doctor-Man!

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Alaska Stories for Mike.
« on: December 03, 2009, 12:59:55 pm »
I'm moving the topic over to a new thread to keep from polluting the Basic bolting kit thread with all my off topic ramblings...check out that thread to get an idea of what's been said.

So, even though everyone I've ever talked to says AK rock is rotten loose and scary stuff.  Maybe it is...I've definitely run into loose areas, but I've found it's not all that bad.  My experience is entirely limited to Southeast Alaska north of Juneau.  Pretty small area. 

I only have three rotten/ loose rock stories from up north, and will be heading back for my third season in late January or early february, so I'm sure I'll get some more.  The first one is actually from the beginning of this year, around the end of March.  I'd just gotten back into town and decided that I'd start the season off with a new aid line.  Following up on an ascent I did the previous year, aiding a big roof at the local crag out to it's right side, I figured I'd try to aid the roof directly out over the center. The right side had been easy enough, A1 tops, but the direct had been a little over my head the previous year, thin and kind of loose looking.  I confirmed my opinion on this attempt. My buddy paradise and I head up to the crag, which sits just up hill from the road outside of town.  Rock is a diorite / hard but fractured type rock and wall is about 80' tall.  Typical for most of our Alaska crags.

Since it's still March or early April (can't remember) there's still a ton of snow, but it's slushy and melting and there are a few waterstreaks running down the wall.  My line is not in one of them.  Sweet.  all I have to do is aid a short dihedral (KBs, LAs, occasional nut) cruise out over the roof (thin seams with calcite stains around them) cruise a couple hook moves and join up with a semi sport climb up top, moving hook to bolt to hook to bolt, etc.  base of the wall below the dihedral is an easy 4th class ramp, but covered in snow.  After sketching my way to the bottom of the dihedral, I head up.  a few moves up and I decide that I'd try a crack that ran just 2 feet out from the corner, as it would allow me to save my LAs for up higher.  I throw in a KB and head up the new crack.  As I'm hammering the next piece (a beak, if I remember) I glance down nonchalantly at the piece I'm standing on.  Despite having placed it to the hilt (#3 size in length) it was now over 1/2 way out of the crack and the splitter had turned into a crack with a good 1/2" lip on one side.  I clip my daisy in short to the piece I'm on and whack it home in one blow.  thankfully, the piece I'm on manages to hold, even though it's levering badly and is way out of the crack.  I lightly step onto the beak and immediately reach over to the dihedral crack and pound in an LA.  clipping in I look over and see that the crack I was nailing on was actually the right side of a block about 10 feet tall and 5 or 6 feet wide.  the whole thing was starting to shift out.  I back clean the two pieces and carry on.  a few thin stoppers and one more LA get me to the roof where, damn, the crack crumbles when I go to place an upside down LA in the back.  A few taps sets it in the not so great rock (oatmeal on rock really) and when I go to pound it home it cracks more rock and falls right out.  Great.  Down to one last arrow on the rack. I grab it, top step in the most awkward position I've ever been in (back of roof at the mid thigh level, me leaning way backwards to try to reach the lip of this 5 or so foot roof.  Blindly reaching out, I feel a pod in the crack that I think a 5/8 angle would fit into once it's pounded through the oatmeal.  I grab it, reach out and hand place it about 1/3 of the way in.  perfect.  Hammering the sucker is actually more awkward than standing in that position, so my ginger taps take a while to sink the pin.  It bottoms out, with about 1/4 of the pin sticking out, so I tie it off, clip an aider and daisy to it and give it a real light bounce test. The placement is about 3 inches up from the lip of the roof but when I put any weight on it the roof moves slightly higher, in the form of toaster sized blocks and the piece falling from the lip.  Reset.  The only placement I could find is now a bottomless hole that nothing will fit into.  I feel the lip around it, trying to find a hook placement that might hold my swinging transition.  A few thin edges but nothing big enough to hang from without some wall to keep you steady.  A small whole in the middle of the roof looks like it would take a circlehead.  too bad I don't have circleheads.  In the end, I end up down aiding as much as I can and lower off.

I'll post some of the others later today...

Offline mungeclimber

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Re: Alaska Stories for Mike.
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2009, 01:34:59 pm »
chossaneering is under appreciated!  any choss you walk away from is good choss.

Offline Doctor-Man!

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Re: Alaska Stories for Mike.
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2009, 02:27:52 pm »
So true munge...so true.  The next tale is from the very same crag, only the perpetrator is not yours truly...

A few months after the first incident, We're up at the crag, mob style.  It's Me, my buddy Tuha, Yabba, Beast, Trip and The Baguette.  Me and the Baguette are around the corner climbing on a easy 5.8 sport route and I don't have enough draws.  This is established before I leave the ground, So I skip a few bolts down low to have enough for the top of the route.  Meanwhile, Beast is out around the corner, being belayed by Tuha while aiding a thin seam about 8 feet right of a fun 5.7 crack that is the easiest way to access the top of the cliff.  He starts up, nailing mostly blades, being belayed on GriGri.  I finish the climb I'm on, belay Da Bag on TR, he cleans and I lower him off.  I walk around the corner to give some advice to Beast as he's found himself in terrain that is a little over his head.  He asks my advice, looking at his position, probably 35 feet off the deck, standing on a KB and nothing above, things look a little grim.  Beast is a short guy, probably 5.6 or 7 tops, and the only salvation I can see is a hook move that looks to be about a foot over his reach, that would let him link up with the 5.7 and free up the remaining 40 or so feet to the top.  He's unknowingly put himself into A3 terrain, after really only climbing on C1 or C1+.  I mention that the only thing I see would be to hook the edge that is out of his reach, tell him he'll have to top step or lower off...I turn the corner and get ready to run a lap on the other line.  It was my first day back on rock since getting third degree burns across my lower back about a month ago.  there was a little scabbing but I was anxious.  Wandering over, I suddenly hear a ton of rock / person falling and the sickening sound of a person hitting the ground makes bag and I drop everything and run.  I get to where beast is now laying on the ground and see that his helmet is cracked and there's blood coming out of his forehead. He's still conscious, so I crack a joke, something like "welcome to the world of aid climbing".  He's in a bad position and we don't want to move him, he's got enough sense not to move himself either.  After being all together mentally at first, he starts showing signs of a bad concussion, repeating himself over and over, asking the same questions, loses knowledge of location or what happened, only says that his ass hurts.  By now there is a lot of blood pooling in his pants and after checking vitals twice, I move out of the way for Yabba, the only WFR in the group.  She stabalizes his C Spine and Bag runs to the van to get EMTs from town.  About 10 minutes later we hear sirens and SAR shows up.  This is the second rescue I've been an outside aid to, and thankfully this one goes much smoother than the boat fiasco last year.  Fatty LEO is first on the scene and won't walk up the hill (1-2 minutes tops) and instead has one of us run down and get the O2s from him to start.  SAR and the rest of us devise a strategy, we use a half board to get him stabalized then get him to a better position for the full board.  on goes the coffin top of the Stokes litter and we rig for a lower out of about 40 feet from the large ledge we're on to the road below. All goes smoothly and he's packed up and on his way to the clinic. 

As the light fades, I look up at the route and notice not one, but two large holes where he had placed pins behind loose blocks.  I think back to early spring and the confirmation that it was a good idea to back off the roof move, lest I be in his shoes. 

In all, Beast shows up at the clinic with a clearer head than at the beginning, did not lose consciousness throughout, had a puncture wound the size of a pea and a 3-4 cm laceration on his forehead.  It is the third time in a little over a month that one of my friends are in the clinic (including a visit myself) for something serious, and the clinic jokes begin. 

The best part about having to get patched up in Alaska? If you're a poor dirt bag guide like me and my friends, there's a sliding scale coverage policy.  Emergency evac and treatment? Beast paid $10.00

Offline Mike.

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Re: Alaska Stories for Mike.
« Reply #3 on: December 04, 2009, 08:25:07 am »
Hey Bill, tell us a story. Wait...awesome!


Hehe, no wonder you seem so relaxed in Yosemite. Damn, all that action right near the ground. Always a ledge fall. And short pitches, too. You guys pack fall arrestors? Or is the snowpack your fall arrestor? Burly stuff...

I'm almost afraid to ask about the back burns...did you forget your belay device on one of your typical outings? (Sorry, man, couldn't resist.)

Thanks for laying that horror out for us, Bill. You're doing your part to keep Alaska wild!
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

Offline Doctor-Man!

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Re: Alaska Stories for Mike.
« Reply #4 on: December 04, 2009, 11:18:35 am »
Ok, here's the burn story, Mike.  [WARNING: THE END OF THIS STORY CONTAINS A PHOTO OF A GRUESOME INJURY.  IF YOU ARE SQUEAMISH, YOU ARE WARNED] 

It's July 30th, My boss's birthday.  Unlike any other company I've worked for, we're all there just to have fun, and I consider my boss more of a friend than a boss.  Anyways, we figure we'll have a big party.  All the guides get together and buy a pallet of beers (that's 60 cases) and while he's off having dinner with the GF, we load up the front lawn and wrap the sucker up with wrapping paper.  There's at least 35 to 40 guides in the houses that day, so there's already a bit of a party going before he even gets back.  We run out of beers not wrapped up and start eyeing the present. Luckily, he shows up and we give him the big loud surprise as he walks into the yard.  His eyes light up as he looks at the enormous square of wrapping paper, then to the kiddie pool full of ice, then to the stack of 15+ pallets.  Everyone digs in and probably half the town shows up.  As the party gets going, the owners of the company show up as do a bunch of guides from the main office over in Haines.  Within an hour or two, there's a seven stack pallet fire raging in the downtown historic district, the cops have already shown up twice and we are all on our way.  On the third time the cops come by, there's no avoiding it, party has to shut down.  I and some others rally the crowd to the bar, police say that after tonight our burn permit is revoked for the rest of the year, blah blah blah. 



It's finally getting dark and I've had more car bombs than downtown Baghdad, so I make the 2 blocks back to the house.  While everyone was out at the bar, there were a few that decided to stick it out at home, one of which was my main (or one of my main) climbing partners, this man...


Philly bags spots me approaching the fire, and as I walk up he says:

"Bill, I want you to do something you will immediately regret."

I start to walk away, but the liquid courage turns me around.  Most all of us have jumped over that fire dozens of times, so it wasn't really a big deal.  The year before another guide had jumped it in a tricycle, Phil himself has a quality handstand photo, you get the idea.  Anyways, I take two quick steps, launch over the fire only to slip on the rocks on the other side and come back into the pit on my back. Instant Sobriety.  I'm essentially sitting in the same position one would take if they were riding an inner tube on a river.  Except my tube is 600 -800 degree steel, and the water is mostly red hot nails and coals. But no water.  Going to jump out I throw my arms to the rim of the pit, with my left hand and right elbow attempting the rock up and out of the pit.  No luck.  Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to karate chop a hot knife? As my flesh begins to melt around the ring, I pull back and from the vantage point of the shocked onlookers, sort of flop like a fish, unable to self extract myself from the flames.  It all takes place in less time than it takes to fall off a bull, but those few seconds, after I had come to the conclusion that I couldn't get out, I thought to myself, "oh, this is how I go.  Never would have guessed..." After a few more seconds, my friends snap to and rip me out of the pit.  I'm instantly on my feet and telling everyone that I'm ok, I'm ok...   "BILL! You're still on Fire!".  If there's one thing I can now assert with confidence, it's that kindergarden fire safety works.  In a flash I'm on the ground rolling out the flames.  I look down at myself, and can only see the damage to my elbow and my hand.  I can see the muscle through the wound on my hand, and my elbow is a 1/2 inch wide slice of 3rd degree. When you have third degree burns, you will immediately know that they are third degree burns. There is no question.

We head into the house and one of the guys not out at the bar is an EMT.  His last name is Bates, and we call him Master in place of his first name.  Everyone is telling me I need to go to the clinic.  Looking at what I can see, I argue with them.  They call me an idiot and point out that what I can't see, it's bad.  I finally give in, and my buddy Nic is on a bike headed for the clinic so they will be there when we arrive.  Master Bates and I head off on foot, it's about a half mile to the clinic. 

We get there, and one of the great Nurse practitioners at the clinic is already waiting.  I lay out on the bed in the clinic, and she debreaves(sp?) the dead skin from the wounds.  Checking pain scale I give it a 2.  Possibly because my body is still intoxicated. Debate occurs as to whether I should be air expressed to the hospital in Juneau, or to Walter Reed in Seattle.  Crap.  We decide to postpone the discussion until the following morning (with burns you don't have to make immediate decisions) and after being packaged up like a mummy (12% of my body is burned, large portion of my lower back, my right shoulder, right elbow, left hand and 2nd degree covers my left arm from bicep to wrist. I am the mummy.  I walk home, hoping there are egyptologists to scare on the way back. There are none. I take my cephalexin and go to bed. Next morning I head back. unwrapping the bandages, we discuss timelines, course of action, etc. She wants me in Seattle, I tell her no.  We finally settle with the compromise that I will go to see the burn specialist when he /she gets back into Juneau in about 10 days.  Given the severity of the burns, it is estimated that it will be 6 to 12 months before I am healed and able to work / climb / do anything. Loaded up with bandage supplies, I head home.  I update my boss and housemates, then tell them I intend to heal in a month and will be back to work in September. The next two weeks involve lots of OJ, movies, etc., and within a week I can change all of my own bandages. I start applying fewer and fewer, first cutting the bandages on the 2nd degree left arm, then the left hand.  I start making the right shoulder less and less until it's down to a single 4x4 gauze pad with tape.  The elbow and back still scare me.  Even at two weeks, when it is determined that there is some muscle damage in a few spots on the back, I continue to lessen the bandages. There are two days that the pain is unbearable, and I take pain killers.  The pain killers do nothing, so I sell them.  By week three I am down to a single 4x4 on the right elbow and 2 on the lower back.  Soon I am free of them and the scabbing begins.  I keep myself from picking at it as much as I can, but who can resist a good scab?  By September, I am working and wearing a climbing harness again.  One week after that, I am climbing at the crag when I take place in the before mentioned rescue.




This is the least gruesome injury photo I have.  Viewing in color will make you sick, thus the conversion to B/W


Scars are the original tattoos.

Offline Mike.

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Re: Alaska Stories for Mike.
« Reply #5 on: December 04, 2009, 01:59:29 pm »
Holy shit, dog, glad you lived through the pit of doom.

Looks like 100 proof living up there. Thanks for the glimpse!

Cheers, Bill.
Say no to limbers, excavators and retro-bolters. No matter how much he smiles.

Offline Doctor-Man!

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Re: Alaska Stories for Mike.
« Reply #6 on: December 04, 2009, 03:07:39 pm »
Here's another one, more climbing related.

So I'm out working on a new area with the usual suspects, Tuha and Philly Bag this time, and we've found a really nice looking amphitheater that might hold a few hard trad lines on good quality overhanging rock.  One such line is right behind a small sitka spruce that is probably less than 5 feet tall, about the girth of a good christmas tree.  PB and T head down the road to where we had built a zip line for the cruise industry to grab a bow saw.  Meanwhile I head up a nearby line that looks like it might eventually go free at 5.toohardforme and while they're gone, make it to the lip of the route on some decent pins down low and a few loose stoppers in a horizontal overhanging flare thing up top.  I'm only one move from the upper c1 crack finish, a weird sideways constriction that takes a larger stopper pretty well.  I give it a good bounce, seems solid, and I step onto it.  Still holding, I get up to the 2nd step and look to see what piece I'll need for the c1 above. figure around a #5 or so will do it, I pull some slack and clip it to the nut I'm on.  I reach down and just as I'm going for the next piece, the one I'm on blows, plus the one below it, and one more before I feel my heels touch down.  Perfect fall, the whole distance without a real ground fall.  The crew comes back around the corner to find me with a big smile on my face.  I charge back up and end up rigging a TR on the route that they open up off a tree on the cliff up above.  It's hard, and I don't make much progress on it.  We finish for the day and head back to the car.

Once at the car we decide to run across the street and hike up a creek to see if we can find a crack that some other friends had climbed earlier that week.  Supposedly a 5.9 or 10 splitter on good rock.  We take a light rack and rope in case we find it, I just bring a harness and belay device as I am not really planning on climbing.  The hike is pretty bad, lots of devils club and I don't have gloves goggles or a machete, my normal kit for dealing with the demon plant.  Still, we push on, the hike follows some really beautiful cliff bands that are inaccessible with all the undergrowth, I make a mental note to come back early in the spring next year, so it can all be cleared out before the leaves bloom.  The walls are taller than most of the crags, 200+ feet tall and with average looking rock quality. The hike continues, and begins to steepen.  After a few more minutes, it's pretty clear that we're now going to have to start soloing to keep going. The hill has turned to rock and is a 70 degree wall with steps of steeper rock every 20 or so feet.  Pushing on, mob style up the slab we top out onto a hillside covered in goat shit.  It's obvious that we haven't found the route, so we decide to rap down to another gully and meet up with the creek running towards the road.  Throwing the harnesses on we set up a line on a nearby tree and look at our option.  It's loose.  Really loose.  I remember that I had left my helmet in the car. Great, this is going to be fun.  I head over the edge first, sending half of the lip to the gully below with just a few gentle steps.  I keep my eyes up so as to potentially deflect any bombs before they kill me, and gently head down.  It's more than one rap to the bottom, and I have to swing to the side so I'm not killed as the others come down.  I cradle under a small overhang and yell off rope.  After letting them know I'd found a great ledge, they rap down and meet me.  Getting to the ledge, Phil gives me a look like he's not so impressed with my rotten slab of rock with a 5 inch tree sticking out as our only rap anchor.  Phil gives the rap line a body belay as I rap back into the same gully, this time headed for the bottom.  A third of the way down the second rap, a block the size of a softball comes off near the top of the wall and rocks me in the shin.  It hurts, but it looks to do no damage and I squeeze out towards the bottom of the wall.  I'm down to the last 10 feet of rope or so and I'm still about 25-30 feet up.  There's a thin sandy ledge just beyond the length of the rope and I decide to go for it.  Untying the knots in the line, I get down to the very bottom, place one hand against the wall and rap through.  I hit the ledge fine, then traverse left about 10 feet to a lieback that carries me to the bottom.  I yell up that I'm off and warn them that I had to untie the knots to make it. I hide away from the fall line and coach each of them as they get to the bottom, everyone makes it down fine and the rope pulls ok.  We find ourselves in the correct canyon (apparently we were way off route) but with the day coming to a close (it was easily close to 8pm at that point and the sun would be going down in a few hours). Walking down we pick up a trail of sorts, and it's an easy walk back to the car. Felled trees, aid falls close to the ground, rockfall, trundling rocks bigger than TVs, we were spent.  Back to base for beers, we discuss what we found with the others.

I now hike with a helmet.

skully

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Re: Alaska Stories for Mike.
« Reply #7 on: December 04, 2009, 07:31:55 pm »
Dude, when you guys go out, You GO OUT, huh?
Awesome stories, DM Bill.
You have a pretty Captivating story style, man. Thanks for throwin' them out there.
Yarrrr.

Offline Doctor-Man!

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Re: Alaska Stories for Mike.
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2009, 03:11:49 pm »
Not everything is short, there are actually quite a few routes that are 10+ pitches, steep enough to be called walls, and loose as all get up, but with Southeast Alaska weather, those stories usually end up the same...made it a couple pitches, took a decent sized fall when x flake / block came off, then clouds came in and it started storming bad, so we had to bail.  It doesn't matter if the next two weeks are forecast to be sunny and 70 every day, as soon as you step onto a glacier, it's usually game over, weather-wise. So, cragging it is. It's the main reason why I'm headed back in February, the spring is much more stable for the alpine stuff and the walls are nicely secure with all the ice holding them together, plus it's before the cute girls and the parties begin distracting one from the mountains. Lots of Cardio and weight room while it's still <20 degrees out, then gettin' after it once it hits 30.

-Bill