Mancation 12.2…To Eldorado Base Camp

27 07 2012

One our way back to camp the storms stopped giving us doubt about our decision, but once we made camp we enjoyed a little boxed wine and all was not for a loss, and the planning for day 3 began to take shape. While brewing dinner we discussed plans to maybe head towards the west ridge of Forbidden Peak. The weather seemed to clear up except for some wind, that would later prove to be pretty strong.  With the alarm set for an alpine start we hit the bags and started to nod off.

It had been maybe an hour when the wind began to pick up steam and the tent began to rattle and quake. Both Mike and I were trying hard to catch some z’z with the tent getting racked by the wind until it was too hard to sleep, and we lay awake watching the tent walls as they got hammered by the wind. It was not until the a few of the tent stake came flying out with some of the strongest gust that we later estimated at or above 40-50 mph, that the east wall came crashing in on us.

Talk about a site to see! Donning  mountaineering boots, long johns, we made a mad scramble to hold the tent while trying to restake what we could with the remainder of the snow getting super low due to the warm temperatures. It was apparent that the alpine start time was fast approaching, and sleep was in short supply. Once we got the tent squared away I have to admit that I was wide awake, with nothing to do but listen to the wind rack the tent and stand hyper vigilance to what I thought would be Mike and I going all Mary Poppins down the mountainside.

We never saw it coming and never heard the alarm go off, sleep finally came and we later awoke at 730. Enter the morning routine brew, eat, composter.  With the alpine start gone it was hard to think we could make the west ridge of Forbidden, summit, and back before midnight. So the plan was scratched and we enjoyed our eats, and maybe take a nap who would guess what might lay ahead. That was until we saw the bear across the creek, a few snow bridges away.

Let me be the first to say I love wildlife, both watching and eating. In this setting it was great watching this black bear look for its breakfast and catching some sun. It’s just when it starts walking your direction… things…plans can change. We watched Yogi for a while as he made his way across one snowbridge and then a second, testing every step. Work through the trees below the composter and then across the snowbridge on the creek beside our camp.

Mike donned a some noise making things (carabineers, pulleys, and the snow shovel) while I resorted to some of the same plus a few rocks…Now don’t ask why, but rocks just felt natural… So while Yogi crossed the snowbridge below us and disappeared into the pines below our tent we stood vigilant making a great ruckus and randomly chucking rocks below. We figured we were safe when a few fellow climbers appeared out of the bushes where Yogi took refuge, not looking worse for wear.

Man there went the morning it was now close to 10am. Time to evaluate the day. It was then the idea of pulled pork sandwiches and beers came to mind. Before long we began to pulled out, a day early and started back towards the car. We guessed that we could break camp and be at the car close to 4 if we got cracking while the rest was history.

We passed that evening eating at the caboose in Marblemount, and enjoying some organic blond ale from California, later pitching camp next to the Cascade River.  It was a great night.

While we were in town we hit the ranger station and grabbed some new permits for the Eldorado Cross County Zone, and  some camp brews, good ole Alaskan Never Summer Ale pushed us through for the night of gear sorting, attempted drying of socks, and repacking for the next two days of back country travel.

Starting day 4 we enjoyed our breakfast and brew of coffee, and before long we headed back up Cascade River Road for the Eldorado Trail Head. Now there is some interesting things to note about our travels here and that is the trails. There is not one trail in all of Ohio that can compare to the trails in the North Cascades, in steepness. The trail on the way to Eldorado XC area was twice as steep as the one into Boston Basin, due to the sharp elevation gain and lower starting point. To quote Mike, “this trail is a mother” and it was shaping up to be another day of walking and fingers crossed, making camp before dark.

While climbing the trail in we knew there would be some difficult route finding, or so stated the guide book. What we were about to experience was downright mentally taxing. Despite the good weather forecast it looked like some rain might be moving in to the area. With that type of change it had the ability to bring some fog. Though it would not be an issue while we continued to travel through the trees on a pretty well worn trail tread, but once we hit the boulder fields it would became a challenge.

When we cleared the trees and saw the boulder field it was one of those moments were you say..this is not as bad as (insert the last place like this that sucked)….Then the fog came back…

What we later learned on the way out was that it should have taken use maybe 2 hours, at most to navigate through the talus field, and with fog we crushed it some place around 4 hours.

It all payed off when we passed a few fellow climbers close to the beginning of the snow field. They told us about their camping spot, and that the snow was packed really nice. *read this as….less work digging our snow platform*

After a little while longer of walking upslope through the snow, with our crampons on we found the “camp site”. It was hard to fancy with all of the fog but from what we could see, which was not a whole lot, there were 6 tent platforms pre-dug just waiting for our tent. This was good as the weather was continuing to get worse and some rain was beginning to fall harder.

So there we were…tent up sleeping bags out, cloths hanging up in the tent to air out, nothing to do but wait for tomorrow. The pitter patter of the rain was nice, the wind was not too strong as we began to make some coffee and noodles. Yeppers, that’s when it happened, we both began to experience some new moisture, it was raining in the tent. This launched a full blown Homeland Security style investigation. Before long we were cutting our garbage bags, (which is what was keeping our cloths dry on the hike in) and weaving them in between the tent fly and the body with the hopes that it would re-route the water down slope. Which it did with great success, my corner of the tent had close to ½ quart of water in it when the rain stopped. And so ends Day 4.

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