Grumpy Pants Goes to Costa Rica-Part 1

13 02 2014

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Gumpy Pants Goes to Costa Rica Part One.

 

It was cold the day we left Cleveland for a place filled with sunshine and adventure. I had no regrets about leaving the weather and grumpy people of Northeast Ohio behind. After parking the Squaw at the airport and hopping on board the shuttle bus we quickly made headway through the lines at CLE airport and before long we were chillin in sunny San Jose, Costa Rica. What I saw was blowing my mind…

 

Adaptation is the key to survival in any species, fail to adapt and you will quickly be left behind, eaten, or displaced. Being a gringo in Costa Rica, I had a steep learning curve when it came to motor vehicle operation. The big take away is drive fast, be prepared to stop, and use your horn (it just makes the language barrier that much more fun). After driving through San Jose in our rental like a 18 year old who just got his license, we began  our journey towards Quepos. On the way we would pass over some small mountains and several rivers, one having more crocodiles sunning themselves than I thought possible being this far from the Nile River.

 

After finding our way to the Parador Hotel after dark we were greated by a refreshing glass of fruit juice, and some really friendly folks who eagerly showed us to our accommodations. One thing that I have always loved about traveling to cool places is when you arrive after sunset. Its that first morning cup of coffee and taking it all in that I really like, the wow moment. As our first real day started I found myself staring at the bird, and listening to strange sounds, which were later identified as Howler monkeys. Breakfast was shared with a friendly lizard on the porch and followed up by a walkabout on the monkey trail at the hotel. Afterwards we opted for a walk to the beach. Along the way we spied several Compuncha Monkeys and a 3 toed sloth. Not too bad.

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If you know me then you know I get stressed out about stupid stuff so I was able to convince Karen that we need to hang out at the hotel for the first day. Being the good soldier that she is we later chilled at the pool relaxing. It was a good time.  

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Day two was a hoot. We made reservations to mountain bike to a waterfall and swim in the plunge pool. meeting our guide at the hotel we were taken to an awesome nature preserve that we later found out was private for our ride and swim. Riding 29ers we slayed the trail on the way in past papaya and banana trees. Danny our guide then turned to us and said we could take the easy way or the “hard way”. We opted for the harder choice and before long we were carrying our bikes through the river to a gravel road. The grade went from steep to “Le Tour de France” steep in a blink of an eye. But none the less we chugged up the hill on bikes. After some time we made it to the swimmin hole. Danny showed us the way to the waterfall and led the charge in jumping in the plunge pool from the rim of the falls.

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Part 3…Eldorado Base Camp and Beyond

31 07 2012

As day 4 ended moist, but without the fear of getting blown off the mountain, we hit the bags. It was the plan to Alpine start the following day (5), head up the glacier, hit the high camp and the composter and then on to the Peak, and back down to the car. Making a nice 12-15 hr day out of it, with the anticipation of a warm shower, and soft bed after the wet tent slumber party.

As we had done on the days before, we started out with a brew, and some breakfast, sun block, and today burying the tent with snow for weight; since our poles were our snow axe and trekking poles.  We left camp rather quickly after the work was done and topped the ridge we were camped next to, as we scrambled over the ridge we had a small moat to cross next to the rocks.  I was ahead of Mike and made short work of the day’s first challenge, I had a lot of pent up energy from the yesterdays rain.  As I looked back at Mike he was making his was down.

This is not too far from where the glacier swallowed Mike’s trekking pole. We were luck to escape with our lives from the hungry beast.

As Mike set his trekking poles on the rock to step down from hold to hold on this portion of the ridge, that’s when it happened. Almost in slow motion one of his trekking poles decided that it had had enough, and started to slide down the rock. The pole landed about 10 feet down inside of the moat. I peered into the great abyss and was able to locate the pole and told Mike we could get it without too much issue.  He was happy about that and continued to make his way on to the snow. As if in unison, as his feet hit the snow I hear a scraping sound as the great abyss swallowed his trekking pole into an even deeper cavernous area, only to end up as glacier food. With any luck geologist will have a great historical artifact in the years to come when this baby gets melted out of the glacial moraines.

One could only imagine the feeling of losing a great piece of gear that is good for going up but truly shines during the descent. Mike was a little more than bummed but we ventured on up the snow field of the Eldorado Glacier keeping the ridge on our right. After gaining around 500-700’ of elevation we stopped to rope up as there small crevasses beginning to show ahead and to the sides of our line of travel.

After a few hours we came up on a great hole in the glacier. We stood on a small flat spot, with the ridge on our right. The glacier outstretched in front and off to the left for a distance that can only be measured by hours it would take to walk to the edge. Following the glacier to our right and along the ridge would lead us on to the Inspiration Glacier and away from our objective.  The option from our point was to traverse left of this great hole and continuing up slope for another 30 minutes.  So after a little sunscreen and some snacks we kept on trucking.

“Good God Gertie look at the the gash on that one” -Bruce VanFossen

We knew base on our map that at the top of this slope, the glacier would level off into a large flat area and from there it would be a short walk to the high camp, composter, and our pre lunch stop.

Reaching the top of this small slope Eldorado Peak came into sight, and according to Mike my slow boring pace became  the Lighting Mc Queen pace.

Eldorado Peak was a sight to see, ahead of us lay 15-20 minutes of glacier and a few crevasses. It would be at the small rock island on the right we would find high camp, and a rocky ridge leading up to the last two hundred yards of snow climbing. The peak was snow covered and from our perspective did not look as spectacular as Mt. Johannesburg or those of Boston Basin. What was becoming apparent was the vista to our right or east, of the Inspiration Glacier and the North Face of Forbidden Peak.

We crossed the flat area without incident and Mike and I both had our minds on the composter, and after a short looky lou we found the little gem at the base of the rock island.

The best views come from stopping and taking a break. This was one stop that was well worth the time. From the vantage point of the composter you looked south across the Inspiration Glacier towards Forbidden Peak and off to the lower left was Moraine Lake. Moraine Lake was a beautiful green glacier fed lake, still covered in partial ice.

While hanging out on the rock island we were met by a party of three women, who were making short work of the climb. After a short chit chat we headed up the finial snow slope towards the peak. In many ways this part of the glacier was strange as there were several crevasses on the way up. We safely navigated around these new obstacles and kept on trucking. Kick. Step. Kick. Step. Kick. Step. Finding a rhythm was the key to making ground, for me it felt super easy, after all the heavy squats at the gym in preparation for this climb.

With a short push left we let the team of three pass us by and kick steps in the snow, breaking the trail. It was a nice relief to travel in someone else’s steps as it was way more efficient. In short order the women cleared the finial knife ridge and Mike and I started our ascent of the same ridge. This last area of the climb was probably the most dangerous, the only protection was our two pickets sunk deep into the snow. We used these to form a running belay and stepped rather carefully making each step count on its way across.

Looking carefully you can see where the picket is located

This was the main pull of climbing this peak, as it has a Himalayan feel to it with this finial knife ridge. Maximum Exposure to our left and right, for somewhere around 80’ we walked on a kicked step trail in the snow no wider than 1 foot. It led us to a wider snow covered area to which the five of us enjoyed some views, and a few photos of the summit. Yep we made it, Good Ole Eldorado Peak, and we were only halfway done with our day. The rest was all downhill from this point.

Bounding down slope we reached the rock island after a short time descending and settled on the rocks for our lunch. Tuna from a bag, or as the women called it…“cat food”… has never tasted so good. They ladies powdered on down slope and Mike and I left soon after them following their footsteps down the glacier, and back across the ridge.  It was a great day of climbing, the skies were blue all day with a light wind and a few stray clouds. A great pay off to the wind, rain, and wet tent we endured over the last few days.

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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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