Crossing to Safety

From beginning to middle to end and back again, one adventure leads to another. So hold tight—it's a long ride

Apr 1, 2000
Outside Magazine
Day one: Got lost immediately leaving Elkhart Park. Took bearings, found ourselves. Snow was sugar with a hard crust. Skis plunged to the ground. Camped on snow, cooked on rock. Strange to think all these deep blue drifts end up in Scottsdale swimming pools.

Day two: Exited timber at 10,200 feet and the world exploded. Blazing white slopes, towers of gleaming granite, a sea of bright sky. Three hundred sixty-degree views. Reason we came. Camped just over Indian Pass on Knife Point Glacier. Already pack buckles have broken, zippers jammed, boots blistered and bruised our feet. A pox on all gear designers who've never field-tested their abysmal creations.

Day three: Hit our stride. Crossing passes, banging one glacier after another—Bull Lake, Upper Fremont, Sacagawea, Helen. Big storm climbing Elsie Col. Cloud-cracking lightning, thunder, rain, sleet, hail, graupel, fog, couldn't see each other but kept climbing. Half of bad weather is psychological. Camped now on Dinwoody Glacier, Gannett above but invisible in storm.

Day four: Moving at 4:30 a.m. Half of successful mountain climbing is an alpine start. Ignored whiteout, wind, kicked steps straight up Gooseneck Couloir sans rope, summited in two hours. From the summit of Gannett we could clearly see how far we had come and where we were going. You need elevation for perspicuity. If anybody ever asks, this is the reason human beings climb mountains.

Pushed north that afternoon. Cold hard rain for hours. Crossed Gannett Glacier, Dinwoody Glacier, so hypothermic forced to stop. Stove fired up inside tent turned it into a steam room. Stripped to underwear, slept wet, but we're two days ahead of schedule!

Day five: Perfect synchronization now. Triangulate exact position, take bearings to the degree, plot course, circle summits, and slide into passes without gaining or losing altitude. Such joy in navigating when you know what you're doing. Stayed at 13,000 feet, smack on Continental Divide, knocked out 25 miles.

Day six: A thousand telemark turns off Shale Mountain and we did it! Dropped into dense forest. Map and compass useless. Postholed for hours. Forded unnamed streams, Wasson Creek, then came Jakeys Fork. Whoajesus.

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