Sunday, June 7, 2009

Middle Palisade, Part III, The Storm

We debarked from our iced over bivy sacks (a Goretex cocoon you put your sleeping bag in) under a weak sunrise and started arranging wet items in it's questionable warmth. Breakfast and coffee imbibed, we threw our kit together and agreed on a route that would take us where we wanted to go. Crossing the outlet of Finger Lake we ascended ledges of talus and rain softened snow.

We took a fairly direct route upward and surmounted a 55 degree saddle of snow which gave us a stunning view of middle Pal. We continued up ledges to the north, searching for a site with water and enough flat rock to bivuac on. Our prospects for finding a sheltered type of place, one that offered some protection from the wind, were slim. Such a place proved impossible to find and we settled for a flat space upon which to set up our tarp. Before long this site would be named "The Four Seasons Inn: offering guests an interactive weather experience".
We had shoved some rocks around to make a wind break and set up the Siltarp pretty well, or so we thought. About 1.5 minutes later lightning flashed, thunder boomed, and buckets of hail the size of peas inundated all our efforts to remain dry. One side of the tarp caught a ridiculous gust of wind and separated that corner from it's mooring which, of course, was all the storm needed to create unholy havoc. I was already beginning to have very personal feelings about this storm when, after about 10 minutes, the hail changed to a sideways blown sleet (Slail: sleet/hail) which gusted through every gap in our meager rock wall and blew icy moisture at us form all points of the compass. The wind became a generalized roar. We got into every piece of warm, dry stuff in our inventory. We could tell we were in for it.The storm, which had started at 11:30 would continue for the rest of the day well into the night. It became a battle to keep warm and dry, to cut the wind, to keep from freezing. We took advantage of every lull in the storm to adjust or reinforce our wind break, to tighten a line on our little shelter. We had thrown our sleeping bags and pads in our bivy sacks, which were zipped up tight. Around the usual sunset time we started using these as a wind block, setting them up on their sides and putting our backs to them under the tarp. I started to shiver, a sign I particularly loath. Right there and then I busted out the stove and boiled some coffee and while we sucked that down I made dinner: Mac&Cheese and instant mashed potatoes. Pretty easy: boil the noodles in the coffee pot, use the hot water to reconstitute the potatoes in a bag, pour the macaroni into another bag with the butter and cheese stuff. Voila! Dinner. Hot, good, filling, carbs and fat for the night. I asked Dave what he thought about taking down the bivy sack/wind block. His reply? "The moment we do, we're hosed." No shit. Nonetheless, in an orderly way we retreated to the safety of our bags. The weather seemed to take this move personal like and sought any additional means to make us more uncomfortable. Many times I endured the wind actually moving me, while lying flat on the ground, listening to the "slail" rattle and smack off my bag. It was a long night, but somehow I slept. Didn't even have to pee.
I leave you with this great photo Mr Rivas took by sticking his arm out from under our shelter. This shot about says it all.

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