Monday, June 8, 2009

Middle Palisade, Part IV, Enough Already!

The morning after the the storm was cold and breezy. A tepid sunlight peered at us through thin bands of clouds. Already more robust clouds were gathering behind the Palisades, an overt display of what was to come later that day. Dave Rivas and I didn't say much. We knew that we wouldn't be climbing any peaks this week. We had discussed our options the previous evening while leaning against our makeshift wind shelter. The essential question was, "Are you comfortable with being caught in that?" (pointing up the mountain at the wind and sleet and hail and rain and snow; hell, maybe there were even man-eating Yetis up there). Really, the answer was a no-brainer...we were all in, knackered, toast, beat both literally and figuratively. To ascend under these weather conditions would have been to invite disaster. Middle Pal is a huge mountain with a variety of ways to kill foolish climbers. Neither of us had any desire to see our obituaries in "Accidents in North American Mountaineering 2009".

Honestly, we had put up a good effort, kept our heads, and displayed a stubborn resilience. Now it was time to accept the realities and demonstrate another attribute of all smart mountaineers...good judgement. Each day the weather had started earlier, lasted longer, and became more intense. It was time to go down.

We threw our kit together, shot a last picture (until next time) of Middle Pal and started descending. We were both a bit morose, though Rivas descibed it as "melancholy". I think I was a bit more prosaic about things; that's just the way it goes sometimes. We had all the experience and equipment needed to ascend the mountain, even in these conditions, but the weather had the final veto. Had we ascended we would undoubtedly have wished we hadn't. And that's called mountaineering. You only win if it's a round trip.

So yeah, I was a bit frustrated and disappointed as we reversed our route, but at the same time I was already thinking of other things to do in the Owen's Valley. To my way of thinking, being shut out of your primary goal provides an opportunity to experience something else. Now, I know a good deal about the Owen's and it's holdings but I also know there's alot left to see, so that's what I was chewing on while trudging down the snow and rock on my way to lower elevation. As a parting shot, the rain started around 10:30, complimented by an icy breeze at our backsides to usher us out of the mountains.

Back on asphalt, we headed down to Bishop, devoured a pizza and headed out to the Keohe Hot Springs. The locals call the place "the ditch", and I suppose they're entitled to be a bit elitist about their hot springs, given that there are many in the Owen's, but I like the place. What the Keohes lack in ambiance, they make up for in ease of accessability. Naturally, the rain and wind had followed us out of the mountains. It was pretty nice to be warm for a change, and a hot soak felt even nicer with the gentle patter of rain on my dome. We eventually spent the night at Tonopah campground, a place that has little to recommend it in the light of day, however, the picnic tables aren't warped and are therefore comfortable to sleep on. Before turning in for the night, Dave and I created a short list of place to see and things to do. Thus began the second half the week. This final shot is of the Keohe springs. Road-Trip diary begins tomorrow.

1 comment:

  1. David Stillman on Mountaineering: "You only win if it's a round trip."