Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Human Compass

When my children were little I made them refer to me in respectful and descriptive terms such as "Spiffy Daddy" and "Big D." We backpacked a lot when they were younger. When we were wandering around in the woods, I made them call me "The Human Compass." Again, a highly accurate and descriptive term for me. Now, those of my vast worldwide readership who actually know a bit about my history understand that I have earned the title "The Human Compass" from real world challenges and experiences in the great outdoors. Recent mountaineering experiences this past summer illustrate what I'm talking about.

A couple of months ago, Brandon Tarango and I attempted Mt. Hood on two consecutive weekends, only be to denied for two consecutive weeks. On the last occasion, it reminded me of why I totally deserve the personal moniker "The Human Compass" for life. We climbed to the saddle of the Devil's kitchen (10,400') and found ourselves on unstable, steep and very deep snow. We attempted to retreat in a total whiteout and somehow descended onto the White River Glacier (not a safe place (many crevasses), but I suppose it was okay because we were lost and didn't know it). I had not been able find our tracks and so instead relied upon the compass in my brain. After we had descended about 1,000 feet, we realized that the slope we were on was getting steeper, and more dangerous; not at all what we had just climbed up an hour earlier. I pulled out the GPS, but its readings were erratic (could it be that I haven't read the manual?) and not at all helpful. And so I pulled out my map and compass (read old school) and solved the problem. In reality, we got a break in the weather for about 10 seconds, enough to see that we had descended below the Steel Gates onto the White River Glacier. I expertly (and with mad navigational skills) lead us west to the Palmer Glacier, and thereafter home to safety. Okay actually, I just climbed west back to the Palmer Glacier (where there are no crevasses).
So if you ever feel the need to test your manhood by wandering in the wild, please call--my specialty is getting lost.
*In the picture above please note the dangling compass. The map? ... It's in my brain, of course.