Saturday, February 12, 2011

Got gear?

Since I'm in treatment for my gear obsession disorder, my therapist says it's good to document some of the peculiarities of my condition. One symptom is my preoccupation with not having the right tool at the right time (second only to having too much stuff - actually a much more real and present danger for me.) Years ago I was climbing a wonderful multi-pitch waterfall in Vermont at Smuggler's Notch, The Blue Room, I believe. After 2 streaming pitches in temperatures almost 30 degrees below freezing, I was happily ensconced in a cave, belaying my partner John Thackray up the final 40 feet to the top. Near the top I heard a faint complaint: "all the screws are solid ice to the core - do you have any more?" I reviewed the situation (our belay had the only other screws) and admitted that I didn't have any more, nor did I have a means of clearing those which were blocked, other than inserting them in an unspecified part of my anatomy. I declined, and we retreated, having had a fine time, but not a complete line. Since then I carry a small tent peg, probably less than $1, and have never had this issue. It's the old 'for loss of a nail the kingdom was lost' but it must resonate with many explorers: when has any serious outdoor activist not been stopped cold by not having just that particular piece of trickery? Now it must be said that in the tradition of John Muir, reported to camp with an overcoat, cup, blanket and a few pieces of food and tinder, we are wimps. However, accepting that fact, packing is always a balancing act between bringing enough to gain your objectives and not too much, so you're dragged down by the weight. In the case of the ice screw dilemma, the item in question weighs maybe an ounce, so the weight/benefit analysis would have show it well worth bringing. My favorite trip last winter (there are a few shots below) was to the Trap Dike with one Philip Drew. We brought skis for the approach and exit, minimal camping kit for the night, ice axes and crampons, a 30 meter rope and an ice screw or two. We had a blast. Everything got used, the weight was not too onerous on the iced luge run of a trail, we had to scrimp in a few spots, down climbing where we could not rappel, but it all worked out. It was enormously satisfying, even for a kit hound like me.