One of the really neat things we got to see in Peru was the Momia Juanita, or Juanita Mummy housed in the Catholic University’s Museum of Andean Sanctuaries (Museo Santuarios Andinos).
Juanita is the well-preserved body of a young girl who was actually killed as a human sacrifice to the Incan gods. She is about 1500 years old. What makes her so cool is that she was discovered high in the Andean mountains, and was thus frozen and very well preserved. She is a little scary looking, but very fascinating.
Beyond just Juanita, we toured the city of Arequipa. It is an incredible city and civilization, sitting high on the altiplano at 8000+ feet. It sits at the foot of two peaks, Mount Ampato and Misty, both of which rise nearly 20,000 feet. And they are rather tame for the Andes!
One memorable, or not so memorable, moment was when Leon and I, who are decent soccer players, got whooped by a 7 year old boy and his former professional soccer playing dad. The dad was good, but the son was a future pro, for sure! The 8000 foot altitude didn’t help 🙂
I went out on this adventure at the invitation of my friend Nate, whom I had met through my buddy Brig (who I called Shnig…for reasons unknown). Looking back on it, it was probably somewhat of a hair-brained idea.
We were in school and so the only time to really make the climb was over Thanksgiving break. I was dating Brenda at the time and she didn’t have a good feeling about it. I of course dismissed that. We got into a debate about the merits of safety, of marriage, of toning down the risk when you have a family, of whether or not I could ever make a responsible decision and all that.
One somewhat humorous/retarded detail was that I was talking on the phone with my mom, in front of Brenda, as to whether I ever wanted to get married and how it would just be like shackles and all I could see for myself was subsistence living such that I had just enough to travel around the world from mountain to mountain, adventure to adventure etc. Brenda of course was listening in on the whole conversation and thinking, “Man, what nerve of this idiot. I gotta dump this guy…” Not sure how or why she didn’t.
So, Brenda tried but failed to talk me out of heading out to climb the Tetons.
The climb was ill-fated from the beginning.
Nate was psychotic behind the wheel. I was actually thinking this to myself as he was whipping around these mountain corners in the route from Logan to Jackson. There was black ice all over the place and I was surprised by the erratic nature of his breaking, thinking he would know more about snow/ice driving than to hard-break on black ice.
Well, I guess he didn’t know more. We hit a piece of black ice. We spun around and did a 540 through the middle of the road. My eyes were open. I saw the guard rail go past once. Go past again. Oh, there’s the side of the mountain now! I wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. I saw the world spin as if in slow motion. A new experience for me to be sure.
We both looked at each other in disbelief of our good fortune at not lying at the bottom of the river! We started busting out laughing. I don’t think we could think of any other appropriate reaction.
We hadn’t thought about a hotel. So, we camped in Nate’s car, but it was actually quite comfortable as we burned a tank of gas by leaving the car idling, pumping out luscious warm air. It was -10 degrees outside, but we were cozy.
The next morning we woke up late, started late, arrived at Grand Teton National Park late and started hiking late. We left the previous night late as well. Ha! We were just late. Luckily we were friggin’ fast hikers. We booked it up that mountain. We started hiking about Noon and made it to top of Garnet Canyon by about 3. We did that portion in snowshoes.
The Grand Teton was one of my favorite climbs of all time. It was crazy from the start.
We found a sweet boulder, dug out a pit behind it and pitched my tent in the pit. We were super well protected from the wind coming down mountain. We cooked our food inside the tent and our body heat, from working like dogs to build the snow pit before it got too late, plus the burner and our breath, we figured, pumped out the heat inside the tent to around 20 degrees, while it was -20+ degrees outside. That was awesome.
We started out the next morning around 6am. Boy did we underestimate how long it would take to go from Garnet to the summit. At least we didn’t start late. So, I had the map of the route in my pocket the whole time, but we were so confident we remembered/knew the route that we didn’t bother checking it! We went up some couloir, based on a mis-reading of a landmark that was totally wrong. It was an extremely steep and very tiring mistake. It dead-ended at a cliff band. Just below the cliff band, as I was digging my crampon into the snow for traction, I opened up a crack to expose a crevasse. My heart was pounding. It was only about 2 feet wide, but wide enough to fall through or to trip me up and send me headlong down the couloir. Then my crampon, attached to my boot, started coming loose. I’m not gonna lie, I said a prayer. It worked. I got the crampon on enough to secure to the boot and step over the crevasse and make my way down.
It was uneventful from there on until we reached the saddle. We took some sweet pics as we looked down into Jackson on one side and into Idaho on the other.
We made our ascent up the peak. It was basically like two long couloirs. I’m not even sure how we made it up, it was so incredible steep that we were mostly on all fours. We hit the top of one of the couloirs, a dead-end at a cliff band and saw that we needed to free climb across to our left and up to get on top of this cliff-like rocky outcropping. Holy cow that was so stupid. We had ropes, harnesses, all the climbing gear, but because we were way off route, there was no way to secure the rope. Plus, we figured it was just a little “side-step and up”. In the middle, I realized that it was a very real possibility for me to lose my grip and just not stop falling until I had a very unpleasant landing a few hundred feet below. I said another prayer. It worked again.
Once on top and entering into the second couloir, I could feel it in my bones that we were close. I started picking up the pace as the excitement built. Pretty soon I was almost running up the incline, despite being crazy sauce steep. Funny that I still had enough wits to starting thinking to myself, “At nearly 14,000 feet, I remember that article saying the human lungs should start feeling the effects of hypoxia, how come I’m not?” I was a little disappointed as I wanted to see what hypoxia felt like.
Nate was ahead of me. He hit the summit of the Grand Teton first. Then he called down, half yelling, half laughing, “Yo Bird, Ha ha, we climbed the wrong mountain dude!! We climbed the Middle Teton! I guess we were supposed to go Right out of Garnet canyon!” I almost fell backwards down the chute when I heard that! Heck, I’m laughing as I write this. Sure enough, I got to the top and saw the Grand towering above us. At least it looked cool enough for me to imagine what it would have been like to climb it.
We didn’t enjoy it long, as we realized time was running out. Luckily, it was glacial descent the whole way down and we glissaded at lightning speed. We had left our headlamps at base camp and weren’t about to get caught on the side of the mountain in the dark. I almost flew off a cliff at one point as I couldn’t stop! I was digging my ice axe in as hard I could, like a rudder/break, but the expected deceleration wasn’t quite forthcoming…until about the very end. I said a prayer of thanks that time.
When we got to basecamp, we decided we would just hike out at night. The idea of physical exhaustion didn’t really occur to us in our mentally weakened state. So, we climbed from 6am to 6am, with a total vertical of ~9,500 to ~13,000, Garnet to Middle Teton, and from 13,000 to ~6,500, for a total of 10,000 vertical feet, plus our 1,000 foot detour up the wrong couloir. I’ve done more in one day, but the steepness, the deep snow and the three couloirs just made this a more taxing, arduous and time-consuming journey.
We slept in our car again, from about 6am to 9am. It’s illegal to sleep in your car in the parking lot there, in case you were wondering. We didn’t know that, but were soon to find out.
At about 9am we figured we better be on our way. We hadn’t driven more than 2 miles down the road before a deer jumps out and we smash right into it. Unbelievable. I again was not wearing my seatbelt. Again, unbelievable. I never learn. Nate’s car gets towed and fixed. He drops me off at the bus station as he heads up to Big Sky, MT to ski.
I arrived in Logan bus terminal in the middle of a blizzard. I drove half-awake from Logan to my buddy Eric’s house. It was night-time and Parley’s was off the hook. I couldn’t see two feet in front of me. I almost drove off the side of the road. So, not only did I almost fall through, go over and fall down some cliff while climbing, I also almost drove off a cliff. Me and cliffs were tight that trip.
What’s that? 6 chances for death to take me? But death failed every time.
The next morning, Eric and I woke up and went skiing at The Canyons. The adventure never ends.
The accessibility of Utah hikes to major metropolitan areas is unparalleled. Going from the hustle and bustle of city life to the cool, relaxing clime of the mountains, in less than a half hour, is invigorating. And many of the hikes are extremely accessible and family friendly. One of these is the hike to Cecret Lake up Albion Basin. We hiked it in June of ’09, right after Snowbird closed for the season. Had I brought my skis, I could have skied in the morning and wakeboarded in the afternoon! Pretty awesome.
The hike was a blast. At the time, it was just Brenda, Ashton and I and Ashton was less than a year old. My sister Alisha came along with my sister Janelle and her husband, Bryan and my brother Dallin and his wife Shannon.
The dirt road exiting from the Albion Basin parking lot quickly turned to snow. I had always wanted to be up in Albion Basin at this time of year. While we were too early for the flowers, which are famous up there, we did catch the bright greens of foliage meet the bright white of the snow, something I had always wanted to see for myself. It wasn’t quite like the contrast of New Zealand or the Alps, but it as still spectacular.
It was a carefree day. My family is very talkative, and we were all just engrossed in conversation, moving from the surroundings to the politics to business to future plans to homes and who knows what else. Over every ridge, the conversation would be interrupted by me exclaiming how beautiful everything was. Brenda would roll her eyes as it was still the same as last time!
We ended the hike at the top of Sunnyside. What a difference a simple 800 vertical feet makes in the weather! We had only brought light clothing and the 9400′ crest was exposed to the wind rushing up the canyon. It’s crazy- as we descended, it seemed like the temperature rose with every step. We didn’t get to finish our lunch up top as we were all huddled up trying to block the wind, so we ate and talked and sometimes yelled excitedly as we descended.
Ashton kept a smile on pretty much the whole time. I think he was the star of the show. He was so happy. He was born to love the outdoors. He was surrounded by awesome vistas, had his favorite toy, a free ride and most of his favorite people in his world with him, so why wouldn’t he be?!
I love my babalicious wife, Brenda. We are exact opposites in pretty much every way. I grew up swimming my whole life. That girl can barely keep her head above the water. I am a thrill-seeker and she is a home-body. I believe in corporal punishment for the kids when necessary and she is a pacifist. I love camping and she detests the thought of bugs. I love the cold, she hates it. I love snow, she dreads it. She loves talking about feelings, I’m “dead inside” according to her. She enjoys all these TV drama series and I don’t touch them with a ten-foot pole. She’s a bit of feminist in a way (she’ll deny it) and just hearing the “F” word gets my blood boiling (little exaggeration there…). You get the picture. And these are not clichés. Anyone who knows us at some point has scratched their head about how we ever got married.
One thing we have in common is we strive to make each other happy – which usually involves some form of “major” sacrifice of our inner being’s deeply held tenets of how life should be.
Last weekend, for example, my brother Darrin was in town on a family ski trip to The Canyons. My family and I all went up. It was a breakout day for Ashton as he and his cousin Ava just killed it all over High Meadow. I had never seen him ski that well. And Oliver was just as happy as pie (see fun video below). When we got down to the car, I was exhausted and really hating the hike to get off the mountain (walk, gondola, walk, cabriolet, walk, load up – Canyons has issues there) and was definitely PO’d, but overall felt pretty awesome about the day. Brenda on the other hand, could only think “nightmare”! It was a real sacrifice for her to come along.
For Father’s Day 2013, Brenda’s gift to me was a free day to go hiking. This was a real sacrifice for her as it meant a Saturday alone with all three of our psychotically energetic kids. I decided to head up to Lake Hardy with my cousin Jeremy Bikman (Bikman) and my buddy Jeremy Goff (Goff). Brenda probably predicted it, while I thought “nah, I can turn around”, but a hike to the lake turned into a summit of South Thunder. Whoa. What a hike.
The first leg of our journey was done by mountain bike. Holy &@%$balls! I had been diligently doing P90x and am naturally a strong climber, but I had never experienced uphills like some of those I encountered on our way to the 2nd Hemagog, by bike, on a jeep/service vehicle/hiking/what the heck trail. My quads were hashed before I reached the 1st Hemagog and I was thinking “I’m toast.”
Between the 1st and 2nd Hemagog, we encountered crazy amounts of underbrush jabbing into the narrow hiking trail, enough so that we finally decided to ditch the bikes and continue on foot. I was so nervous that we were never going to see our bikes again. Either someone was going to get a 5-finger discount on about $12K worth of hardware or they were going to be lost to mother nature.
Now in true Lorin Bird fashion (and I think true Bikman fashion as well), we had no idea where the trail went after the 2nd Hemagog. I’m not sure I even bothered to consult anything before I went on the hike. (As an aside, I think I’ve been lost so many times that not being lost would be an aberration. Lost is the norm for me, I guess). It gets into a scramble to Lake Hardy and then a scramble from Lake Hardy to the summit. There are cairns, but you continually lose them. In the end, all you do is look up, guestimate on where it is you want to go, and then try to go there.
We all brought enough water for Lake Hardy, but nowhere close enough for the summit. Ha ha, there would have been three dead dudes on the side of some cliff if I hadn’t by some luck decided to bring my Katadyne water filter. It wet our whistle from Lake Hardy all the way to the summit and back down.
Lake Hardy was incredible. It really is such a beautiful lake nestled in a bowl that seems to sit atop a stand, looking out over the valley, as the mountain falls away steeply below and there is something of gorge that cuts away south. It was here that I faced the moment of truth. And of course I cracked! Bikman turns and says, “Bird, you know we have to summit right? Ask for forgiveness later, dude.” We both looked up at the “summit” (ah, the wonders of false summits) of South Thunder and it looked sooo close. It stared at me, taunting me, tempting me, beckoning me like a siren. And like one of Odysseus’ men, I was oh so easily enraptured. “Onward and upward my good man.”
Now the classic Wasatch Scramble began. I love Wasatch scrambles precisely because I hate them so much. The more I hate them, the more I want to conquer them. I couldn’t turn back, though. The thought of the view spurred me on. My quads had already been destroyed in the first couple hours of endless uphill biking. That wasn’t going to change. “Might as well make the pain worth it, right?” I thought to myself.
We had no idea where we were going. As we hit the crest of the false summit and looked over to Lone Peak and down Bells Canyon, we just started wandering around the ridge wondering where the heck the summit was. We knew it was to the right (east), so we headed up and east. Somewhat comically, I stumbled upon the summit as I came around some rocks and realized “hey, I’m at the top!” I then jumped up some rock ledge and really onto the top for a completely unobstructed 360-degree view. Wow, what a view! I couldn’t savor that view enough. I still go back and look at the view. I filmed the whole view with my GoPro and this really gives you perspective on how amazing the Wasatch is. And to think I only drove 30 minutes to reach the trailhead! Accessible and Incredible.
Goff had had chronic knee problems and the scramble down was brutal! Oftentimes, we were jumping from boulder to boulder, pounding the knees with ever leap. It was an incredible feat in my book that Goff finished it given his knee condition. That dude started popping the Ibuprofen like candy!
There were a couple times when my heart started pounding as we came to a cliff or a ledge on the way down and thought, “uh-oh, we’re lost. We’re SOL on this one.” But miraculously, like it miraculously happens on all my other hikes for which I’m never quite prepared, we would find some crazy chute or little ledge or a hole in the rocks (literally) to make our way down. It always looks so different going down than going up!
If you’ve been wondering, yes, we found our bikes. And it was the sweetest feeling in the world at the moment. Lets just say “3 hours up, 20 minutes down”!
We were gabbing away on the bike ride, gabbing away at the 1st Hemagog, gabbing away at the 2nd Hemagog, gawking and gabbing at Lake Hardy, gawking and a little bit of gabbing on the summit, but pretty quiet on the way down to Lake Hardy, almost silent from Lake Hardy to start of trail again and dead silent from there on out! I think we were all focused on getting off that dang mountain (OK, I know I was). Once back at the car, we looked at each other, looked up, said, “wow, that was one sick hike,” didn’t say much else and headed home to load up on more ibuprofen and a hot bath.
For me, when I got home about 6pm, Brenda just said, “3pm, huh? Lake Hardy, huh?” “But babe, you should have seen this thing. I couldn’t resist! Hey, Father’s Day, right?!” Eyes roll, but it was cool. Ask for forgiveness later 🙂
All in all, it was one hell of a hike- 12K vert car to summit to car, with 3 hours of uphill biking, all the while merely “on a hike to the lake”!
Welcome to the “Mountains of My Life” series. Part 1 of 2
A brief intro to my thinking
I believe in building sub brands or naming/formalizing everything I can. This makes things more memorable. It can also provide opportunity to create acronyms; and as I used to work in the medical field, I take every opportunity possible to help the world have even more acronyms. Its the least I can do.
With that said, I have scheduled, at this point, three regular series: Mountains of My Life Monday (I know, it’s Tuesday), Hellish Hikes Tuesday, and Daily Dreams Wednesday. If anyone thinks of series titles that begin with “T” and “W” for the last two, that’d be cool. I only plan to post once a week, so that means it will be, at this point, 3 week before I post again for “MOMY” (and so the acronyms begin…).
This post is a meant only as a preview to the series, an introduction. Parts 1 and 2 together come nowhere close to covering all of the mountains, climbs and hikes of my life, but instead highlight my favorites. Furthermore, I try to be as succinct as possible in describing the climb, because each climb will have its own, in-depth post, as part of the series.
The Mountains of My Life
It’s lucky that I’m a great driver, otherwise I probably would have caused a ton of accidents by now as I looked out my car window, staring at the mountains like a man stares at a beautiful woman. Mountains are…precious to me. Here are some as a preview to the series. Each had a lesson for me.
Mount Superior: Rise Above the Fray
You see this pic??! ‘Nuff said, right?
Superior is amazing. My buddies Eric Miller, Jeremii Van Komen and I climbed it in November of some year that I can’t remember while we were all in college. We started out below the clouds and then went into the clouds and then climbed above the clouds. While we climbed, I was pretty bummed because for better or worse, in the end I climb for the views and to feel closer to God.
When I was stuck in the clouds, it was still enjoyable but certainly a let down, as the clouds obstructed the view. That disappointment hanging over me only made the summit, with its incredible, awe-inspiring views, that much sweeter. That’s a life lesson.
King’s Peak: Never, Never, Never Give Up
When I climb and have my heart set on summiting, my thought is “the rest of the world be damned.” So, when my brother Dallin says to me, about 12 miles into the climb, early on the 2nd day, “Yo, I forgot to break in my new boots. They’re too small. I have an insane blister. I’m not making it, dude,” all I could think was, “Well, that sucks for you, man. See you in 8 hours.”
I think he saw the perturbed look on my face, and said, “You know, I’m gonna climb this thing in my Sanooks.” His Sanooks??! And he did it! Do you know the amount of scrambling on King’s Peak? I will go into more detail in a later post, but this is actually a great story. Oh, and he brought his fiancé on the hike, who I didn’t think had a prayer in hell of making it. But she did. The efforts of these two to finish the climb is a life lesson. More on this climb later (probably in “MOMY” and “HHT” series, each with their own slant).
Provo Peak: Choose Your Companions Wisely
As I said, I aim to hit the summit every time I climb. I’m not sure if I can live with myself if I don’t. I think we all want to reach the pinnacle of our lives, as well. And it’s hard for most of us to accept mediocrity or failure. We also want to get to where we’re going with the people we love, care about and enjoy being with. We certainly try to avoid associating with people that drag us down or hold us back.
The same is true in climbing and hiking. Now, I’ll say that my companions on the trek up Provo Peak are folks that I love, care about and enjoy being with. But, on this particular day, a couple of those companions held me back! I didn’t choose my companions wisely. This leads to another maxim: choose the right companions for the goal at hand. We didn’t summit, only made it to the ridge. And look, I’m still wigged out about it. I have to climb it again. (Note: These are still my best friends! Its just good to know before you go that people have to be to class by 5 🙂 If any of my friends on that hike are reading this, I still love you guys and I am not bitter in the least :)) But, choosing one’s companions wisely- that’s a life lesson.
And that’s Part 1 of 2. Hope you enjoyed the pics as much as I did. I never tire of the views.
The genesis of most things is necessity. I am actually starting this blog because of a class assignment. Necessity, however, is a terrible reason to blog. Passion for something, though, is a great reason.
I am passionate about a lot of things, actually. Debating, for example, is something that I quite enjoy. I love being a husband. I have tremendous memories, and new ones every day, of just being a husband and hanging with my wife, Brenda. I love being a father. I have three kids, Ashton (5), Oliver (3) and Adelle (1.5). They drive me completely bonkers, every day, but I love it.
With so many things to be stoked about, you’d think it would be hard to choose one as the overall theme, but it actually wasn’t. With my family growing up, with my brothers and friends in college, on my own and with my family, I found that adventure was the dominant theme in my life. So this blog is to celebrate life as an adventure…in all its forms…in the outdoors.
I promise to provide as much eye candy as possible with as little text as possible. I love looking at pictures of mountains, far off places, deep blue oceans, bright green fields, raging waterfalls…and yes, mountains. I would be untrue to myself if I blabbered on and on. I rarely care what others have to say in their blogs – I’m usually just there for the pics. So, I promise eye candy. If not for anyone else, at least for myself.