Outward Bound – Week 3

Again, I apologize for the roughness in this narrative. And, as before, I have inserted a few things (mainly in parentheses) where more information is helpful. And I will explain more below the “7 Day” log.


Northwest Outward Bound School
June 14 – July 8, 1977
Patrol N-105
Student Journal

Day 15

Here we are pigging out! We got off of solo today. Jim and Jeff made us a hot lunch. After lunch we had more food & long talk about solo, very heavy. I told a couple of stories, we were sitting around the campfire making biscuits, I made some riteous (sic) syrup which everyone enjoyed to the max.

Day 16

Today we went over Little Giant Pass and down into Trinity Valley. We left Shangri-la. Boy was that downhill from Little Giant a bitch! There were some switches which we ignored and so came down a very steep water chute. That was terrible on the knees. I’m really looking forward to the end of the course already and time is just flying by. I’ve enjoyed the most of it. We’re camped at Maple Creek. I think I ate too much after solo, during which (solo), I fasted for three days and then piling all that carp on my system really upset it. Oh well, I know I’m in for a case of the runs, oh boy.

Day 17

Woke up late! Today is service day. I didn’t feel so hot when I got up but after a trip to the outhouse I feel like the bottom dropped out of my illness. We got resupplied also, not very much. I went up and did some work on nthe Little Giant downhill (the knee killer) when we started working on the switches we were all bummed we hadn’t taken them the day before. It really would have saved the knees. I got a letter! From Caryn! It didn’t say much, but I was so stoked you can’t believe it! I felt well enough to have some dinner and we also talked to the guys in Ton’s group.

Day 18

Today we packed up and went to find out what finals group we would be in. I’ll put the route in here sometime. I met 3 new people and I’m also with Ken, one of the guys from my old group. We got a very nice route we’ve already made camp about 4 miles from Buck Creek Pass which is our first major pass to go through. My pack is light and we’ve plenty of food! I hope we make it back to Quartz Creek in one piece. This is what Al told us to rate ourselves on:

1. Safety Conscious – I am very!
2. Enthusiasm – Pretty much or good
3. Leadership or Followership – – Excellent
4. Cooperation – Excellent
5. Competence – Well above average

The route for the Final Expedition is as follows:

Start at Trinity, go to Buck Creek Pass. From there, do the High Pass High Route; this consists of traversing on the west side of lib (Liberty Cap) then following along the top of the ridge on a goat trail. Go over the peak marked on the map as 7630. Then take (not legible) the (unintelligible) the other side. Then through High Pass and down into the Napeequa (Valley). Next at 9:00am Day 20, with Al at base of Glacier in Napeequa. (Not legible) over glacier, from there through a saddle and bushwhack down to Thunder Creek, where stream u r following joins Thunder, 100 ft. on the other side is a deer trail which leads to White River Trail. Take White River Trail to Indian Creek Trail, go upstream to Indian Pass CHECKPOINT at Indian Pass no later than 6:00pm Day 21. From Indian Pass to Dishpan Gap, then to Cady Pass. From here take Pass (sp.???) Creek Trail to N. Fork Skykomish Trail then home!

Day 19

Today our group got up at six and we were gone by 7:30, we hiked to Buck Creek Pass where it started to snow. It snowed most of the way through the High Pass High Route, but it was never severe. We went down off the HIgh Route into the Napeequa (Valley) and made it to camp by about 5:30. We had gone about 10 miles so were tired, there was another group camped with us here at Napeequa.

Day 20

Today we got up early and got started by 7:30 (am). We met Al somewhere before the glacier and we roped up just below it. Everyone was ready for a real bitch but it was worse than expected. There were many, MANY crevasses some of which we had to cross. The one’s we crossed had very narrow snow bridges which we all were expecting to collapse at any time. It took almost six hours to cross it as there was fog and we got off course just a little bit. We got over the top and had lunch around three o’clock (pm). We then had a long bushwhack down to Thunder Creek. We were supposed to traverse the bowl after the glacier and I wish we would have because there was a trail leading down through the trees. We finally found it about 500 feet above the bottom and it took us to the deer trail we were told about on the other side of Thunder Creek. We had a bit of a hard time crossing Thunder Creek, we all got just a little bit wet! Oh well, we followed the deer trail down to the White River Trail by which time it was 9:30 (pm) and barely enough sunlight to hike by. But we did and we camped about a mile down the way. It was about 10:30 (pm) by the time we got to camp and I cooked a good dinner for everyone after which we all went to bed very promptly.

Day 21

Today we were up early again and on the trail by 7:30 (am). We hiked about 5 or 6 miles down to the head of the White River Road where resupply was. We then crossed the river and took the Indian Creek Trail all the way to Indian Pass. We had hiked about 16 miles and were tired when we got here and so we decided to camp here. We got there about 4:30 (pm) and two groups got there after us and decided to camp here (also). I cooked another good dinner for everyone after which we were all in bed early. It was a cold and wet night, and I kept waking up wondering how we would ever make it tomorrow.


So – what else happened?

Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints.

At one point, I had a map with the “Final Route” drawn onto the map. It was pretty significant, over 50 miles if I remember correct. I don’t have the math in front of me anymore and so cannot likely give you the correct figure. However, reading back over it, it should be obvious that we also had plenty of challenges.

Let me go back and start with the piece that I will call “After solo”. First, I don’t remember a single thing we talked about. I noted in my journal that it was very “Heavy”, well, as you can tell, none of it stuck, so it was merely teen-age dreaming mostly I’m sure. Second, I had smoked my big bomber of a joint that I had saved during the solo, so I had no weed left, and I had thought up to that point that nobody else had any. Remember the kid who died, who had been rolling up reefer after reefer in the bus on the ride up from Seattle, was the only other weed I knew about for sure. Well, anyway, one of the other guys in our group had an ounce of some good Columbian, so around our campfire, while pigging out, we all were getting stoned as well. That’s probably the source of the “Heavy” conversation I referred to more than anything else.

We made biscuits, because we had something in our packs that was like flour, only it wasn’t flour, it had to have been Bisquick I’m sure. It had to have been that because it cooked up in our pans over an open fire or our stoves and became biscuit like. Then, because they had thrown in Brown Sugar and we had some Honey, I combined those with water and reduced it down to make a syrup out of that (as I had seen my mother do numerous times as a boy growing up). And it came out, well, DELICIOUS! We were about as hungry as you can get, remember, none of us had eaten much of anything except a handful of peanuts and some Wyler’s Lemonade drink mix for three days.

I used all our Brown Sugar and Honey making the syrup and we had some leftover that we had planned to eat the next morning, but this Porcupine found it and at it all and was sitting over us in a tree when we woke up the next morning groaning at us, presumably because it had a stomach ache from eating all that sugary concoction! We were so mad we wanted to kill that Porcupine, but there really is no decent way to attack a Porcupine, no matter what you do to it, you’re gonna get hurt in the process, so we eventually gave up, cleaned up and left. As we were leaving, it was actually my first opportunity to exercise the “Wilderness Law”. Outward Bound was the first time I had ever heard of it, as I had not been a Boy Scout as a kid.

At least what I heard back then referred to as the Wilderness Law: “Take nothing but pictures; leave nothing but footprints” was a partial quote and a paraphrase of the famous quote from Chief Seattle who made a very famous speech around 1854. The original quote was “Take only memories, leave nothing but footprints”. What happened was that as we were cleaning up our camp site, we found some cans very poorly buried near the edge of our site, and we started digging. We pulled out about 40 lbs of trash that was buried there and we divided it up and packed it on out of there.

I barely remember the descent into the Trinity Valley, though I do remember the campground quite well. And there is one other episode which I entirely forgot to mention! This is a mind-blower, so hold onto your socks. If you read the above, then you’ll note that our instructors, Jim and Jeff went on ahead of us into Trinity (up and over the Little Giant Pass). We went up and over, and slipped and plodded along down the other side and on into our camp. When we got there, neither Jim nor Jeff was around. We dropped all our packs and had started making camp when Jim walks up and says to us: “Where’s Jeff?” We all said something like: “We thought he was with you” and so on. Pretty quickly though, we realized they had gotten separated. Then the anxiety hit us, and then it became a full-on emergency situation in short order.

We divided up and went back down in the general direction which we had come. We started looking for Jeff everywhere, figuring something must have happened to him on the trail. We found him on a log bridge over one of the creeks along the way back towards the Little Giant Pass. This particular bridge had two logs (each about 12″ in diameter) with planks unevenly placed in order to provide places to place your feet. Jeff was suspended with his leg caught between the logs, between two planks, and when we got there, he was slumped over appearing to be unconscious.

We leaped into action with our First Aid and well, for whatever reason, I took his head and started giving orders to check his vitals, check his leg, and so on. Soon, we organized a few of us to lift him out of the jammed leg position on the bridge, and carry him over to the side of the bridge furthest from our camp (he was closer to that side, or it was easier to carry him that direction). We were getting ready to bandage his leg and such, when he stopped breathing. So, me, being on his head, it became my responsibility to give him mouth-to-mouth. I did.

Then, guess what? Jeff stood up with this big smile on his face, at which point all the other guys said: “We knew it was a drill!” I just simply got all red in the face realizing I had … well… put my mouth on another guy, and even though it felt like an emergency situation at the time, now that I knew better, I was thinking “Yuck!” What a sucker I was to have fallen for that! Would I do the same again? Yes. I need you to remember back to my description of Jeff, his career? Paramedic. He knew EXACTLY how to fake everything he told us to look for when we were doing our First Aid. He was an expert.

So, would it have been really possible to determine he was faking or not? I doubt it. We (most of us) really believed his leg was broken, and that he was in shock, and that he was unconscious, and that we were the only thing between him and death. Did some of the guys think he might be faking? Yes. Did it occur to me? Obviously not. I didn’t feel like a sucker for too long. You just have to do what you have to do sometimes, and ask questions later.

So, that was our “Final” exam on First Aid. I passed.

Next, was my own difficulty that I had not, as yet dealt with. For some reason, the dehydrated food we had been eating, did not at all agree with my system. Either that, or we were burning so many calories each day, that I was generating no waste at all in my bowels. I’m not sure how either of those can be the case (completely) but it was the case. I had not had a Bowel Movement (and that’s as crude as I’m gonna get on this folks) the entire time since being up there. That was 16 days! At that point, I had to tell our instructors and they were worried. That’s part of the reason why when we went to do our service the next day, and I already had an upset stomach from pigging out the day before (after our solo) they let me sleep in, and try to get some relief the following day.

We had no laxatives with us, or anything like that, in fact our First Aid kid had little more than bandages and aspirin (if I remember correct). But nature often takes over, and the excess I ate on Day 15 finally had to come out somewhere, and it came out in a BIG way on the morning of Day 17. I stated (in the log) the “Bottom dropped out of my illness” and that may be one of the larger understatements in the entire journal! I did feel relieved – tremendously – afterwards too, and was able to go up and do a little work on the trail. And I did get that letter from Caryn (my High School sweetheart) that day as well, which lifted my spirits all the more. I think I still have that letter around somewhere…

And then, the following day they gathered us together, divided us into smaller patrols for our “Final” hike and gave us our routes. Now I need to tell you that there were 5 of us in our final patrol, including one buddy from my former patrol (Ken). One fellow had dropped out from our original patrol, that left 7 in our original patrol. And you will remember that two other people had left us the second day (one had drowned, and his buddy had decided not to go on). But, those 3 people were not the only ones to leave we found out. There had been 7 others who had dropped by that point. We had no idea up to then that so few had “Made it”. It was really the first time we had come face to face with the fact that 32 had started this adventure, and only 22 were left. That’s rough!

I knew little about statistics at that point, nor did I really care, since I was in the majority who had made it. I didn’t think much of those who quit, who couldn’t make it, only today I think differently. I would have had compassion on them, and urged them to stay no matter what. We all knew it was physically possible for us to make it, it was obviously the mental challenge that was so difficult for all those others (except the one person, of course). Anyhow, we got divided up into 4 groups for the final patrols, two groups had 5 and two groups had 6 people in them. The route they gave us was all, almost all, familiar to us. There were a few oddballs thrown in there for good measure, to add distance, to really challenge us I think – and they did!

Upper Napeequa Valley showing glaciers

So we actually started our final route on Day 19. We had an early start, and we got up to Buck Creek Pass where it snowed on us. What I neglected to mention was this was July 4th. Happy Fourth of July! We eventually found ourselves in a raging blizzard on July 4th as we tried to navigate our way through Buck Creek Pass as well as the High Pass High Route. Fortunately, we had somebody with us (or two somebodys if I remember correct) who had been on this route before and had taken a “Wrong turn” and wound up going around and around in circles, going around Liberty Cap a couple times before realizing they had to go down at some point (and knowing where that some point was helped a lot!). We never saw either Buck Creek Mountain, or Liberty Cap, we were “Whited Out” the entire time we were up there, and it was cold and miserable, but we were fortunate in the fact that it didn’t really slow us down.

We made it down into the Napeequa, as I said, and camped near where our camp had been before only a little higher up the valley since the glacier we were to cross was at the upper end of the valley. On the map (see previous posting, Outward Bound – Week 2) I see three glaciers near the upper end of the Napeequa Valley, and I believe the one we were to cross is the middle one. The picture above I believe shows the lower one, it being so wide and all. The one we were to cross was tall and narrow, and filled with blue ice. I sure hope I find my pictures some day. I cannot read the name of it off the map either, unfortunately. It starts with a “P” is all I can make out.

That glacier was at least 1,000′ vertical in elevation, as well as about a mile from bottom to top. The sheer amount of blue ice was daunting. This was to be a real challenge for us! We had no idea how much time we would waste on that, since we had no crampons, but just our boots and helmets and ice-axes. We started off alright, but soon got ourself lost in the maze of crevasses and crossed a few of the larger snow bridges and then finally worked ourselves into a corner where the only choices were bad and worse. We tried the worse one first, ascending a wall of solid ice, by carving “Steps” with our ice-axes, and trying to bring up members of the teams one-by-one. But that took time (wasted time) and proved too difficult for us.

It was also quite dangerous in the sense that all of us on the rope teams were directly below the guys who were above us trying to carve “Steps” in the rock and ice. Occasionally, as they were chipping away at snow and rock with their ice-axes, they’d knock loose a pretty large chunk of ice or rock and the cry would ring out: “Rock!” We’d all hug the wall, as best we could, as we had been taught, but that didn’t prevent a couple people almost getting creamed in the head with football sized chunks. I watched those zingers roll by at 20-30mph down the slope, and one came so close to one guy, he just would not have ever even known what hit him. It was scary! And that was why we finally gave up on that attempt and decided to try something else instead.

So, we had to descend, like 100′ vertical, and go around this obstacle by going over another snow bridge. This was by far the smallest and narrowest and scariest snow bridge we crossed, and still one of the most harrowing experiences I’ve ever had in my entire life! This snow bridge was about 5′ across, about 2′-3′ wide, and about a foot thick of ice (or snow, you never know exactly). Nobody knew if it would support our weight, or let one, two or three people across and then collapse or what. We were roped up, so we simply “Sucked it up” and used our best team belaying technique, and each person on either side of the person crossing buried their ice-axe in the snow into the loop in the rope they were attached to, and then the person ran across the snow bridge.

You just have to understand there was a basically bottomless (over 300′ deep) crevasse on either side of this snow bridge, large enough to fit a DC-10! We were scared! If the instructor was worried (Al), he did a good job of pretending like this was all routine, and nothing bad would happen. One by one, we went across. Remember, at the time, I was not a Christian, but I probably did pray something or other before stepping onto that snow bridge! I still remember it like it was yesterday, I took exactly one step on it and was across, in my largest steps possible, I actually kind of ran across it. We were all terrified of actually placing our whole weight on that thing, it just was the least stable piece of snow or ice I ever stepped on – even to this day, almost 40 years later!

Once we crossed that bridge though, the rest was relatively smooth. All the blue ice was near the bottom of the glacier. The ice in the upper half was mostly closed with fewer crevasses which made faster travel possible. We were up and over, but already hours behind schedule. That glacier crossing had cost us big time! So, we looked at the bowl below us on the other side, and I can still see that in my mind’s eye as well, a solid mass of Alder. The Alder trees were not large, only maybe 10-15′ in height, but they all were growing out the side of the bowl, then curving and pointing straight up. The net result of that was there was no ground below us, only trees growing straight out of the side of the walls of the mountains, completely obscuring and blocking access to the ground!

We were, well, screwed. If we had remembered the instructions (as I said in my log) we would have traversed across the ridge to a point above which it was easier to go down, where you could make out a trail through these alders. Those Alder trees proved to be one of the major natural obstacles that we were to encounter on this final expedition – and that after already having spent almost 8 hours on a glacier that was only a mile in length! What a day! Normally, it wouldn’t be too difficult to cross those Alders either, but back in the 1970’s, we were packing “Kelty” style frame packs, and each of our packs had frame ends sticking straight up about 6″ over our heads, and we had to negotiate not only ourselves, but those frame ends through all those Alder trees down about at least 1,000′ (about a mile) before we finally got into some relative clearing and were able to find a trail that lead us to the goat trail we were looking for that would get us down Thunder Creek to the White River.

Ugh! What a day that was! We were tired, sore, out of sunlight, wet and cold (after having crossed the White River) by the time we finally made camp. I think we may have even hiked a bit into the dark that night, as it was the only night there was a moon, and we had wanted to do that all along, and we were behind schedule so it made sense. One more bad thing happened that day though, and it was another dumb move on my part. We were wet, our boots were wet and all when we got to camp. So, as had been standard practice, we made a fire and put our boots near the fire to dry out. Well, that particular night, I put mine too close to the fire, and I put the rubber soles towards the heat, leading to warped boots. The boots that had caused me so many problems up to that point were warped and pretty much completely useless the next morning when I put them on!

That is why at about the 1/2 way point on the hike the following day I finally removed them, never to put them back on again. They were done! The sneakers that I had, that were my only other shoes, were not much good as we went through a swamp that afternoon, muck up to our ankles and so on. I only hoped they’d last through the “Marathon” they had waiting for us at the end. Have I mentioned that before? Not only did they have the “Final patrol” for us, but there was also a Marathon we were going to have to run before going home, without which, we would not “Graduate” from NOBS (Northwest Outward Bound School). Things were looking grim.

Anyhow, I spent the last half hiking (Day 22) on that final patrol in sneakers. My boots were shot, I carried them, but only to trash them when we got back to Base Camp (Quartz Creek). We stayed on our assigned route, by the way. There was at least one patrol besides ours that, when they got to Dishpan Gap, was supposed to follow the same route we were on and continue on away from Quartz Creek down to Cady Pass (about 4 miles extra if I remember correct) and then from there, on down to the North Fork of the Skykomish Trail on the other side (which was actually a road, a logging road) and back to Quartz Creek. That made our last day like 12 miles total, which the groups that cut off that part about going up to Cady Pass cut off at least those 4 miles and that’s why at least one of those groups got to Quartz Creek ahead of us, not that we were racing, we were just upset they had “Cut” the route (cheated). We didn’t tell anyone though, it’s not cool to get folks in trouble, but it was fine to be upset about it.

But that’s partially the tale of Day 22 (final week, week 4), so I’ve gotten ahead of the story. That’s enough for this chapter!


One thought on “Outward Bound – Week 3

  1. Pingback: Outward Bound – Week 4 | Confessions of a Jesus Freak

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