Monday, December 07, 2009

The Mountain

Saturday, I had it made in the shade.

After years of hitting the winter woods and immersing in bone-cracking cold, I got myself a pop-up hunting blind and a propane heater. Oh my. I used to survive 2 hours before the pain became unbearable, and I would walk to warm. With this contraption, I did 10 hours in below freezing temperatures. Cozy!

Here was my morning view.

Here was my afternoon view after relocating. It gave me a great vista to watch a gentle snow settle in. Pretty, right?

Actually, it turned out to be a horror. It was cold enough to stick, but warm enough to clump and become really slippery. Nasty. I fell at least three times just hauling (or attempting to haul) my gear up to the cabin. (Note: pay special attention to up.)

Our cabin is about 200 feet vertically from the road below. It's a windy trip up. Some of it is steep. So steep that it is nearly impossible to walk it without resting at least once.

It was dark by the time I packed the cabin and prepped it for winter. Now came the exhilarating task of navigating a 9,000 pound truck back down to the road. (That's 4,082 kilograms for you modern people.) Let me say that pickup trucks make awesome snowboards. Who knew?

With each bit of descent, I lost control and slid. I managed to get the thing stopped when it flattened out again. Luckily, the tire tracks are pressed in, so I didn't slide down the mountainside. Then, I reached the really steep part. Holy hell. I stared down that big run with a curve in the middle. I was 96% of the way to panic.

I knew I was going to lose control big time. No question. I knew I was not going to make it in one piece. At best, I would smash into a tree. At worst, the truck would go over the side and wedge into the trees. The snow was falling in the headlights, illuminating a strange halo. I'd never faced such a dire situation on the mountain before.

I had a choice--leave the truck there and spend an un-planned for and un-equipped night and hope for warmer weather on Sunday, or try something else. Since the snow wasn't too deep, I used my feet to scrape out both tire tracks for about 100 to 150 yards down. (Not doing the metric conversion on that one.) It took me about 45 minutes, and I fell at least 10 times. Under the snow was mud and wet leaves. Oh yeah.

Once the tracks were prepared, I sloooooowly lowered myself down. The contact with the dirt and stone did the trick. No wild careening into a maple. No slalom into a watery ravine. The rest of the way was slippery, but without that incline, it was manageable. I wanted to kiss the road at the bottom, but that was snow covered too. I had a long, treacherous haul home.

But I made it. Whew.

Moral of the story: when the flakes start sticking, move the truck down!!


Laurel said...

You are both insane and industrious. And not in equal parts. I'm glad you lived to tell the tale!

Tabitha Bird said...

"Move the truck down." Good advise. I'll remember that :)

Bernita said...

"I was 96% of the way to panic."
So was I, reading this.
You're not just a pretty face, Jason. You used your head.

Shadow said...

yikes! this was some adventure!!!

catvibe said...

Yikes! Welcome to winter, eh?

jinksy said...

Enough to bring on the shivers...

Four Dinners said...

I am a watcher. I will watch lunatics do this sort of thing on TV in my nice warm living room in front of my nice warm fire with a nice cold glass of beer in my hand.

Creature comforts win!

Chris Eldin said...

Aine would've made this easy.

Meghan said...

Good advice!

Karen said...

Glad you made it home okay and learned a thing or two in the going! Ah, winter!

Mit said...

Funny how many people don't understand that 4x4's aren't that great on ice, 'cause they can't STOP once they start sliding. BRAKES are key. (I say this not because of what you've written, but because it's the assumption everyone seems to make when they see my Land Cruiser).

However - I do think a nice winch (if you don't freeze your hands) is helpful when trying to go up.

But down ... is pray your ass of time, isn't it?

Glad you made it safe!

Anonymous said...

Laurel, at least it gives me stories to tell. ;)

Tabitha, gravity is a funny thing.

Bernita, thanks. :) I hung on to that 4%.

Shadow, oh yeah. What a night.

Catvibe, that hello was like a fist in the face.

Jinksy, a couple hours of the car heater dried me out.

Four Dinner, that's okay. You don't have to get up.

Chris, I'm glad she didn't have to enjoy this one.

Meghan, you can't mess with the mountain.

Karen, it was a pretty intense lesson. Worse than sliding off the road in the mud and getting pinned against a tree. That took 2 hours to solve.

Mit, very, very true. Those anti-lock breaks weren't going to save me this time. I knew I needed better contact. It's just tough to do it with a pair of crappy sneakers.

SzélsőFa said...

what a clever solution!
I'm glad you made it down safely. whew.

the walking man said...

I have one question...well two actually.

1) Is the truck a stick or automatic?

2) Did you manually shift into first gear and leave it there while making your descent?

The rest of my response, which I am sure you can figure out is conditional on your answers to the questions.

Anonymous said...

Szelsofa, I'm glad it worked too!

Walking Man, it's an automatic. Whenever I operate on that mountain, I put the truck in 4 wheel drive low range. When ascending, I'm generally in 2nd. When descending, I'm in 1st. Coupled with 4wd low range, that's a ton of torque and low speed. If it were a straight shot, I probably would have just ridden it down. If I slid, I should have slid straight. However, it's very tight and if the curve didn't get me, there is little room to slide at the bottom before going into a creek bed/ravine. I rode the break down too. Just enough resistance to slow the wheels. Once I knew I had enough traction to stop, I did it in little spurts to keep the momentum to a bare minimum.

Terri said...

Well done on getting down in one piece. I remember getting caught in a snowstorm driving a rented Ford sedan in the Scottish highlands one Christmas... all we could do was point the car in the general direction we thought the road was, and pray!
Now your mountain excursion - that's real Boy stuff. Go on, admit it: You guys live for that sort of thing! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Terri, some bagpipes would have made all the difference, I'm sure. :) And yes, I guess boys do live for this sort of stuff.