Tuesday, February 14, 2006

...because it was there

Piestewa Peak (FKA - Squaw Peak)

Location - Phoenix Mountain Preserve, Phoenix Arizona

Elevation 2,608 Feet

Elevation Gain: Hikers gain more than 1,200 feet in elevation

Length of Summit Trail: 1.2 miles from base to summit

Date: Sunday February 12, 2006

Time: 1:00p.m.

We drive the 20 minutes in the team truck and set up a bivouac in the parking lot on the right arm of the "L" shown in the picture. We check canteens and equipment and prepare for departure. Hopes are high that the weather will remain stable during our assault on the summit.

We've decided for forgo the Sherpas to save costs. The locals think this is a bad choice, but we are committed to the climb and committed to doing it without guides.

Our first temporary encampment is at about quarter mile marker. We look back down the mountain at basecamp. A shudder runs down our back as we realize how far we are away from base. My truck is barely visible at this point and our climb has only just begun.

As we climb higher, the same smaller mountain peak shown in the prior picture can be seen getting smaller as we rise into the stratosphere. The air begins to grow thin and the narrower band of ozone lends less and less protection against the powerful rays of the sun. We are fortunate that the weather is good but in this environment, conditions are still very dangerous and inhospitable to human existence.

At this point during the quest, I volunteer to take position behind my climbing team - in case of a fall, I want to be on anchor for my fellow climbers. I have made this ascent many times and feel responsible for the welfare and safety of Marquez (the Pool Boy) and Mad Dog. I will get them home safely.

Earth becomes small beneath our feet as you almost get the sense of soaring. The climb becomes very steep; breathing is difficult. Have we trained enough. Are we prepared for what lies ahead. We are barely half way into the journey and I am already having doubts regarding the potential success of this climb. Not every summit assault is successful; letting your ego get in the way can be deadly. A safe climb includes knowing when to give up and turn back. We aren't ready to do that just yet.

Forging ahead, I take a moment to catch my breath and look around at the beauty and majesty before me. There are rocky crags protruding through the stubbly brush and saguaro cacti dot the sides of the mountain. A few unidentifiable birds dart about through the thin air. Off in the distance, I can hear the yelps of several coyote far below.

Onward and upward we trudge. Clambering laboriously over rocks and boulders is exhausting work - more so at this altitude.

As we grow nearer to the summit, the climb steepens further. That combined with the blazing 72 degree sun and the light 5 mile per hour winds out of the northwest make conditions virtually unbearable. At this point, we can nearly taste the summit, so not even these brutal conditions are going to discourage us from the final attack on the summit.

I am near collapse. I send Marquez (the Pool Boy) and Mad Dog ahead while I take a refreshing drink of water only to find that the water has now become the temperature of urine. It is now the breaking point. I have to reach way down into my gut if I am going to successfully reach my goal.

I scramble over the last 15 feet of rock - almost straight up and join Marquez (the Pool Boy) and Mad Dog at the summit.

Marquez (the Pool Boy) celebrates at the summit. This was his first mountain climbing adventure. I can tell that he is delighted with our success yet slightly worried about returning to base camp safely.

Mad Dog reclines against a rocky crag at the summit. Mad Dog is cool; he has been here before. Because he has been here before, he knows that there are no guarantees. One minute the mountain can be a beautiful oasis in the middle of the sixth largest city in the United States. The next minute, the mountain can turn into a raging killer.

You do not trifle with its power and uncertainty.

We rest at the summit as long as we think is safe and then begin our descent.

While gravity certainly makes the descent less work than the ascent, there is always a danger that gravity will make the descent too easy as well as to rapid. It is best to remain in contact with the mountain at all times. If you ever hike a mountain, keep that in mind on your way back down.

At the half-way point down the mountain Marquez (the Pool Boy) grows cocky, believing he has defeated the mountain today. I will let him have this litte victory for the moment. Later I will make clear to him that he should never, ever take the responsibility of safe climbing lightly. This is serious business. Dead serious.

My climbing team. Dammit I am proud of these guys!

When we reached base camp, we celebrated our victory over Piestewa Peak with a victory bathroom break, climb into the team assault vehicle and head for home.

We live to climb another day.


Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

Again, Could I move into your dungeon? I could share a room with the pool boy. I promise not to corrupt.

10:55 PM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger FLAMINGO1 provided this enlightening comment...

I think corrupting might be the best part!

11:17 PM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

It's settled then. We shall corrupt.

I never got to read this. When I logged on there were only pictures. I'm going to have to read this tomorrow. I've got to go to bed. I haven't slept in two days. Something is wrong with me.

11:26 PM, February 14, 2006  
Blogger Die Muräne provided this enlightening comment...

Cool. And one day it will all be Switzerland!! Looking forward to it

1:56 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger MsAmber provided this enlightening comment...

Yay! You made it.
I bet you don't feel so old now, huh?
Did you carry bags so you could pick up everybody else's litter?
That's what WE would've done.

7:39 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger The Phoenix provided this enlightening comment...

Did they change the name from Squaw Peak to Piestewa Peak? What the hell?
I thought the whole "squaw" thing was over.

People thought "squaw" was a derrogatory slang word for women...like calling a girl a slut or something.

But "squaw" means young girl. Nothing dirty or demeaning there. Political correctness really run amuck.

7:47 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger FLAMINGO1 provided this enlightening comment...

There is surprisingly little litter on this trail; we saw none. I don't know why - maybe the fact that this is "exercise" keeps out a lot of the trash (and I don't mean the stuff on the trail).

I am glad there are people like you, MsAmber - picking up trash from the trails is fantastic.

Not leaving trash behind isn't quite as helpful as picking up the trash left by others, but I do my small part.

7:54 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger FLAMINGO1 provided this enlightening comment...

Yes, Phoenix, the did indeed change the name from Squaw Peak to Piestewa Peak. It was born out of both the political correctness arguments and done to honor Lori Piestewa - a female soldier killed in the early days of the Iraqi invasion.

I still say "Squaw Peak" all of the time and then have to back up and correct myself. Some people will correct you and some will get irritated and say they prefer calling it Squaw Peak.

As in all things, you just can't win.

7:57 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger Eve provided this enlightening comment...

I am a little embarrassed to admit this: I have never seen a mountain in person.

I have been up in the Eifle Tower, went diving in the Great Barrier Reef, visited and climbed the Mayan Ruins... but have never been to freaking Colorado or anywhere else in the US with mountains.

Isn't that weird?!

My parents are beach people and love international travels. I have somewhat carried that on and it HORRIFIES my husband, who wants his ashes spread on Pike's Peak.

I need to go. Until then, I'll live vicariously through you Mingo...

8:28 AM, February 15, 2006  
Anonymous kagemusha provided this enlightening comment...

That was a gripping tale of perserverence in the face of danger, the ferocity of nature, and the survival, nay, triumph of the human spirit. A tale akin to "Into Thin Air" and the exploits of Sir Edumond Hillary. A masterful work. A heroic quest like unto the demi-gods of yore.

Oh, and by the way, my five-year-old kid and I did that hike last week too. I wonder how we missed you?

8:48 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger Shannon provided this enlightening comment...

Wow I am very impressed!! Way to go!! I live in the mountains so I know the beauty of it all first hand. You should be so proud of yourself, keeping up with those youngsters!! (Not that you are old or anything).. Ummm..Errrr.. Have a nice day?!?

When I grow up, I wanna be just like you!! =)

9:51 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

A shudder runs down my back when ever I see you hanging in the comments section of my blog.

If letting ego get in the way is deadly, why am I still alive??

10:01 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

Hi shannon.

I'm still jealous of you and your big guns.

10:02 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

Just curious; do I still have a good part of you in my mouth?

10:02 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

Umm... Horizon boy, (mad dog is it?) Is outstandingly HOT!!

10:27 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger FLAMINGO1 provided this enlightening comment...

Nowhere Girl - any time you want to see a mountain, swing on down to Phoenix for a visit. Not only will I show you mountains, I will show you where to find the dive bars with the best greasy cheeseburgers.

Kagemusha - why did you have to go there? The readers had all of the stats about the mountain. They could see the elevation and the length of the trail - did you really need to point out that your 5 year old mastered this hike? Did you?

Shannon - I am glad you got the impression that I kept up with them. However, I actually took the "anchor" position so they wouldn't hear me gasping for air. I am very fortunate that you find middle-aged, balding, pear-shaped men attractive.

PDD - I will swing by your site momentarily and rock your world by leaving you a comment. You might want to get a beverage and some towels ready.

10:27 AM, February 15, 2006  
Anonymous kagemusha provided this enlightening comment...

Sorry Flamingo. Did not mean to diminish the outstanding mountaineering work performed by the leader of the flock. I daresay with Marquez (the Pool Boy)'s wanton recklessness you had a more difficult command and control situation.

Oh, and if it helps, Aaron was rather crabby and did need to take a nap after the climb.

10:34 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

You rock this entire planet by simply existing. I have a beach towel hanging around my neck, and a full glass of a full bodied cab. Would it be okay if I munched on some popcorn too??

Yes, buttered.

10:44 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

Horizon boy is really hot! Oh yeah, I already mentioned that.

10:52 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger Captain Carl provided this enlightening comment...

Arrrr....that be good work ye landlubbers..........T'be a beautiful climb........

10:57 AM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

Captain Carl's action figure, you have a glamorous look. Have you ever thought about getting an agent?

12:16 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger DorianGray1854 provided this enlightening comment...

I can't believe you did it all with out ropes, other climbing gear and shit. Vrooooooooooom.

12:44 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger Jesus Toast provided this enlightening comment...

Although I love reading your blog, all of that was about being outside. I am from Detroit. I was born in Detroit, and I live in Detroit, and I don't much care for "nature". Trees make me nervous. Mountains? What? Arent you at all worried about bigfoot? Sheesh. I love reading your blog, but most of that last entry just gave me the heebie-jeebies, and those are not fun.

12:45 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger DorianGray1854 provided this enlightening comment...

Sasquatch is real, Leonard Nimoy In Search Of

12:47 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger FLAMINGO1 provided this enlightening comment...

I have nothing but love for the big footed one. I would worry about Bigfoot if he was here, however. All of that hair would be extremely uncomfortable in the desert heat. I might have to take him for a waxing.

I worry more about skin cancer.

1:50 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger Complete Game provided this enlightening comment...

I dated some really uptight prudes in high school. I got the claw from so many girls, I'm surprised my arm was not pulled from its socket.

That said, one of them, let's call her Aimee, once dropped the following classic line on me:

"They'll find Bigfoot before I let you f me."


1:54 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

Complete Game:
You should have just hired prostitutes. Why go through all that trouble? And I know of some prostitutes who date when they're not on duty.

2:00 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

I just counted all the comments I've left on this post - 10. This will make it 11.

I think I'm obsessed.

2:02 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger Complete Game provided this enlightening comment...

Yes, a ho might have fit my needs better at that time. At the time, I think the disconnect had something to do with our varying definitions of the word 'love'. Hers had something to do with talking, going to movies and so on and so forth. Mine was pretty much limited to coming over after 11 when her parents went to bed, watching TV in her family room and trying to mount her (all while providing my buddies who often scoped out the fam room from the back deck a good show).

What's it all mean?

2:23 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger FLAMINGO1 provided this enlightening comment...

How did my post about the triumph of man over mountain turn into a seedy description of Game getting to third base with some highschool girl while his buddies watched?

2:48 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger Jim Crall provided this enlightening comment...

Hey, cool to see that you made it, dude. Were I still there, I'd have gone with you, and my huffing and puffing would have covered yours up nicely. After reaching the top, everyone would have mumbled, "why'd we have to bring the fat guy?"

3:02 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

It means, thank god I didn't let you mount me while your friends watched! I had no idea! I thought you were a decent and sensitive young man back then. That is why I dated you! My parents always warned me about you. They were right!

5:31 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger josh williams provided this enlightening comment...

Hella cool!

9:30 PM, February 15, 2006  
Blogger jungle jane provided this enlightening comment...

so. were there no busses you could have got to the top?

4:15 AM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger Complete Game provided this enlightening comment...

My shows were always pretty simple. Me and a girl in a living room. But some of my firends put on way more elaborate shows. My best friend put on an awesome show one night in his basement at 3am. We had a number of blinds strategically left open and his Coors Light neon sign provided the light. I think he walked in wearing a silk robe with a tie on underneath and his dad's tobacco pipe. He gave us a couple of hilarious looks at the window when she wasn't looking. Now that's a consummate showman!

7:29 AM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger crallspace provided this enlightening comment...

Nice photos... the heat would get to me.

9:21 AM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger kellywalters provided this enlightening comment...

heheheheheh.. I've been there.

very nicely done..

can I stow away in your luggage and come home?

11:40 AM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger FLAMINGO1 provided this enlightening comment...

JJ - no busses. But there were a few dads that had babies strapped to their backs. I might be able to carry you to the top.

The Cralls - thanks. This was one of the things I was going to mention to Jim while he was here. Not sure if I ever did.

Roxi - if you stowed away in my luggage, you would already be here...my luggage is in my closet. Where are you now? Why would you ever leave Phoenix?

1:32 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger crabcake provided this enlightening comment...

You actually do this? That is AWESOME! Just the strength required to climb that far is mind-boggling to me. I can't even imagine doing it.

The pic of Marquez on the top of the mountain really puts things in perspective.

Is it possible to take a movie camera up there? Or would that be too much trouble? I think you could get phenominal video at the top.

You know most of us only see the mountain from the bottom. Very cool! How long did it take you to learn the skills required to do this?

1:57 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

You just have to consume some alcohol to take the edge off. Alternatives include: marajuana, opium & poppers, although poppers are to be enjoyed once you hit bareback mountain. I know, I have friends who rock climb. They travel to vegas, and some live in Calgary.

Some friends do heroin, but those are not the friends who rock climb, nor any I speak to anymore.

I promise not to corrupt.

2:30 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger FLAMINGO1 provided this enlightening comment...

Crabcake, it is sort of like climing 50 flights of stairs. It would not be much of a problem taking a movie camera up there. It would be more work getting the footage on my blog than it would to get a camera to the top.

It is good cardio-vascular exercise, however.

3:43 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger Bloodgood provided this enlightening comment...

Flamingo, I can help you with that. Get some Video!!!!

4:58 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger Mad Dog provided this enlightening comment...

I am so hot in those pics, its not even funny.

Next time we go up, I'm gonna get one without my shirt.

11:37 PM, February 16, 2006  
Blogger headlessbob provided this enlightening comment...

The epic-isity of this blog was much appreciated.
Keep it up.

1:30 AM, February 17, 2006  
Blogger PDD provided this enlightening comment...

Mad Dog:
I look forward to seeing the picture without your shirt!

I wanted to drop by and add a comment in order to bring it up to 45 comments. Then I saw Mad Dog and had to leave him a comment, so it worked out perfectly. It worked out so perfectly I didn't have to explain that I wanted to bring the comments up to 45.

If I happen to drop by and see that the comments are at 49 I will leave another comment to bring it up to 50. If someone has said something interesting enough for me to comment, then I will just comment. If not, I'll say something like: "Pinky, you rock my world..."

10:26 AM, February 17, 2006  
Blogger crabcake provided this enlightening comment...

Mad dog without his shirt. I'm there.

11:17 AM, February 23, 2006  
Blogger Alicia Bennett provided this enlightening comment...

Greetings, I was reading some blogs and happened on your blog. I'm quite impressed , with how it has a good feel.

Look forward to reading more.

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