Rugged Mountain – Winter
FEBRUARY 8-9, 1992
(First published in the Island Bushwhacker 20:1 March 1992)
‘Ice is the silent language of the peak;
and fire the silent language of the star.”
A winter attempt on Rugged Mountain had for some
time been high on my list of projects, but last winter I was grounded
by injury and this winter had not, until recently, offered us much
in the way of weather to rave about.
The week of February 3rd started fine for a change,
and I issued a ‘yellow alert’ for a Rugged trip, but
that Friday at 10am we were still talking about Sutton Pass. Then
Rick Johnson, over the phone, said ‘Look, you bonehead. If
it’s going to be nice why don’t you go to Rugged, even
though I can’t go; and I’ll curse myself roundly if
you succeed. *!#&* ‘, or words to that effect.
Good ideas require action, and so it was that Don
Berryman, Dennis Manke, Gerta Smythe and I pulled out of Colwood
at 7pm for the long drive north. In due course we spread our sleeping
bags in the usual ditch in the Nomash valley, beneath a diamond
sky, a little before 3am.
We arose at 7:15 and, after
a brief breakfast, set off for the north col laden with camping
gear. The day was sunny and fine, warm even, hardly like February
at all, and the lack of a significant snow pack below 3500 ft had
us shaking our heads in wonder. The open snow slopes, when we reached
them, were firm and stable, and we donned crampons to climb the
NW basin, arriving at the col after about 5 ½ hours. By the
time we’d set up camp it was 2:30 or later, so the combined
factors of tiredness and short daylight assuaged our guilt at not
seizing this particular day for the summit attempt. We had a very
pleasant and prolonged evening over dinner enjoying the view and
photographing the summit block sheathed in its cloak of white. The
scenery was so spectacular, in fact, that Gerta chucked her dinner.
That is, she chucked it all over the glacier before having had a
chance to eat it. The slip that precipitated this unpremeditated
aeration of the victuals had the consequence of a slide –an
eastward one, fortunately, which deposited her unceremoniously beside
After a long night of most entertaining dreams we popped out under
the 6am stars to witness the
fading stripes of aurora as breakfast cooked and gear was sorted.