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Panther Gorge-Not Every Trip is Perfect (2015 August 16)

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  • Panther Gorge-Not Every Trip is Perfect (2015 August 16)

    ...but just being in there is a blessing.

    Most of my reports (posted under the Slide climbing forum) since May have been about one new route or another in Panther Gorge. I vowed to myself that I’d visit the gorge as much as my body would allow and my partners would tolerate during 2015 with the goal of adding new rock and ice routes. So far this year we've added one 1 route and 7 rock climbing routes over 6 trips, but if you do something enough there will be a kink. Thus this report is about a route not yet realized—an adventure unfinished. Sometimes the best laid plans and ambitions simply don’t work out. We all know what it’s like...

    Bill Schneider and I set aside two days to attack the gorge. Heavy rains on Tuesday were far enough in the past that I didn’t think they’d be an issue. The hit and miss thunderstorms Friday evening, however, soaked my house and most of the area. Still, we thought that warm temperatures, light winds and sun might dry the area enough throughout the day Sunday and Monday to finish a route we started deep down in the Huge Scoop cliff area and the other walls. We've rolled the dice and come out well before.

    August 16: We followed the normal ritual of meeting at Rooster Comb Trailhead 4:45 a.m. then driving up to the Garden to begin hiking at 5:00. We planned to camp in the gorge so the packs weighed in at 55 – 60 pounds. We grumbled, but found our pace and reached Slant Rock at 8:30 a.m. A few hundred vertical feet below the Haystack junction we smelled smoke. As we ascended the scent became stronger.

    Our first thought was that someone built an illegal fire in the center of the trail. Instead we found a Ranger, two first responders and a woman packaged in a sleeping bag with a broken leg. They’d taken care of her throughout the night, apparently. We continued and briefly watched the chopper evacuation from above. The thumping sound of the aircraft dulled as we crested the gorge in the wet forest.

    As always I was thrilled to be back “home” when we broke out of the spruce along the Panther Den wall. A few minutes later we’d descended a hundred feet and set about readying gear to make the first climb. We chose a nearby unclimbed line; Bill led with style, but met up with wet cracks about 50 feet up the wall. The water forced a retreat.

    We hunted for dry stone down lower in the gorge and found an inferior low-angle line dry near the base, but the main walls and best lines were soaked and running. The possibilities were dismal and the sun hadn’t really shined as we’d hoped. With high humidity the night would be unpleasant and prospects for Monday would be dismal as well. Sometimes the best thing to do is cut one’s losses—it was time for us to cut ours.

    We bushwhacked back up to the Phelps Trail and made Johns Brook Lodge by 4:30. The Garden fell under foot at 6:00 p.m., 13 hours after starting. The sting of defeat was tangible as was the strain on our bodies from carrying an overnight climbing pack over 18 miles. Neither of us like to give up, but the mountains decide when they will be safely climbed. We talked and decided that a 3 day window of clear weather would be prudent to a successful climb in the gorge.

    Another day in the gorge, another adventure even if it wasn’t the one we envisioned! There’s a lesson in every trip and sometimes they are frustrating and humbling. These days keep you from taking things or yourself too seriously. The mountains will wait and there’s always another weekend.

    May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.

  • #2
    A day spent out hiking in a beautiful spot with a friend. Sounds pretty close to perfect. I'd say the spider web picture alone was worth the effort.


    • #3
      Well spoken!!!!
      May your ambition for the goal allow you to be a student of the journey.


      • #4
        Hiking between Panther Gorge and Four Corners on Thursday August 13, we saw the remains of two campfires built right in the middle of the trail, one halfway up, the other right at the Four Corners intersection. Fortunately a lot of rain that week so the ashes were cold, but they left tin foil, I guess from cooking.

        Alarming behavior. I don't think it was an accident.

        We also met a couple who spent the night on the bog east of Lake Tear. They said it was "really soft."