“Y’know Moeson, you really can’t do that kind of shit anymore.”
March 11, 2012 7:45 PM   Subscribe

How to Climb Mount Erebus on Your Day Off.

“Douglas Moeson” is a legendary figure in the lore of The Program because in 1991 he ascended to the peak of Mount Erebus by his slight technical skills, his pro-active disregard of local policies, and with a bag of sandwiches from the Galley. Previously. Previously. Previously. Previously.
posted by unSane (80 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm very confused because there's nothing in this article about firing a rocket launcher point-blank into a wall and running backwards at the same time.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:56 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Up to this time I said, “Well, I’m getting higher, and it’s nice, but I can always turn around and go back.”

This, of course, can be a fatal illusion. It's like flying. Any idiot can get a plane into the air. The trick is getting back down. On Everest, the majority of deaths (82.3%) happen on the descent.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:07 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Any idiot can get a plane into the air. The trick is getting back down

On the contrary, I believe there's a 100% success rate.
posted by unSane at 8:09 PM on March 11, 2012 [31 favorites]


God love a crazy bastard. I have an incorrigible soft spot for anyone who does something like this because fuck 'em, that's why.
posted by Diablevert at 8:10 PM on March 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


The dumbest part of this was the timing. He left at 2am after not sleeping at all, then climbed the mountain at speed on a snow machine in relative darkness. Why not go to bed at 9, leave at 5am, and do the driving in daylight?
posted by CaseyB at 8:17 PM on March 11, 2012


It's the South Pole. He had six months.
posted by unSane at 8:18 PM on March 11, 2012 [11 favorites]


What an amazing, inspiring story. Thanks for posting it.
posted by Flashman at 8:24 PM on March 11, 2012


Yeah, I guess the mountain is close enough to the pole so as to make little daylight difference. Sleep deprivation is still a silly handicap to add to a mountain ascent.

Is "Douglas Moeson" as pseudonym? A Google search wants to redirect to "Douglas Mawson", a noted Antarctic explorer from the early 20th century.
posted by CaseyB at 8:28 PM on March 11, 2012


I have an incorrigible soft spot for anyone who does something like this because fuck 'em, that's why.

Try working in a volunteer Search And Rescue and you'll change your tune. There's nothing admirable about acting like a jack-ass and endangering the lives of others because you're an utter moron. Try rappelling into a canyon at dusk in a blizzard to rescue some dipstick who thinks basic safety practices on mountains are for sissies. That will show you who's worth admiring in such situations.

Hint: It's not assholes like this.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:29 PM on March 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


i have a hard time sympathizing with anyone who volunteers to go help idiots like this out of hard spots they get themselves into, my tax dollars on hospital visits, etc.
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 8:55 PM on March 11, 2012


This guy knew the risks he was taking and he grasped them on his own terms; he didn't expect or make provisions for anybody to come and rescue him if he got into trouble. The rolls went his way and he had a beautiful, enriching experience. Bravo.
And he'd lived in Antarctica for years and obviously knew the territory very well; he was hardly some weekend-warrior wannabe.
posted by Flashman at 9:14 PM on March 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Why not go to bed at 9, leave at 5am, and do the driving in daylight?

Because he was stealing the snowmachine...
posted by ennui.bz at 9:49 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


That's so poorly written as to be almost incomprehensible. Even the part that's allegedly a transcript of an interview barely makes any sense. It should be an interesting story but it's just really really hard to read.
posted by drjimmy11 at 9:58 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interesting bit about the presence he felt while hallucinating. I recall Shackleton's description of similar feelings he had during his epic hike over South Georgia Island.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:02 PM on March 11, 2012


I was surprised (probably by my ignorance) to learn there were young women to hit on in the Antarctic.

I have mixed feelings about this. I admire the gentleman for his initiative, but also feel a bit of upset that he could have put the lives of others in danger had he had an accident or whatever.
posted by maxwelton at 10:06 PM on March 11, 2012


I'd love to work at Scott base.... talk about some awesome seasonal employment.

That said, A) this guy seems pretty foolhardy and B) regarding what PareidoliaticBoy said, it's almost a shame that such people rate a rescue attempt. I guess it's hard to distinguish between the 'prepared, but unlucky' and 'foolhardy asshat' in the heat of a rescue call and all that but man, some people really throw the rescue team's true purpose out the window.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:10 PM on March 11, 2012


And I eventually stumbled my way to the snowmobile with this nagging thought: Is it going to start? It started, much to my relief.

Man, I'm nervous some days if my car is going to start on my way to work. This......... this is a sort of trust/situational blindness that I simply don't possess.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:13 PM on March 11, 2012


This guy knew the risks he was taking

Every journey into mountains is accompanied by risk, his blithe matter-of-factness about the real hazards he faced is the precise opposite of understanding risk. It's nothing more than arrogance and denial.

he didn't expect or make provisions for anybody to come and rescue him if he got into trouble

This is this the most egregious of his many idiocies. The number one rule of back-country use is to always LET SOMEONE KNOW where you are going, your anticipated route, and timetable. Merely not registering a travel plan, and being incredibly stupid to boot, isn't actually a guarantee that your egotistical adventure will go un-noticed by others.

he was hardly some weekend-warrior wannabe.

In fact, refusing to prepare and equip for potential dangers out of some misguided sense of invincibility is the very definition of a being a weekend warrior, and that is precisely why oblivious pricks like this have zero business being in the back-country. Show me a team well-equipped with avalanche beacons, topo-maps, radios, collapsible snow-shovels, plenty of line, emergency shelters, and provisions, and I'll show you outdoor adventurers worthy of respect.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:14 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Good grief, that is an enraging link, RolandOfEld. The number one reason I've had to offer assistance to vessels afloat over the decades? You guessed it. The intrepid mariners ran out of fuel.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:21 PM on March 11, 2012


Yep, pretty painful.

From working a few summer seasons in Yellowstone National Park I always wondered why (as we were told by rangers in orientation) something like 2/3 or 3/4 of visitors to the park never get more than 200 yards from an improved road.

It seemed like such a waste of the true beauty and isolation to be found in Yellowstone's numerous nature trails, day hikes, or easy overnighters into the backcountry. Then it struck me that if these same people (whom I've already mentioned previously) actually did get into the woods it would be such an ungodly mayhem of injury, search and rescue calls, and even death that they would have to close the park up or face a death toll not seen since the days of Attila the Hun.

*grumble grumble*
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:34 PM on March 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


The number one rule of back-country use is to always LET SOMEONE KNOW where you are going,

According to the first sentence after the second question he told two people where he was going. In what level of detail we don't know.

I participate in a number of high risk activities, well equipped doesn't equal well prepared. I've run into plenty of folks who have all the most expensive up to date gear that I wouldn't spend 5 minutes with on/in the water, in the back country, or on the track. Having worked in extreme environments myself I would expect that he has a fairly strong knowledge of the risks, how to deal with them, and his ability to perform. He knew how to read the weather and terrain, and had a rough route planned out. There's no way to guarantee 100% safety for these types of activities. That said, there's no way I would do what he did, it's not within my acceptable risk tolerance. But I'm not going to rush to condemn him, as I don't know the guy.
posted by calamari kid at 10:55 PM on March 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Nature tourists can be especially dim. Yogi bears and pic-i-nick hampers are a cliché for a reason. We get this on the local mountain roads every spring, as the bears wander out onto the ski-hill access roads in a ravenous state. Visitors will actually feed these sharp-clawed hungry animals their children's lunch, out a cooler in the car, and take pictures. They can not understand why there is any concern.

Another problem we face here in Vancouver is tourists flying into the city, taking the gondola up the mountain, and then going for a walk. In their jeans and running shoes. They can see the frikken city right there, just below them. It never occurs to them that 30 yards away is a wilderness. We lose one every few winters this way.

But, the number one cause of local winter-time mountain rescues? Out of bounds facility-users, such as skiers and boarders.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:04 PM on March 11, 2012


That's so poorly written as to be almost incomprehensible. Even the part that's allegedly a transcript of an interview barely makes any sense. It should be an interesting story but it's just really really hard to read.
posted by drjimmy11 at 6:58 PM on March 11 [+] [!]


Well, there is a big mountain that this guy climbed, then he came back down again.

What else can I help you with.
posted by Sebmojo at 11:44 PM on March 11, 2012


Great link, unSane, thank you! I really enjoyed the interview (it was perfectly clear to me) and I'm going to work ny way through the previouslies tonight.
posted by daisyk at 11:59 PM on March 11, 2012


But, the number one cause of local winter-time mountain rescues? Out of bounds facility-users, such as skiers and boarders.

Current poster-boy: the formerly high-living Prince Friso.
posted by dhartung at 12:00 AM on March 12, 2012


I was surprised (probably by my ignorance) to learn there were young women to hit on in the Antarctic.

Antarctica base gets 16,500 condoms before darkness

I believe there is something of a ratio problem, but then again, there's not that much to do.
posted by dhartung at 12:08 AM on March 12, 2012


dhartung: "Current poster-boy: the formerly high-living Prince Friso"

I was confused there for a moment, because I read only as far as "Dutch Prince Johan Friso van Oranje remains in critical but stable condition in an Austrian hospital after he was buried on Friday", and figured they might have gotten things a bit backwards.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 12:54 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm torn between thinking that he's a badass, and also like PB that he's a jackass for not being properly prepared. If he hadn't gotten lucky, then other people would have to risk their lives to go rescue him.

Those SPOT idiots in the link, they should definitely pay fines that cover the cost of mobilization and more.
posted by arcticseal at 1:31 AM on March 12, 2012


The trick is getting back down. On Everest, the majority of deaths (82.3%) happen on the descent.

Whilst down-climbing is indeed a bit more of a challenge, the data for Everest is skewed by the weather above 8000m. A late ascent means a late descent. When the window of tolerable weather closes and the winds kick up on the way down, bad stuff happens.
posted by three blind mice at 2:06 AM on March 12, 2012


1. I don't know Mt.Erebus from a mall parking lot, but this sounds like a ridiculous, irresponsible, personally rewarding thing to do. Indefensible, but I can imagine it being a thing he was glad to have done.

2. Potentially Idiotic Question: Why not just parachute off the top of the mountain? I know, he had a skidoo waiting for him, but in other cases, like Everest. Why not just jump off with a 'chute and fly down? This thought (big surprise) first occurred to me when I was about eight. But still, would this be a total impossibility?
posted by From Bklyn at 2:43 AM on March 12, 2012


It's not a mountain with big cliffs. More of a huge hill with a hole in the middle.
posted by unSane at 3:03 AM on March 12, 2012


And most of an Air New Zealand DC-10 still on the slopes.
posted by andraste at 4:03 AM on March 12, 2012


That's so poorly written as to be almost incomprehensible.

I assume pretty much everyone associated with McMurdo is pretty much drunk pretty much all of the time.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:48 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I assume pretty much everyone associated with McMurdo is pretty much drunk pretty much all of the time.

It keeps the cold out. Like the ice swims.
posted by Wolof at 5:29 AM on March 12, 2012


Sometimes, you just have to do what you have to do.

I've done a few things that others told me not to do, saying I was crazy, that I couldn't do them alone, that I was courting danger and that there was something wrong with me for even wanting to try.

I don't regret a single one... what I regret are the things I was talked out of doing.
posted by kinnakeet at 5:57 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I sure regret going over that jump on my downhill mountain bike without looking to see what was on the other side of it.
posted by unSane at 6:02 AM on March 12, 2012


I was surprised (probably by my ignorance) to learn there were young women to hit on in the Antarctic.

maxwelton, they've been allowing those gosh-infernal "suffragettes" to do all sorts of things lately... Driving, holding jobs after marriage, even running for political office!
posted by IAmBroom at 10:14 AM on March 12, 2012


I'm torn between thinking that he's a badass, and also like PB that he's a jackass for not being properly prepared.

Well, yes, that's pretty much the definition of an adventure, no? If it weren't dangerous, it wouldn't be remarkable.

Any time someone does something dangerous, you can count on the safety brigade to come out with the same old barrage of moralistic condemnation. Oh, the irresponsibility! Oh, think of those brave rescuers who might have had to save him! Oh, heavens, what an idiot this person must be!

The lesson I learn is that the safety brigade is to be ignored, because nothing will satisfy them short of staying at home in one's underwear watching TV, and that just doesn't sound like a life worth living.
posted by Mars Saxman at 11:09 AM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, the safety brigade has a point. This world would be a way better place if those stupid jackasses had stopped trying to set stuff on fire and staid put in the Horn of Africa, were we all had perfectly safe homes.
posted by Ayn Rand and God at 11:40 AM on March 12, 2012


maxwelton, they've been allowing those gosh-infernal "suffragettes" to do all sorts of things lately... Driving, holding jobs after marriage, even running for political office!

I don't think it was the thought of there being women there, or them young, but that there were enough people down there to support a dating ecosystem. I've always pictured the Antarctic research station as three huts with maybe six people and no sharp objects.
posted by maxwelton at 12:39 PM on March 12, 2012


...that there were enough people down there to support a dating ecosystem. I've always pictured the Antarctic research station as three huts with maybe six people and no sharp objects.

Yeah, no. There are enough people down there - 1200 in summer, 120 in winter - to support orgies, jello wrestling, and an annual supplied request for a barrel of lube. (The request has never been filled and the Jello wrestling has now been banned by the National Science Foundation.)

I am, frankly, perfectly fine with 3 billion of my dollars being spent thusly. I also vote for more Jello and more lube.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:35 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am, frankly, perfectly fine with 3 billion of my dollars being spent thusly.

Just think, all that money could have gone to... um.... uh.... another stealth bomber?

For the most part I think the seemingly frivolous things the US government does with its money are much more valuable than the Serious Important Business ones. But maybe that's just because they won't stop spending eleventy-trillion dollars a year on pointless wars in far-off shitholes.
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:47 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love Big Dead Place. My favorite story had to do with a winter-over who, having bought some traded blue jeans for some grey market vodka with the Russian contingent, decided that instead of sticking it in the freezer for later, he'd just chill it by digging a hole in the ice. When he went to drink it, it had gotten so cold without actually solidifying that it basically flash-froze his esophagus and killed him.
posted by infinitywaltz at 2:15 PM on March 12, 2012


The lesson I learn is that the safety brigade is to be ignored, because nothing will satisfy them short of staying at home in one's underwear watching TV, and that just doesn't sound like a life worth living.
posted by Mars Saxman


Yeah, your assessment is dead wrong. I have supported the actions of intrepid travelers condemned by others here in the past, when their endeavours show reasonable planning and preparation.

This member of the "safety brigade" whose concerns you dismiss is a windsurfer, water-skier, Para-sailor, SCUBA-diver, sailor, downhill and cross-country skier, kayaker and mountain-biker. I also ride a motorcycle daily in the summer-time. My alarm at his reckless behaviour is based on decades of experience in outdoor adventure pursuits, and not some paranoid fear of fun.

I have been a wind-surfing instructor, and I lead inner-city at-risk-youth on back-country wilderness treks in the mountains. We have never had an injury worse than a twisted ankle in two decades of doing this because of proper planning and execution. In adventure sports, realistic risk assessment, trip-planning, and outfitting are control factors leading to increased enjoyment, not less. In acting responsibly, we can go further and tackle ever more formidable challenges precisely because we know what we're doing.

Trouble is most often the result of a lack of respect for the power of nature, and a realistic understanding of what's involved enriches one's enjoyment of the outdoors and doesn't diminish the reward in risky accomplishments, as ignorant, ill-equipped idiots will insist.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:33 PM on March 12, 2012 [3 favorites]


PareidoliaticBoy, I too am an avid outdoor adventurer: I am or have been a motorcyclist, kayaker, climber, backpacker, skier, surfer, and off-road driver. My concern is that you seem to expect everyone to prepare maximally for all possible risks, or else simply not go at all, or else they are just an unprepared idiot. My view is that all adventuring worth the name involves risk, and it's a matter of balancing the risks you are willing to take with the preparations you can afford to make. This is ultimately a personal decision based on the resources you have and your degree of determination to accomplish your goal.

I don't see idiocy in this guy's story. It's not like he stumbled off the plane and then just went off for a hike the next weekend. He lived there, he was familiar with the terrain and the climate, he went on multiple recon trips, he practiced with the equipment, and he organized the resources he had in order to accomplish a goal that mattered to him. Of course he wasn't as well equipped as a full scale expedition would have been, but he wasn't a full scale expedition, he was just one dude who happened to live in Antarctica and wanted to climb a mountain. So what's wrong with that? Is he supposed to stay home just because he doesn't have all the resources one would optimally want in order to undertake such an expedition with maximal safety?

I have a friend who doesn't understand why I ride my motorcycle to work every day (rain or shine!). To him it's a needless risk: "you have a car", he tells me, "why don't you just use it?" But he's missing the point. I know perfectly well that I am substantially increasing my risk of bodily injury by commuting on my bike instead of driving, but I choose to accept this risk because riding my bike makes me happy. It's something I want to do, it's part of what makes my life worthwhile, and the risk is worth it. I'm not maximizing my personal safety, I'm maximizing my life satisfaction. Maybe this attitude will get me killed some day but at least I'll have a good run getting there.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:52 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


My concern is that you seem to expect everyone to prepare maximally for all possible risks,

You mis-spelled reasonably.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:05 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, what is "reasonable"? Isn't that a matter of judgement? What is your standard of reasonableness, and why should everyone adopt it?
posted by Mars Saxman at 4:12 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


he was just one dude who happened to live in Antarctica and wanted to climb a mountain. So what's wrong with that?

1) Failure to file a travel-plan with a realistic time-table with responsible authorities. Some friends, told not to "be nervous and panic right away" doesn't meet this basic standard.

2) Dangerous lack of provisions. Taking some sandwiches from the commissary on a secretive trip to a mountain in Antarctica is willfully fucking stupid.

3) Attempting something like this, without experience, alone. Any fool can stumble along a trail and come out the other end, but that is blind luck, not skill. Arguing that because he lived in Antarctica he was qualified for such an undertaking is silly. I work in an office building, but you don't see me climbing up the elevator shaft.

4) "it was a motley collection of clothes and food, a little bit of rope, crampons, and an ice axe that I didn’t use.I didn’t have a tent. " This is gold-plated idiocy.

5) "You have to route find, and look for crevasses, at speed." "Nowadays, when I look with binoculars and trace out my route, I can see a very big crevasse, which I presume I crossed. " Um...just ... no. That's not how it's done. Religiously. His blindness to this most obvious of possible dangers, along with the lack of a buddy, or even proper frikken ropes, to mitigate such danger is gross stupidity. The only reason this preening testosterone-case is alive to spew his macho bullshit is because of pure blind luck. It is this willful blindness to even the most obvious of risks where his behaviour crosses over from being merely stupid, to outright obnoxiousness. Had this dimwit fallen into a crevasse, his thoughtless actions would have needlessly endangered the lives of the rescue party tasked with dragging his arrogant ass out of it.

6) "I got to that at about 9 a.m. in the morning, where I laid down for about forty minutes and tried to nap." Brilliant. Many don't ever wake up from such "naps".

7) "So I dropped my backpack with all my survival equipment, took a bottle of water and the camera, and started up the rest of the way. " You NEVER abandon all your equipment.

8) "Up to this time I said, “Well, I’m getting higher, and it’s nice, but I can always turn around and go back.” This was when I stopped reading, and pointed what a fuck-wit this asshole is. As noted above, it's not the climb that kills most mountaineers, it's the return. You know, when you're tired and sore and sleep-deprived and under-fed? Also, weather changes on mountains like that. Only fools rely on perfect weather as a survival plan.

He's an idiot, the woods are full of them. These dipsticks, with their completely foreseeable and preventable "accidents", are a massive financial and resource drain on those whose responsibility lies in responding to back-country mishaps. Their cavalier ignoring of even basic safety measures is a disproportionately huge draw on SAR operators time and stamina, and lauding such stupidity is a big part of the problem.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 5:06 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is clear that even though he had little mountaineering experience; he didn't treat this as a casual day hike spontanously chosen on the spur of the moment.
posted by humanfont at 5:13 PM on March 12, 2012


1) Failure to file a travel-plan with a realistic time-table with responsible authorities.

Of course he didn't, because these "responsible authorities" would have prevented him from going. You are apparently willing to tell him that he should not have attempted the climb because it was not possible to get official permission.

2) Dangerous lack of provisions. Taking some sandwiches from the commissary on a secretive trip to a mountain in Antarctica is willfully fucking stupid.

Maybe that's all the food he had could get. It's not like he could just pop down to the local REI and buy a bunch of Mountain House packets. You are apparently willing to tell him he should not have attempted the climb because he did not have access to the best available food supplies.

What he chose to do once he was under way is a different question. The point I can't agree with is your apparent belief that he never should have tried this climb at all. Climbing a mountain is a risky activity. There is no getting away from it. If you wait to start climbing til you have planned against every possibility, you'll never get out your front door. Better to try and fail than never to try at all.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:41 PM on March 12, 2012


Just think, all that money could have gone to... um.... uh.... another stealth bomber?

Nah, the 55-gallon drum's only $2,000. That wouldn't even pay for a hubcab on a stealth bomber.
posted by Diablevert at 6:13 PM on March 12, 2012


Trouble is most often the result of a lack of respect for the power of nature, and a realistic understanding of what's involved enriches one's enjoyment of the outdoors and doesn't diminish the reward in risky accomplishments, as ignorant, ill-equipped idiots will insist.

It may not diminish the reward. It merely diminishes the accomplishment. Inasmuch as it is a sport, it isn't a test.

Had this dimwit fallen into a crevasse

He seems to have figured he would die if that happened, and to be willing to try it anyway.
posted by Diablevert at 6:21 PM on March 12, 2012


I'm basically with PB here but it *was* 1991 and things were a little different back then.

I know, I was there. Not in Antarctica, admittedly.
posted by unSane at 7:46 PM on March 12, 2012


For whatever little it's worth, I'm with PareidoliaticBoy every inch of the way on this. I've never been in the mountains but I've read tons of accounts by people who have been in the mountains, mountaineers. (I've read on this exhaustively, truly.) These people have absolutely no respect — none, zip, zero, nada — for these types of "adventures" and *adventurous types.* In fact, they have the opposite of respect, they have open scorn for these types, contempt. It's not because they give a rats ass about authority, or anyone telling them what to do or not to do; these are the most independent people on this planet. The do it because they've seen so many of their friends get chopped by making even the slightest deviations from form. In fact, they've seen so many of their friends get chopped no matter what they do. But the numbers are better if you practice safe methods.

To me, it truly is one thing if you're fool enough to do this totally on your own, and no one to come help you when you get into trouble. Survival of the fittest, baby, rock and roll, get on out there, have you some fun. But we do have this thing called "society" wherein we try to help people in trouble, even dumbos who've brought it all upon themselves. So these caring people are willing — and able, and equipped — to help others in need. These people absolutely rock.

Where I have trouble implementing that call to help others is when it's due to pure arrogance, completely irresponsible people, not even responsible for their own lives, not even responsible to themselves.

And then there's the next piece — when someone like this clown does pull it off, then some mope like me will think/say "Well hey, Melvin there did it, and I'm every bit as dumb and funny looking as he is — I'm gonna go try it, too!" (Except I won't say "go try it" but rather "go do it.") Due to his "example" a mope such as myself might lose my life when I otherwise would not have done so. Or if I don't lose my life, the reason that I don't lose my life will be because of my dependence upon other people who, because they are socially caring, are ready, willing, able, and equipped to risk their lives and their equipment to save my lame, dumb ass so I can pass my seed onto another dope and on and on it goes.

I can go and buy a motorcycle tomorrow. I've never owned one, only ridden a few times, and had a blast, real fun. Nothing to stop me from buying a screaming rice-burner — you can hardly buy a slow bike nowadays, there's nothing for old ladies to get onto and learn — I could go buy a bike way outside my capacities, and not take any lessons, and drive it like a complete madman, totally without abandon, digging the shit of of the juice right there in my hand. But there's old bikers and bold bikers but not too many old, bold bikers — the people who I know that are around my age (I'm 57) who've ridden for years are among the most cautious people I know when they get on those bikes, even if they're animals behind the wheel or in their personal lives. Survival of the fittest. You're out on a bike, you are at a decided disadvantage.

Same in the mountains. Old or bold: pick one.
posted by dancestoblue at 7:53 PM on March 12, 2012


it *was* 1991 and things were a little different back then.

Technology-wise, yes, absolutely, unSane. But not in terms reasonable operating parameters for conditions such as these. The electronic devices in use now are a really really small part of any prudent (and mostly self-reliant) outdoor kit. Cell-phones and GPS just make this kind of rampant idiocy a daily, instead of a bi-weekly, occurrence.

Could this have been a cutting-edge adventure, worth admiration? Absolutely. With : two people, a definite cut-off time, reasonable provisions for 2-3 days, some ROPE! Hello!, and (for the love of all that is holy) a freaking tent; then such a journey could have been an accomplishment, and something to be esteemed. This one wasn't.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:07 PM on March 12, 2012


A different part of the topic in this thread — women there. I've got a buddy here in Austin who went there for a number of years and had an absolute blast. She's not some wilting flower, either, it's not like she had to go there to meet a guy — she's red-headed, freckled up, wacky as hell, tons of fun. How many women up there, and how many like her? I don't know. But I do know that she went, and more than once.
posted by dancestoblue at 8:19 PM on March 12, 2012


Yeah, I know what you're saying but the reality is that people don't respect shit.

I'm a big mountainbiker and back country XC skier and I'm notoriously the kind of guy who has an entire friggin' replacement bike in his backpack, plus twice as much water as I need. So much so that other people tend not to carry stuff when they're with me, which drives me nuts, but there you are. But the fact is that if you go on almost any well-trodden 'extreme' trail in the US you're going to run into people who are woefully, dangerously, fatally unprepared.

Even when you're super-prepared, things can go disastrously wrong. My friend and I were riding the Whole Enchilada a couple of years ago. We got to 11000' by 8.30 in the morning, and were horrified to discover the kids we shared a shuttle with *hadn't even brought water*. So we sorted that out and gave thema stiff talking to, and then we set off.

We rode it really fast because we'd done most of it before and we were feeling feisty. The trail is very, very tough on bikes but we were absolutely bombing it and passing everyone in sight -- and giving people water left and right who needed it -- until suddenly, at the half way point, there was a big KLANG and my friend's bike disintegrated underneath him. The suspension just fell to pieces. We managed to macguyver it so it was semi-rideable again, using zip ties.

The bike was now incredibly fragile so we picked our way down. All the people we'd passed, passed us. By now it was getting dark, and anyone who's familiar with it will know that the last section is ridiculously exposed -- a 600' fall to your right if you slip. We finally made it to the bottom, with white knuckles, just as the last light went.

I've never enjoyed a beer so much.

There was literally nothing we could have done better. We checked our bikes out scrupulously before we set out and we knew the trail was well within our abilities. We had lots of food and water. We probably wouldn't have died but we would have had a very unpleasant night out on the mesa and probably S&R would have been called out.

But anyway my point is that we knew what we were doing but we were probably in the 5% of people on the trail that day who actually did. And we were Those Guys.
posted by unSane at 8:28 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


you can hardly buy a slow bike nowadays, there's nothing for old ladies to get onto and learn
posted by dancestoblue


Cough. Now what's yer excuse?
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:30 PM on March 12, 2012


The suspension just fell to pieces

I used to hear this in the bike-shop, all the time.

Sure it did. Let me guess. You were "just riding along", right?

"No Dude! Yer seriously not listenin'!!!! We were taking' huge air!!! Into rock-filled creeks!"

"I am, in fact, listening. I can only warranty parts that inexplicably failed".

Etc.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:36 PM on March 12, 2012


No, you're right. it was Porcupine Rim, which is teeth-juddering hell on bikes. And we were riding iit much faster than we'd ever ridden it before. Not taking stupid air, or anything like that, but basically it's like riding into kerbs at 30 mph for about 10 miles solid. But it was a nice Santa Cruz LT that really should have been able to take it. I guess there was some fatigue going on in one of the linkages we couldn't see and weren't aware of. There was definitely a feeling of 'you know what, we *were* pushing it a bit there' but on the other hand that's kind of what the bikes are designed for.

We wouldn't have dreamed of warrantying it but we were taken aback that it broke.

That's what I mean, really: if you remove all risk from the equation it really isn't that much fun. The last section of Porcupine Rim is definitely risky if you ride it as opposed to walk it, but it's kind of the whole point of the ride.
posted by unSane at 8:50 PM on March 12, 2012


In retrospect I think we fell victim to the kind of heuristic trap described here:

http://www.farnamstreetblog.com/2012/03/evidence-of-heuristic-traps-in-recreational-avalanche-accidents/

These are very dangerous because they affect the experienced more than the inexperienced.
posted by unSane at 8:54 PM on March 12, 2012


PareidoliaticBoy: "you can hardly buy a slow bike nowadays, there's nothing for old ladies to get onto and learn
posted by dancestoblue


Cough. Now what's yer excuse?
"
Um, well, see — ahem, cough, etc — I'm 6'5" tall and I look like a total gork on any bike other than that big BMW that adjusts high? Does that get me off the hook?


It's a gorgeous bike that you linked, and I've actually looked at the Kaw 250 also, which is seen as an absolutely perfect bike for someone starting out, plus lots of people ride them anyways, just because they're great, and I'm assuming the same with the Honda you linked.

There is another piece though, and on this I am absolutely not kidding around — I do not trust myself. It's bad enough that you (I) cannot trust the other guy. But I know that I'd get into that juice, I'd twist my wrist too fast and too far — I know myself well enough to know that I would be unable to resist the joy in that. And that's fine in a pickup, or a car, or with a woman, but on a bike I'm almost positive (in fact I am positive, regardless I've tried to bullshit myself out of it) that I'd get into real trouble.
posted by dancestoblue at 9:06 PM on March 12, 2012


Yeah the first thing I thought of when I looked at the trail link was, " That's gonna need a gallon of water. "

I also drag around a ton of gear, but on the local trails in summer, most of it is water. I have 3 and 2-litre water-bladders that I fill 3/4s full, then stick in the freezer, the night before. Then, I make up a bunch of chicken wraps in foil, and slice up some hard cheeses, crispy veggies, and fruit, to go with some cold-cut meats. Then, I foil and shrink wrap them.

Gearing up, in the morning, these provisions are wedged in between the two ice-blocks on my bag. Everyone laughs, but at 3:30 in the afternoon, on the top of the mountain, with the sun beating down a clear-cut we're resting in? Well then, the ability to reach into your pack and produce icy-cold Thai chicken-wraps, and freakin' prosciutto and melon anti-pasto, along with ice-water, suddenly seems completely sane.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:08 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Everybody I've ever known who had ridden a motorcycle has had a life-threatening accident. (Of course all the exceptions will come out of the woodwork now, but anyway). I've had some horrible MTB crashes but hitting a tree at 15mph is a lot different from hitting a tree at 70mph.

I smashed my leg in three places last year on a carving board, but I was doing 1mph when it happened. Que sera.
posted by unSane at 9:10 PM on March 12, 2012


The thing that's made the most difference to me is E-Load. The most amazing stuff. Electrolytes and carbs, perfectly balanced for high-exertion craziness. Doesn't make you nauseous. I wasn't even hungry on the Whole Enchilada, which amazed me. But not bonking, that's a biggie.
posted by unSane at 9:14 PM on March 12, 2012


I don't see this as particularly difficult or dangerous, other than being solo. The climb is not technical at all, basically just a walk up. Lacking glacier experience he tried to stay on rock ridges, but with a little more experience he would have been better off walking straight up the snow using crampons.

Thousands of rookies make a more difficult climb up Mt. Hood in Oregon each year, for example. He had a sleeping bag and a few sandwiches which seems about right for that kind of climb. Sufficient water would be my biggest concern.

As a solo person you just have to be a little more careful since you can't expect rescue if you mess up. I've done lots of more difficult solo climbs than Erebus.
posted by JackFlash at 10:09 PM on March 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thousands of rookies make a more difficult climb up Mt. Hood in Oregon each year

Luckily, Antarctica is exactly like Oregon. Otherwise, such an argument would seem like utter nonsense.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:30 PM on March 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Mt Hood Forecast
Mt Erebus Forecast
posted by dhartung at 11:24 PM on March 12, 2012


Man, Mt.Hood looks fucking unpleasant.
Note to self: avoid climbing Mt. Hood this week.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:14 AM on March 13, 2012


Mt Hood Forecast
Mt Erebus Forecast


You do realize that Hood and Erebus are in different hemispheres? Comparing their temperatures on the same day is meaningless. He said that the temperature was about zero the day of his climb, which is not extreme at all. In fact, it so happens that is about the temperature of Hood today, according to your link. People regularly climb Hood all winter. Heck, I camped directly on the summit of Hood once at below zero in nothing but a bivy bag.
posted by JackFlash at 12:32 AM on March 13, 2012


These suggestions are most useless once one embarks on something the scale of submitting an Antarctic peak alone. Sometimes the safety precautions create an illusion of control, when in fact when you are on an adventure like this the mountain is in control. If you can't accept that, don't go up there.
posted by humanfont at 9:57 AM on March 13, 2012


I don't see this as particularly difficult or dangerous, other than being solo.

And at, y'know, the South Pole.
posted by unSane at 10:37 AM on March 13, 2012


I don't see this as particularly difficult or dangerous, other than being solo.

And at, y'know, the South Pole.


Actually, almost 900 miles from the South Pole, but that is irrelevant. What is with this ZOMG! Antarctica stuff. It isn't the moon. The laws of physics are the same. The weather was about the same as a typical winter commute in Minneapolis. The climb was a non-technical walk up to a not particularly outstanding elevation. The fact that it was in Antarctica doesn't change these facts.

Isolation is really a state of mind. I've been on peaks where I could see my parked car 10 miles away with binoculars, but as far as isolation, I may as well have been in Antarctica for all the good my car would do me if I made a mistake and messed up.

People are making him out like he was some sort of suicidal, reckless or irresponsible person. He had been at Antarctica for several years, was well equipped and experienced in the weather. He made what effectively was a long, strenuous day hike in a remote location in relatively balmy weather similar to what thousands of people do every year. I admire what he did and would have loved to have the same opportunity. What was gutsy about his trek was his attitude to screw all the red tape and just do it.

What is unique about Erebus is not that it is particularly dangerous but that is is extremely difficult to get to. It is horrendously expensive and the logistical red tape for permits from multiple nations is daunting. But once you are there, as he was, you would be nuts not to take the opportunity to make the climb.
posted by JackFlash at 11:15 AM on March 13, 2012 [2 favorites]


Some fantastic photos of the ice caves on Mt Erebus.
posted by unSane at 11:42 AM on March 13, 2012


Incidentally, I greatly enjoyed the book version of Big Dead Place. Working in Antartica is fantastically Kafka-esque.
posted by Chrysostom at 7:38 PM on March 13, 2012


Situational awareness can be learned. Some will never get it, though.

A big problem we face here in B.C. is the complete lack of understanding amongst some tourists of what real winter environments are like. Understandably, they are clueless in getting a grip on how such unremittingly difficult environments found outsider of temperate zones can impact on the day to day functionality of such essential variables such as liquid-flow, battery capacity, radio reception, engine performance, lubrication, tensile strength, heat-loss, air-worthiness, etc.

Naturally then, when they equate their Winnebago's performance in Prince George, with their past experience in places such as Lake Tahoe, their false-equivalency decision-making tree tends to impact negatively on everyone's overall enjoyment of life.

"But it went down to Zero there, right in Mount Hood's parking lot! With no problems!"

"Right. For 2 hours. Your radiator is cracked, the engine block might seize, but I've opened the frost plugs, so you might escape that. Your propane feed-valve is frozen solid, and all six of your batteries are now pooched. "

"Tow? Yeah, that'll be ... about $2500. Plus you'll have to wait a week."

You think that's a long time? Hey, at least we're not in Antarctica, or something, where you simply couldn't ever be rescued.

h, and next time you wannna wander more than 5 meters from base-camp, in a deadly hostile and completely unforgiving environment? Yeah. Get a fucking clue, first.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:18 PM on March 13, 2012


Your Winnebago towing tales are not that impressive. If you are trying to give off a grouchy bitter crazy Whistler parking valet vibe you are succeeding.
posted by humanfont at 9:36 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live close to a ski hill here in Ontario. There's a road that winds up to the top. On literally any given Saturday or Sunday in winter, if I choose to drive home over the mountain (whcih is the quickest way) I am guaranteed to see between one and four cars in the ditch. They pull off the road onto what looks like the shoulder, either to take a picture or because they just slid off, but is actually the snow covering the ditch which has been made falt by the snow plow. And in they go.

Usually it's a 2 wheel drive car with all-seasons and a bunch of people inside who have no idea what just happened or why -- often foreign tourists or recent arrivals in Canada.

I have a big old truck and I carry all the good stuff in winter -- tow straps and jump leads and traction aids and a shovel and so on. So most times I stop and try to pull them out. And of course they are absurdly grateful, just as I was when I first arrived here and put my car in ditches a few times. But as the season wears on I tend to look at that road and think "ah, fuck it, I'll take the long way" just because I really don't want so spend an hour pulling people out of ditches in -11.

Anyway, my point is -- it's totally an issue of education. No-one told the folk in the ditch that their car and tires were ridiculously inadequate for the road they were trying to ascend. It's one of those things you're just Expected To Know. The town doesn't put up signs because everyone who lives in the town knows you don't go up that road without the right tires and you don't pull onto the flat white bit at the side of the road.

But it's not always education. My in-laws live right by the ski hill and we are about 20km away. One evening this year they set off to come here for dinner in a the first blizzard of the year. They got all the way to the bottom of the hill that leads to our house -- about 1000' away -- and couldn't get any further because they were in a 2wd with all-seasons. And to make matters worse they didn't bring a cell. So they turned round and went home. And because we didn't know what had happened, I went out in the truck looking for them, expecting to find them dead in a ditch. Finally my wife called me to say they'd arrived home again.

This was someone who was fricken' BORN here. With plenty of money to afford a cell phone and winter tires and a freakin' 4wd. I was glad they got home, but really, that was some epic stupid right there.
posted by unSane at 9:57 PM on March 13, 2012 [1 favorite]


Winter is an unrelenting task-mistress. Never towed a Winnebago in my life. There are parking-lots in Whistler now? How luxurious.

On the bright side, such mindless ad hominum attacks did inspire me to go find some picture albums from when we used to park the bus in the garbage-dump, at the bottom the Olympic Run, there. This was back in the days when you could get away with such behaviour

A bus used to come there every hour to pick up the dipsticks so far gone on powder that they'd give up a 1/2 day of skiing in order to do 16 miles of non-stop downhill. Looking at the pictures now, though, I see that it's mostly just bears.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:25 PM on March 13, 2012


If you didn't tow Winnebago's why bring them up? Now your a bus driver? I don't understand your grar here. So far you've expressed frustration with tourists and a dislike of the normal activities that are part of mountain rescue. If you don't like to help people who get in trouble out there, no one is making you volunteer (unless you are serving community service).

Meanwhile you havn't actually responded to any of the points which have been made about the actual circumstances of Moeson's experience and adventure.

If your goal is to present yourself as a mountain survival / cold weather expert; well so far I'm not convinced. You said, Winter is an unrelenting task-mistress, cliches like this don't really build your credibility.
posted by humanfont at 10:58 AM on March 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


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