Add Heading HereI am not by any definition a hardcore mountaineer. I am a father and a husband who enjoys the peace, serenity and the personal challenge of mountaineering. Almost always breaking the "Don't go alone" rule, I have only overnighted with others on one occasion. In the search of a like minded individual I have learned the value of the get to know you hike.
A long time friend expressed an interest in mountaineering and claimed to have knowledge, gear and desire. We discussed past experiences and future plans and what was needed to accomplish them. He went shopping for some new things as did I.
We planned to snowshoe Round Top as a test hike. I wanted to evaluate his fitness level and thought this would be a good starting point. We set out from Stockton at about 5 am. After a brief stop in Jackson for breakfast we headed up to the Woods Lake turn off just past Caples lake. After repeated discussion regarding layering and temperature management, it was apparent he was in for a lesson. I had informed him that snowshoeing is a pretty strenuous exercise and will generate alot of body heat. He was dressed for extreme winter conditions. The forcast was sunny and a high about 20 degrees F.
The intention was to at least make it to the Saddle between Round Top and the Sisters. Minutes after we set out I knew that we weren't going to get even close. We took the trail towards Round Top Lake from the parking lot and slowly made our way through the woods. He was stopping frequently so I reminded him that we aren't out to break any speed records, but to walk a pace that you can maintain all day. That information never made it into his head.
When he stopped he would immediately remove his pack and drop it into the snow, his discomfort and fitness level were obvious. I did inform him that I didn't recommend dropping the pack in the snow. Also I noticed his Gerber knife was clipped to the outside of his pack and recommended he find a better place for it. He ignored both pieces of advice. I offered to turn back and his machismo responded that we are to continue because he was fine. Not being too far from the car and me being very prepared I was ok with his decision to learn about what it takes to get out and enjoy the wilderness. To make a long story short after we had climbed around some of the small ridges in the area we made our way to the top of one directly North of Round Top. It was actually a great campsite I will use in the future.
Since this was to be a training hike we planned on cooking a hot lunch. He was obviously not phycisally fit for this and I was about to learn he was not mentally fit either. We stopped about twenty feet apart and began prepping for lunch. As I was unpacking my pocketrocket to prepare lunch I heard him getting angry. After numerous drops of his pack in the snow, the snow became compacted into the zippers and froze. He immediately went in search of his knife to cut the pack open. He then realized that he had also lost the knife that was clipped to the outside of the pack. I quietly told him to use my knife if we weren't able to open the zippers. Before I could get over there he was swinging his ice ax at his pack like a lunatic. I was sure he was going to puncture his hand. fortunately he didn't and was able to get into his now ruined pack for food. I cooked while he ate cold food. I think he was too out of sorts to attempt using a stove. That was the best decision he made all day. I made him sit down and try to relax. I also got him to hydrate.
He was sure we had covered 10 miles and 3000' of elevation. We had covered 2.5 - 3 miles and about 1000' of elevation. He told me my altimeter was broken. After a grueling hike back, for him, we were safely back in the car and he swiftly fell asleep. Although he denied any post muscle/joint pains I knew he was at home suffering. I had a non catastrophic experience that showed me how people get into trouble and die when safety is just a few hundred yards away. Needless to say he has found reasons to be busy when I go climbing, although I don't ask him if he wants to come along.