After setting up camp, Eddie led us back across the snowfield to the base of Mt. Rose. Mt Rose is a sub-peak of Mt. Rainier. If you like skiing, and you like hiking up 2000 or 300 feet in snow, you could get some excellent skiing coming down. Eddie selected a point on the slope of Mt Rose where the angle was about 50 to 60 degrees. Here was where we were to practice self-arrest.
Self-arrest is stopping yourself when one falls down a slick mountainside and wishes not to go all the way to the bottom. Going all the way to the bottom could be a very bad thing. The bottom is often a crevasse or a rock fall. Neither of those are places where anyone wants to end up at the tail end of a 30 mph fall.
According to Eddie there are basically four ways a person can fall. Each of the ways has its own method for stopping the slide after the fall.
- Face first, head up
- This one is the easiest to stop yourself. Simply dig the point of your ice axe into the snow, as well as the toes of your boots.
- Face first, head down
- This is what happens when you toboggan sled down a hill, except you have no toboggan. You are simply falling head first looking down the slope. Basically, you plant the pick of the ice axe into the snow beside your head and let your momentum swing you around until you are facing back up hill, then dig your toes in to help stop. I actually found this one the most difficult, and strained the muscles in my side trying to do this.
- Head up, back to the snow
- In this position, you are sliding down the mountain on your butt. To arrest your fall, you reach across your body with the pick of the ice axe, and plant the pick into the snow. The point is to flip yourself over onto your stomach in the same motion that you use the axe to begin to slow yourself. After you are on your stomach, you dig your toes into the snow. This one was also rather difficult for me. I had a tendency to ride on my knees. While that works in soft snow on which we were practicing, it would be much more difficult to stop like that on harder snow or ice.
- Head down, back to the snow
- This is the most dangerous position to fall into, according to Eddie. To stop your fall, you need to reach across your body to plant the pick of the ice axe, then let your momentum swing you around to a head up position at the same time that you are flipping over to face the snow. Something like this movement that Brendan is performing. This wasn't as difficult as it seems, although the first time you are sliding down at a good 15 mph where you can't see anything is a little unnerving. But I seemed to get the hang of it pretty quickly.
While we were practicing, I noticed that someone was wandering around in our camp across the valley. He stayed there for a little bit. I wondered if it was Eric. Sure enough, after about 15 minutes, the figure started traipsing toward us. Eric's story was that he had gone to Paradise instead of White River, and when he realized his mistake he drove around and hiked up by himself. Luckily for him, he saw us as we climbed up the side of Mt. Rose and back tracked from there to where our camp was.
In any case, this was some of the best sledding I have ever done, even if I didn't have a sled. The slope was very steep, so we could build of some good speed on these practice stops. And in this case, there was little danger of injury from crashing at the bottom. Although there was a piece of old mine equipment off to the right of the bottom of the slope. You can see it in the picture of Eddie giving us his instructions.
After self-arrest practice, we slogged back to camp. Chuck, Leslie, Cory, and I headed down to the exposed portion of the White River and retrieved some water (which we filtered, no giardia for us). Several of us dug a cooking pit in the snow. This was we could sit with our feet in the pit, and place our stoves on the other side where we could easily reach it. I made a nice dinner of beef stroganoff in a freeze-dried packet. Chuck however, brought out all the gourmet fixings. He had red pepper fettucine, tossed in some fresh mushrooms, garlic, olive oil, and a few other ingredients. It tasted delicious (yes, I stole a bite of his food). My only special touch was bringing Kool-Aid mix so I didn't have to drink only water. Several others brought better food than my freeze-dried, but no one matched chuck for gourmet.
After dinner, several went straight to bed, due to long Friday nights. Eddie, Brendan, Sarah and myself stayed up and played Mindtrap for a bit. Mindtrap is otherwise known as the Microsoft Interview Question Game. Basically, a bunch of questions in which you have to try to think of the weird, yet logical answer. Here are a few from the game, plus one I was asked during my interview at Expedia (which is a Microsoft spin-off, and often employs the same technique during interviews). By the way, these are not verbatim, I don't have that good of a memory.
- In the gym are two ropes hanging from the ceiling. George has been directed to tie the two ropes together. However, if George holds onto one rope then walks as close as he can toward the other, the second rope remains just out of his reach. The makers of this problem have kindly given George a knife. Using only a knife, how can George tie both ropes together?
- Peter Rabbit is hungry. Farmer John grows lettuce in a fenced in garden. The fence has a small hole in it through which Peter can just barely squeeze through. Unfortunately, if he were to eat the lettuce, he would not fit back through the hole. The lettuce is also too large to fit through the hole in the fence. How can Peter Rabbit get enough lettuce to survive, yet not be caught by Farmer John and killed for stew meat?
- Police Officer Joe Friday is stopped at a red light on regular patrol while looking for speeders and other scofflaws. That same night, Professor Mumford is headed home after a long night at the University. He's pretty absent-minded, and the hard day has not improved his state of alertness. He blows through the light without stopping. Why doesn't Officer Friday do anything about it?
- Susan Miller is in a room with three light switches. Down the hallway and through a door from this room is another room with three lights. However, Susan doesn't have the key to get back through the door to the room with the light switches (it's one of those exit doors that you push the bar to go out, but you need a key to get back). How can Susan tell which light switch turns on which light with only one trip to the room with the lights in it?
After playing this game, the rest of us headed to bed. My synthetic down sleeping bag kept me nice and cozy all through the night, in spite of the low temperature. In fact, I had to unzip it partially because I woke up during the night and was too hot.
Next entry, Descent (Sunday morning).
- George uses the knife in an unconventional manner. He ties the knife to the end of a rope and starts it swinging like a pendulum. He then walks over, grabs the other rope and walks back to catch the swinging rope when it comes within reach.
- Peter Rabbit enters the garden through the hole in the fence, gets the lettuce, and pushes it up to the hole in the fence. He then crawls back through the hole. Now on the other side, Peter sticks his nose through and eats the lettuce, scrambling away when farmer John returns to the garden.
- Professor Mumford is traveling perpendicular to Officer Friday, and blows through a green light. He hasn't broken any laws, so Officer Friday has no reason to stop him.
- Susan flips one light switch for 10 to 15 minutes, then flips it off. She picks one of the two remaining switches and turns it on. Then Susan walks to the other room. In the room should be one light on (the switch she just flipped), and two lights off. The light that is warm, but off, corresponds to the switch she turned on for 15 minutes. And the third, cold, light corresponds to the switch she never touched.