Pat and I climbed Gardner (8890) and North Gardner (8950) a few weeks ago. These are special to me because you can see them from the back lawn of Sun Mountain Lodge, near Winthrop, where Cherry and I got married.
Weather was iffy, but Pat found the Sun Mountain Lodge web cam and, checking it every 10 minutes or so, (thanks Boeing) decided that things looked much better than the forecast read. Due to the wonders of the internet (thanks Al Gore) sucker holes now can be delivered remotely to your home or place of work, so that you can be deceived into driving hundreds of miles to be hosed.
Armed with Mike's previous report we found the trail head with no trouble, save a small delay when a very stubborn meat-cicle stood her ground smack in the middle of the road, mooing viciously. The trailhead parking lot held a dozen cars, one of which disgorged four fit looking lads just as we pulled in. They marched up the trail while we gathered our stuff.
The Gardners are well-described in Goldman's 75 Scrambles guide. We packed ski poles, crampons and ice-axes, but no ropes, helmets or other hardware. Passed a plump herd of backpackers bedding down for the night a mile or so from the parking lot, accounting for most of the cars. An hour later we glided by the 4 young bulls. They had big burly manly packs. We had teensy weensy girly packs.
A big fire swept through the valley several years ago, decimating what must have been a beautiful forest. Now hundreds of bleached gray ponderosa pine skeletons stand guard over the entrance to Gardners, falling one by one as the wind pries them up by their rotting roots. It's strange and sad, huge tree bones laying all which-way in a tangled maze, like a giant, macabre game of pickup sticks. But that's not the worst: When the wind blows just right the dead forest moans. We heard tree ghosts howling in fear, screams revolved around and around us, begging for help, dying over and over again in terror and agony. Spooked, we didn't say much, and moved through as quickly and quietly as we could.
Its 10 miles in, and no matter how light I pack, 10 miles is still 10 miles. And we're old, especially Pat, so when we reached the valley's head we both wanted to eat and crash. But there was no clean site out of fall span of the dead trees. So i climbed up the moraine a bit, found a flattish spot, and convinced Pat that we could build a nice level site in no time. And we did. Funny thing though, the gravel moved a little too easily under our adzes and boots, almost like it was flowing. Should we worry about this? All we had was a tarp (remember the girly packs?). Screw it. We're done. Pitch the tarp and fire the stove. Hot glop and bed. The wind blew and the rain fell and we slept.
Dawn yawned and stretched drippy over our little valley and smiled on two sodden fools wallowing in a fat, gloppy mud puddle.
"You pitched the tent in a swamp", growled Pat.
"Fuck you old man, you helped. Coffee?"
"Thanks. Let's go before we mold."
So off we went up North Gardner. Nice steep snow out onto the main ridge. The wind howled and the snow blew sideways. We swapped leads on very short spells and kept moving fast as the weather deteriorated. Once we gained the summit ridge we saw the four bucks below following our steps up. The summit ridge looked like the dark side of the moon or the forgoten flank of everest where they found Malloy's body. In nice weather it's probably a walk, but navigating the ridge through the blowing nastiness made us feel burly. We tagged the top, signed the register, and headed back for Gardner, expecting to meet our friends, but they were nowhere to be found. The wind and snow and steep ridge shriveled their desire, and they retreated.
Of course this made us feel even more studly, so we wandered over to Gardner, went ding, flirted with some big cornices on the north face, and descended. Good and tired, and with an extra day, we wallowed back into our puddle for the night. I tried to convince pat to move to a nicer spot, but all he said was "Fuck you, swamp thing," and went to bed.
Next day we slept in a bit before decamping. Cruised on down and low-and-behold, passed the young bucks again! Pat gloated in his good-natured way about how nice the tops of those two mountains looked and we kept going. Back to Winthrop we saw some friends in town and chatted for a while. Then to the brewery for feed and hops. Guess who we saw but the youngins! They sat at a nice table holding menus. We plopped down next to them and said howdy. The waitress came. She was pretty. She smiled at us. She brought us beer. She brought us food. The young bulls sat there, looking at our waitress, looking at our beer, looking at our food, blinking, holding their menus.
Go with old bulls.