Blood, body water and eyewash: Red and White Mountain

18 Aug 1996 - by Arun Mahajan

Or as it would literally translate into many foriegn languages, 'blood, sweat and tears'. This aptly describes the PCS trip to Red and White (12,850 ft)on the weekend of 17th and 18th August.

The group: Chris MacIntosh (leader), Nancy Fitzsimmons, David Lou, Bob Bynum, Chris/John Kerr and Arun Mahajan.

We set off at the McGee Pass trailhead at 9.45 am. The first stream crossing was easy, for the second, we did not cross at the point where the trail crosses it, we walked further on a small use trail and then crossed the stream at a logjam. The last stream had a nice steady log.

The trail is very scenic and well maintained. It has one steep section. We met a ranger along the way and he asked us to watch out for bears as a party camping at McGee Lake had a bear visit them a couple of days ago. We camped west of McGee lake near a small stream. It had taken us about five hours to get to camp.

On Sunday, we started off for Red and White at 6.30 am. We were planning on doing the class-2/3 south-east route. There is a good use trail that leads to a plateau that overlooks a spectacular snow covered bowl ringed by peaks. From here, we headed north-west to the base of the final climb. There were a couple of snow fields on the lower sections of the final climb.

We came to the level of the snow fields by going over a scree slope. From here the rocky slopes began. It was all loose rock interspersed with firm rock. I dont know what kind of rocks they were, (metamorphic?) but they made for really bad climbing terrain. At some places rocks gave way even after one had tested them and at others, they would simply break off at the handholds, just when one was hauling oneself up. This would initiate small rock falls, which people below did not find amusing.

We continued on still and made good progress. Then a rock that John Kerr had already tested as being firm, fell down. I was directly in it's path and just ten feet below, I ducked, but a smaller rock coming down in the wake of the first one got me on the forehead. Unknown to me, this rock continued down (accompained by our cries of 'rock!') almost straight at David. Luckily for him, he could ward it off with his hand, causing a gash but not any more damage. Chris MacIntosh bandaged his hand and then we all decided to call off the climb. Meanwhile I had gone up further, and it seemed to me that the summit was not more than 500 feet away.

Downclimbing also provided some tense moments, but due to some good guidance by Chris, we came down without any more accidents.

While it was disappointing to turn back from a summit on a perfect day, we realised the wisdom of the decision. There was just too much loose and unstable rock and almost everybody had some sort of a bruise.

To summarize, there was blood and we sweated it out and there were some tears at not having obtained the summit, hence the title.

David Lou adds:

Believe me, when that piece of rock was hurtling towards me, it did not look small at all!

Actually, I figured it out, and I think the rock probably weighs about 10 - 20 lbs, and was coming at me at about 10 - 20 mph. I think I would have sustained some serious damage, had I actually tried to stop it.

What was amazing was how easy it was to *deflect* it. It took no effort whatsoever. [Yes, I had judo lessons when I was in college. :-)] The damage to my arm was caused by a *second* rock, about half the size, closely following the first, which caught me by surprise.

One lesson I learned was to treat every rock with respect. Several times during the climb, I saw relatively small pieces of rock being knocked off. The falling rock by itself would not have been serious, but the small rock managed to knock off a much larger piece of rock, causing much more potential danger.

Another lesson I'd like to share concerns first aid. It is my understanding that the current recommendation for treatment of surface wounds is to rinse off the wound with water and some mechanical action, e.g. by squirting the water from a bottle, and then just bandage it up. Application of first aid ointments or iodine solution is not suggested. The thinking is that the principal cause for infection is the embedding of foreign particles in the wound. As long as you take care of that, the wound will actually heal better without the ointments, etc.

Steve Eckert interjects:

Depends on the ointment. A registered nurse from the Bay Chapter told me that most first aid creams are "antiseptic", which means they are intended to keep stuff OUT. There are some (like Neosporin) that are "antibiotic", which means they will kill the nasties already in the wound.

If you use the right ointment, it is better than nothing. Check with your doctor or pharmicist. A good washing is always wise, but choosing not to use an antibiotic may not be so wise.

David Lou rejoins:

Agreed. Actually, one of the reasons given to me for not using 1st aid cream was that usually, you don't know what's in it. While in some situations it will help, in some situations it will cause problems. And if the wound is serious enough that it has to be treated by an emergency physician, he will end up having to clean off the ointment first. [Not true in my case.]

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