Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Crampon, Crampoff

My wife thinks we should go outdoors for some exercise on any day that she's home from work.

It's a good thing.  At times, we'll walk down the road by our house, about a mile round trip.

Other times it's the rail trail (which is really cross country skiing in the winter and walking in non-snowy weather, mostly flat, level surfaces), or a more serious hike at the Mohonk Preserve or Minnewaska State Park.

The Preserve and Park have all sorts of walking/hiking/climbing venues.  You can check out their offerings below, both have multiple recreational offerings:



The most strenuous of activities at the parks, I think, is Rock Climbing.  Permits are required for that adventure.  But, you won't find me dangling from a cliff, unless my wife has something to do with it.  I am always surprised when I see climbers scaling up ice covered precipices; don't they know that the ice is just hanging there, too?

Anyway, there is a fee for hiking, but my wife has an Empire State Park pass and a Mohonk Preserve pass, both of which she purchases annually, so we can go ad infinitum...any time she gets the urge to move, we both move.

This time of year, ice is an additional factor to consider, on top of walking up and down hills, and we were prepared for the fact that various trails may be off limits to hikers.  Some trails are saved for cross country skiers and others are closed, just plain dangerous.  A small slip could result in a trip down the mountain in a matter of seconds, and one that you won't make again.

For our recent expedition, my wife suggested that we go to Minnewaska and just take a short, straight, level walk that would be an easy outing.  She also suggested that we put on our crampons, to ensure that we'd not slip on any ice or snow we encountered, even though we were going to be on an "easy" trail.

Crampons are devices that one attaches to hiking footwear to increase the possibility of not slipping.  Some are simple devices with metal coils that surround the boot; some have multiple long daggers that dig into ice a half inch or more.   Ours are of the less defensive type, so off we went.

We arrived at the parking lot in short order, put on our crampons, and set off for what was to be a "let's take it easy, level walk."

Within seconds I noted something that I remembered, putting together thoughts from geography and physics classes.

We were walking downhill.

As I pondered this action, I seemed to remember that in order to get back to the parking lot an "uphill" would be involved.

On the other hand, I have seen those drawings where you can keep walking down and end up up!

I thought maybe my wife had found one of those natural phenomenon and wasn't about to start complaining.

It was a bit icy, so I concentrated on not falling down.  I concentrated on not falling for quite a while.  In fact, I don't remember seeing anything but snow.  Not taking my eye off my step for seemingly miles, I'm wondering how many bear, snow rabbits or bald eagles I missed running nearby or flying over me!

We continued to go down and down the slope.

The crampons were doing their job and, along with sinking a foot or two into snowbanks as I was trying to avoid icy patches, I made it to what turned out to be a gorge at the bottom of this "easy level walk."

It was pretty to look at, once I stopped and didn't have to focus on my feet.

The path followed a creek, as did we, and soon we realized that we weren't where we thought we were.

We did have a map, we always take a map, but the color coded patches of paint on the trees for the red trail weren't there so we decided to go back the way we came so as not to get entirely lost.

You may remember that I mentioned, just a few paragraphs ago, that we started the "level" hike by heading downhill.

Turns out that stairway illusion of always going down and ending up doesn't work in our little world of physics.  No, gravity and geography took over and we started up...and went up...and up...not realizing how far down we had gone.

The picture below most likely represents the area where one of my crampons came off.

I didn't realize it at the time, but one of them gave up!  I was trudging, as best I could, to keep up with my mountain-goat-like wife (and I mean that in a good way, she can hike with the best), but one foot or the other was punching through the snow and sinking feet down as we traversed a trail that many had not taken.

Had others gone before us, it would have been worn a bit better for us, but being the explorers that we are we took the straight path, directly up the hill, to get back to the car before the sun set!

As we huffed and puffed to the car, coats and scarves hanging from our bodies half pulled off due to heat exhaustion, I reached down to remove the crampons and then saw that my left one was gone.  Fleetingly, and we're talking nanoseconds here, I actually thought of going back a bit to look for it.  Thankfully, lack of oxygen and the sudden realization that the universe had handed me "the excuse" for not hiking on winter trails prevented me from going more than two feet from the car.

I looked at my wife as she said, "Just throw those crampons in the back of the car," and said, "One is gone!  The snow ate it!"  I expressed my sorrow that due to the fact that my crampon was gone, I was mostly likely sidelined for the winter.  Next time we wanted to take such a hike, I'd have to tell her, "Sorry, no can do, crampoff."


  1. ok so where art thou Bartholomew???????

  2. Bart here...where art thou? I'll be breaking out the story soon!

  3. Theresa is a little crazy! I mean that in the best way, but man, you guys are doing a lot of winter hiking!!

  4. Nothing like walking on ice and in snow...sometimes we can make it down a hill in seconds!