Part X – Chapter 9 – 2011

These people, including the one taking the photos, are just about to go through the tunnel on the Crypt Lake hike. It looks easy. Right? But, no. It’s not.

Charlie didn’t enjoy it at all. And you’ll see why in a minute.

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Below is the smaller of the two shuttles that ferry hikers to and from the Crypt Lake landing. They used the larger one the morning Charlie hiked Crypt. (Since this photo is a bit out of focus, I’d like to think that Charlie took it, not me. I just like to take credit for the good ones.)

The Crypt Lake Shuttle
Crypt Landing

Charlie knew that soon after they docked the crowd would begin to thin out. So he waited a tad because he knew he’d be slower than most, and he didn’t want to have to keep stepping aside to let them pass.

Just before he left Burnt Rock Falls, a couple asked him to take a picture of them with their camera. He did, and he also took one with his own camera for himself.

Burnt Rock Falls
Burnt Rock Falls

Many of these visitors carry plush toys, especially toys from Disney Land.

Crypt Lake Trail

Why the plush toys? Well, Mabel Kwong, an Asian woman who has lived in a number of different countries and is currently living in Australia, states in a post that cute has always been a big part of Asian culture. And that’s why it’s not unheard of for Asians to fly to Australia, for example, to buy what she describes as “lavender-stuffed fluffy purple teddy bears.”

Her favorite toys are stuffed monkeys, especially her Mr. Wobbles.

At the end of her post, she asks if the reader has a favorite stuffed toy. Do you? I don’t. And Charlie doesn’t either. He likes small rocks. Especially small, black, smooth, volcanic rocks.

The first two photos below are what you see for a while after you leave the shade of the trees on your way up to the lake. But that scenery soon segues into a hot, tedious climb through what Charlie called, Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Then boulders. And that’s it.

And those rocks are neither small nor black.

And there’s no protection whatsoever from the sun, as there is on most other hikes, and the sun even reflects off all the light-colored rocks around you.

At the bottom left of the third photo, you can see two hikers who are just about at the turn in the switchback that Charlie’d just finished.

You can see the switchbacks clearly in the fourth photo, and in the fifth one you can see a group that is just about to turn left, then climb higher, then turn right, then climb higher, and so it goes. Ad infinitum, it seems, through rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

The sixth photo is what that group will see once they’re at the top.

And finally, the tunnel and the assist cable, which are supposed to be the highlights of the trip. And they were the first time, although Charlie was really concerned about the tunnel back then because of his claustrophobia.

The approach.

The Tunnel

You climb up to the tunnel on that eight-rung, steel ladder you see at the end of the path.

A closer look at the ladder.

The Tunnel

Now go back to the approach photo and see where you might end up if your backpack and other paraphernalia caused you to lose your balance as you moved from the top rung of the ladder across to the tunnel itself.

If you did fall at that point, you might even make it the whole 300 meters all the way down to the bottom.

Maybe a photo with some people in it would help with perspective. (Be sure to click the photo, so you can see the details.)

The Tunnel

OK, now we enter the tunnel. Keep in mind as you look across those thirty meters that Charlie is quite claustrophobic.

The Tunnel

Except for a couple meters at each end of the tunnel, you are in total darkness. Total. Darkness. And you have to almost squat and inch your way along. (Or squat and centimeter your way along if you’re from any other country than the United States. A neologism?)

That’s why Charlie couldn’t see the straps from his backpack that were dragging behind it as he pushed it ahead of him. And that’s why he kept stepping on the straps. And that’s why he couldn’t tell which foot was on which strap. Total. Darkness.

And he was sweating profusely. And frustrated. And angry at the bastards behind who kept bumping into him.

He’d asked them to go ahead, but they’d waved him on. He was pretty sure they didn’t understand what he wanted them to do because he was pretty sure they didn’t speak English.

And his Nikon D700 kept bumping against rock outcroppings that he couldn’t see. And he broke off his lens hood.

And this hike was supposed to be better than Goat. Goat had been a disaster, but this was turning out to be even worse, especially because of those ten girls and their two counselors who’d got to the ladder just ahead of him.

He’d assumed they were from the Reinhart Church Camp down by the Red Rock Parkway.

But finally, some light at the end of the tunnel. (I know. Cliché. Right?)

The Tunnel

At least, when he got to the assist cable, he’d be able to see.

The Assist Cable

That cable is loose inside the eyes of the bolts that are drilled into the rock. If you pull on it, it moves toward you. But if someone else pulls on it, it moves away from you, or sideways, which is even worse. Sideways always feels as if it’s come undone.

And those friggin girls, who’d gotten ahead of him, and who’d been slow on the ladder, and who’d been slow in the tunnel, now had basically come to a standstill.

Every time the cable moved, a couple of them would scream. And two of the older girls kept looking down at the 300-meter drop. Each time they did that, of course, they froze. Too terrified to scream. Too terrified to move.

And they’d have to be talked through it by the closest counselor.

Charlie fantasized about elbowing all of them off the ledge. He was running out of time. And he needed to get moving.

But by the next morning, though, he was really sorry that he’d had those thoughts. Some of the girls shouldn’t even have been up there. It wasn’t their fault.

Below we see a hiker inching along the cable. You may notice in all three photos of the cable that the ledge is very narrow in places. If your foot slipped off the ledge, and if that slipping jerked your hands off the cable, you’d be airborne for 300 meters. You might bounce off a rock or two on the way down, but essentially, you’d be airborne.

And yet, Charlie’d never heard of anyone falling. But then, he knew of other serious accidents that had been kept quiet. A fall like that, however, would surely have made the news. Wouldn’t it? A definite conundrum.

Later on, though, down by the dock, he decided he’d arbitrarily opt for no falls. Simpler that way.

Here’s the hiker. In the second photo, she’s in the center in the shadows. (She’s easier to see if you scroll down to View full size and then click on the shadow.)

And as a reward for enduring the hot, tedious climb up, and for braving the tunnel, and the cable, and the girls, Charlie finally made it to Crypt Lake.

Crypt Lake

He would, however, only have a second or two to enjoy the view. He didn’t have time to luxuriate on that rock and have lunch as she was doing. By now, he’d become totally obsessed with the possibly missing the 5:30 shuttle.

He decided the girl on the rock was probably German. Those German kids were so damned fit. And she’d probably come over on the 10:30 a.m. shuttle and would be taking the 4:30 p.m. back to Waterton. He, on the other hand, had had to take the 9:30 and the 5:30. He needed the extra two hours.

Actually, seeing her sitting there like that really annoyed him. Everything, in fact, was annoying him. He absolutely ached to be at home, out on the patio, in the shade of their big elm tree, reading Beyond Good and Evil.

Needless to say, the trip back over the cable section, and the tunnel, and the damage he was doing to his toes, even after changing into his running shoes so he could go faster, was pure agony and out-of-control angst.

He wasn’t able to relax until he got close enough to the dock to see Upper Waterton Lake.

Back at Upper Waterton Lake

And he got there with a half hour to spare.

He sat on a log beside one of the counselors and waited. She was reading a book and didn’t try to make small talk. Lucky for her.

Then he happened to notice tinges of red on the toes of his running shoes. He tipped them up for a better look. Blood. She, too, noticed. She looked at him, but didn’t say anything.

This was her lucky day. He was in no mood to explain. All he wanted to do was slap her for dragging those friggin girls all the way up to see that lake.

But he didn’t slap her. He was too sore. All over. Not just his feet.

And he was really, really thankful that he’d survived that goldarn nightmare.

And that he’d made the shuttle with time to spare.

And he knew for sure, this time, that he’d never ever do a hike like that again.

Ever.

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Note

To enlarge a single photo in a post, click on it. To zoom in for details, click on it a second time.

Click on the first photo in groups of photos to start a slideshow. 

To see one of those group shots at full size, click on it, then scroll down to its bottom right where it says, View full size. You can click on it a second time, if you wish, to zoom in for details.

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(© 2019 Glenn Christianson. All rights reserved.)

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