Three flights from the Los Angeles International Airport have me standing in the Bozeman Montana terminal. The final fifty seater transfer flight, I woke to turbulence that reminded me of a scene in the movie Almost Famous. Pretty rocky.
"Looks pretty cold out there" I think to myself as I stare through the airport windows.
Two days prior Amy and I were basking in the sun on Pismo Beach before separating for different journeys. Her going to the beaches of Thailand and me... The Canadian Rockies.
"Where the hell is he, I bet he forgot what time I was landing", no sooner thinking this I hear it.
" Barrel Chest!" I holler back in my deep mountain talk.
"Myles!" he throws back in an even deeper gorilla voice.
People are looking at us now as if we are crazy... Maybe there right.
That same night we drive through a blizzard to get to Hyalite Canyon.
Pitch our tents in the dark and sleep like hibernating bears. We awake in the morning and sure enough... We're in a parking lot. Cross country skiers are bewildered as I stick my head out of the rainfly. They ask if it was cold last night, as I lazily pull my jet-lagged ass out of my tent. More skiers and dogs fill the parking lot as the sun starts to shine.
I'm still trying to figure out why I'm here in a snowy parking lot, let alone in Bozeman Montana.
Barrel Chest has got the stove rippin' and the coffee waiting. I immediately jump back into the tent. Throwing on on my long-johns, fleece pants, then soft shells, two pairs of socks, two shirts, a long sleeve, then a fleece, next my daas parka, then a nice big soft shell jacket to hold all the heat in, I find my balaclava, where's my neck gator?, then a beanie on top of the balaclava, two fleece gloves over each other topped with my mittens... I step out. Harhi a.k.a. Barrel Chest (you'll find he has a lot of nicknames as we move on) looks puzzled as I approach the stove.
"It's cold out Harhi!" I yell at him... as the snow flys horizontally.
He laughs super hard at me. I just stare as his big barrel chest as it starts chuckling.
We march into Hyalite Canyon... I have no idea what all these spiky things do. Barrel Chest reassures me that I'll be fine and have nothing to worry about...
He swings his tool into the ice... The crackling and shattering begin!
"Ice!" he yells.
"Oh Shit!" I yell
In the helmet and shoulder I take it.
"Fuck you Harhi!" becomes the standard response at every dodge of ice and my code for good job!
People look at us with a stare and drop-jaw, due to our means of communication... Seems they have never seen buds together.
We go from these weird, no sense W.I. rating of W.I. 2, then 3, then right to W.I.5.
I follow every pitch, hanging on for dear life. My hands scream like a little school girl in pain. They throb as my heart pulls the blood from my extremities... Apparently they call this the screaming barfies.
Barrel Chest gets the standard response from me as my hands cry.
I study every screw placement, and pick placement with a mechanical eye. I quickly realize always pull down as one of my tools slips out of the ice and I'm balancing on one crampon and one tool waving the other in the air like a cowboy with no idea how to throw a lasso.... It was a close one!
"How High is Harhi!" I yell at him, while he climbs the Scepter W.I.5; "this thing is incredible looking" I holler as the spin drift cuts my eye balls and reinforces my hate for snow. He swings ever tool with precision. The ice kicks up even steeper then what it started as and of course he's taking the steepest hardest line possible.
He drives his tool, plows a screw, then pulls a Barrel Chest grunt. Then I hear him say to him self "Light as a feather, strong as an ox". He then fires the nearly overhanging section for twenty feet with out stoping and placing any pro.
"Off belay Myles!"
"That was the most badass thing I had seen in a long time" I echo through the canyon.
Harhi continues to mentor me on everything ice and snow.
We drive out that night fully satisfied, then all of sudden the car takes off on a full 180 degree spin on black ice, as we careen into a snow-burm that holds us back from the reservoir 80 feet below.
Wild ride so far!
We climb for another two days. All types of ice flows, I have the pleasure of watching Harhi the Hyalite Hard Man crush. He turns to me and hands me the screws... "Get some...oh Yeah!" he tells me.
Now we dry or stuff in Missoula, and begin the training of mixed climbing and I get teach the big guy about wailing a piton in.
The training has begun!