Expedition climbing always involves breaking things. You can't fiddle with a boatload of modern, lightweight gear for two weeks without fatiguing a few pieces of plastic, tearing some fabric, or just plain forgetting something vital. In the sprawling glacial desolation of the north, I like to channel MacGuyver every chance I get. Not only does it provide much needed entertainment, but it also gives me the feeling of self-sufficiency I sometimes lack in the suburban world.
I just spent two weeks on Mt. Logan in the Yukon. It's a really big mountain--there's no other relevant way to put it. Picture Denali smeared over twice as much horizontal distance, and you start to get an idea of how logan is shaped. The King Trench route is a mild, gradual climb up a series of glaciers to the vast summit plateau--you can ski to within 15 minutes of the top. With twenty days worth of food and fuel, we were dragging big sleds and carrying big packs, and the skiing remained fairly utilitarian. But in the thousands of strides from the US, into Canada and Kluane National Park, and on up the Trench, setting up camp after camp--something had to break. My answer to this the Mount Logan Craft fair, which I share with you in hopes that you will be inspired to go somewhere with barely enough stuff, and enjoy the visceral satisfaction of fixing what is broken and replacing what is missing.
To start things off with a bang, the fuel pump broke on one of our MSR Whisperlite stoves. If you know this stove, then you know the fuel pump shaft is held in by a little plastic cap with locking flanges...very small locking flanges. So these both broke all at once, leaving me with a pump that could not be pumped. But I quickly realized that this little plastic cap doesn't seal in pressurized fuel--it just provides a stop for the fuel pump shaft when the shaft is pulled up. So I zip tied the thing down and presto, functional fuel pump for the remainder of the trip. (Please don't try this at home--always follow the manufacturer's directions and don't blow yourself up--MacGuyver would never do that).
Next I discovered that I forgot one of my insoles. No problem: the foam from my removable Cilo Gear backpack pad, custom cut and laminated using athletic tape, provided the perfect working replica. I may stop paying money for insoles from here on out, as this one performed quite well.
Then the cup on my thermos broke. So I lined it with a plastic bag and secured the whole mess with athletic tape. A hitch in the coffee system is potentially a trip-ending catastrophe, so I was particularly relieved by this fix.
Of course no Craft Fair is complete without a little sewing. My well-used softshell pants blew a seam, so I had to spend some quality time with needle and thread.
On the flight out, I couldn't help looking around the endless rivets of Paul Claus's 1957 DeHavilland Otter. This plane has been the workhorse of the St. Elias range for decades, flying countless climbers and skiers into the incredible mountains south and east of Chitina, Alaska. What an incredible piece of engineering, to be serving so reliably for over fifty years. With thousands of moving and electronic parts, this thing is flying up to eight souls through the air, ten-thousand feet above the earth, above a vast wilderness of ice and rock. Hopefully, no MacGuyver required...