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Bill’s Challenge of Youth; Just a Little Hill.

Just a simple son. Downhill runs sometimes but we try to honor moms. Passed on but still picking me up. Thanks.


Starting Point

Well Bill took me under his wing in 2012 and swore he could help me write. Bill Holland therefor is a friend of many years. A mentor. Bill Holland is his stage name and he goes by Billybuc. Or do I have William Holland and Billybuc mixed up. Oh heck and what the heck. We know of whom I speak. Well Bill Holland issued a challenge. It irritated me. He knew I would have to accept it. He began with the story of a knuckle ball. I am a knucklehead so I suppose it fits.

In response to his challenge I write a story about youth. It has to be fiction. Let us just say I dranks a bits between now and then so maybe and probably it is just fiction. Yes I consider 15-22 year olds youth.

Right after the challenge got my juices flowing I began to reminisce and recollect. Then I danced and pranced off to the dentist to have a double root canal. This changes one’s perception. I do not do pain killers. Just a thing. I do meditation and with a real nasty attitude that they laugh at behind my back.

I was born and jerked up on a mountain. 7,000 feet I think qualifies as a mountain. The mountain rose to over 12,600 feet, there were three substantial peaks. It is the highest point in Arizona and from the top one can see over 150 miles and all of the Grand Canyon rim. Cold as a witches’ teat in a brass bra in the middle of the arctic in a windstorm. The ski area rises to 11,000 feet.

High on A Mountain

Vanishing Point

The Road to Somewhere.

The Road to Somewhere.

To the Mountain

We started at around 9,000 feet with full packs. We could have taken the chair lift up but snowshoes and a climb at that elevation. To get to the 11,800 ft mark took a mere 8 hours. Sunrise to sunset. The trip was for scouting. “Winter Camping” merit badge or some sort of thing. Paul was my comrade in arms. Paul was tougher than me though we were close in age. 15 at the time.

The goal was to reach a break in slope and to build an igloo and stay for two nights. No, really our parents supported this endeavor. They must have been as crazy as we were.

An army surplus pick shovel and a saw. These tools would help us cut the blocks of ice to build the igloo which we named simply Hogan. Five brutal hours under a full moon dancing off the pure white snow, bright. Thank you God no wind. Our safety net was a ski patrol cabin only 600 feet below. The bottom blocks were about a foot wide. The top blocks of ice tapered down to 6 inches. Somehow we made it with barely enough room for two close adventurers and necessary gear. The camp stove (actually Sterno) had to be outside kind of. Asphyxiation has killed many a camper. We cheated with care just to get the inside of the igloo up to about 25 degrees. Then our body heat did the rest. Quite cozy except when it got up to about 40 degrees the ice melted and with tiny drips of water landing on us. Down sleeping bags. The sun which rises quite early at such places lit our igloo up as bright as could be penetrating the ice. Goggles were dawned along with two thick pairs of woolen socks and mountaineering boots – heavy as hell. Our little thermometer read 8 degrees F. We now knew our little “Hogan” would make it through the day – hooray for good fortune. We treated ourselves with hot cocoa and oatmeal and apples for breakfast, we put some snow on a black piece of tarp. For melting for water. But we needed it more rapidly so we heated some on our stove.

Today we must reach the summit of Humphrey’s Peak at 12,633 ft. After about 200 ft. up the cold left our core and we had to be careful as sweating could cause problems if it froze. 200 ft. vertical and rest. And 200 ft. vertical and rest. The normal winds nearing the top blow any chance of snow away. So it quickly turned in to a rock climb. We reached the summit without incident which to our minds proved there was a God looking out for fools and idiots.

Lunch at the top was peanut butter and honey sandwiches which were “defrosted” inside our jackets. Thank goodness our water had not frozen. Strange as it may seem the water had some alcohol in it to help keep it from freezing down to around 25 degrees.

Forget the water I was starting to get a bit of altitude sickness. Dizzy above a steep descent is not good. So quickly we headed down for more air and pressure. Just 1,000 feet down and I was cured. So it was time to build a big old fire. Once again that bottle of pure alcohol did the trick to light it up. We had practiced and practiced starting the fire with rock and friction. To no avail, probably due to lack of oxygen at that height. Fear not we had soaked our matches in wax to make them waterproof and they did the trick. Very few times in my life was I more alive. Darkness arrived and we were bound for a good night’s sleep after some stew and bread.

Two Bulls

Pull That Weight

Pull That Weight

Just a Couple Boys

Downhill From Here

All we needed upon awakening was enough fuel for our stove and we were out of luck. So cold Spam and a trail mix was breakfast and with all that snow around we had no drinkable water. Well that was just plain old bad planning. We did not have time for melting the snow. So pack up camp and head down the mountain. I was dryer than the sands of the Sahara and Paul was having issues with thirst. Eating snow for water will dehydrate you faster than a dry sauna. But a little at a time partially melted in your hands will at least keep the horrible thirst at bay.

Paul had this great idea. We could cut up the tarp and change our snow shoes into kind of ski sleds. We would just need to sit on our butts to stop. Great idea. That is until we reached the timber line. Of course Paul slid into a tree with a branch going into his calf. I easy could have gone the quarter mile to get ski patrol but that would have violated our self-imposed “do it alone” code. It was cold enough to where the blood froze as we exposed the area. So I gauzed and taped it and we were ready to go. Ok a little limp. No need to worry about infection at that elevation and temperature.

The trip the rest of the way was without major issues. At about 9,800 hundred feet the air was thick and easy to breathe again. The sun was providing little riplets of water and so we soaked them up with a tee shirt and squeezed it into our mouths. Ah what sweet nectar from the gods on this tiny mount Olympus. Our lunch of cheese and sausage was to die for and savor. We cheated and ran out onto a packed ski slope and ran downhill the rest of the way to the base lodge. A phone call to our ride and all that was left was to sit by the fire and recall the journey.

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The call was unnecessary as our parents had watched much of our descent through high powered binoculars from the deck with hot rum toddies. Maybe they were a bit concerned after all. Apparently the ski patrol was also notified and on alert. Such was a good adventure from a little hamlet on the hillside.


Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 28, 2020:

Dora they a a real pleasure to write. I think back on things but writing about them jogs more of my memory. Good memories.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on September 28, 2020:

"Very few times in my life was I more alive." I like that statement. You and your buddy certainly enjoyed the push of your adventurous spirit. Thank God for the happy memories you have shared.

Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 26, 2020:

Thanks Chitrangada for your great support and taking the time to read and comment.

Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 26, 2020:

Yes indeed Robert clearly deprivation is there to make us appreciate that simple egg breakfast. I don't really know absence making the heart grow fonder - but absence of daily luxuries sure make me more fond of that.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on September 26, 2020:

Great response to the challenge.

I enjoyed reading about your eventful and adventurous childhood.

Thanks for sharing such amazing personal memories. Thanks for sharing.

Robert Henry Ditmore MA MEd from MORRISON on September 26, 2020:

Seriously! Cold Spam, trail mix, and sock sleds lol! Reminds me of some of the crazy stuff we did in the Army. This was very enjoyable reading. You have quite the sense of humor. Thank you for making my day, and for making my boiled egg breakfast a little more enjoyable.

God bless!

Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 26, 2020:

Thanks Devika, I am afraid it was a little too typical.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on September 26, 2020:

Eric this is interesting about your memories and lots of adventure. It is typical teenage experience. A well thought of writing up on your youth.

Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 25, 2020:

Linda a simple smell or sight or noise can take me back there in a heartbeat. When the senses are so alive they leave an indelible mark.

Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 25, 2020:

Linda that crazy childhood sure made me look at obstacles as opportunity. I don't worry as a dad with the little things nowadays. My eldest boy has gotten it from me. Maybe a Boy Teacher in there.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on September 25, 2020:

What an adventure! This is a very interesting article. It sounds like you had an interesting experience, too. No wonder it's stayed in your mind!

Linda Lum from Washington State, USA on September 25, 2020:

Teenagers, alcohol, inclement weather, possible avalanches, altitude sickness, being impaled by a tree branch--what could go wrong? Ohmygoodness Eric, I don't know how much of this is true. Knowing you somewhere between 99 and 100 percent.

You certainly took this challenge and ran with it. Well done dear sir.

Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 25, 2020:

Ernest, every time something went right we would dance a jig, What excitement it was.

Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 25, 2020:

Flourish that is a fact. And we just kept going. Paul was not as lucky as I was and one adventure left him paralyzed. God rest his soul.

Ernest Festus Awudey from Ho, Ghana. on September 25, 2020:

What a challenging experience! I could feel through your choice of words that you really enjoyed it.

FlourishAnyway from USA on September 25, 2020:

You are lucky to have lived to tell the story. Enjoyed this!

Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 25, 2020:

Pamela, we were a different breed back then. Can you imagine anyone letting a youth do that today?

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 25, 2020:

Alcohol, hiking, and hubris....been there, done that, and glad as hell I survived. Great challenge response, but I'll tell you truly, I think we both teach each other at this point. You done turned into a mighty fine writer, buddy!

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on September 25, 2020:

That is quite a trip. It was brave or maybe a little more dangerous than was wise. This is a great story, Eric, and an amazing adventure.

Eric Dierker (author) from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on September 24, 2020:

Thanks John I am glad you came along with us.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on September 24, 2020:

What a wonderful (fiction..or not) tale and response to Bill’s challenge. I enjoyed every step of the climb, Eric.

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