Monday, February 21, 2011

Monday Musings: The Curse of Owl’s Head; Self-Defense Oops

The accursed Owl's Head from
the opposite side of the slide.
This weekend I tried and failed (once again) to climb Owl’s Head. For those who don’t clamber up mountains in New England, especially in the winter (aka normal people), Owl’s Head is one of 48 mountains in New Hampshire over 4,000’ in elevation. There’s a club for those who’ve climbed all of them, including a much smaller number who’s climbed them all in winter. I finished the three-season list (non-winter) in 2003, but have been stuck with three to go in winter for several years.

Owl’s Head has been the bane of this existence, particularly as it’s one of the mountains that demonstrates the dubiousness of the whole process of checking off lists: it’s not too bad in the summer as the route follows a rock slide for half the actual summit climb, but it’s a slog with no great views, especially in the winter when most people skip the slide via a bushwhack.

On my first winter attempt, we went up the slide as I didn’t know about the bushwhack. There wasn’t enough snow so it was treacherous and our attempt ended when I slipped off a rock and hurt my left leg. The second time I ran out of steam on the first day, and decided to try the next morning. (I’ve backpacked it every time as it’s a long day hike: 18 miles.) It started raining during the night, however (yep, in March!), which produced a mushy mess by morning so we just hiked out.


This time, things looked promising. In spite of my current poor fitness (a result of last year’s injuries), we made it to the start of the winter bushwhack in four hours, set up a perfect campsite, and relaxed for the afternoon and evening with the goal of tackling the remaining 2 miles (and most of the climb) in the morning when the trail was hard-packed (it was very cold overnight) and we were refreshed. But in the morning, the stove crapped out (because I was using old, and therefore inefficient, fuel, I suspect) after we’d had breakfast, fortunately, but not before we’d boiled sufficient water for the day. With only two liters, we didn’t have near enough to summit and hike out. So once again, I headed out without bagging Owl’s Head.

Oh well: it’s not like the mountain is going anywhere…

On a completely different topic (and related to my ongoing series on guns: Part 1 and Part 2), I cracked up reading the following story (the end of an article in yesterday’s New York Times about the people with gun permits in the city) from someone who used his gun in self-defense, just because this would be me!

“The first guy comes out with a sawed-off shotgun, goes right by me and says, ‘Be cool, man,’ ” said Mr. Catsimatidis, who has owned a gun for at least 35 years. “The second guy comes out with a sawed-off shotgun, goes by me and says, ‘Be cool, man.’ The third guy comes out with a sawed-off shotgun, and I intertwine my arm into his arm, and I put my gun to his head, and I say, ‘Drop your gun, or I’ll blow your head off.’”

When the police arrived, they arrested the man, and examined Mr. Catsimatidis’s weapon — a Walther PPK/S 9-millimeter pistol.

“The sergeant says to me, ‘You couldn’t have shot the guy anyway: your safety is still on,’ ” Mr. Catsimatidis recalled. “The sweat started dripping off my head.

“I’m not going to do anything stupid like that again.”

Amen, brother!

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