Posted by: highmountainmuse | September 29, 2009

Learning the hard way

Here we go again:  warming up and drying out.

Here we go again: warming up and drying out.

As unpredictable as a stallion, the mountains are, or so I have been told.  Yet now having been working with a stallion for several years, I’m learning that these boys are remarkably predictable.  Sure, far more complicated than a gelding.  But steady in their stallion nature.  It is just a matter of understanding and accepting what that stallion nature is all about. 

He’s no gelding. He’s not that simple.  He has  far more drives, motivations, moods, desires… it is natural; it is expected; it is, in fact, predictable.  Face it, and your fine. You are prepared for what then becomes obvious and anticipated with stallion behavior. Expect otherwise, and you’re in trouble.

You see, it’s sort of like the mountains:  If you remember what you’re dealing with, and understand its nature which is so predictable even in its constant variations and changes, you will be fine.  If you expect to go out on a calm and sunny morning and have the mountain remain that way… surprise!

Most of us who live or have spent enough time in the high country have learned this lesson, and unfortunately, most of us have learned the hard way. Living and working as we do “out there,” as you can imagine, I could share with you some foolish and frightening stories.  And I’m the first to admit that in some of these stories, I am the one who played the fool.  

We’ve been caught out there unprepared, and got ourselves in some pretty uncomfortable situations.  Hopefully, we will never make the same mistake twice.

Cold and wet happen in a heartbeat up here.  They come out of the blue and get us when we least expect it.  We learn this is part of being in the mountains.  We should always expect it.

By necessity, we have learned to travel the mountain prepared.  I suppose the most important and commonly used “tool” in our survival kit is the fire starter. These do not remain idle. They are used, relied on, regularly.  Waterproof matches, dry tinder of some sort, folded neatly into a small zip lock bag – they are worth their weight in more than gold.

Taking the time to build a fire, warm up, then completely ensure the fire is dead out and scatter all traces – this is well worth the time and effort.  It can be the difference between pushing on miserably on the verge of hypothermia, or worse; and warming up, drying out, and moving on in comfort, not to mention a far better mood.

For those of you who live in town, it’s like leaving the house without your wallet.  You just don’t do it, and if you do, you feel naked, vulnerable, and you just never know when you’ll need it. We have no use for a wallet on us here.  But a fire starter kit?  You bet. We don’t leave home without it…





  1. When I used to stay up there more. And ride the country around Ruby Lake. I took strips of newspaper and rolled them in hot Paraffin wax. Tied the roll with cotton string. Made a pretty good starter. Regards

  2. Thanks, Richard – that’s a great idea. Once a year, I used to fill old paper pulp egg cartons with lint from the drier (when I used to have a clothes drier), and pour melted wax from all the bits and ends of candles I had saved all year over each “cup.” When cool and dry, the “cups” can be separated, and each one proved to be a good starter as well.

  3. I have never got been in trouble on horse back but once on a motorcycle .I road over a high mountain pass in the middle of winter to get home .It was about 10 below .I thought i was dressed for it .WRONG. I had to stop every little while and build a fire or i would have not made it .With nothing to start with but matches i was in trouble .I found the pading of a down filled coat makes a good but expensive fire starter . I will never go out in the cold with out a good fire starter kit .It almost cost me my life once and even I am smart enough to let that be the last .Where you live it is even more important .

  4. Horseback, hiking, biking, whatever gets us out there, Don, can get us in trouble if we’re not prepared, no doubt!

  5. Horseback, hiking, biking, whatever gets us out there, Don, can get us in trouble if we’re not prepared, no doubt!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: