1985-1986 Ice Storm Expedition on Bromley Mountain, Vermont
by Vincentoli Blanteev, your cybah-spaced mountain correspondent.
Driving up with Vincentoli’s brown bomb windshield wipers on high, Timur and Vincentoli are about to be rained on real bad. The trip had ended up in Vermont because of a classic piece of Novaschian logic. “Since the pain in Maine is due mainly to the rain, that means it should rain less in places away from that rainy Maine, like Vermont!” That state is isolated from the coastline by the mountainous New Hampshire, and thus was under pre-trip investigations undertaken during local weather broadcasts for indications of having less rain. What they now realized approaching the trailhead parking lot was that; yes Vermont is indeed away from the coast, but no, it still was raining like a mother fucker on the two man team, and it never let up once, with a myriad of precipitation forms dumping on them. “Kind of reminded me of getting pissed-on in upstate NY.” Vincentoli recalls.
Arriving at the Rt. 11 trailhead west of Peru, Timur and Vincentoli unload the car in pouring rain mixed with various forms of snow and corned ice. It’s a very nasty 34 degrees. Oh and by the way, that’s Peru, Vermont, as the cash strapped team is not about to spring for expensive airline tickets, never mind the $20 bucks for gas and fast food during the drive up. Plus the guys have avoided spending any big bucks for new equipment this year. That means neither are carrying rain parkas. “Rain parkas!” Vincentoli yells, “We don’t need no fucking rain parkas. If we bring rain parkas it will rain!” was his twisted logic. Novasch reminds him that, “you got it all fucking half-assed up dude. If we don’t have parkas, it will rain, if we do have parkas, it won’t rain. So we should be bringing them along you stoned assed dumb shit trailer trash!” But the reality of the matter was that he wasn’t about to cough up the cash for a rain parka any more than Vincentoli was about to cough up cash for a rain parka, so there are no rain parkas to bring along even if they had felt like it. The packs are shouldered up, sans rain parkas.
The team then waltzes into the woods and into four days of the most difficult winter mountaineering conditions that New England can dish out..
The trail is straight up to the summit and it is way slippery, ornery ankle-twisting tough booting. The dash up the mountain is also relentless as Timur knows about a lean-to shelter on the peak, and Vincentoli knows how to keep up the pace.
At the peak they step out from behind some woods right into the end of a fucking huge two-planker machine, and startle some two-plankers pretending that they like skiing in the rain. “Fuck let’s get out of here the place is loaded with fucking gomers!” Timur yells and the two blast right by the shelter spur trail and instead head on down a long, long hike toward another lean-to that Novasch claims is deep in the center of the Green Mountains.
By dusk they are tired and totally soaked from a whole lot of hiking while getting rained on. That’s the worst kind of getting rained on, as compared to say, getting rained on while standing around in a shelter. And as the peak had just been bagged thru hiking style, the descent had been difficult and Vincentoli’s survival panic button was getting pushed with each step. There was no shelter in sight and neither had the strength to hike back up. It had just taken a grueling three hours to descend. Flashlight power sufficient to cover a such a difficult backtrack was little more than a dream in the equipment strapped eighties. And what particularly perplexed Vincentoli was that the shelter spur trail at the summit was left unexplored in their gomer fed haste, and having not verified the propounded shelter at the peak, Vincentoli was reluctant to accept it’s existence. “Six fucking hours at night back up and over the summit in this fucking ice storm, you will fucking die!” he said offhandedly, realizing that it was going to get real ugly if a shelter failed to materialize soon.
It’s survival time…HAE style.
Novasch makes good the shelter claim and Vincentoli is once again impressed with Timur ‘s Vermont cartography skills. Years later he remarked in response to a question asked by his Mom about the key to winter survival. Vincentoli replied; “It’s to have a really good knowledge of the terrain, and anyone attempting a winter survival jaunt should at least, as part of the needed background, have significant summer experience to draw upon.” But neither had any time to dwell on such academic matters at the time. Soaked to the core, the wool and nylon clothing systems would need a through drying to protect from the effects of hypothermia. That meant the wet stuff had to be worn dry in the shelter while eating and moving around to generate heat. That’s the next four to eight hours in order to get it dry. Being a clothes dryer in the woods really sucks, let me tell you, so the guys are not taking one step beyond the shelter if they can possibly help it. They go for water early to avoid getting rained on later, and with temperatures near freezing, they leave plenty of water in plastic. Leaving water in plastic has, since the seventies, been classified as a “fucking totally bonehead tenderfoot thing” in HAE winter camping lore, yet the guys are getting away with it here and don’t fucking care. It’s way-ass rain-snow-icing on them good with no letup in sight.
Soon the shelter is jumping. In Vincentoli’s exuberance over finding shelter and drying out he is now quite plastered from hot toddies off Novasch’s stove. Ahh there is nothing quite like the feeling of nice dry wood and JD when it’s raining in the mountains. The half-assed slapstick continues when upon reaching for dinner accouterments, they find that their frozen meat dinners had unfrozen in the packs, creating quite a fucking raw meat mess. “Fucking shit we could get way mauled by dogs or bears, or fucking puke on poisoned food!” And the guys are laughing so hard, acting totally grossed out, that lots of juicy, unfrozen foodstuffs dripping with meat blood were tossed to the ‘coons. “The number one offense in all survival manuals is smelling like dog meat, and we gotta toss the stuff right now unless you wanna be totally grossed out thinking about that shit dripping on your stuff!” Vincentoli is howling with laughter as they stumble around tossing pepper steak and chicken dinner in every which direction, seemingly for fun now, not at all with much thought as to the original intentions.
It’s still ice-raining as the sun rises. All frozen food must be in hermetic packaging…whap. All frozen food must be in hermetic packaging…whap. All frozen food must be in hermetic packaging…whap. After breakfast the guys are hanging around kicking themselves over the breach in survival preparation and etiquette, mostly because there is not much else to do. They are kicking back totally bored. With hiking out of the question, it’s sit around, yak and consume. Still fucking raining. Slowly temperatures drop to just below freezing and the mix turns more heavily to snow and hailing ice corn. By early afternoon the precipitation looks like snow enough to convince the adventurous to pack up and leave a perfectly good shelter in the middle of a rainstorm, which is what was actually hiding between the snowflakes.
They don’t get very far before they had to stop to survive. You can not take on water under conditions like that and not realize that a dangerous survival situation was at hand. Every step away from shelter is a step in controlling rising panic. The conditions are deadly. 30oF and a hailing ice-snow-rain. A combo that raises the fear of death in anyone stupid enough, or unlucky enough, to get caught out in it. Once a hike progresses in these conditions to where you are life threatening hosed you realize that you must either stop and dry out, or face the consequences, the most likely of which is being dragged out in a body bag. That critical point arises only about half way back up the mountain, in an area that they had studied on Timur ‘s map back in the shelter.
The tarp goes up first and they stand under. Next wood is dragged under the tarp, and the guys stand on some of it to stay up out of what seems to be a vast sheet of water flowing over half-frozen ground. A bunch of good wood under the tarp gets preferential treatment, and a likely looking pile is started slowly drying out. Some of it actually burns in a Vincentoli started cooking fire. Later after happy hour and dinner Vincentoli slaps up his survival tent and Timur lowers the tarp for his sleeping system. With temperatures on the mountain side dipping to 28oF the hail corn dominates, and the guys manage to survive a night outside a lean-to without testing the shear rain handling capability of their survival shelters.
Early next morning it’s raining harder than ever. Sleeping bags are pumped into plastic bag coated stuff sacks first, the tarp and tent are packed wet. They hike up to the summit and find the shelter, getting thoroughly soaked in the process. They are there fairly early in the day and shelter boredom is near instantaneous. Neither hiker is inclined to take one step out into the downpour.
The boredom turns into amusement when two total gomer hikers pile into the shelter. These guys are from New Jersey or some such place in the heart of gomerland. They have taken the ski lift to the top of Bromley, thus bypassing a grueling climb that weeds out hackers like this. Soon they have a large pot of spaghetti precariously perched on top of a cheap backpacking stove. Novasch and Blanteev eye it suspiciously, snickering under their breath, and discretely move all their stuff out of harms way. The gomers meanwhile have huge camp sprawl of K-Mart looking stuff and are thrashing around in a big steam cloud wafting off the boiling water.
Timur and John kick it, fire a haebar, and await the moment. It soon arrives. Klang…wham…kerrsplash!! Gomer #1 just nicked the spaghetti pot with his knee as he turned to get something, teetering like a slow motion rerun, it crashes down on the shelter floor, and pours all over Gomer #2’s stuff. Fucking spaghetti and a tidal wave of boiling water flows across the shelter. Plus the upside down stove bursts into bright flames as gas leaks out of the generator. Spaghetti squiggling across the lean-to reflects in the blinding stove flames like sardines poured into a fishing boat hold. Timur and Vincentoli are totally gumbied faced, rolling and howling with laughter so hard that they fall right out of the shelter in order to avoid the spreading ecological disaster. The gomers take the entire episode in stride, as if they have been through it before, and are too preoccupied to notice that Novasch’s comments are laced with lots of good ole’ nasty Yankee humor. Unbelievably they set the whole thing back up again and manage to avoid a second tsunami.
Camp crashes out to the sound of rain pounding the shelter.
The next morning the gomers take the ski lift down. Vincentoli and Timur sit around awhile, watching the rain and wondering what to do. Finally the call is made. It’s not going to stop ice storming, so they toss in the towel. It’s pack up and induro-blast a difficult multi-hour, ankle-twisting and knee-bending decent to the parking lot.
At Vincentoli’s car the half-assed slapstick picks up.
The Brown Bomb won’t start. It’s dead as a door-nail and they are sitting inside freezing up from the nasty rain soaking they just received. Not one to sit around long while a situation deteriorates, Vincentoli starts thrashing on the fucking auto, poking around under the hood and stuff. Soon they are pushing the brown bomb down the parking lot slope and straight down the downhill highway. Vincentoli has a can of ether out and is spraying it into the carburetor. Then he is trying to pop the clutch into first to start it. The highway is slick over like a skating rink from ice storms and while the clutch is in neutral, Vincentoli slips on ice and the driver door slams shut. Now it’s Vincentoli and Timur hanging onto the back bumper of the runaway brown bomb.
Both are trying to slow the auto down but with the same ice under their feet as under the car, the mass of the auto was winning and the Vincentoli and Timur were doing little more than some cool bumper sliding. Not withstanding that both team members are so widely schooled and expert in the sport of white trash bumper riding that Novasch could have eaten lunch while sliding this one, and Vincentoli remarked that, “this would be some radical dream sliding back home”, in fact what happened is that Vincentoli panicked, and using any available handholds and traction he could muster, he crawled around the moving car, in through the window, which he had left open earlier on purpose, and slid-steered the car up the embankment, slowing it enough that he could open the door and try popping the clutch again. Several cars attempting to pass the highway at that time, most likely skiers pissed off at the ice-rain storm, slid all over the road avoiding a collision, and then honked real rude when passing by them “goons in a rice burner” blocking up the western sloped side of Rt. 11.
Soon the flashing lights are appearing and inside the brown bomb it’s “no doughnut jokes please”. Statie chuckles and is relieved that it’s just a couple of hikers, and not crazed lunatics, diving into the patrol car and asking to please turn up the heater like now. The Statie soon has the police car rockin’ with heat and all three are laughing and talking away. It’s Vermont, and since Vincentoli and Timur are yakking it up like locals, they are accepted into local status and find themselves towed to the local garage shop, which actually wasn’t too local, judging by tow ride.
One of the most classic moments ever in the history of HAE transportation now goes down.
The scene starts with four white trash guys in the tow truck, the brown bomb in tow, blast-sliding down an ice coated Vermont mountain road while figuring out who has booze, who just had booze, and who is drinking booze now. Our host where none other than a couple of gnarly-toothed inbred local mountain trash running a garage out of their place. They had taken the radio call first, probably for doughnut kickbacks or something, as best Vincentoli could ascertain from the lengthy radio chat between the two. Timur and Vincentoli knew that they were about to venture into a world they could only emulate. They turn off a side road onto a deeply potholed and mud filled track. The truck pulls in behind a dilapidated old fence, scattering some scrawny looking dogs, and maneuvers around several huge piles of rusty car shit. The entire place is trash. Smoke was billowing out of the tow truck.
HAE had stumbled into a large epicenter of white trashdom. Woah let’s party dude. Invited into the double-trailer, Vincentoli and Timur are more than happy to pass out their still nearly full booze bottles to thirsty locals. HAE is not going anywhere for the moment, the cracked distributor cap was wet and frozen, and lacking the ability of replacing it with a new part, the only course of action was to leave it in a warm garage and let it dry out.
It’s a complex white trash social structure in the compound but the team ends up bailing when they realize that a couple of fat, way ugly, nasty-mountain trash bimbos were starting to talk trash and come on to the two hikers, undoubtedly the handsomest guys they had ever seen. Three other teenage hicks there also drank, and were developing increasingly bad attitudes about all the pig farming that must of been going on in that trailer. On top of that the Momma trash shows up and HAE is now the cause of today’s daily drinking relapse. Shouting erupts across the trailer. “It’s time to split,” Vincentoli says to Timur as the team heads for the door.
They stumble out of the trailer in one big hurry. Heading back over to the garage they are laughing and pointing fingers, accusing each other of being the one that the corn-fed bovine heifer back in the trailer was trying to pick up. Out in the garage, they share a haebar and some JD with the two mechanic guys. Finally the brown bomb starts up and the duo split, having paid for the work in booze and smoke. As they drive home both are relieved that the trip is over. “That fucking sucked!” Vincentoli says. “Way, way sucked.” was Timur ‘s reply