20 August 2006

Butterfly Attack! Or, Another Day On Mt Hood

Man, I wish I had a high-quality video camera today. I spent the day playing 'patient' with the Ski Patrol for the 'invert' class' First Responder Training (FRT) today, up on the Palmer snowfield at Timberline. After probably 10am you'd have thought the whole snowfield was under attack by killer butterflies.

Okay, maybe not under attack (and they didn't kill anyone), but there were millions, probably billions, of them flying generally east-to-west across the snowfield, at around 8000'. It was like a butterfly blizzard. Not having ever skied T-line (or anywhere, for that matter) this late in the summer, I'd never seen such a thing. The grizzled vets said it was a common occurrence. Wow.

I wish I could show you what it looked like. Best I can give you is to have you imagine one butterfly every 6 cubic inches or so, filling maybe 8 football fields and about 4 feet high. You couldn't ski with your mouth open, and even then you wanted to keep your hands up to bat them away so you didn't get bug guts all over your sunglasses.

I also could have shown you the rock slides that were occurring higher on the mountain. Pretty amazing to see that sort of thing.

Another thing we noticed was you could smell the smoke from the wildfire to the east.

I did have my camera phone and snapped a few shots here and there. Here's a self-portrait up at the top of Palmer. Yeah, much too close.

I got to the mountain a lot earlier than I needed to, so I shadowed with a patroller named Toby just to help out until FRT got started. I had the pleasure (?) of skiing down to the bottom of the Palmer lift with 3 of those lift-tower pads. Lots more challenging than running even an occupied rescue sled, since they just want to fly all over the place.

It was good to see some of my OEC classmates again. They're a great bunch, and I'm a little jealous that they'll all be getting their crosses this fall, while I'll have all of next season to look forward to the sled training and then the FRT they're going through now. Oh well - at least it was yet another good learning experience for me, and I'm always happy to be on the hill.

First up was playing the role I was sort of destined to play - a guy with a right shoulder dislocation. John, the training director, said, "This is 'your' case, man - the perfect scenario for you." I've probably told my shoulder saga too many times, or he's got a good memory. At any rate, I was able to tap into my vast experience and deliver a pretty good performance. The first crew up for me included Jose and Cliff (pictured a little ways below), and the world-traveling pair of Barkernews and Climberchica, but about 5 minutes into their scenario, they got called off to run a real case. I suspect one or the other (or both) of them may post about that. Anyway, the remaining crew did a pretty good job overall, but could have done better with the blanket roll to stabilize my 'dislocated' shoulder. The second crew did better, but they'd heard part of the first crew's debrief.

Here's a shot of Jose and Cliff re-packing a sled after their scenario.

Next scenario, I had to play a 70-year old man who'd just suffered a stroke. That was challenging, but I got the facial droop as best I could, and the whole cantankerous old dude with slurred speech thing too. The first responders for each run-through of that scenario picked out the problem right away, which was excellent, since time is of the essence in cases like that.

After the scenarios, John asked me if I wanted to take one of the empty sleds down to the bottom of the Palmer lift so we could return it to the top of Palmer. He didn't have to ask twice. It was a longer run than the empty run I did back at Ski Bowl some months ago, but it felt good and I did a pretty good job, IMO. Here's a self-portrait from the chair, with me and the sled. I had to put my ski on the sled to hold the nose of it down, as it wasn't balanced well and I didn't want the damn thing to fall off and become a twisted pile of metal and fiberglass on the rocks below the chair.

After that, we did sweep and headed down, moving 'slow' signs and other markers and signs so that the groomer cats don't destroy them. The snow was getting pretty soft, but still easy to push around, and I skied down as far as the snow would allow. This time, I thought to pack my hiking shoes up the hill with me, as the walk down last time in ski boots sucked ass.

Got all unwound from the day, packed up, and headed down to Government Camp to the patrol building down there, where we sorted and packaged some airway adjuncts for us to pack into our aid packs. Had a bottle of Moose Drool, hung out a little, then headed for home, slightly sunburnt but pleased to have had the chance to ski so late in the summer.

And I'm going back to do it again next weekend.


brando said...

You might think Im a goofball, but I really like butterflys. Not pictures of butterflys on notebooks, like little girls do with unicorns, but actual butterflys.

When I happen to see butterflys up close, Im always amazed that a creature exists that looks so darn cool. I aint never been in a butterfly blizzard.

Ghost Dog said...

They really are amazing. The markings on the wings can really be incredible.