Thursday, March 20, 2014

-Boundary Waters Expedition Day #5

*Point Man*

February 22, 2014:

           Temperatures had fallen into the negatives over night as a cold front moved in from the Northwest. My -20 degree mummy bag had a ring of frost around the opening where my face peaks out, created from the moisture in my breath while I slept. Setting out to cross Alpine Lake it was -5 degrees with a wind chill of -20 or more. The winds were a steady 30mph, never had I endured such conditions. This is the kind of stuff I've only read about or watched in documentaries as explorers venture to barren landscapes of the Arctic or Antarctic. Somehow I couldn't help but smile knowing I'm actually living it. On days like this I often question how I got here.. My thoughts drifted to my tours overseas, the challenges, the close calls, my brothers who paid the ultimate sacrifice so I could live in this very moment. I felt so fortunate having been given this opportunity and to become part of such a wicked experience not many others will ever witness.

A Very Heavy Head Wind
For a good portion of the day I took lead, packing the trail for those behind me. There was a decent snow pack in the center of Alpine so it was "easier" for my snowshoes to float closer to the surface. Being up front is the most wild place to be, just the landscape for your eyes to consume while pulling a hundred pound sled and navigating using only map & compass. At the age of 19, I was the point man through much of my tour in Afghanistan, traversing the mountains along the Pakistan border and paving the way for 100+ Marines behind me. A lot of confidence went into a kid choosing the best possible route for such a large group 
(either that or they just didn't like me very much) I suppose I would have been the first one to encounter numerous bad scenarios but I loved being point
man. Looking back, it was an enormous amount of responsibility and I felt it to be an honor having been placed in such a position... But here I don't have to look over my shoulder where the lake only resembles a wide spread of sand dunes, wind gusts piling up snow into large mounds and carving out sculptures in the hard packed formations.
Wind Carving
 The snow so dry, it even sounded like sand being carried and blown across a desert floor. Surely it was a tough day but my adrenaline was pumping, keeping one foot in front of the other for a nice rhythmic pace. Our day of fighting heavy winds and dodging crazy snow drifts came to an end at the mouth of a river connecting Alpine with Jasper Lake. This is where we must portage a half mile through the forest and looking like some steep elevation to navigate too, as we are losing daylight this obstacle will have to wait until morning. We've got our routine of setting up tents, stoves, chipping the ice hole, cutting and splitting wood down to just under 2 hours. Then of course we must boil water and cook dinner, so I'm exhausted at this point. With got a full belly I'm encapsulated in a thick layer of down feathers, my eyes are drifting and it's time for this guy to get some rest...



  1. One of my fave posts yet Ryan. love it
    youre for sure an incredible guy! With some equally incredible stories to share :) Thank you

  2. Great comparison to the overseas tour. Point man in any case is the leader and those who follow always expect the best. Breaking trail in the snow is difficult especially with the bear paws. A whole day of that is very tiring. Feeling the sleep coming so peacefully in the warm bag is most comforting. Look forward to the trip to portage to Jasper Lake. The climb will be a challenge.