HAE logo BIGTOP DEBUT

by John V. Bellantoni, your cybah-spaced mountain correspondent

1990-1991 North Twin Mountain, New Hampshire

North Twin MountainWindshield wipers are on high as two cars with four hikers make their way north. At a pizza joint deep within the White Mountains the crew laments about the conditions over the brew, but as usual with New England weather the only play is to sit it out. The secret weapon this year is Bigtop.

Bigtop is a 15 ft. umbrella tent with portable wood burning stove that Tim scored via mail order with JB's money. For like $250-300 bucks it was the most high powered survival item that could be found in any catalog anywhere, so they ordered it. The tent weighs in at a massive 8 lbs. and the stove at 6 lbs., with the tent pole, stakes and stove pipe checking in at another 6 lbs. But worth the weight. Once set up it could hold four people in a pinch, three comfortably. The wood burning stove uses a fraction of the wood that was needed for an open fire, with no smoke to burn out your eyes.

At the base of North Twin Trail, the new tent is put up within 20 feet of the autos. It is sheeting hard rain now, and since this is December, the ground is frozen. So no matter where you camped it was on several inches of flowing rainwater. The survival technique here involved continually blasting the stove hard to keep the tent dry while wood was put down to get up off the flowing water. Several nights of driving rain passed with the crew couped up in the Bigtop going stir crazy. The only highlight, other than the faster than usual consumption of party materials, was Novak's allegation that JB was actually sleeping "in the car," a very most unsurvival like infraction of the HAE survival code of conduct. Here also lies a greater mystery as to the lost film that Novak claims was taken of the event. As for JB his defense; "hey... fuck you.... kiss my brown spot you flatland gomers, I went out to the car at night to get some equipment, and was fucking around with it when I must of dozed off. Next thing I know I am startled by Novak stumbling around on ice laughing and yelling, 'Fucking JB is sleeping in the fucking car?... he's fucking sleeping in the fucking car!!', like he had the same idea and was pissed off that I already had the good seat." editor's note: JB really was sleeping in the car like a gomer.

By late the second night into the start of the third day temperatures dropped so rapidly that anything used to keep your ass out of the water, like your snowshoes for example, was frozen into the ground and had to be hacked out. The first night of rain it was too wet to even think about taking out the down bags but as the second night progressed the ice forming under your butt brought out the survival systems. A fluffy light snow now blanketed the morning scene as the hikers moved up a logging road to higher elevations. Camp 2 is pitched on the side of mountain at a rather uncomfortable angle. Snow cover is not sufficient to build a useful snow plateau for tenting., so JB cuts up a log platform that was not very flat. Or very stable. With loose logs all over the place and the happy hour festivities occurring there is plenty of falling over as ice coated terrain makes footing difficult. High impact camping was practiced without guilt since the base camp was located conveniently on the fringe of a huge clear cutting operation where major forest destruction was evident everywhere.

The accent starts with a long bushwack across the mountain, until hitting the summit trail. After a serious upward chuff the top is duly attained. It's photo time but quick because conditions are getting severe. This year it's Fife as guest photographer. JB gets the camera from Fife and, without thinking, fires off the last shot of Novak mugging like a peak bagger over the ice coated "North Twin Mt, 4324 ft" sign.

Actually JB was thinking that Fife was indeed the "guest photo dude" and therefore would surely act like a real photo dude earlier by bringing along that spare roll of film, thoughtfully packed in earlier. But no Fife had not brought any spare film, and in fine half assed style here is essentially a repeat of last years photo boondoggle fuckup, in which the same identical last piece of film was expended on a nearly the same identical Novak peak bagging shot. JB is seriously pissed. "How many fucking times do I have to risk my fucking ass climbing up a fucking mountain in the middle of the fucking wintertime before I can get my fucking photo fucking taken like fuck I can't fucking believe there ain't no more fucking film fucking again...fucking again!!! he screamed, this tirade starting in on Novak and ending with Fife. Novak was laughing in stitches at JB's misfortune that was his luck, while Fife was mildly annoyed at JB for yelling at him. "Hey like it's your fucking camera," he retorted.

Back at base camp it was soon evident that although there was dead wood all over the place, none of it was about to burn after a week long soaking. Finally JB spied a lone piece of fine standing dead wood that did burn, and camp was on. More exploring was undertaken the next day and then later Fife finds his pants stuck on his boots when he tries to change without taking his boots off first. Caught by Novak, who then quickly summoned Mark and JB, the peanut gallery has a classic laugh while trashing Fife. Fife was sitting on ice coated wood in his long underwear, "not in very survival like position," according to JB. "He was either trying to take a dump right at the footstep of the shelter, or he was jerking off, or...err no I couldn't believe it he was trying to take his pants off with his boots on!". But it was obvious that Fife was in a jam as it took quite a while for him to do enough thrashing around to free himself, while the gang is laughing too hard and falling about the place to effectively goof on Fife anymore.

Copyright 1999 John Bellantoni and HAE