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

1992-1993 Mt. Bigelow, Maine

Bigelow RangeHaunting memories show themselves on the faces of HAE as the drive up to Mt. Bigelow ends at the AT parking lot. But after three consecutive years of rain the group is desperate for snow. Still above normal temperatures and sparse snow cover gives the impression that rain was stalking the New England countryside.

Camp is on the easy grade before the trails splits for the Horns. JB is carrying Bigtop this year with the wood stove on Novak. The ascent the next day brings on more serious weather and the snow also deepens. The route taken avoids the stop-over at the Horns, and after a pitched climb up the direct trail, Bigelow Col is attained. This is JB recollection, reviewing the photo evidence that he took however shows that the group went up via the Horns. The most telling photo is the one of Mark feeding a Canada Jay, which occurred on the small beaver pond out behind the Horns Lean-To.

At 3800 feet Bigelow Col is on the top of the southern Maine wilderness, save for the two Bigelow peaks themselves, that rise on either side to over 4100 Feet. The rest of the trip is held here as the weather cycles between 35oF, high wind, and rain, to the other extreme of -20 below with wind, but no snow.

Plenty of evidence exists that the summer authorities had reacted to HAE's 1988-1989 expedition. (Check out INTO BIG MAINE). The ranger's shack had some nice new looking hardware on the door to deter "winter survival hikers with screwdrivers." Also in the exact area that was totally thrashed by JB's desperate survival attempts of '89 was a polite sign saying "Forest Recovery-Do Not Enter". Camp is in the Bigelow Col lean-to, and with little else but a downward hike out the camp parties on. Both peaks were bagged multiple times. JB's 151 rum, Mark's and Novak's Rumplemintz and Fifes JD, plus JB's outrageous smoke imported directly from CA, twist the camp into a continuous action theater.

Bigelow Col winter survival is funny. On top of the Maine's winter wilderness, simple pleasures while partying can amplify themselves. A smoke, passed by the bare hand, in defiance of the elements around it that are bearing down upon it, a plastic bottle with water still not frozen solid when unattended for a minute. Like a disease that leaches it way in, the merriment seeps into the mind, leaving all caution behind. Slowly you reach for it. Your dong that is. A feeling of safety has enveloped you and the time is right. You whip it out and its:

WOAH HOLY DOUBLE FUCKING SHIT IS IT EVER WAY FUCKING ASS COLD OUT HERE!!! And indeed it is as the party is over. Rapidly changing weather had turned the northern wood into a frozen ice blasted wasteland. Bigtop is hurriedly put up and the wood stove fired up in a desperate attempt to stave off the turn of events. This year some trash wood is found but there is no heat to it. Undaunted by weather that would have done in the '89ers, the group survives out the night in sleeping bag systems. Next day the weather turns yet again, bringing in now warmer but much higher speed winds from the south. With such an opportunity, photos are taken of high winds at the southern peak and the crew retires hoping the temperature will drop again.

It doesn't and rain is soon on the way. Plus a wind that makes Bigtop howl a continuous roar. Nasty. It's back to the lean-to. The group bails the day after, down a treacherous ice coated trail. After dropping the steep part, Novak realizes that he has left his most precious Fat Foam back up at the Col. The peanut gallery, lead by JB this time who trashes Novak incessantly, waits out precious hiking hours as Novak backtracks to retrieve.

"How many fuckin' pieces of Fat Foam did he think I was fucking talking about, he only does have one butt, and that one butt sat on that one piece of fucking fat assed foam only like the entire fucking durrr even"

According to Fife: "Tim goes back to camp to get his pad. John ridicules him without mercy. But 1/2 mile later down the trail, HO!, what's this, Mr. Survival has left something behind, and is nowhere to be found." Photo evidence showing JB's dropped snowshoe is indeed true as JB in his disgust of waiting around for the Fat Foam incident to end had hiked down the trail a ways.

Copyright 1999 John Bellantoni and HAE