Alive ‘95, hiking the Rockwall

July 1995 by Ricardo McCharles, Survivor

This is the draft copy I sent to the editor of the red-eye, our friendship newsletter. It is an expose of our hike on the Rockwall Trail.

I asked that the Reditor edit. I know everyone needs an editor. Even Hitler. His original title for MEIN KAMPF was “Four-and-a-half Years of Struggle against Lies, Stupidity, and Cowardice.”


rick_mugI write in order that the truth be known, and to dispel the many rumours about what happened in the Rockies. This is the story of what we suffered and how we stayed alive. It is a catharsis, yet I hope it may prevent such tragedy in the future.

On Thursday, July 13th, five would-be mountaineers set off from Bragg Creek for Kootenay National Park in British Columbia. Reports of good weather elevated the spirits of our ill-prepared band, though most of us were badly hungover. To steel our nerve, we had been drinking heavily on departure’s eve. Ironically, we snacked on “prairie oysters” at Bottlescrew Bill’s Testicle Festival.

The sixth hiker in our party, Ana Farries, left her home in Kimberly, British Columbia to rendezvous at the trailhead. Ana, a journalist whose byline occasionally appeared in publications of a lesser sort, was a first-time alpinist. She didn’t yet know what she didn’t know about mountain survival. No one expected her to live.

We met as scheduled and, overconfident in the bright sunshine, our rough tribe set off. An interpretive walk … to Hell.

Party-leader Rocco (Party-on, Rock!) Ciancio feigned enthusiasm, a picture of false bravado. A professional ass-coverer for the Petro-toxin industry, Rocco’s legendary shitheadedness might help him survive.

Herr Professor-to-be, Juan Long was stoically calm. Late 30s, thin, neat, and unmarried — not that there is anything wrong with that — he was just finishing 23 years of education in order to become an electrician. Juan would be valuable if any of the flashlights went kaput at high altitude.

Ronaldo Shewchuk, the bulky “Buckfart”, anticipated a particularly grueling ascent. Tough and experienced, the cost-unconscious Ronaldo was, none-the-less, heavily laden. And he presented too tempting a caloric windfall as he lumbered up the path ahead. He was also vulnerable in that he slept in his own tent, alone or with some one night bag-boy.

I feared most the menacing Roberto Glaser — sullen and brooding, haunted by ghosts from his past. A latter day Lord of the Flies, I only barely resisted raising a war council against him. Roberto inevitably charged ahead of the group. I stayed close in order to stay in the first echelon of power, and to avoid ambush. I did not intend to go down easily, and Roberto knew it.

I had announced my intentions clearly to Rob’s wife, and mother of 3, Judith, as we departed. “Six-in, six-out. That’s the goal.”

I knew that if I failed we would be killed-off one-at-a-time. Fresh meat. But who would be first?

Most at risk was the trail-rookie Ana Farries. She immediately fell back, left behind to be dispatched by the bears. When Roberto backtracked to claim her corpse, the spunkster was still hobbling along despite gangrenous feet. Disgusted, Rob abandoned her again.

Night 1 — Helmet Creek

We got immediately, and utterly, Shewchuked. While the others tried to out-inebriate each other, I carefully substituted my own Tequila with creek water. I calculated that the highest probability of violent mortality would be at the height of a drinking binge, not on some icy ridge.

Late in the evening, Ana somehow stumbled into camp. Too bad. Now she would suffer the indignity of the rookie hazing.

Yet, somehow Ana survived the profane song, nudity, the physical abuse. I admired her tenacity! Venus envy, I guess.

Night 2 — Tumbling Creek

Camped for the night., we got Shewchuk-faced, again. Roberto decided to give away some of our food to two starving dike fingerers. “What the Hell was he thinking? What’s coming down?”, I fumed, re-checking my secret stash of life sustaining licorice jaw breakers.

Forebodingly, Rocco sang Dolomite. Would it be his swan song?

Day 3 — Tumbling glacier

Roberto’s bestial passions rose as we gained elevation, approaching the high and hideous Tumbling glacier. The impassable and lifeless rock wall loomed immense on our right.

In environs of utmost desolation, astoundingly, that metamorphic shist disturber Rocco collected … rocks, adding them to his pack even as he sucked at the oxygen depleted air.

Night 3 — Numa Creek

Somehow, still alive. Unwashed savages, somehow few peccadilloes offended. Unstated, we knew that we must stick together if we were going to get out alive. But we trusted no one.

What about tomorrow? Would we be lost? Poisoned? A Swiss-army-knife-related fatality at a luncheon boil-up? I slept fitfully.

We had to hike dry — no booze and scarcely any food unless you count the dozen packages of strokanoff which we all refused.

Live dangerously, dread naught.

At low ebb, I could smell freedom. Ana and I took the last of the food and fled the group in a race for civilization.

We got immediately lost. Done for. I had sabotaged Roberto’s pack to discourage pursuit but forgot to nick his map. We were forced to simply follow the creek down the mountain.

At midday on Sunday, July 16th, we walked out of the mountains. No rescue team. No helicopters. Simply eyes-closed-home-run-hitting, numb, dumb luck.

Six-in, six-out? How did our tribe of 8-balls; of back-country boozers, do it? I have no idea.

Somehow, life had won out over death.

There’s no moral. No reason. No justice.

Live dangerously, dread naught. Who dares, wins. You can hike and survive. It happened to us.


Inspired by the novel Alive and the Himalayan writing style of Hunter S. Thompson.

The Myth of Sissy-fuss, hiking O’Hara

Aug. 1994

This was my comic review of our annual hike. It was first posted in a (pre-internet) friendship newsletter called the red-eye.


rick_mugThe Gods condemn me to hike with sissy-fussers at the lake of O‘Hara.

“There is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labour.”

To hear them boast, to gawk at horse and pony, you may conclude they are admirable men.


I speak from that hellish overworld to tell truth.

I am the absurd hero of this tale — not the sissy-fussers. Mine is the …

“unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing.”

If you could see me; face screwed up, cheeks tight, shoulder bracing the day pack (I, of course, carried beer for ALL), arms outstretched to grasp the heavens ….

But noooooooooo!

Ron forgets his new wet fly. Rocco needs lip balm. Rob dreads perspiration. John Long seeks the mild man within. And where is Ian?

The sissy-fussers balk at 2.8 km over well-groomed trails. They fear bears. They fear avalanche. They fear porcupine. They fear fear itself. Four year old children skip by as the fussers decide to pack it in for the day. It is 11:00 am.

“My face that toils so close to stone is already stone itself!” I go back down to the plain with heavy, measured step.

The sissy-fussers came. They saw. They went for mocha.

Oh, the travesty of Le Roleaux gourmet coffee in the Rockies! Merde!

In a saga less Homer than Homer Simpson, the sissy-fussers are a gaggle of giggling school girls. The soundtrack is Gershwin and Mantovani. Yoho-ho, indeed!

A meal with these pantywaists is punctuated by a Flanderian up-tempo “God is Great”. They pooh-pooh single-ply bog roll. Ron contemplates busing down the mountain to use a flush toilet. (The MegaGorp was too fiber-rich!)

Actually carrying a pack is anathema for a sissy-fusser. Ian arrived for the hike with an “ugly dog” — a suitcase with wheels on a leash. Ron and Rocco used a wheelbarrow to move their goods from bus stop to liquor cabinet.

If this myth is tragic, it is because I am conscious. Hope is my torture.

“My boundless grief is too heavy to bear.”

“You, too, work every day at the same tasks. Your fate is no less absurd.”

“The absurd man says yes and his effort will hence forth be unceasing.”

But, “imagine me happy.” I smile an absurd victory smile.

“There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.”


Sept. 1990

rick_mugWhen I wrote this I had just moved from Calgary to Saskatoon, the summer of 1990 — expecting to stay 1 year.

I was a tourist in Saskatchewan.

I drive home alone from Saskatoon to Calgary, in September, in the late afternoon. I take the smaller, stair-casing highways, speeding with impunity. There seems to be no R.C.M.P. left in Saskatchewan.

I drive through towns with great names like Bounty, Wartime and Conquest. Who got to name these places?

The prairies are a never ending stream of checkerboard fields, barns, churches, cows, dust-devils, road kill and ponderous, overloaded farm trucks. The heat rises off the roadway and seems to evaporate the mirage pools of water before I can enjoy splashing through them. The smells are … well, unique to the Prairies. And I never knew there were so many hawks in all of the world.

Grand daddy grasshoppers wing by as big as birds. Slower, less experienced insects splatter my windshield. The freshly oiled gravel roads splatters my car as well, but I don’t care.

I stop at Outlook, Saskatchewan and sit out in the middle of a sandbar in the middle of the Old Man River. The air is calm, the sun is smoking and the song in my head is called …

I never believed that I’d grow old.

The sandbar is the highlight of the drive. Glorious. The last day of the longest summer of my life. I wish it would never end.

If I could make a wish,
I think I’d pass …

Like everyone else in Saskatchewan, I listen to CBC AM radio constantly. The weather is updated every 15 minutes. They report that the canola is too dry to reap. It will shatter if harvested. But the wheat is still too moist to take off the field. Saskatchewan is one big Catch-22.

Driving West into the setting sun, I find myself alone with my thoughts. I dream a grand scheme.

As night falls, I approach Drumheller and the badlands. The warmth from my big mug of tea is comforting.

It’s harvest here. Dusty farmers take dinner on the tractor this evening and plan to work all night. I see the bright lights of combines bobbing along in the dark in every field.

I drive home alone from Saskatoon to Calgary in September.

terrifying cliff walk in Spain

Thanks Dave Adlard. This freaks me out.

Cliff walk El Camino del Rey (King’s pathway) in Spain.

Originally built in 1901, this walkway now serves as an approach to makinodromo, the famous climbing sector of El Chorro.

… The walkway has now gone many years without maintenance, and is in a highly deteriorated and dangerous state. It is one meter (3 ft) in width, and is over 700 feet (200 m) above the river. Nearly all of the path has no handrail. Some parts of the walkway have completely collapsed and have been replaced by a beam and a metallic wire on the wall. Many people have lost their lives on the walkway in recent years. After four people died in two accidents in 1999 and 2000, the local government closed the entrances. However, adventurous tourists still find their way into the walkway.

Caminito del Rey – Wikipedia

(via besthike)

Adobe Blurs Line Between PC and Web

We want everything to “work” whether we are connected to the internet or not.

Monday Adobe introduced their technology called AIR:

But most people may never know AIR is there. Applications will look and run the same whether the user is at his desk or his portable computer, and soon when using a mobile device or at an Internet kiosk. Applications will increasingly be built with routine access to all the Web’s information, and a user’s files will be accessible whether at home or traveling.

Looks to me there will be a major fight to see if this technology (based on Adobe FLASH) becomes the standard. Or one of others:

Adobe faces stiff competition from a number of big and small companies with the same idea. …

Mozilla, the developer of the Firefox Web browser, has created a system known as Prism. Sun Microsystems introduced JavaFX this year, which is also aimed at blurring the Web-desktop line. Google is testing a system called Gears, which is intended to allow some Web services to work on computers that are not connected to the Internet.

Finally, there is Microsoft. It is pushing its competitor to Flash, called Silverlight. Three years ago, Microsoft hired one of Mr. Lynch’s crucial software developers at Macromedia, Brad Becker, to help create it. Mr. Becker was a leading designer of the Flash programming language. …


Adobe Air web page