The Guides

My Arrival: on Loss, on Giving


       Day 1

     Day 2

    Day 3      Day 4      Day 5     Day 6            Day 7     Day 8

ACC GMC 2007

Day 1: Arrival to the ACC GMC Base Camp - Saturday, July 21, 2007

Itís 5:20am, Iíve hardly had any sleep, but I am awake before the alarm goes off and ready to hop out of bed with excitement. We get up, shower and make our way to the local bistro to meet up with the other 28 camp members and our guides. We eat a hearty buffet breakfast, then form a caravan of cars and begin the drive of about 100km down the Bush River logging road to the helicopter staging area.

After a couple hours on reasonably good road, we arrive, put up a solid fence of wire around the SUV and stack all of our gear in two large piles, ready for the helicopter to pick up.

From over the ridge I hear a faint "thunk, thunk, thunk."

Our ride is here!

The helicopter appears from over the ridge in the distance. As it sweeps over us and then leans into a sharp turn circling overhead, my heart begins to pound with excitement. It disappears behind a wall of trees, we hear its giant rotors slow, and then there is silence as the machine comes to rest on the ground.

Everyone makes their way over to the staging area where it has put down. The pilot gives everyone a brief overview of the aircraft and makes certain we all understood how the boarding and unloading will take place when our turn comes to climb aboard. He will take six of us at a time and will not be stopping the rotors during the loading and unloading. We all need to keep low to the ground and not go near the tail of the helicopter to avoid its deadly blades. As he speaks, I look up at those enormous metal blades that are now peacefully at rest only a couple of feet above his head.

I gulp.

Whatever you do, remember to stay low.

I didnít want an involuntary buzz cut, scalping, or worse.

At 11:00am the first group of six boards and the blast of wind as the chopperís engines fire up nearly knock a few of the lighter people off their feet and back into the nearby shrubbery. In seconds, it is up and gone and thereís only the sound of a light breeze left in its wake.

After a few groups have gone, itís our turn. We hear the machine approaching and quickly huddle down in a tight group on the ground near the landing area. The force of the rotors is much stronger this close. As the chopper touches down itís a challenge to hold our ground in the gale force wind and I feel like all it will take is someone to lightly lean on me and Iíll be overcome and blown into the trees like an out of control tumbleweed.

Thankfully no one leans on me.

We pile all our duffel bags on the haul nets, ready for pickup by the chopper.



 The helicopter arrives at the staging area.



The first group boards.

 The ground whizzes by below me.

I hop into the front seat with the pilot, strap myself in, then grab the protective headset and microphone for communication. The engines rev and whine. Dust blows. I feel us move upwards, bobbing in the air just above ground. Then we shoot straight up about 25 meters before lurching forward and dropping onto a tight arc, circling right, and heading low through the valley carved by the Rice Brook. We stay low to avoid the hanging cloud. I have my feet resting on a metal bar, below which is the glass shell of the helicopter. I have a clear view of the ground speeding by and get a good look at the thick brush below. My heart goes out to those whose only option is to bushwhack the approach to in to climb these peaks.


OOOooo... so many gauges and buttons to push. Our pilot doesn't look so thrilled, so I decide not to do any pushing of buttons for now.


After our pilot navigates the bends of the valley, we take another sharp turn right and begin following the South Rice Brook which will lead us to base camp. After only a minute of flying, a high headwall of solid rock comes into view with waterfalls cascading down its face. We zoom up and over it, emerging onto a large plateau encircled on three sides by more towering rock walls, these ones with the toes of enormous glaciers hanging precariously over their upper edges. On the rocky ground below us is a collection of scattered tents.


Cool... Base Camp.

The pilot flies us over to a group huddled on a flattish area just outside of camp and lightly touches down. We unbuckle and step onto the ground, hunkering down low only a few meters away from the chopper, as instructed, to avoid those deadly whirring blades. I tuck my head into my chest and hold the glasses pasted onto my head as wind tries in vain to rip them off and smash them against the rocks. We wait there for the group leaving camp to board and take off. In another typhoon of wind, the machine lifts off and zooms quickly away, leaving us behind, our blown hair messed into tangled mops.

I lift my head and look around in awe at the towering walls of rock, glaciers, and jutting peaks that disappear into the cloud above us.

Weíre here. This is beyond awesome - this is incredible.

The chopper brings in a load of supplies as Rice Brook stands guard over the valley in behind.

Ben and I waste no time in making ourselves at home in Tent #6.

Ben and I move ourselves into the tent weíd be sharing for the week. Itís a three person, with enough room that we can lay our duffel bags down the middle and still have spaces for sleeping on either side. Iím glad for this barrier, because I donít want to wake up to find Ben spooning me in the middle of the night.

I then take some time to explore the camp. It consists of a tea tent for relaxing in, complete with tables, books, a propane burner, pot, and various drink mixes and teas; a drying tent with a wood stove in case things get a little wet; the dining tent; two rather impressive outhouses that have been built onsite; and a shower. The shower is also quite impressive: a funnel, to which a hose is attached, is buried under the surface of the nearby stream and collects water. The hose leads to a small on-demand water heating unit inside of the stall. The force of the stream pushes water into the heating unit, which then supplies a nice spray of warm water from the showerhead.

Nice. Mountaineers are smart folks. And clean. Occasionally.

We relax until 5:30pm when the dining tent horn blasts, signalling that dinner is ready. We dine on rice vegetable soup, salad, garlic bread, pasta with tomato sauce, and apple crisp topped with whipped cream. After dinner, Zac, the camp manager, goes over the layout of the camp and explains how the weekís activities will work.

Signing up for trips will be quite straightforward. Each night the trip options for the following day will be posted in the tea tent. Weíll all have to sign up on one trip as a first choice, and one as a second choice. The guides will then review the lists, come up with the teams, and re-post the sign-up sheets.

At 7:30pm, the first trip sheets are posted. We sign up and then itís time to make our lunches for the following day. The way this works is that the kitchen staff lay out all kinds of breads, meats, cheeses and other fixinís, plus nuts, cookies, and fruit on the dining tables and you just pack what you want for yourself.


The dining tent succumbs to the shadows as Mt. Alexandra catches the last of the evening light.

For the trip, I get my first choice, which is a day of instruction at Snow School.

Other options are climbs of Whirlwind, Rose Petal, or the highly rated Whiterose Traverse.

These will all come in good time for me. 

My main goal of the week is to learn as much as I possibly can rather than only climbing peaks. Iím hoping that Iíll be able to take in all of the class days while still bagging all of the most enticing objectives. Itíll be challenging and tiring, but Iím feeling fresh and ready to go. Also, the weather forecast for the next couple of days is not looking so good, so I figure that success of objectives the first few days could be tough.

Itís funny how Benís goal for the week is completely unique to mine: He wants to eat more than anyone else in camp.

It has been a long few days and I need rest. Iím off to bed.

"The hardest thing is explaining to your co-workers that

               you're grouchy

because you were up until 1am reading..."

Ada Litvinov

Rice Crust from the Bottom of the Pot: A Journey Across South East Asia

Although in creating this site I have tried to make the information as accurate as possible, it is not meant to be a guide, and I accept no responsibility for any loss, injury, or inconvenience sustained by anyone using the information.

 ACC GMC 2007 Review

 © 2007 Parry Loeffler