The last two weeks I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the death of one of my good friends. Phil and I met in the Khumbu of Nepal in fall 2010. Phil is a helluva funny bloke, shamelessly frugal, and as close to the epitome of an international dirtbag as I can think of. His thick British accent that would crack me up, no matter what the topic of conversation was, but especially when we found ourselves weeks from a proper civilized shower, bunked up in a stinky teahouse, laughing at jokes I can’t imagine repeating in most other social settings.
We spent 6 weeks wandering around the Khumbu, Kathmandu, and Lumbini. The guy is built to live on the road, constantly traveling. This is the guy, who on Thanksgiving Day, in the Khumbu, refused to catch a plane in Lukla to fly back to Kathmandu with us, simply so he could save a few bucks. The walk took 4 extra days. He never would’ve cheated himself out of an opportunity for some more adventure, even if it meant walking back to Kathmandu, alone. So I guess I can’t say I’m terribly surprised he was in another country, chasing adventure, when he died. He passed away in something of a freak accident in Mallorca Spain, when attempting to either get to or from a climb in an area that is famous for deep water soloing. He fell from the cliffs landing in the ocean, with a climbing rope around his shoulders, and rack on his harness. He was unable to recover from the weight of his gear, and drowned.
He came and visited Utah just a few months ago, but I was busy with my project down in the Grand Canyon, so we only spent a night together. Phil is a raging atheist, so I felt absolutely obligated to take him to Temple Square so he could experience Space Jesus and the wonders of the Zion Curtain. We hit up the Himalayan Kitchen, for old times sake, shared a few beverages, and called it a night. It was entirely anti-climactic, and is now a source of terrible regret. I should’ve done whatever it took to get him up in the mountains, especially my mountains, that he came all this way to see.
I never have advice to give in these situations, and I’m not exactly looking for advice either. Really, what can be said? Losing a friend fucking sucks. The only thing you can do is be stoked for the memories, and thankfully we shared got some great ones. So I guess it only seemed proper to make some more memories in honor of Phil, and take a long walk in the mountains. As Phil would say, “I guess we’ll all just trundle on then, yeah?”
I trundled my way up to Elkhart Park, for a nice little lollipop loop outside of Pinedale. The loop would take me from Elkhart down the Pole Creek Trail, up to Cook Lakes for Night 1. Day 2 I would go off trail and cross behind Wall Lake, cross Island/Wall Pass in to Island lake, and head up into Titcomb Basin. Day 3 would be the crux of the trip, crossing Twins Glacier and Knapsack Col into the Peak Lake drainage. The glacier still was covered in snow, and I was greeted by a 10 foot tall cornice on the pass. Fortunately, the snow took steps very easily, and I was able to climb up and out. Day 4 took me past the Jean Lakes, Seneca Lakes, and back out to the trailhead. All in all, a 48 mile journey in some beautiful alpine country.
Thanks for the adventures Phil, I only wish you were here to share this one with me too.