There is only so much you can do to prepare for an FKP. Over the last two weekends, we had studied the route meticulously, taking our time to note as many details of the trail as possible. I could find no mention, even hypothetical, of our objective in all the usual forums . The weather window was holding and schedules seemed to line up. On Wednesday, I got the text from Dan, “You in for Friday?” Absolutely! I had been crushing it at work trying desperately to free up enough time to sneak in this late season effort.
To say the Upper Rumble Lake FKP had been on our minds for a long time would - in truth - be an overstatement. Dan pitched the idea late in the day after a long bushwhack and tough scramble that had dumped us at the lake. He and his brother John fished for Upper Rumble Lake for hours, developing a good feel for the water, its inhabitants and shoreline accessibility. On the descent he declared, “I’m gonna paddle that thing!” Game on.
An FKP would require the right technology - a board sturdy enough to handle a high alpine lake, but packable enough to be transported the 3 miles and 3,400 vertical feet to shore. Dan had recently obtained an inflatable SUP from HALA ATCHA and thought it was up for the challenge. Upon initial inspection, I was skeptical, but anyone who knows Dan, knows Dan. I dared not doubt.
We specially modified an UltrAspire Omega to fully integrate with the (rather primitive) HALA ATCHA haul bag - note the absence of a hip belt. This configuration is roughly the equivalent of bolting carbon fiber bottle cages to a Huffy. Clunky, but a rig to facilitate optimal hydration, if nothing else.
After about a half a mile of flat strolling, the primitive climbers’ trail tilts up, and stays steep for about the next 2 miles. It is treed, dusty and loose, but Dan trudged up it with remarkable aplomb, nary slipping an inch on the bountiful golf-ball sized pebbles.
I stayed a safe distance behind, on call to un-foul the paddle shaft from low-hanging branches and offer intermittent support fueled by sarcasm and ridicule. Soon, the trail relented for a minute or two and then dropped steeply for a few hundred feet, emptying into a broad avalanche chute. Prime grizzly space. As I scanned the meadow for furry friends, I felt secure in recalling the parable of the two hikers, the grizzly, and the running shoes. With Dan hauling 40+ lbs to my mere 5, I figured outrunning him would take little effort. That said, I figured Dan could use the paddle to make quick work of any predator foolish enough to challenge him.
You can see the ultimate objective in the picture above. The rock shelf visible below the Holland Peak summit ridge forms a natural dam, holding the vast turquoise water of Upper Rumble Lake and all of her fishes. Between us and the rim of that dam lies about 1000’ of scree and boulders and one or two Class 4 moves. Child’s play at this stage of an FKP attempt.
Dan adroitly navigated the scree and made quick work of the scrambling, gapping me in the process as I stumbled up the ridge in awe. Once in the lake basin, I think Dan finally allowed himself to grasp the magnitude of his impending accomplishment, dumping the haul bag and taking a moment to enjoy a sandwich. Before too long, however, he was pumping up the SUP (UPSUP?) and then setting out into the pristine and previously unpaddled waters of Upper Rumble Lake.
As I watched from the shore, I managed to scare away several fish and loose 2 of Dan’s flies. A full service adventure partner am I. Dan managed to land two fish, however, adding to the already impressive paddling record.
Although I did no work other than walk, witness and document, Dan was gracious enough to allow me a paddle, pushing us well past our agreed upon turn-around time in the process. That was a risk worth taking…
Once I had my fill, we quickly struck the board, stowed the rods and began the arduous decent. I kept offering to share the load, but Dan would have none of it. Bagging this FKP was all him and he sliced through the scree with super-smooth style.
All joking aside, this was a super fun outing and an incredibly impressive effort from Dan. It’s also just the sort of adventure that mends the mind and spirit, particularly during forced time off from focused training. That training for ultramarathons takes us deep into the mountains and allows us to cover long distances light and fast is hugely inspiring, but there is a fine line between training and enjoying. In recent years with life becoming more and more complex, my time in the mountains has been more limited and that little time has been spent with less presence of mind. I’ve struggled to stay in the moment, distracted by turn-around times, when I need to get home and what I’ll be walking into. That distraction undermines one of mountain adventure’s fundamental benefits - escape. Projects like this silly little FKP bring balance back to the equation and are going a long way to reset my mental approach to time in the mountains. The proverbial roses smell great and must not be ignored!