Epic is word that has lost it’s original meaning to instead mean something cool or awesome. In the traditional mountaineering sense of the word, an epic is climb that derails itself and becomes a difficult situation due to unforeseen factors. Our trip to Bergland became a mini epic.
Alex and I had been planning on climbing at The Hacking Site Cliff for about a year. After planning the trip, we finally settled on a date. We discussed our plans and prepared to head out the next day.
We headed out immediately after work. I had spent time browsing Mountain Project and told Alex that the first ascensionist had passed away two days before in the Canadian Rockies. Surprisingly, this set the mood for the trip.
After making our way down the winding forest roads that are oh-so common in the UP we parked the van and loaded up our packs for the next few days. We hiked down the mile long path and caught up with the North Country Trail to our campsite. We set up camp and racked up to climb. I ate a Clif Bar which is the only thing I had eaten besides the Pizza and beer I had consumed the night before.
I had been in communication with the Midwest Black Diamond representative who gave us the beta on how to get down to the climb. He mildly sandbagged us, as the rappel anchors were not convenient to get to. We created a rappel to get to the bolted anchors at the station. We rappelled from there and found we were sandbagged again as the rappel was longer and more difficult to perform than expected. We pulled the rope to the second station halfway down the wall. About halfway down the rope hung itself up on a notch. After deliberating for a few minutes, I led up to the rope and detached it from the rock that was holding it.
We finished the final rappel and made our way to the talus and scree field below. At this point, we were far behind schedule. We carefully made our way over the field of rocks to the base of what we thought was our climb. I racked up for the lead and started my way up the climb. I made my way over the vegetated slabs, winding across fragile flakes that wanted to fall at the slightest touch and over bushes and brambles. Despite the moss and lichen and lack of protection, it was relatively easy climbing. I was slightly challenged by a slabby dihedral.
After anchoring under an extremely precarious flake, Alex came up. Facing the “death flake” and climbing in the dark, we elected to bail off the climb. We made a very sketchy anchor out of a few DMM micro nuts. I rappelled first, being the fatter climber and Alex made his way down after me.
We pulled the ropes, but I neglected to take a knot out of the end This forced me to climb 30 feet onto the slab unroped to prevent the rope getting stuck on rappel. After getting down from that I began pulling the rope again. The rope dislodged a softball size rock, which hit Alex in the eye. Alex couldn’t see in that eye but seemed to be doing okay other wise.
We decided to forge a patch down the talus field into the trees and swamp below to make our way to the Duluth-Superior rail line. It was pitch black. I told Alex to be as safe as possible. As soon as the words escaped my mouth, the talus field shifted under me and cause me to ride a land/rockslide down 15o feet. I was okay and Alex, soon followed me, but on his feet instead.
We headed into the forest and descended into a swamp. The water oozed up into the trail running shoes I was wearing and I shivered in the t-shirt and leggings I was wearing. We made our way onto the railroad tracks. We started walking north as I had told Alex we could meet up with the North Country Trail about a mile from our position. I had no idea if we could see the trail, so of course I told Alex it would be easy to find.
I watched our movement on the screen of my GPS, slowly losing hope as we passed the area I thought the trail was at. Dejected, we sat down and weighed our options. Spending the night didn’t seem appealing, but neither did the 6 mile hike in either direction. And we were starving at this point.
We eventually decided to head through the woods, making our way along the path my GPS showed to get to the rappel station. Once again, we descended into the swamp and up into the woods.
Finally! Good fortune for us! We found the North Country Trail. Alex and I whopped and hollered with joy as we began making our way along the trail. We eventually reached our campsite and tore down camp.
The car was only a mile a way and we soon reached it. We feasted upon pop tarts and drove to Ewen to eat pizza at a bar. From there we drove back to Houghton.
I asked Alex if he was interested in climbing in Bergland again, to which he replied, “Nah, I’m good for a while.”