Curley is still talking about those 200 sheep (at least he thinks big). At noon he decided they must have moved south and that we should follow. Three hours and multiple contusions later, we have now collapsed in the bottom of the canyon behind Rattlesnake Ridge. The stock of my rifle is ruined, and most of the seat of my pants is up yonder somewhere. We are going to siwash here tonight and attack the south mountain in the morning. It is about 4,500 feet straight up and looks more formidable than the one we just came down.
Fortunately, the trip down was not a total loss, because a beautiful, bubbling brook runs through this otherwise miserable canyon. Water never tasted so good. Now for a bowl of bean soup, a codein pill and a soft rock.
MONDAY. Assaulted K-2 this morning. Started at 5:30 and took 5� hours to reach the summit. No flags, so guess this is one Sir Edmund Hillary passed up. Crossed three tracks, period. These ran out almost before they began and looked very old.
While we were glassing on top we heard seven shots from across the canyon. Both Bob and Bud should have sheep with that much shooting.
Ran into two bad rockslides on the way down and thought the mountain was coming with us. Then we hit a burn of rotten timber and brush that was thicker than an Alaskan alder patch and unfit for a bear. Made it back to the canyon bleeding from all pores.
Got back to camp after dark, and the news was all bad. The Labrador, Rogue, died the day he was bitten, before the serum arrived. The snakes were worse, a coyote was prowling about, the water was gone, we were down to our last Spam and the temperature was dropping fast. To top everything, those sheep we thought Bob and Bud had fired at turned out to be a single fool hen.
Curley had a tantrum. The rough day or the news about the dog may have set him off but, whatever the spark, Curley exploded. Bottle in hand, he stomped through camp screaming at us, kicking at the pot of beans and cursing the bad luck that was deliberately hounding him. Everything was wrong. The sheep had not cooperated. The boys had not cooperated. The weather had not cooperated. Presumably the food and water had not cooperated by failing to transport themselves up the mountainside. Suddenly he whipped out his revolver and began firing into the air. I ducked behind a log, as hunters and high-schoolers disappeared into the darkness. Shots echoed and reechoed across the canyon, and in the flickering campfire Curley looked like the last of the Bad Men.
When the action faded we crawled from our foxholes and held council. There was not much point in staying longer on this mountain. From what we could see of the other side of the river it looked like a more logical place to spend what time we had left. Moving camp on foot would take at least two days, but with a helicopter we could do it in a few hours. We decided, in spite of the cost ($125 an hour), to radio out this morning for a chopper.
TUESDAY. Unfortunately, we have given up hope of getting out today. It began storming at 8, and the ceiling is somewhere below us. The bad weather is almost a relief, because I could not have faced scaling another mountain today. Bud's knees have gotten worse. They are now swollen to twice their size, and he can barely walk. Rain is pouring in streams from the peaks above, and our campsite looks like a reservoir. The last of the coffee just sopped through its container, and what was left of the bread floated away an hour ago.
The storm seems to have stirred up all sorts of activity. There were two goats on our back ridge at noon, an hour later the boys spotted 12 sheep across the river (now we are sure we are on the wrong side) and the grandfather rattler of all times—10 buttons—turned up on my personal path into the wilderness. These are the moments when privacy hardly seems worth the price!