Sunday, July 18, 2010

The July 17, 2010 Ascent of the Eastern Face of Mount Os. Loss of Life: Minimal.

     The pretty-much-unheard-of Mount Os Expedition of 2010 unfortunately received virtually no publicity anywhere whatsoever.  This led to several desperate attempts by one of the members of the Expedition at faking widespread interest in the story - an example of which is this pathetic ripoff of a 1923 National Geographic Magazine cover - in hopes of creating the impression that the world had watched with rapt attention while the melodramatic details of this near-adventure unfolded.  Pity (in the form of a few hundred bucks slid under the table and a couple of cokefloats slid over the table) led to our allowing excerpts of the long-winded Tale of the Expedition to be printed here - and probably, for that matter, for the first time anywhere else as well. 
* * * * *

 - PART I -

Planning the Expedition to
the Highest Point in Osborne County, Kansas

     Mount Os [pronounced aaawwwzzzzz].  2,088 feet above sea level.  A once-mythical Kansas summit that remained elusive to geologists, adventurers, and soil conservation groupies throughout the county's first 138 years.  Oh, sure, you could ask just about anywhere and find out the Lowest Point in Osborne County, Kansas ("Why, that's where the North and South Fork Solomon Rivers both flow out of the county at its eastern border, sonny - everyone knows that!").  Despair at ever finding the Highest Point,  however, seemed the general rule of the day. 
      Until January 2010, that is, when mild-mannered local historian and avid Kansas Explorer Club member Von Rothenberger announced to a innately disbelieving and skeptical local citizenry that he had found it.  At an email news conference he cited twenty years of pestering the same people with the same endless question and delighting in reading countless old discarded county topological maps, all of which finally culminated in one long 28-hour-long-session-spread-over-two-days of comparing twenty years' worth of carefully documented notes with a wonderful new Internet research tool called Google Earth to discover the location of the physical structure of Mount Os. 
    A few moments of silence were then explosively shattered by an almost immediate firestorm of comments.  "I thought it would be elsewhere."  "You sure? That rise to the north looks higher."  "This can't be it - your computer must've been wrong."  "You sure? That rise to the south looks higher."  "Aaaw, that can't be it!"  "What about Pilot Mound? And Sand Mound? And  . . . !"  And so on and so forth for the next several months.
     Undaunted, Rothenberger hid under his bed and layed low and the uproar slowly faded away.  Then word was secretly sent out and three groups that eventually made up our Crack Climbing Team assembled at the Peace Lutheran Church in Natoma, Kansas.  This became known under the code name of Natoma High Camp.
     An example of the meticulous undercover planning that went into this Expedition can be seen by this never-before-seen napkin map, which was created after the Expedition was over.  It shows the best suggested route for Expedition Groups A & C to travel from the Expedition's Base Camp, which was established at The New Place in Luray, to the fluid location of the Natoma High Camp.  Also given is the potential site from there of Mount Os.  Secrecy was such among the Expedition members that neither Group A - "The Wild Bunch" - nor Group C - "The Woolly Bunch" - were aware of each using this route at relatively the same time. 

     The Expedition's Crack Climbing Team assembled at last in a secreted basement compound far beneath Natoma High Camp.  Groups A & C were joined here by Group B - "The Native Guides", and Group D - "The Lone Explorer".  Don't let the jolly dispositions and doughy physiques fool you; these highly untrained professionals were invited to be part of the Expedition through their many years of negotiating the sometimes-rugged hills and always-deep gullies of the Blue Hills Highlands.  Our Crack Climbing Team experienced several minutes of training for the ardous rigors of the Expedition and needed only a few more minutes to settle on the best approach to scaling Mount Os, via the East Face. 
     Oh, and they also decided to co-sponsor the General Bull's Revenge Supper to be held the night of Saturday, October 16th at the Homestead Restaurant in Alton.  Be there or be square!

     The above Google Earth topological map displays the Expedition's agreed-upon plan for the Approach.  By driving County Road 657 south from Natoma High Camp approximately three miles, then turning left (west) onto West 290th Drive for .75 miles into the Eastern Face of Mount Os, they hoped to save countless needless hours of walking to the summit.  It was a bold plan and one full of hot wind and little water.

     Layed out here is the massive assemblage of Kansas-oriented mountaineering equipment carried by the Expedition: (a) Standard U.S. Flag for planting on the summit; (b) one hand-carried thermometer for up-to-date readings on the extreme conditions to be found on the summit; (c) one can of OFF to ward off the insidious giant varmints known to infestate the Mount Os region; (d) Standard Topographical Map for the vaguely exact locating of the summit; (e) Duct Tape - 'nough said; (e) Standard St. Mary's Safari Hat, to pretend that there is someone in authority in charge of the Expedition; (f) Standard Sunflower Visor, for identification to other would-be climbers that THIS is an All-Kansas Expedition; (g) Standard Black Umbrella, for . . . er . . . well, something; and finally (h) A Top-Of-The-Line Insulated Jug for carrying either cool, cool water or hot, hot coffee - depending on the extreme conditions to be found on the summit.

     Shown here are the Standard Alpine Climbing Boots inexperienced mountain climbers use when attacking the unknowable heights of Kansas summits.  Nearly a third of the Expedition were shoed with this latest high-tech equipment.  The rest had heels.  And sandals.  Sigh.

* * * * *
- Part II -
Our Crack Climbing Team

Adeline Eickhoff – Native Guide, Our Russellian Translator

Betty Pruter – Native Guide, Our Alton/Osborne/Natoma Dialects Expert, Meteorologist

Carolyn Williams – The Lone Explorer, Moralegist

Eileen Wilson – Woolly Bunch, Moralegist

Joe Hubbard – Wild Bunch, Logistics and Supply

Kathy Bristol – Wild Bunch, Still Photography, Hydrologist

Laura McClure – Wild Bunch, Communications Expert, Transportation

Mildred Morgan – Woolly Bunch, Moralegist

Orville Pruter – Native Guide, Our Ellisian Translator

Bob Eickhoff – Native Guide, Our Rooksian Translator

Russell Phalen – Wild Bunch, Senior Porter, Equipment Maintenance

Von Rothenberger – Wild Bunch, Expedition Leader, Photo-Journalist, Cartographer

     All plans having been made and all potential hazards assessed, the Expedition ran one more run-through of all needed baggage and settled into three post-selected Expeditionary vehicles.

Part of the baggage and equipment prepared for the Expedition.

     There was a tense moment when the Native Guides engaged in an animated conversation as the rest of Expedition members waited in their air conditioned vehicles.   The Natoman dialect is difficult for the average ear to pick up, but the discussion seemed to involve reciting the recent history of a local spirit named "Tucker."  Eventually the proper phrases were said and the Expedition could continue.

*  *  *  *  *
The Approach!

The temperature sat at 105 degrees as we left Natoma High Camp and began the climb in elevation.

     From the inside of our state-of-the-art SUV our high-tech meteorogical equipment informed us that as we have climbed a few hundred feet higher the temperature outside had indeed dropped to a more reasonable 100 degrees.

     Indeed, only a few minutes later the temperature had fallen to a balmy 99 degrees - by Kansas standards just another typical July day!

     Sure enough, one look outside the titanium-tinted window proved that we indeed had climbed above the treeline.  We were getting near our objective!

*  *  *  *  *

At the Summit! 
     Go on, pinch yourself - in this photograph you are actually looking south from the summit of Mount Os.  Mount Os can be technically described as being a "mesa summit" - that is, flat-topped and wide.  This explains part of the visual concerns by visitors, where it seems that the ridges in the distance are higher than the central location.   This mesa summit covers approximately .75 miles in area.

     A Meteorogical Station has been established at the Mount Os summit, with a rain gauge that will keep records of rainfalls going all the way up to four inches!  Technology is a wonderful thing. 
     NEXT:  A wind gauge would be nice.  The wind at the summit was unrelenting, howling across Mount Os at thirty miles per hour and threatening to cast dust all over Expedition's Summit Camp.

     Just as the U.S. Marines raised the U.S. Flag at Iwo Jima in this famous photo from World War II . . . .
     So did two of our Native Guides, Orville Pruter and Bob Eickhoff, raise the U.S. Flag at the summit of Mount Os.  There was not a dry eye among the Expedition at this moment. 
     It was a moment to remember - the U.S. Flag waving at the summit of Mount Os, 2,088 feet above sea level, the Highest Point in Osborne County, Kansas.  The once-mythical site is now a piece of Kansas Explorer lore!

     Here they are! They've Done It! Hot, Sweaty, Exhausted, & Windblown - but Exhilarated! The Expedition Members have reached the highest point in Osborne County, Kansas!   They are seen here standing at the summit of Mount Os for the Official Photograph.  This is the moment the Team will remember for at least the rest of the week.  Absent are Kathy Bristol, who is taking the photo, and Joe Hubbard, who was overseeing the Summit Camp. 
      And in the end, the enduring question remained:  why find and climb Mount Os in the first place? 


     Back at Base Camp, The Wild Bunch lives up to its name as it celebrates the Expedition's amazing accomplishment with the tossing back of one or two badly needed drinks. 
     As the sun goes down on another great Kansas July day, who knows what other new exciting adventures are still out there to be found in for all Explorers in Osborne County, Kansas!

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