Of locks and rocks

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A classic George Ostrom column, from June, 1989...

I’ve been requested to not report this week about Dan Lundgren’s wife Corinne and my wife Iris locking themselves out of their car on Going-to-the-Sun Road last Sunday.

The girls were both wearing “non-hiking” shoes. I think we are talking narrow heels here ... probably open toed, and they were gussied up a bit more than your average Glacier Park sightseer. At first they were afraid to hitchhike and decided to walk down around a switchback where they had seen some rangers. That plan didn’t turn out too well. Iris was happy over the fact that when she fell and skinned her knee, the crash hadn’t gotten any dirt on her white slacks (women locked out of their car like to look good). They seemed quite pleased they were offered several rides right away.

They also asked me to abstain from mentioning that after they hitchhikes back to West Glacier and got another car, they then started back up there without the keys to unlock the vehicle they were locked out of. They begged me not to tell that they then returned to West Glacier and took Dan’s car without leaving him a note, which caused him to believe the vehicle had been stolen.

Our wives told Dan and I all about their Sunday adventures over a LATE dinner and they day was growing short when Iris and I said our goodbyes and got in our car...one of the few left in the village they hadn’t borrowed. That’s when I asked her if she’d like to take a nice romantic drive up Going-to-the-Sun Road to watch the sunset.

Sleepin’ in the guest room wouldn’t be so bad if I just had a TV in there.

The Over the Hill Gang was happy to be getting back into higher country last Thursday and we decided to climb Crystal Point, a series of steep grassy wooded slopes which lead to three major cliffs, terminating on a big open ridge which runs along the south side of Bear Valley near Granite Park Chalet. We had a couple of new fellas along and I carefully explained to them the rules about being careful not to kick rocks loose. Also told them if they did loosen something to immediately yell “ROCK.” When I’d finished telling them about proper action in avoiding rocks coming from above, we tackled the first cliff.

Most of the gang had gone ahead along a ledge and I was helping Jack up a steep pitch to that same ledge. When we got on it, Pat Gyrion was waiting and the three of us were standing close together because there wasn’t much room. Jack yelled “rock” and before any of us could react, I glimpsed a reddish blur. It just missed Jack’s head, hit Pat on the right chest with a thump, ricocheted down and hit my boot and then disappeared below us. The blood drained from Pat’s face and my immediate thought was, “He has to have broken ribs.” However, he was able to talk and hadn’t fallen down. My foot was stinging, so I figured his chest must have hurt a lot worse.

We went up along the ledge to a wider grassy area and surveyed the damage. Pat’s T-shirt had been ripped and his visible wound was a fist-sized abrasion. We put on disinfectant, gauze and tape, then continued to climb.

At first we thought one of the others had gotten above us and ricked loose the red rock, but soon determined they couldn’t have gotten up that high that quick, and if they had, there would have been a warning. None of us heard the usual clattering of other rocks, so I asked Jack what had alerted him and he said he just heard sort of a hum and glimpsed it free falling through the air.

We sat silently for a moment, contemplating our close scrape, then I suggested it was “an act of God.” Pat said that couldn’t be true because he has been leading an exemplary life of late and Jack said he too has been free of all but minor sins. I apologized for jumping to an unsupported conclusion and admited to telling a few “colorful yarns” within the past month or two, but nothing so serious as to bring down lethal punishment. We also discussed the fact we had a minister in the group and no lawyers.

After due consideration of all those pertinent facts, it was mutally agreed that an act of God could not have been involved, so a mountain goat must have kicked down the rock.

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