Chris's "fear of water"...

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Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby pezar » Mon Apr 23, 2012 3:58 pm

I woke up this morning with a thought as to why Chris didn't try to cross the Teklanika. In the book, where it talks about Jim Gallien giving a ride to Chris, Krakauer mentions that Chris told Gallien that he was afraid of the water, because of what happened in Mexico, where Chris nearly died in a sudden storm in the Gulf of California. If Chris had acquired a fear of raging water, and he encountered the huge flow of the Teklanika in July, might he have been too afraid of being swept away to attempt to cross, or to find an area where he could cross?

My understanding is that the Teklanika in April was still generally frozen over, so Chris might not have been as afraid of the river then. Erik Halfacre has mentioned that people have been riding mountain bicycles to the Bus in March and April, so the Teklanika is likely easy to cross in April. If Chris was expecting a placid river in July, for whatever reason, and found a raging torrent instead, maybe his fear of water kicked in and prevented him from trying to cross. Phobias can be very powerful things. They can literally cripple the sufferer. Chris may have assumed that since the Teklanika was a raging torrent at that spot, that there was no place that he could cross, because his phobia of water kicked in.
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Re: Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby Husky » Tue Apr 24, 2012 5:42 pm

Teklanika crossing.jpg
This is looking south at the Tek crossing in summer at normal water level. The main trail comes in just below the bottom of the picture. If you walk up stream the river braids into several shallower channels. If you are paddling a small raft or if you end up swimming you will have more time to get across before the steep banks start on the west side. At high water all the gravel channels and much of the brush covered gravel areas are running with water so it is much harder then to explore up and down stream for a better crossing. On the west side (right hand side) downstream there are steep and high dirt banks and upstream there are beaver ponds and thick, soggy woods so it probably would have been hard for Chris to go up or down stream when he got there in July.
Teklanika crossing.jpg (48.35 KiB) Viewed 4740 times
Tek mid-April.JPG
This is mid-April of 06. Ice had formed on the water and then the water dropped leaving a hollow space. So when the ice caves in later there are steep ice banks on both sides of shallow water. That steep bank on the other side is the west side of the Tek looking down river toward where the cable car used to be. It would not have looked like a good or easy way to walk for Chris in July.
Tek mid-April.JPG (63.72 KiB) Viewed 4740 times
Tek open March 30.JPG
This was the Tek on March 30, 05. We could have crossed this but who knows what it would look like when returning.
Tek open March 30.JPG (64.17 KiB) Viewed 4740 times
Chris exercised caution when he decided to not try crossing the Teklanika when the water was too high to seem safe to him. That would be a normal, rational decision especially given his earlier problems with rivers. I don't understand why you would call that a decision caused by a "phobia" he may have had. A phobia is an irrational fear of something. Not crossing the Tek when it was too high was one of his few rational decisions.

You're totally wrong about the Teklanika being "frozen over" when Chris first went out the trail in late April. I crossed it that year with dogs on April 6, and it was already open and about a foot deep and 50 feet wide. It got colder and snowed more in late April that year but not enough to refreeze the rivers. So, he would have successfully waded the river in April and perhaps thought it wouldn't be that hard to come back across later. The Tek usually starts to open up in late March or early April so you can't be sure of having a dry crossing anytime in April. It's not deep water then but initially there are high banks of ice to climb up out of the water. The ice left on the edges gradually tilts into the water forming a sort of ramp which you can walk down into the water or even "skip" across on a snow machine if you go fast enough and have a good ramp on the other side. Later, portions of ice disappear and you can just walk and lead your dog team down on gravel into the water.

This year breakup on the Tek has been later than usual because we had real cold in the early winter which formed thick ice and it only started to warm up in mid-April. The trail caved in to the river about a week ago. The person I know who rode her bike out to the bus did it twice in early March when she didn't have to worry about finding the ice caved in when she made her return ride. Her first trip took only about 4 1/2 hours to the bus area while her second trip took closer to 8 hours because of softer trail conditions. There are many times when the trail would be too soft to ride a bike at all.
Here we are in the years
Where the showman shifts the gears
Lives become careers
Children cry in fear
Let us out of here! Neal Young

Don't let fear stand in the way.
There's nothing to it
but to do it! Husky
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Re: Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby pezar » Tue Apr 24, 2012 6:50 pm

Maybe "phobia" was the wrong word. Chris was likely afraid of crossing the river because of his prior experiences. He almost drowned twice that we know of, one was at Detrital Wash during the flash flood, the other was in the Gulf of California during the storm. He told Jim Gallien that he was afraid of the water, and mentioned the storm in Mexico. I used the term "phobia" in a general sense. I was addressing the question of why Chris didn't search for an area where he could cross, likely because he didn't know such an area existed. I think it was dishonest of Jon Krakauer to mention the USGS map he had and then go on a rant about Chris "throwing the map away". A USGS quadrant map is a very specialized map, most people don't even know they exist. Chris had a road map, and given Chris's level of knowledge about the area, that's the only map he could be expected to have. Chris couldn't have reasonably been expected to know about the abandoned gauging station. Krakauer pretends otherwise, and since ITW is used in colleges now, I suspect that it gives many a false view of Chris and Chris's Alaska trek.
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Re: Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby erikhalfacre » Wed Apr 25, 2012 1:53 am

I'd be curious to find out more about your friend's fat tire bike trip(s) to the bus. When a friend and I tried to ski out there (mid March of this year) we saw fat tire tracks, and it seemed like it might be a good way to go if conditions permitted.

We were pressed for time and only had 48 hours to complete the entire trip (starting and ending with our drive to/from Anchorage.) I am by no means a proficient backcountry cross country skier, but I ride bikes a lot. In fact, I'm a pretty bad skier to tell the truth.
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Re: Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby Husky » Wed Apr 25, 2012 6:20 pm

Krakauer did make a pretty big deal about Chris not having a good map and how a good topo map would have indicated the presence of a gauging station about a mile down the Tek River from the trail crossing. Couple thoughts about that....

Chris had been on enough back country trips to know that detailed topographic maps were available for the whole country. If he had wanted to he could have easily bought a map in Fairbanks or at Denali Park headquarters. I don't think he wanted to have a detailed map with him. He was a minimalist looking for adventure. In his romatic mind the less info he had the greater the adventure.

Even if Chris had brought a topo map that doesn't mean he would have known from the map that a cable car existed. If he had brought a "section map" (they are smaller scale-divided into one mile wide squares) he would have seen the notation of a "gauging station" down the Tek. The quadrangle maps (quad maps are divided into 6 mile wide squares) that I've seen didn't show the gauging station. So, he would have needed a small scale section map and he would have needed to know that the gauging station included a cable car. (By the way, the Savage River also had a cable car which was not indicated on any map I've seen.) Krakauer also seems sure that the cable car would have been on the west side of the river where Chris could have used it. He assumes this because the cable car was on the west side when he went there one year later. Krakauer also assumes that Chris was physically capable of operating the cable car.

Krakauer notes that Chris did have a road map which showed the Stampede trail. Any map that showed the Stampede would have also shown the Denali Park Road to the south of the outer range. It would have shown the bridge crossing the Teklanika River. But, there was no marked path or gravel road leading south from the bus so Chris would have needed to do some real bush whacking to get over the outer range and down to the Park road.

When Chris walked out and found the Teklanika to be running high and uncrossable he may have looked up and down the river for a safe crossing. How do we know he didn't?
The problem is that when the Tek is really high all those channels can flood together and become one. There really isn't a safe place to cross without swimming until you get miles upstream through the canyon to the Park road bridge. And high water means he couldn't even walk on the flooded gravel bars. He would have been forced to walk in the wet, mossy taiga woods and climb around the steep banks. As Krakauer noted, Chris probably thought it was best to return to the bus and try to walk out sometime later.

Which brings us back to the question of why didn't he try to walk out later? Or do something other than leaving a note on the bus to initiate a rescue? Perhaps he was too physically debilitated to walk out. Starvation must also affect mental capability, too. Maybe he just got so weirded out that he couldn't think straight.

I was watching a movie called "The Edge" the other night. Anthony Hopkins and Alex Baldwin are in a plane crash and are lost in the woods. Alex is freaking out and Hopkins says to him, "Most people lost in the wilds, they die of shame. See, they die of shame. What did I do wrong? How could I have gotten myself into this? And so, they sit there and they die. Because they didn't do the one thing that could have saved their lives...
THINKING."
Here we are in the years
Where the showman shifts the gears
Lives become careers
Children cry in fear
Let us out of here! Neal Young

Don't let fear stand in the way.
There's nothing to it
but to do it! Husky
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Re: Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby Anewanddifferentsun » Thu Apr 26, 2012 11:28 pm

This gallery includes a photo Chris took of the Tek when he attempted to leave in early July 1992. I see high water, but I also see gravel bars, including the big one just upstream from the main crossing.

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/features/i-am-reborn-this-is-my-dawn-the-remarkable-life-and-lonely-death-of-christopher-mccandless-2339375.html?action=gallery&ino=8
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Re: Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby Anewanddifferentsun » Thu Apr 26, 2012 11:34 pm

Husky wrote:Krakauer did make a pretty big deal about Chris not having a good map and how a good topo map would have indicated the presence of a gauging station about a mile down the Tek River from the trail crossing. Couple thoughts about that....

Chris had been on enough back country trips to know that detailed topographic maps were available for the whole country. If he had wanted to he could have easily bought a map in Fairbanks or at Denali Park headquarters. I don't think he wanted to have a detailed map with him. He was a minimalist looking for adventure. In his romatic mind the less info he had the greater the adventure.

Even if Chris had brought a topo map that doesn't mean he would have known from the map that a cable car existed. If he had brought a "section map" (they are smaller scale-divided into one mile wide squares) he would have seen the notation of a "gauging station" down the Tek. The quadrangle maps (quad maps are divided into 6 mile wide squares) that I've seen didn't show the gauging station. So, he would have needed a small scale section map and he would have needed to know that the gauging station included a cable car. (By the way, the Savage River also had a cable car which was not indicated on any map I've seen.) Krakauer also seems sure that the cable car would have been on the west side of the river where Chris could have used it. He assumes this because the cable car was on the west side when he went there one year later. Krakauer also assumes that Chris was physically capable of operating the cable car.

Krakauer notes that Chris did have a road map which showed the Stampede trail. Any map that showed the Stampede would have also shown the Denali Park Road to the south of the outer range. It would have shown the bridge crossing the Teklanika River. But, there was no marked path or gravel road leading south from the bus so Chris would have needed to do some real bush whacking to get over the outer range and down to the Park road.

When Chris walked out and found the Teklanika to be running high and uncrossable he may have looked up and down the river for a safe crossing. How do we know he didn't?
The problem is that when the Tek is really high all those channels can flood together and become one. There really isn't a safe place to cross without swimming until you get miles upstream through the canyon to the Park road bridge. And high water means he couldn't even walk on the flooded gravel bars. He would have been forced to walk in the wet, mossy taiga woods and climb around the steep banks. As Krakauer noted, Chris probably thought it was best to return to the bus and try to walk out sometime later.

Which brings us back to the question of why didn't he try to walk out later? Or do something other than leaving a note on the bus to initiate a rescue? Perhaps he was too physically debilitated to walk out. Starvation must also affect mental capability, too. Maybe he just got so weirded out that he couldn't think straight.

I was watching a movie called "The Edge" the other night. Anthony Hopkins and Alex Baldwin are in a plane crash and are lost in the woods. Alex is freaking out and Hopkins says to him, "Most people lost in the wilds, they die of shame. See, they die of shame. What did I do wrong? How could I have gotten myself into this? And so, they sit there and they die. Because they didn't do the one thing that could have saved their lives...
THINKING."


I've seen that film, and this quotation would seem to be quite apropos.
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Re: Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby Husky » Fri Apr 27, 2012 6:52 am

Thanks for the link to the article with photos that Chris took. I hadn't seen several of those. The one of the Tek River is very interesting for several reasons.

The river doesn't look that high to me. It looks about average for summer. When the level is real high it goes up over a lot of that big gravel bar- that's why there's very little vegetation on it. It would have been a lot lower when Chris first crossed in April, though, and it certainly looks high enough to make anyone think twice about crossing.

The other thing is that I think the picture is taken from the hillside above and to the north of the trail. So he had enough energy to bush whack and climb up there to take the picture. Maybe he was also getting a good look at the river upstream with the thought of crossing up there.

The other picture that is interesting to me is the "lingonberries" in the jars. If the date for that picture is correct then those have to be the previous year's batch. I've eaten some of those berries (we call them lowbush cranberry) that have stayed on the bush over the winter and they get kind of freeze dried. I wonder if they were still nutritious?

He sure was a good looking kid in that Montana picture. You'd think the gals would have been all over him. And that August 13 shot! He looks so gaunt...but still smiling.
Here we are in the years
Where the showman shifts the gears
Lives become careers
Children cry in fear
Let us out of here! Neal Young

Don't let fear stand in the way.
There's nothing to it
but to do it! Husky
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Joined: Thu May 19, 2011 6:04 am

Re: Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby Anewanddifferentsun » Sun Apr 29, 2012 7:28 am

Husky wrote:Thanks for the link to the article with photos that Chris took. I hadn't seen several of those. The one of the Tek River is very interesting for several reasons.

The river doesn't look that high to me. It looks about average for summer. When the level is real high it goes up over a lot of that big gravel bar- that's why there's very little vegetation on it. It would have been a lot lower when Chris first crossed in April, though, and it certainly looks high enough to make anyone think twice about crossing.

The other thing is that I think the picture is taken from the hillside above and to the north of the trail. So he had enough energy to bush whack and climb up there to take the picture. Maybe he was also getting a good look at the river upstream with the thought of crossing up there.

The other picture that is interesting to me is the "lingonberries" in the jars. If the date for that picture is correct then those have to be the previous year's batch. I've eaten some of those berries (we call them lowbush cranberry) that have stayed on the bush over the winter and they get kind of freeze dried. I wonder if they were still nutritious?

He sure was a good looking kid in that Montana picture. You'd think the gals would have been all over him. And that August 13 shot! He looks so gaunt...but still smiling.


I wonder about the dates on at least one of the photos - the one of Chris at Hungry Horse Reservoir in Montana on "4 June, 1990." Chris was still in Atlanta, Ga., on that day. He didn't venture into Montana until September 1990. The date for the berries photo also may be off. Krakauer wrote that Chris left the bus around May 5 to proceed west toward the Bering Sea, reaching the Toklat on May 19. He then turned back, and arrived at the bus a week later (May 26). The berry photo date is shown as May 29, so it's possible he was able to gather all these in that time (keep in mind the film shows him not straying far from the bus the entire time - one of many misrepresentations in the film).
You note Chris's good looks. Recall that when he and Russ Fritz aka Ron Franz stopped in Laughlin at the Golden Nugget Casino for lunch, a waitress gushed upon seeing him. Also recall he spent nearly two months in Las Vegas, but little to nothing is known about who he met and what he did there during that time. And what exactly was the attraction for him in Las Vegas? One can only speculate.
The picture of the bag of "seeds," dead squirrels and a bird also is interesting. The date shows it was shot not long before the "fault of pot. seed" notation in his terse journal. Why take this photograph? Also, take note of the location of the bag of seeds. It was outside on top of the barrel drum "outside" the bus. Remember Krakauer's "moldy seeds" hypothesis?
Btw, see the wild mushrooms? What are the varieties? His journal notes something about mushrooms and a "dream." Were these toxic? Why was this never explored?
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Re: Chris's "fear of water"...

Postby Husky » Mon Apr 30, 2012 6:59 am

The dates of the pics must be construed from correlations with his journal. The date of the one of the berries may be right, or at least close. Judging by the sparse leaves on the bushes and the appearance of the snow on the background hills I would guess that the picture is more likely to be late May than August when fresh lingonberries ripen.

My wife looked at the jars of berries and immediately wondered if he might have gotten some bane berries mixed in with low bush cranberries. Bane berries are very poisonous. And they come in a red and a white variety.

http://www.wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/food/poisonousplants/baneberry/

Looking closely at those two jars of berries it almost looks like each jar has a layer of white berries along with red ones. The red bane berries on the bush sure look enticing enough to try. Eating only a few of them can cause some pretty dramatic physical affects. Wikipedia has a description of the affect of a non-lethal dose on someone. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Actaea_rubra

And that picture of the mushrooms, bird and squirrel make me wonder about parasites Chris could have been exposed to. That squirrel looks pretty ripe. If he wasn't thoroughly cooking things like that he could have been contracting parasites. Not to mention the giardia which is common in both branches of the Sushana near the bus.

I wonder where he went during that long period between May 5 and 29? Krakauer says the pictures from that time indicate he went north- downstream along the Sushana. But at some point he must have turned west to get to the Toklat. (Are all of the journal entries and pictures available anywhere?)

It's only 12 miles or so over to the Toklat River from Sushana on the hard packed snow machine and dog trails which he may have still been able to see, so it shouldn't have taken him three weeks just to go to the Toklat and back to the bus. I would imagine that if was able to discern winter trails on the remaining snow and ice that he would have been curious and explored those trails.
Here we are in the years
Where the showman shifts the gears
Lives become careers
Children cry in fear
Let us out of here! Neal Young

Don't let fear stand in the way.
There's nothing to it
but to do it! Husky
Husky
 
Posts: 36
Joined: Thu May 19, 2011 6:04 am

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