As the mountaineering season swings into high gear, newcomers to this exciting sport need to be apprised of some of the little-known dangers involved. Even people who cannot climb a stool know about such risks as avalanches, exposure, snow blindness, etc. But very few are aware that above the timberline live some obscure animals whose reputation daunts even the hardiest climbers. A brief description of some of them follows.
[quoteright'/>The Moraine Eel can be found slithering on or near glacial deposits. Although related to the swimming eels, it does not have an electric charge, but its bites are quite formidable -- the climber's hands being particularly vulnerable when he is groping for a hold. It may seem strange that an eel species could live among the dry rocks of the high mountains, but in fact its habitat is far less strange than that of another eel, the conger, which lives exclusively in crossword puzzles. Some climbers take trained attack pitons to hunt and kill the Moraines, but very few have the time or ability to train a piton.
The Col Cat has big fangs and sharp claws, but does not use them against humans, reserving a more fearsome weapon for them. When a party of climbers approaches a high pass guarded by a Col Cat, the feline is likely to be leaning casually against a rock, seemingly ignoring the intruders. Actually, he is loosing wave after wave of cold contempt on them. The alpinists are thereupon seized by a strangling terror that their clothes and gear are hopelessly outdated, their speech ridiculously square, and their deodorant but a sticky wimp. Victims usually survive these attacks, but wish they hadn't.
The Arete Franklin is a black-furred creature that is in the habit of emitting soul-shattering howls which can drive victims to paroxysms of self-destructive guilt. Unfortunately, those who take up mountain climbing are generally among the segment of the population that is most susceptible. The only known defense is to set up a loud, regular tapping with the ice axe. This seems to have a soothing effect on the Franklin and causes it to sing sweetly.
The Scree Jowl is a shifty, ugly, toad-like little bird that will attack anything that moves, but is particularly ferocious against anyone wearing red or pink. Its favorite tactic is to smear its targets with mud and foul effluvia while constantly screeching "notak rook, notak rook..." Such an attack may seem merely annoying rather than dangerous, except that the Jowl will simply not let up. And it is indestructible. This probably accounts for its arrogant carelessness that often causes it to stumble into the hands of its enemies. Yet, no matter what punishment is inflicted upon it -- even to apparent death and dismemberment -- it always comes back to haunt its victims.
For the past 11 years Albert Duro has been managing the computer network of a small municipality in the San Francisco Bay Area. Before that, he's done just about everything: programmer; janitor; library page; political operative; ranch hand; newspaper reporter/editor; busboy; salesclerk; assembly line worker, etc...
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