For those of you who can't wait for the 5th Harry Potter...
Jonny Pryce and the Mountain of Mist
It was the last weekend before the new school year began at Hogwart's, and Jonny Pryce and Robby Hurvitz wanted to squeeze in one last trip to the mountains. Over the course of a pitcher or so of butterbeer the previous Friday, they'd decided on the Carne (7085') - Maude (9082') traverse. They arrived at the Phelps Creek trailhead on Sunday morning and found the parking area packed.
"Must be some sort of muggle holiday weekend," Jonny observed. "I wonder what it is they're celebrating?"
"I'm sure I wouldn't know," said Robby. He looked up at the grey, cloudy sky and shivered as a cold wind blew by. "I thought you said it's always sunny in eastern Washington."
"It is, it is. Let's go before it gets any sunnier."
They shouldered their packs and hit the trail. "Don't worry," said Jonny. "Most everybody will be at Spider Meadow, not where we're going."
"I thought muggles hated spiders. Do they get very big there?"
Jonny chuckled. "Let's just say that it's one of Hagrid's favorite camping spots."
"Really?" Robby eyes widened, imagining humongous spiders ensnaring unsuspecting muggle campers in their webs.
They hiked along, branching off the Phelps Creek trail to the Carne Mountain trail at a well-signed junction. over three miles further and 2800' higher, first Jonny and then Robby reached Carne basin. As Robby wrung the sweat from his shirt, Jonny waved his trekking pole in a gentle circle through the air and intoned, "Buggicus ignorusicus!" A green globe of light sprouted from the trekking pole, engulfing both Jonny and Robby, and then blinked out.
Robby breathed a sigh of relief. "I wish I'd known that spell last weekend. My bites still haven't completely gone away." He shook his head and squeezed his shirt a few more times. "Do you know any spells that'll make me stop sweating?"
"No, nothing strong enough, unfortunately."
They were soon off again and, at the next signed junction, took the unmarked branch left to Carne Mountain. At the top was a long, thin stick poked into a small patch of dirt to mark the summit. Surrounding it was a collection of animal poop.
"Aha!" Jonny exclaimed. "Looks like a marmot shrine. Good magic, that marmot poop -- you ought to take some back with you if you don't already have some."
"Really? Thanks!" Robby began greedily filling his pockets with the marmot poop, but then paused and looked up at Jonny. "Aren't you going to take some, as well?"
Jonny chuckled and shook his head. "Oh no, I still have a good-sized supply back at Hogwart's."
The sun began peeking out from between the clouds, and the two pulled out their cameras and began snapping pictures. Jonny pointed out Mt. Maude, but its top was covered with clouds. He waved his trekking pole in the mountain's direction and said, "Peakus unobscuricus!" Soon the clouds around Mt. Maude dispersed.
"Cool!" Robby exclaimed. He took another picture.
Jonny led the way, not going back down to the trail they'd been on, but heading sort of northeast down meadows and a brief class 2 scramble into the valley, where they eventually came to another trail heading in the direction of Mt. Maude. They followed the trail a ways, eventually passing a well-defined spur trail heading higher along the hillside. Jonny had taken the high trail four years earlier, but this time he was interested in following the main trail. It snaked its way along and eventually ended at an old horse camp. After a brief rest, they bushwhacked up a ridge and came out into Box Creek Basin, a flat and pretty area with a nicely framed view of Carne Mountain. The high trail came into the basin a little further up the ridge they'd just bushwhacked over.
"From here," Jonny said, "we head uphill, following the creek, to a saddle that'll lead to Chipmunk Creek Basin."
"Uphill?" Robby asked.
Jonny pointed out a trail leading out of the basin to the southwest. "I didn't go that way last time I was here, but it might traverse around the ridge to Chipmunk Basin. What do you think? Either way is fine with me."
Robby looked uphill, then at the traverse. "Let's try the trail."
Off they went along the trail, which soon crossed the ridge, and continued along promisingly enough, until it began to go steeply downhill. It began to traverse again, but was, at best, indistinct. Jonny looked nervously around and said, "I have a bad feeling about this." He moved ahead to reconnoiter and called back, "It starts to cliff out up here. We might be able to get around it, but something's not right." He glanced behind himself quickly, as if he'd heard a sudden noise. "If we head back to Box Basin, we'll only have lost an hour."
"Okay," Robby said resignedly.
And it was up, up, up, all the way back to the basin. After another break, they decided to camp where they were. Jonny pulled from his pack a folded up mass of yellow fabric, placed it on the ground, and commanded, "Tentus Biblerian!"
The fabric began to flutter, then, with a rush of air, expanded into a two-person tent, complete with vestibule. Jonny hurried around the tent, waving his trekking pole over each of the guy lines. He looked up, satisfied, and said, "That should do it."
Robby unpacked the stove and pot, setting them on a nearby rock, and began walking to the stream to fetch water when a strong gust of wind whipped up and several things happened at once. First, the lid to the pot was lifted up and carried away. Second, the tent strained against its guy lines, breaking the holding spells, and up-ended itself in an attempt transform itself into a kite. Third, Jonny's sleeping bag slithered quickly across the ground. And the wind kept blowing.
Robby and Jonny grabbed the tent before it could fly away and held onto it. "I've got it," Robby said, and Jonny went off to retrieve his sleeping bag, which he stuffed inside the vestibule. The wind died down, then, and Jonny went around the tent again, wrapping the guy lines around large rocks before waving his trekking pole over them. He shook his head and said, "Now that should really do it."
The pot lid, however, seemed to have completely disappeared. Jonny and Robby scratched their heads as they scoured the basin, searching for the lid. Ten minutes later they gave up, completely puzzled by the wayward lid. "We're going to need some help," Jonny said. He swept the hillsides with his trekking pole and announced, "Marmotus findourlidicus!"
Dozens of whistles sounded all around us, back and forth, up and down, and finally, from the other side of the nearby rock, a marmot poked up its head and looked at us. It scampered around to our side, darted between Jonny's legs, and hopped into the tent. "Hey!" Jonny cried. He and Robby looked inside the open vestibule and saw a marmot-sized lump skittering this way and that inside Jonny's sleeping bag. "What do you think you're doing?" Jonny asked, raising his trekking pole ominously.
The marmot popped out of the sleeping bag, grasping the pot lid in its little paws. It flipped the lid into the air and, as Jonny fumbled to catch the errant piece of cookware, the marmot darted between his legs again and scurried away.
"How'd the lid get into your bag?" Robby asked, perplexed.
"Beats me," Jonny replied. "It's a little worrisome." He walked around the camp perimeter and set protective wards, just in case.
* * *
The next morning, Jonny and Robby were woken up bright and early by a shrill whistle. They groggily looked around and saw a scruffy marmot at the tent entrance, which was wide open.
"Jonny Pryce and Robby Hurvitz!" the marmot squeaked. "You are in grave danger! You mustn't go to Mt. Maude! Turn around and head back to Carne Mountain -- the marmot magic there will protect you!"
"Who are you?" Jonny asked.
"My name's Dobby. I can't stay here much longer, but I must warn you: Don't go to Mt. Maude! Turn back!" The marmot sniffed the air, whistled, then scampered away.
"What do you make of that?" Robby asked.
"Marmots," Jonny said derisively. "They're nervous little critters. I wouldn't worry about it."
The weather started out partly cloudy, with patches of blue sky, but by the time they were ready to leave camp, the clouds had thickened. "I think we'll make it up and back down," Jonny said, "before it starts raining, but we should hurry."
They went uphill this time, reached the saddle, crossed Chipmunk Basin, reached the next saddle, and traversed across a loose scree slope to gain the saddle on the south ridge of Mt. Maude. Clouds obscured the peak.
"Doesn't look like we'll have a view today," Jonny said.
"Can't you use that cloud-clearing spell?" asked Robby.
"Unfortunately, it only works if you're already standing on a peak, and then only on a distant mountain."
"Huh. Sounds like a poor excuse for a plot device to me."
"Yeah, tell me about it."
They looked down the eastern side of the ridge at the large snowfield and upper Ice Lake, fished their cameras out, and took a few more pictures. After a short break, they descended briefly to reach the snowfield, glissaded bumpily down, and traversed across it before heading back up to the ridge. The gained the ridgeline again at 8200' and were enveloped in clouds, with a strong, cold, wet wind blowing up and over. They advanced upwards, crossing talus and trying to keep their balance as the winds buffeted them. Just below the summit, they found a sheltered spot on the leeward side of some large rocks and took off their packs.
"Let's leave our packs here," Jonny said. "We can run up, tag the peak, and then come back here for a snack."
"Sounds good to me."
They scurried up the last short stretch and quickly reached the summit. "Go Gryffindor!" they both yelled.
Almost as quickly, they descended to their packs, sat down, and pulled out their respective snacks. Jonny held up a bag of colorful candies and said, "Bernie Bott's Every Flavor Beans!" He took one out, popped it in his mouth, and his eyebrows went up. "Ramen flavored!"
Robby opened up a ziplock bag and said, "I brought some Kendal Mint Cake." He broke off a piece and nibbled on it.
Robby looked up to see Jonny pointing his trekking pole at him, and then the Mint Cake leapt from his fingers, glided through the air, and landed in Jonny's outstretched hand.
"Hey!" cried Robby.
"Oh, be quiet," Jonny mumbled between mouthfuls of Mint Cake. "Here, have some beans." He tossed the bag of Every Flavors to Robby.
Robby ate one and promptly made a face. "Eww. Tastes like marmot poop."
After their snack, Jonny asked, "Did you notice on the way up all the rocks covered with the Evil Black Lichen of Death?"
"When it's wet, like it is now, it's slicker than Snape's greasy hair. I think that's what Dobby was warning us about this morning -- Mt. Maude seems to be a stronghold for the Evil Black Lichen of Death. We're going to have to be very careful on the way down."
The way down went slowly, testing every step before weighting it, but it went, and they made it safely to the south saddle again. "That wasn't so bad," Robby said.
Jonny nodded. "Let's hope it stays that way."
They continued along the western scree slope and found a trail that led to the Leroy Creek Basin saddle. They descended and traversed and reached a series of rocky gullies. Jonny looked around, trying to remember the route.
"I see a cairn!" said Robby, pointing down the gully to a large boulder with a small pile of rocks on top of it.
The two made their way down the bouldery gully, found another cairn, and kept going. A trail appeared briefly, but quickly petered out, and soon they were bushwhacking there way downhill.
Jonny stopped and turned towards Robby. "Something's not right. We're supposed to get to the Leroy Creek trail."
As Jonny talked, Robby watched in horror as the shadows shifted in the gully immediately behind Jonny, and a large black mass rose into the air. Long, jointed arms extended from the forming shape, and a gaping maw opened up.
Jonny, seeing the look on Robby's face, turned back around and his jaw dropped. "It's the Evil Black Lichen of Death! Run!"
The Evil Black Lichen of Death emitted a low, guttural laughter. "Come to me, my little wizards," it grunted. "I'm hunnnnngggrrryyyyyy!" Its arms reached out toward Jonny, who started running uphill as fast as he could. The Evil Black Lichen of Death's hand came down hard, just barely missing Jonny's pack, and slammed into a boulder, sending it rolling and spraying lichen everywhere. The mass of lichen continued shifting, regenerating its battered hand, and turned towards Robby.
"Wait for me!" Robby called out to Jonny and ran up the boulders, ignoring his sore legs as they protested the sudden elevation increase. Behind him, he could hear the Evil Black Lichen of Death following. The boulders shook as it began stomping its way uphill. Robby felt a rush of air on the back of his neck as the Evil Black Lichen of Death brought its arm down again. The impact on the boulders just below nearly made Robby lose his balance, but he took a few quick sidesteps and was able to keep going.
He could hear the Evil Black Lichen of Death move again, and then it shouted, "Curses!" There immediately followed a moment of stillness and then a resounding crash, which caused the rocks under Robby's feet to jump. He reached out and grabbed a large boulder to keep from falling and glanced quickly behind him.
The monster was gone, but all the boulders and trees were splattered with black lichen. Robby didn't stand there and stare; he looked back up towards Jonny and hurried uphill to meet him.
"Good show," Jonny said, smiling, when Robby reached him. "What worked against us before, this time worked against the Evil Black Lichen of Death." He motioned towards the sweat dripping from Robby's face. "Your sweat made all the rocks behind you wet, and when the Evil Black Lichen of Death tried to follow, it slipped spectacularly and blew itself apart when it landed."
"Great," Robby said. "Shouldn't we keep moving, though, before it re-forms?"
"Oh, we're quite safe now. I've found the trail. We came up a different gully from the one we went down, and I saw we were heading toward that narrow canyon in the west face." He pointed uphill. "The one with the rock blowout below it. That was what I'd forgotten. We should've continued traversing at 6400' until that canyon and then headed down to the trail." He pointed across the gully we'd just scrambled up. "See the cairn?"
Robby looked over and saw a rock in the shape of a gryffin's head on top of a boulder. They scrambled across the gully and reached the cairn, which winked at them and nodded in the direction of the next cairn, which led to the Leroy Creek trail. Jonny and Robby hi-fived each over and shouted, "Go Gryffindor!"