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Heald Peak

17 March 1990

By: Ken McElvany


I was surprised that my long-time friend and hiking/mountaineering partner Scot Jamison would try to kill me on our lead to Heald and Nicolls peaks. And as the leader you might think that Scot should have a duty not to mistreat his assistant. But - think again! That peak (Heald) almost did me in. What a bushwhack, over and under briles brambles and bushes. But, in the end, it was the ticks that almost sent me home on a litter. On the way up, on the last big bump on the ridge before Heald Peak, somebody did mention that ticks were a possibility. Well, this was my 100th HPS peak and I've never even seen a tick (not even on Lookout Peak another miserable experience when the growth is up along the trail). But I figured, why not check?

So, at the break, a tick break, I discovered my first critter, attached very close to a spot as to be unforgivable ("Stand By Me" --remember?). Good grief I hate those things ... legs flailing in the air with its head stuck in your, my, skin. Ok, what now? Well, thanks to Letty French and her Advanced Red Cross Mountain Medicine Course, that little rascal finally gave up its hold on me after about 45 seconds of gentle but firm PULLING. Gads!

Anyway, on to the top where we had a really great celebration thanks to Scot, Jack Wickle, Ellen Miller, and Karl Kraves, who all brought up a picnic spread and champagne - enough good times to dull the recent memory of tick attacks. Thanks yuz guys!

We continued the celebration that evening with a St. Patrick's Day dinner at the Pine Cone Dinner House in Kernville, some of us having done Nicolls and others going down early probably for more tick checks.

The next morning I happened to feel an odd soreness near a spot at my beltline. And to my horror, my really complete disgust now, I found another one of those tick beasties. And this time he had found a home. sold his wheels, moved in and wasn't going anywhere! Meanwhile, my skin, around this unwelcome intrusion was shouting, "Not here, not here, get out!" "Jamison!" I yelled. "This is all your doing. You are trying to kill me! I've been with you twice on Rainier, pulled you out of a crevice on Cotopaxi, endured howling winds on Orizaba while rescuing your A16 hat just before it went into the crater, and survived countless gin and tonics with you ... so why are you trying to do this to me!" You know what his response was? "Put some gin on it, but not too much. We wouldn't want to waste any of that good Bombay you have." "Oh good grief," I said. "I'm telling you, this is the most dangerous peak I've ever been on - and I'm not going back until they spray the whole thing with Malathion, or whatever kills ticks!" "Happy 100th," he said.

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