Sorry guys, guess you'll have to wait awhile longer for the round of beers. Headed on up to Icicle Creek this past weekend for my shot at the goats. After a lengthy hike and going straight up 1500 feet, I finally found my way back into Icicle with the help of Sheepshape and Carnivore's advice. This time I had a partner who has never hunted in Alaska before. I figured I would show him the lay of the land and hopefully use his skills as a packer. We downed 1 bottle of water before we headed up into the valley. We spent the better part of a day looking for a flat spot to set up a tent and also looking for a mountain stream to take water out of. There was NO level spots back in that valley that I could find, and there was no mountain streams to tap into the water source. The only way to get water would be to bushwhack 1500 feet down to the canyon floor, and then have to bushwhack right back up again to scout for goats. The terrain was very unforgiving. We decided to hold off on getting some water while I put out a stalk on a nice sized Billy. UP 3000 feet I went. I closed in on the billy to 178 yards. He was standing up a 70deg slope from me looking down at me. I was certain I could have put one into his boiler with a head-on shot, but after standing there for 15 minutes trying to find a decent rest, I couldn't find one. SHooting offhand is one thing...shooting offhand and aimed straight uphill is another! By now it is getting dark and I figured I'd head back down to my partner and see if he utilized his few hours to find us a water source. Nope. He sat right where I left him. Now, we're parched, and without a place to set up camp, we were really hurting. We were holed up in some alders, and we decided to hurry up and get out our sleeping bags, crawl into them, and use the alders as a backstop so we didn't slide 2000 feet down into the abyss. As soon as we got "comfortable" (yeah, right), the rain started coming down. We laid out the tarp and collected 8 oz of rainwater over night. After a nasty siwash, we woke up the next day to rain and in the 40's. I told my partner that we needed to head down to the valley floor to see if we could get some water from the canyon. He adamantly did not want to go because he didn't want to bushwhack. Now, I know that we are getting into trouble. I decide to go up another 3000 feet near the top of the valley ridge, and see if I can bring the water bottles. As it was raining, I knew that there would be some water starting to trickle from the top. Hit paydirt ! Chugged two bottles of water and put out another stalk on a goat while I was near the top. THe billy disappeared. COuldn't find it anywhere. I waited for 3 hours for him to show himself again, to no avail. I start heading back down the slope (praying the whole time that I didn't fall). I get about 1500 ft down the slope with the water, turn around and that da*n Billy was sitting right there again ! Supposedly he was on the opposite side of a rock wall from less than 100 yards ! I get the water back to my partner, and he insists that we should leave. I've still got 2 days left to hunt, but I was feeling miserable after going so long without water. I decide that it was way too dangerous for me to be solo out in those mountains. SO we leave. That was easier said than done. My partner was trying out his new GPS to mark the trail so we could get out of there. Turns out he didn't know how to use his GPS and we spent 4-5 hours bushwhacking up and down the mountainside trying to run into the trail. FInally found it, took 3 hours coming down off the mountain, and got back to the ERNC at 10:30 at night. Several lessons learned on this trip.
Not all mountains have mountain streams coming down from them; seek water and shelter before putting out a stalk on an animal (although, I was thinking shoot the animal first, hunt mistake); Not all mountain valleys have a level piece of real estate to set up camp on; make sure I use my GPS to mark the trail, and don't count on anyone else's "navigational skills"; Know your abilities ! I was fine running up and down that kind of elevation, but I must admit that some of the gnarly stuff I was climbing on was SCARY STUFF ! Did I mention that I'm afraid of heights?? Sure, I skydive from 15000-20000 feet, but at least there is no depth perception when you're falling from 3-5 miles up. When you are on a steep slope, looking 4000 feet straight down at something that can kill you, I learned that I should pray alot more often. All in all, another experience that I will chalk up as learning. I will try to go out at least one more time, hopefully with a different partner. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed his company, but there were several things he could've done....learned his GPS, retrieved water from the valley floor while i was stalking goats, etc.
Also, it was nice meeting up with WildTurkey from the forums on the trail. Hope you're successful with your bear hunt.