It was a new challenge for 3 keen campers … climb a winter high peak in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains.  However, with our blinded enthusiasm, we never anticipated what was about to happen. We arrogantly assumed we had planned for everything.

In 1993 Dave, Denis, and I were all strong and experienced campers, who had done much and seen even more. So to bag a winter peak was just another thing to do for these self-respecting campologists. 

Although collectively we had ascended dozens of the high peaks in the spring, summer, and fall, a winter ascent was a right of passage for mountaineer wannabes. 


It wasn’t going to be a cakewalk. Deep snow, freezing temperatures, icy rock climbs, heavier gear, and of course… the delights of winter camping. 

Following 2 weeks of planning, we packed our oversized backpacks, loaded up the rusty aging Subaru station wagon, and headed south.  Like a well-trained dog, the car seemed to know exactly where she was going, for she had travelled this route dozens of times before.

We stopped for our java jolt in Cornwall, declared nothing at the USA border, and then vibrated with eager anticipation to the trailhead some 10 kilometres south of Lake Placid. 

The hike was easier than anticipated. The snow was hard-packed and neither crampons nor snowshoes were needed. 

Gothic Mountains
Gothic Mountains in the Adirondacks, New York

4 hours later we were at base camp some 2000 vertical feet below Gothic Mountain. Tomorrow we would climb her and then return to our camp for a second night.

However, for now, the dark and cold were settling upon us very fast. It was time to set camp, cook supper and finally settle into our toasty 3-person – 4-season tent for an epic game of cards. 

The adventure’s greatest challenge would soon begin.


Let me first point out that generally, I’m a frugal person.  So when a deal presents itself I have difficulty resisting. 

12 months prior, I had purchased 6 packages of dehydrated “Ghost Bean Stew”, not because I had tried it before and liked it, but rather because it was on sale. 50% off reading the label. That “evil sign” I would later lament.

It was easy for me to volunteer to bring supper. I had 6 packs of discount stew in my pantry. A no-brainer.

That night we prepared the bargain stew and inhaled our supper like a pride of lions sharing a gazelle. It tasted great.

It was getting cold, very cold. So without hesitation, we cleaned our pots, voided our bladders, and dove into the tent for the night.  With candle lanterns burning and filled with 3 large men, the tent would soon be toasty warm.  Outside it was -20ºc and inside a balmy 5ºc. 

The card game passed the time wonderfully. Dave and I dominated Denis. The competition soon switched gears. It all seemed innocent at first.

Our “hermetically” sealed nylon biosphere was now perfect. We had created a warm winter oasis.  There was no way anyone wanted to leave the tent to venture outside into the bitter, windy, dark night.

Then the gas began.

At first, it was funny. I would toot and then giggle. Dave would blast and laugh. Denis’ whines of disgust would only fuel Dave and me. We further felt the need to exaggerate each methane emission. 

The louder Denis complained, the more we passed wind.

Then it hit us all… almost simultaneously. The tent was becoming toxic. Not the “I don’t like that” kind of toxic… but rather the “I’m going to pass out” kind of toxic.

We started to gag, choke and sneeze.  I could taste vomit in my mouth, and Dave’s eyes became red. 

Without any discussion, we unzipped the tent and popped out onto the snow like 3 noxious, green “Jack in the Boxes”.

We just lay there and breathed in the clean night air. Ambivalent to the freezing temperatures, we sucked in the methane-free air…laying motionless.

5 minutes passed of deep breathing before anything was said, and then Dave muttered over the silence “Dam that Ghost Bean Stew”.



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