I have strange feet. Morton’s toe, sixth toe, fat toes, and eeee width. Usually I don’t notice them, but when it comes to putting them in climbing shoes, boots and ski boots I am well aware of them and have tried to take care. This past January I did a terrible job.
It was during an outing in the Tetons. We hoped to snag the first winter ascent of the Triple Glacier Route on the north side of Mt Moran. On day one our group skied across Jackson Lake and climbed up to a camp on the north shoulder. No feet problems.
The second day we woke to fierce winds and sub-zero temperatures (in Jackson they reported -20). Bundled to the max we made our way to the Triple Glaciers, spied a possible path from the glacier, up the snow tongue to a section of rock that connected to the upper snowfields. If we could make it there we hoped to make it to the summit. Above the glacier we wallowed in waist deep faceted snow in a 50-degree couloir. We searched for protection and positive edges in the glacially polished rock next to the couloir, but never found any. The guidebook had described the rock as unpleasant. After some back and forth and up and down, we chose to retreat. So much standing around and my toes had gone numb.
Going up had been relatively easy, but for my friend from California, going down was a bit more daunting. He deliberately set each of his limbs in the sugary slope. Left foot, right foot, left ice ax and right. I marched in place trying to will the blood back to my toes and spoke to him calmly about sunshine and women. I didn’t want him to rush. An accident up there was out of the question.
Eventually we were back on the glacier, moving, blood pumping and out of harms way. In the tent I found my toes to be white and insensitive. The next morning the big toe of my right foot was swollen. I gritted my teeth and stuffed my foot into my boot. There was only one way back to the car so I grinned and went down. It hurt.
The following night, in a warm bed, I didn’t sleep. My toes throbbed. Closer inspection revealed a blister beneath my big toe nail and two pea-sized white spots that eventually turned black. The rest of the toes were still numb despite being warm to the touch. This was not happiness.