Bette Felton

Ball Arts

The Himmelfarhtz Kommandos (John, Rus Kroeker, and Silas Wilde) were famous for their promotion of what they referred to as "Ball Arts", the technique of cramming as much as possible into the smallest pack possible. The net result was a pack about the size of a child's book pack crammed so full it resembled a bowling ball. Not that they skimped; John at least always managed to include a tent.

The day came when I got to see Ball Arts in action. Desperate to nab Tupshin, I went off with the HFK to climb Tupshin and Devore. Being worried about keeping up, but fond of my large pack with its nice comfortable hip belt, I did my best to minimize the contents, even leaving my 2-pound camera at home.

The first indicator that Ball Arts was not quite as advertised appeared at the trailhead. Out came the adhesive tape, not for feet but for backs. Evidently, carrying the bowling ball packs wasn't very comfortable and could result in damaged skin.

This was followed by a discussion of who would carry what community gear. This is a fairly common trailhead topic of conversation among most climbers, but I was not prepared for the extensive discussion of what constituted community gear. It seemed like every item in each HFK bowling ball could somehow be justified as community gear, and all three of them were obviously well practiced in creative justification. John's perennial favorites (among others) are the first aid kit (which I can maybe partly accept if it's better than mine), and also the camera. Once that was all decided (at least for the moment), we started off.

The discussion continued whenever one of them lagged slightly, which the laggard always attributed to having more than his fair share of community gear. At one point Rus, who had carried the rope over Cascade Pass that morning, began to whine (and whine and whine..) about his unfair burden. Being somewhat naïve, I finally offered to take it from him, which resulted in a torrent of ridicule and abuse directed at Rus from the other two, far up the hill. As I recall, he swallowed his pride and gave me the rope anyway.

In the end, I had to concede the camera as community gear, since John gave me some slides from the trip. And, now that ultra-light packs with almost nothing in them merit coverage in the New York Times, I have to concede that the HFK were ahead of their time and did an amazing job of packing sufficient gear into a small space. However, I still enjoy my hip belt and I'm not the least bit interested in having adhesive tape all over my back.