After a short hike to the foot of Mt. Crested Butte, we all set off to find a dry space for our individual fires. It was a hard task after last night’s hail! Each of us tried different ignition methods. One involved cutting foil-backed gum wrappers into strips, and pressing the ends to each end of a battery, which heated up the wrapper enough to light it. Another was rubbing steel wool on the nodules of a nine-volt battery to create sparks. By far, the method closest to success was using copper wire to connect graphite from a mechanical pencil to a cell phone battery. We got smoke and embers from that, but not quite a fire.
Our challenge today was to start a fire, an amenity we take for granted everyday. Turns out, it’s not as easy to start as it looks! Especially if you have no access to matches, a lighter, or flint and steel. We embarked on our challenge with two alterations of the rules that the previous group followed: we would receive no pity lighter to make ourselves some lunch if we failed to start any fires, and if we didn’t succeed, we couldn’t eat at all until dinner, rather than allowing snacks.
We had half an hour in Crested Butte to start collecting materials for the fires. At the post office, we sorted through the battery recycling box to find some nine-volts, which, when combined with some steel wool or foil gum wrappers, can create a spark. Behind our hostel/laundromat we found cardboard, paper towels, and dryer sheets – awesome kindling!
Our challenge today lead us to a unique sort of failure. Some of us felt frustration in that if not for circumstance, they might have succeeded. Some felt that they could have prepared better, or planned more. Our group ended the day with a new respect for practicality, and for those who have skills in fire starting, as well as a respect for what it means to fail. When your consequence is no lunch, and possibly no dinner, you tend to really get the point. Some time, if you’re curious, try it yourself. Whether you end in success or failure, the difficulty itself will get its own point across.