Saturday, June 18, 2011

halfway thru the sierras?

Well, I'm not dead yet.  In fact, I can honestly say that the sierra nevada range has been spectacular! 

About a week ago, I took off from Kennedy Meadows with my trusty team, (named "No Babies"- long story) and we entered into the dreaded and must discussed section of the PCT.  But it was surprisingly enjoyable.  The group that I have been hiking with avoids use of the word "plan" at all costs, so instead we made a "strategy" for hiking.  And it has worked surprisingly well.  We walked slowly and safely, and kept a close eye on each other, and it has worked out really well.  Although we failed to summit Mt Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48, we are going to try again tomorrow from the portal, or east side as a day hike.  Unfortunately, we were hiking with a friend that wanted to come out for a section, and he picked a really bad section to try and keep up with thru hikers in phenomenal shape.  So our summit bid was compromised by his poor planning, and we turned around before it got unsafe.  However, we had hiked 5 bottles of wine into the Sierras to celebrate at 14,495ft, so instead we found a nice rock in the middle of a snow field at 13,000 ft, snagged a few friends that were descending from their successful summit, and proceeded to train at altitude by drinking the vino.  It was, without a doubt, the best failed summit bid I hacve ever had!

The days continued with hard crusty snow in the mornings and mashed potatoes in the afternoon, but we managed to stay on top of the snow most of the time, and while the rivers were absolutely raging, we crossed safely and quickly.  Many people have tried to warn us to go slower and wait to enter the Sierras and those people are damn idiots.  The snow is perfectly safe for travel with appropriate gear, ie, ice axe and crampons, and the river crossings are only going to get worse, as the thaw has begun.  I guarentee there are going to be some horrible stories this year from the river crossings, and my hope is that people can acknowledge the danger and plan accordingly.  Many hikers have already turned around, and decided to skip this section, and for many, I think that is the right decision. 

One of the more epic days this past week was crossing Forester Pass, the highest point of the PCT at 13200ft.  It was a tough climb, aided with traction devices and ice axes, and the crux was a 25 ft walk directly across a chute of snow and ice in which a fall would likely be fatal.  We proceeded very slowly, attempted to repair some of the steps, and aided two other hikers through.  It was an absolutely epic feeling when we made it all safely and sat in the saddle of the pass looking back at what we have accomplished.  Hopefully the next handful of passes go as successfully!

So currently, I am in Lone Pine, CA, waiting to attempt Mt Whitney again tomorrow.  Kylie has been pretty under the weather lately, and had a nasty migraine yesterday, so we are all hoping that she will feel good enough tomorrow to join us.  Then the following day we will be headed back to the trail for another week-long section until Mammoth Lakes.  Then hopefully we will head into Yosemite Valley and climb Half Dome and see the raging waterfalls as a little sight-seeing side trip from the PCT.  Tough Life huh?

And last but not least, tomorrow is Father's Day.  Hopefully I will be able to call my father from the top of Mt Whitney and send my love, but in case I can't, there really isn't a better guy out there.  He has supported me through all of my mayhem and adventures, and is the best father in the world.  I love him so very much and am so greatful that he's all mine!

Oh and happy thoughts and love to Gage, Britte, and Paul.  I can't wait to see the little guy, and hope that he gets big and strong quickly!  I talk to him every day when I'm hiking and hope that he knows that we are all so excited for him!

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