...On last weeks episode... Freezing temperatures hold down the crew at Upper Boy scout Lake, Cory suffers from a bad case of AMS, and tents were torn and the wrong types for our conditions.
Day3: Bid or Bust
The morning brought little warmth but the sun refreshing and the mountains glowed orange. Cory woke up and was able to hold down food which was complimented by a temperature close to that of a warm blooded animal, so things were looking and the four of us and we would soon be standing on top of the contiguous U.S. of A. So we all ate, backed our summit bags, filled our water bottles and started upward around 8am. The first part of the hike was gorgeous! Up and over and ridge, a traverse of the top of a gigantic snow bank, followed by a small corridor which put us at Iceberg Lake, a glaciated lake at the base of the shoot which led up the last 1500 vertical feet to the summit plateau.
The team spent the next half hour stepping into their harnesses and going over basic mountaineering skills like self arrest, rope team skills, rest step and pressure breathing... blah blah blah. Around noon we took the first of many steps up the final 2000ft that consisted of 1500ft of Class 3 terrain, and 500ft of Class 4 terrain. In layman's, steep and dangerous, followed by even steeper and way more dangerous. The burning was intense, sweat poured from our faces. It was so warm out we were almost down to our neoprene t-shirts. Cory led, followed by Pat, Pam and myself. About 2 and a half hours later we took a break before entering the 'even steeper and way more dangerous" section where we found Cory's AMS had just temporarily subsided and decided to come back right there and then. We decided it'd be best if we all turned back, and as close as we were to the top, we knew the mountain wasn't going anywhere. We arrived back at camp around 4pm, and started packing things up. But don't worry; the journey didn't end it just gets more interesting.
Going down can be just as hard, if not harder than climbing up the mountain. For starters, a few days on the mountain can really wear you out, followed by the fact that you've already done what you came to do so your attention isn't as acute as it was ascending so people tend to stretch the lines out, and before you know it, you find yourself several yards behind the rest of your team. Well at least that's the way it was in my case... I made several attempts to catch up by glissading down the mountain on my ass but they were futile and getting up after the short slide wasn't even worth the thrill. Just before hiking into Lower Boy scout Lake, I took a step and postholed right through hard outer shell of ice and plunged up to my crotch. My crampon snagged a rock on the way in, and my ankle twisted and I later found out I got a class 4 low ankle sprain, and class 3 high ankle sprain. Woo hoo... So now I was about a half mile behind my friends, none of which knew I was moving slower than salmon upstream.
PP&C found out about my injury when one of them decided to wait at the top of the bolder field before we hit the ledges. We really only had a short 3 or 4 mile hike left but the sun started setting and I was really preventing us from making any good time. So we put our headlamps on close to 7:30pm, and continued down the hill. At 8:30 we ran into our first real snag of the decent. The trail we were following just stopped. We knew were in the right area, I mean there's really only one way down... just follow the stream! Simple right? Not the case. We back tracked about 50 yards, put our crampons back on, and scaled a 20 ft vertical ice wall. Instead of winding around the other side, and going back down the other side we continued up the side of the valley. To our dismay, we found ourselves on top of a thousand foot cliff with nowhere to go. Our GPS's were either out of batteries, or couldn't grab satellite reception; to make things worse it was now pitch black out. So our only option was to backtrack yet again to the top of that ice wall we just made our way up. Beaten, bruised and tired, we finally waded through the waist high powder snow back to the trail. Shortly there after, we saw the romantic grey color of my 4Runner and I hobbled to it, giving it a kiss right on the drivers side window. Calling an end to a great trip.
The closest bar was a dive in Lone Pine, where we matched each other beer for beer, and bag of chip for bag of chip. The hostel gave us a late night room, and our heads hit pillow just after 2am.
James vs. Mountains... 0/2....
"Summiting is optional, getting down is mandatory"