My alone time started about 7:15 Friday. But, despite my difficulties only a couple hours earlier, I was feeling pretty comfortable. The wind was blowing 20 to 30 mph outside, and the flapping of nylon was incessant, but my sleeping bag was toasty warm. The 12,000 foot altitude was not really affecting me the way I was expecting. Normally, my resting heart rate can be as high as 95 to 100 when I'm up above 10,000 feet. But, there was no gasping for air, no sensation of my heart trying to jump out of my chest. I checked and found that I had a 72 bpm heart rate laying in my bag. Wow! I guess all the running *has* paid off. I drifted into a twilight sleep looking forward to the next morning.
The plan was to be up at 5:00AM for our walk up to the top of the mountain. I had set my watch alarm and my iPod alarm. I had anticipated a fitful night of sleep, so I was a little surprised when I woke and checked my watch - 5:45 AM! Yikes! I got dressed, and threw the door to my tent open. Remember that view of the valley below? It was going to be a glorious day.
Matt and I grabbed a quick cup of coffee and some breakfast and headed off up the trail. Our first stop was the lake at Trail Camp to refill our water for the 10 mile round trip. This would be our last chance for reliable water along the way, so I filled up with 2.5 liters. Our challenge for the day was to climb from 12,000 feet up to 13,600 feet in two miles, down 300 feet in half a mile, and then up from 13,300 to 14,496 in two miles. Friday's "experience" was behind me, and I felt strong and up to the challenge. We started day two at 7:30.
The first challenge was the slope ahead of us - the dreaded 97 switchbacks up to Trail Crest. It's up up and up that slope.
Two miles of switchbacks. I dare you to try to count them.
And even though it was pushing 9 AM, water appeared only in solid form:
The views back to where we were camped at Consultation Lake were awesome as we moved up the slope.
What happens next is just absolutely breathtaking. As you clear the last switchback, there is short traverse across the east facing slope.
Then a step or two down and viola! The great canvas of the Sierra Nevada spreads across the sky and a thousand feet down.
But, we couldn't stay up there forever. One thing anyone who does any hiking/climbing understands is that getting to the top is only half the adventure.