Suffering or Super Models?So what would you do? Given the opportunity to hang out at the pool with a super model or enjoy a self imposed day of suffering in the mountains well I’ll take suffering anytime!
I was anxious to get back into the mountains again and with much anticipation I was heading down to the Guadalupe Mountains. It is one of my favorite places to go since I can get out of Fort Worth on a long weekend and enjoy some mountainous terrain. On the way out Thursday evening I got hit with a cold/flu/allergy attack that stared me sneezing frequently, spiked a headache and started me digging in the glove box for the Kleenex. I hoped that it was nothing more than a dose of West Texas dust but hours later I would find out to the contrary.
I made it to the Guadalupe National Park around 6:30 p.m. just in time to grab one of the 2 remaining campsites at Pine Springs. I was sacked out by 8:30 hoping to get a good rest before my 3:15 a.m. wake up. Sometime around 10:00 a large group of school kids arrived to take the group site that they had reserved. Man, were they ever loud. Finally around 11 I went over to let them know that the quite hour begins at 8:00 p.m. in the park and they could be heard up and down the canyon. They apologized and I did not hear a peep out of them the rest of the evening. People were still coming in looking for sites for till past midnight keeping me awake and I suspect that I slept less than 4 hours. That compounded with fever and chills made for a restless night and I started having doubts about going the next morning.
I hit the snooze on the alarm twice and finally told myself that I had not come all this way to just lie in the sleeping bag and not go climb. Once I got moving, slowly as it was, I was able to get ready and make some breakfast that was enhanced with some Motrin and Sudafed. My pack that had been readied before I left Fort Worth complete with 7 liters of fluid was set to go. I had pre-filled the Register the night before trying to get anything out of the way I could to expedite leaving camp.
At the trailhead I flipped on GPS and head torch and started down the familiar Tejas Trail. It was now 4:26 a.m. A full moon lit the entire valley and the torch only necessary to define the fine details of the trail. At nearly a mile above sea level and with the unusual absence of wind, it was a spectacular site to see the Guadalupe’s illuminated in such a magnificent fashion.
I moved steadily for about 4 hours taking only a couple of short breaks along the way before reaching Bush Mountain. After wandering around a while near the summit I decided to “get on with it” and headed over to Bartlett Peak but not before putting on the gaiters. Thanks to Barry Raven for the heads up on this since if you go without them your legs would be shredded. It was about an hour before I made it over to the summit and paused only briefly before deciding to commit to the remainder of the plan. This is the point of no return as far as I was concerned. Once the commitment was made to Shumard Peak it puts you at a point that going back is nearly a long as going forward. The little voice in my head chimed in, “Ok, no time like the present!” “Sure you feel like crap but what did you come here for?” Most people I know their “little voice” is the voice of reason, mine however it the more like a Drill Sergeant cajoling me to keep going.
This is part of mountaineering and hiking that I enjoy, route finding. Picking out landmarks, judging terrain and committing to your line is far more satisfying to me than following a trail.
My energy seem to run out about half way to Shumard, I guess the “cold” was catching up with me. I felt run down so I sat down for a long break, drank and ate hoping that the added food and Power Aid would be enough to get the engine humming again. I tossed down another round of meds, re-lased my boots and off I went. The climb to the summit was a little steeper than I expected and there were more large boulders and rock outcroppings than could be seen from a distance. It took a little over 2 hours to reach the summit. There isn’t much there but the view to the valley 5,000 feet below is incredible. Guadalupe Peak was next and I could see people scurrying around the summit.
From Shumard I discerned a route that would take me to the rightmost (western) ridge with the option the traverse under the northern cliff bands if it became too exposed. I stopped at a nice spot on the way over to change socks and put a little mold skin on my aching feet. No blisters just sore feet from all of the rocks and rough terrain. I drained my first Platypus 2.5 lt. water bladder and switched to #2 before departing.
The route proved to be the ticket, it finished in a channel of boulders that had some solid 4 Class climbing. Not too much exposure and high on the fun factor. I popped up on the western tip of the summit ridge much to the surprise of one of the many “tourists” who asked “Where did you come from?” I pointed to Shumard and said “Over there.” It was now around 2 in the afternoon and I was ahead of my self imposed schedule. I took a long break, ate and was feeling confident that in spite of feeling ill the day prior and earlier that day along with the lack of sleep that El Capitan was going to be reached.
With a second wind I was off to El Cap around 2:30. I would look back at Guadalupe Peak periodically still to see people coming to the summit. It appears that there has been some attempt to standardize the route to El Cap. I’d call it the Sometimes Trail, sometimes you can find it; sometimes you cannot. There are few carins marking the way enough to let you know you are generally going in the right direction. I spent about 5 minutes on the summit before turning back toward the Guadalupe Peak Trail.
By now my feet were killing me. When I reached the Guadalupe trail I re-padded them and put on my third pair of socks before starting down. I was able to maintain a steady pace but not power down like usual. I drained the last of my fluid about 20 minutes from the Pine Springs just as the sun was setting. At the trailhead I made note of the time 7:36 p.m. 15 hours and 10 minutes; only 10 minutes longer than I had projected from time estimates done via map study. I was satisfied with the days result and totally knackered. I saved the GPS Track
My feet were so stone bruised by the end of the day that any consideration about going the next day was discounted. I realized that my faithful Asolo Hiking boots were heading to retirement as “yard work boots”.
On the drive home the next day I was already plotting my next trip back to the Guadalupe’s, there are still two 8,000 foot peaks to climb and the mystery of the downed P-47 to solve.
By the way, she really isn’t a Super Model but she did sleep at a Holiday Inn Express!