July 7, 2007...
This was my first full day out at altitude, but my legs and lungs did pretty well during my morning climb of Point 11,694.
For as long as I have been loving the mountains, I have had a real problem with down time while in them. This is why I prefer long days to backpacking and base camps, why I rarely spend more than one night in a single place. Reading and basking in the sun are things I can do for only so long. I don't fish, and I don't play any musical instruments aside from air guitar and a totally unschooled harmonica (a student gave me one years back, and I like to fool around with it-- the harmonica, I mean).
So I get bored. And then I get antsy. And then I get to thinking of doing things my body doesn't really want me to do.
Like go climb another mountain.
I had to.
Greybull Pass was only about three miles away, and Brown Mountain was only about another mile from there. Sky conditions were signaling a coming storm, but I thought I could make it. I would only need about three hours, I figured, so I set off around 5:00, leaving myself an extra 60-90 minutes of good light if I needed it.
Originally, my plan was to pair Brown with Mount Crosby , on the other side of Greybull Pass, the following morning. But I love getting ahead of schedule and opening up more options. And, as I said, I was bored.
As I reached timberline, I knew from looking back across the valley below that I was in a race with thunderstorms. I tried telling myself that the fact that open skies were overhead while all the nasty stuff was on the other side of the valley meant that the storm was staying over there, but I knew that was just a load of my initials.
A smart person would have turned back and just waited for the morning. However, much of the world seems to think mountain climbers are not smart. Not wanting to disappoint those people, I continued on.
By the time I reached Greybull Pass, I knew continuing was not a good idea. Lightning was showing off not far away; the wind was picking up. Stubbornness is strong in mountaineers, though, and I went on. If I could make the summit okay, I reasoned, then I could dash down and be in safer terrain very quickly.
So up I went. The storm got closer. Light rain started to fall. About 100 vertical feet from the summit, I finally admitted it was a lost cause. Initially, I headed back down the ridge, but when the storm came roaring in, I abandoned the ridge and went straight down the scree slopes, desperate to reach lower ground fast.
I wrote this, so I obviously made it. My convertible pants were soaked, but I was pleased to find that my new jacket had kept me dry. Because it was an Eddie Bauer jacket bought in a pricey store (paid for by a gift certificate from another student-- teaching does have its benefits), I was a little suspicious of its quality. But it has been a good jacket and goes on all my trips now.
The storm lasted well into the night.
The bacon and the beer were so good. So was the movie I watched on my portable DVD player. Roughing it is great.
Also, I'll say this for myself: on my first day at altitude and my first day of more than 6 miles in several months, I put in 5100' of climbing and about 18 miles. Granted, it was over two outings, not one, but that's still not too bad, especially for a guy who was on the other side of 35 by then.
July 8, 2007...
This day was not nearly so eventful. In fact, but for one slightly unsettling occurrence, the morning climb of Mount Crosby went just about perfectly, with clear skies, warm weather, and good route conditions. For good measure, I should have gone up Brown after returning to Greybull Pass from Crosby, but for reasons I can't remember (probably sheer laziness), I didn't.
The slightly unsettling occurrence had to do with a grizzly bear. On the way back to the trailhead, I came across some hikers who asked if I'd seen "the griz." Well, I hadn't, and then they informed me that there were fresh tracks on the trail, including some on my own tracks.
Even the thought of being stalked by a grizzly is not so heartwarming. Fortunately, I learned that the bear had been headed downhill instead of after me. That was a relief, sort of; it just meant I had to be extra-alert for the rest of the way down lest I surprise my secret morning companion.
But the bear and I never met, and all was good.