As the end of the my first year of college came near, I decided that it would be a great idea to take a trip out to Big Bend as soon as my finals were over. I called up long time friend 01aCRViper and started planning the trip. We decided we would climb Vernon Baily Peak. Vernon Baily is a fairly remote
mountain in Basin of Big Bend. Although a very promentant peak in appearance it is rarely visited and has no trial what so ever. This fact is what makes it so difficult to reach due to the fact that bushwhacking in the dessert can be a very long and painfully ordeal.
As soon as my last final was over I left college station and took off to Austin, where 01aCRViper was taking his last test of the school year. No more than a hour after he finished his test we were on the road. We figured it would be best to take a trip as soon as school was over, knowing that after our parents got our grades there would probably be no trip on our immediate
Arriving in Big Bend sometime after midnight we found the closest campsite avaible to the mountain and crashed for a few hours before our early departure. When climbing most mountains leaving at an early hour in important due to afternoon weather, in big bend a early start is nessiasry to beat the almost unbeable heat that seems to set in at about 9:00 a.m. After a quick breakfast of tortillas and peanut butter, we filled what we thought to be enough water bottles and hit the trail. Once on the trail we were immediately treated to the sight of a group of javelina, which are very common all around Big Bend. After leaving the Window trail after about .3 miles we started our bushwhack to the base of the gully that would take us to the ridge that would that connect us to Vernon Baily. Reaching the base of the gully over flat ground is much harder than it appears. Once at the gully it is a very long hard trek to reach the top of the ridge. Being that it was early in the day and we were full of exitment this difficult bushwack was a blast. We did not know of the difficulties we would later face.
It took us a little over 2:20 hours to reach the top of the ridge. The feeling of spending several hours in about a 20 yard wide gully with relatively no view what so ever, then reaching the top of the ridge and seeing an endless horizon of dessert and mountain was amazing. If one is familiar with Big Bend you have most likely have heard of the South Rim, well the view from this ridge looking northwest is just as good. Once at the top of the Gully on the ridge we came to our first difficult
situation. There seemed to be no way out of the gully. Cliffs jutted up around us making it seemingly impossible to travel along the ridge. After about fifteen minutes of finding our way around the cliffs we were able to get around and through the cliffs that seemed to guard the entrance and exit of the gully we had used to gain access to the ridge. Now moving toward the summit of Vernon Baily along the ridge we came to the realization that we would have to loose about 700 feet of elevation before gain the final 1000 ft to the summit. The topo map we had used was quite deceitful. This mountain would take much longer and be much harder than we had planned. It was also at this point that we realized we had not brought nearly enough water and that we would need to start to conserve it somewhat. Once on the ridge, it took us about 4 hours to reach the summit. Making the total time to
reach the summit a little over 6 hours.By now the temperature was quite high and shade was very sparse. I knew after
leaving the summit that heat exhaustion was going to be a real issue on our return trip. We had hoped that there would be some way to get down the back side of the mountain on some scree slopes, but it turned out as many mountains in Big Bend its summits was mostly surrounded by cliffs. So we were forced to return the way we came. It soon became aparent that with our water low, the sun high, and about five hours of difficult bushwhacking left, we were in a serious situation. About half way back on the ridge towards the gully I was very hot and dehydrated, and I could tell that 01aCRViper was in the same shape. Once reaching the gully we found some shade and collapsed for about twenty minutes, finished our remaining water and started the difficult trek down gully. With about 1/3 of the gully left to go I knew I was in bad shape as well as 01aCRViper. We both were showing signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration, the two often go hand in hand. We both had splitting headaches and were finding quite difficult to take each step. I have never been on a climb were the hardest part was the final easy downhill section. With much luck we made is down and to the campgrounds before we were in a truely life theataing sitiation. At the campground were we did not move from the water faucet for about two hours. Over the next 24 hours we both felt as we had the worst hangover of our lives, but it was all worth it. We climbed Emory peak two days later, which took a 1/5 of the time and energy than its much lower but much tougher neighbor Vernon Baily.
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