I got an early alpine start of 4:15AM and started about 10K feet where I parked my car the previous night not being able to get past huge potholes on the way up.
A family in a high clearance vehicle picked me up and I hitched a ride up. They had a hard time getting through too and had to get a running start to make it.
At the parking lot there were three other cars there and I proceeded on up the trail at 4:45AM. There were just a few other headlamps up ahead that I could see, and the sun was just starting to come up.
By the time that I got to the split in the trail where if you look up to the right and see the small mining hut it was about 6AM and there were a few people on the main trail, but no one up on the ridge that I could see.
This was my first class 3 type hike that I took on intentionally, and I wanted to see what a knife ridge would be like. Right at the hut, I started getting a sense of what the rest of the hike up to about 13000 feet would be like. I put up my hiking poles in my pack and started climbing on up the ridge.
As the ridge gets higher towards torreys, the sides of the ridge get progressively more exciting. I remember coming to the top of one of the towers doing route finding to arrive to a several thousand feet drop off. Carefully scuttling back, I took a different route. In my opinion, the right of the ridge does offer more trails and easier terrain, but the left sure does offer great views and doses of adrenaline.
I got to a point where I started to realize that the terrain was nothing but getting harder. I think this was when I got to a point where there was this long gully on the right hand side that I had to get past inorder to follow the rest of the trail on the right. This started requiring some hanging on walls with drop offs below me, and though the rock was good, my internal idiocy, danger, & adventure meters were indicating proceeding any further without supervision, and for any reason falling, would set me up to be found when I didn't check in and the dogs could smell what was left of me about a week later.
I opted to wait from my perch of stable rock for more experience to come up the trail. I could tell that the typical way up was crowded with hikers, but only could tell that two solos and then a group of 4 had started up the ridge. It was fascinating watching these folks navigate their way up just like I did.
I joined up with the second solo hiker on trail and after a short break proceeded up the trail. We came across even more hairy sections, but mostly it's good rock with little scree. There are some sections that we steped through gently to avoid slids and rocks from tumbling down. We got to the part of the trail where there is a wall that is about 30 or 40 feet high, and decided that this section would be safer with the third solo guy behind us. (the groups' internal idiocy, danger , adventure meters indicated that maybe more experience would be good here)
The third solo guy joined us and he had a little more experience than the two of us put together and he suggested to me to take the right hand side where there were more hand a foot holds, but more exposure, while he took the smoother rock on the left. The first solo hiker to join also followed me up on the right.
There was a brief moment where I let my focus shift from the fact that I was securely on the wall to the possible fall below me where I wouldn't hit anything solid for about 1000 feet, and then keep bouncing down the steep hill for about another couple thousand feet. I quickly however gathered myself and asked the first solo hiker below me to spot a foot hole for me, instead he instructed I reach up and pull myself up with my arms, which I did, and joined the third solo hiker up top, while the second solo hiker quickly followed.
The next 30 minuets of climbing was more of the same intense rock hanging/high focused climbing and scrambling, but nothing was more exposed and dangerous than that first wall. For the most part the rock is stable, and when we got to the knife ridge we had already gotten over the exposure fears and just calmy proceeded through it.
The third solo and I agreed that the knife ridge itself could probably be taken on the right for a safer scuttle across, but by then, going across the knife ridge was a reward for everything else encountered up to that point. I kept my focus on the stability of my stance and center of gravity, and off the 1000 foot drop offs on each side.
After the knife ridge it did get easier up to the top of the peak where we met other hikers that had made it up the standard route. We got there about 10:15 AM.
It was a wonderfully clear day with no weather, I enjoyed lunch and water and made it across to grays and back to the parking lot using the standard trails. I hitched a ride back to where my car was parked and was on my way on I70 at 12:45.
Overall this was indeed a very fun hike. Listen to your internal idiocy, danger and adventure meters, and be safe. On a summer weekend there is bound to be good hikers/climbers on this trail, and if you are venturing alone, join up with otheres especially for the last 1500 feet of the ascent. This route seemed like about 12 miles, and it was pretty long.
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