The gist of the adventure was linking 2 of the Cascades on foot: the crumbly Three Fingered Jack with the slightly-more-solid Mount Washington. When we originally mapped it, it looked like we would be covering 20ish miles and gaining around 7000′ during the day. The Monday before we left, we checked our own work and saw that the mileage would be closer to 30. Woof. But, we accepted the challenge and got to sleep as early as possible on Friday night.
In the morning, we started slowly and increased our pace gradually as our bodies woke up. Within the first mile, we passed two large parties carrying an exorbitant amount of gear. We passed them after a few loud throat-clearings and made extra haste to get ahead of them. It was a gorgeous morning! The sun was nearly up when we hit the ridge and made our way toward The Crawl. I lead us through The Crawl and up the first pitch (thanks for sharing, Andy!), and Andy climbed past me and up the summit.
We snapped a quick video and made 2 raps back down. We simul’ed back through The Crawl and were off the technical portions and fast-scrambling down before we saw anyone else. They asked us how long it had taken us to summit and after we replied they exclaimed: “Is that some sort of record?!” “Did you guys even bring a rope?” We laughed and bombed down the scree, picking up the pace on the way down and loving every minute of the beautiful trail. Back at the truck, we swapped out gear, pounded more water, and each grabbed our 2 liter bladders before hitting the trail once more.
At mile 18, I was sick. I spit up half of a bar, noted that I was already worried about running out of water, and was momentarily ready to quit. We were so close to the climber’s trail that I couldn’t justify it. This day wasn’t going to be as fast as I had been hoping for but I sure as hell wasn’t going to quit. I choked down some Newman Os and willed my body to keep them down. We lumbered up to the ridge, relishing in the shaded sections as the day was becoming hotter. When we gained the ridge and started traversing over to the spire, we saw a woman sitting alone on a rock. She warned us to “be careful because it’s treacherous.” We smiled to each other and kept moving. When we reached the base of the pinnacle, we saw two more people waiting for their friends who were making their way up to the summit. Our tiny packs must have made us conspicuous because they were eyeing us warily as we started solo’ing up the rock. We reached the summit and met a wonderful and hilarious couple who gave us a PBR. We busted out our ropes & harnesses to make the final rappel back down to “solid ground.” As we passed the woman who had warned us about the “treacherous mountain,” she exclaimed, “wow that was fast! you guys must be experienced!” We had a good laugh about that for a while, our exhaustion definitely not inspiring many feelings of experience.
The way down was horrible. At this point, it was so hot that we couldn’t even run the flat sections. We were too dehydrated and didn’t have nearly enough water to sustain anything more than a fast-hiking pace on the way out. I found myself weaving drunkenly down the climber’s trail, willing myself to move for 15 minutes at a time and swishing small amounts of water around in my mouth. By the time we were headed back down the PCT, I was nursing Mentos and staring at a dead watch. I felt destroyed. Sitting down anywhere that I could became my primary focus. My mouth was so dry I could barely swallow and I became fixated on the idea of Grapefruit Juice and Sprite. Totally fixated. I decided in these moments that dying of thirst has to be the worst way to die. When we eventually reached the edge of the highway, I sat down, tears welling in my eyes as I looked up at the truck, 200 yards away but at the top of a small hill. I was done. Toast. All I wanted was water. Or juice. Or sprite. Andy kept going. I eventually followed, slamming as much water as I could into my body and sitting in the cool shade of the truck for a few moments. We had done it. And I was tired.