I started working out at the gym about 8 months ago to loose weight. I’ve lost about 15 pounds and am in a lot better shape now. I found that working out in the gym was not inspiring after a while and began to lead a more active lifestyle in general. I watched the Discovery special on Everest and was amazed. I grew up in Alaska around mountains, but have never climbed any. Sounded like a good goal to work towards, so I did some research and chose to try Guadalupe Peak as my first since my wife is from West Texas and we currently live in the Lone Star State. You should see some of the looks I got when I told people I’m going to climb a mountain next week!
In preparation, I continued my cardio workout at the gym (I run a 7:45 minute treadmill mile), strength training and added the stair master to my workout. I did a couple of 8 and 10 mile hikes at our local hiking trail. I also added outdoor bike riding and did a 20 mile bike ride to build up endurance.
I am a self admitted newbie, so I learned a lot on this trip. Most of all, I learned how challenging it was and how rewarding it was when I was finished. I’m now officially hooked.
3:30 am – We just had a time change to spring backwards or forwards or something – it sure is early to be getting up. I think it might be a good idea to hit snooze and sleep a while longer. Oh well, up and at em. I pile into the car and head west on I20 toward Van Horn.
After fueling up and getting some water and food, I head North on highway 54 to get to Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The route is well marked, even 60 miles away. I stop to relieve myself and notice how clear the morning sky is here – I can see so many stars.
7:30 am – I arrive at Guadalupe National Park. After checking the visitor’s center and seeing it is closed until 8 am, I decide to head to the trailhead. After signing in the hiker’s log, I strap up and head up the trail at 8 am.
Sunrise at Guadalupe Mountains
I’ve never climbed anything like this before, so I just go until I get too tired to go further, then stop and rest. I’m wearing my heart rate monitor that I train in the gym with and try and stay below my anabolic threshold (145 bpm). I stop and take a few pictures, taking the opportunity to catch my breath. The first portion of the hike is a lot tougher than I anticipated. I don’t consider calling it quits, but begin to think this may be a long day!
The temperature is in the low 50’s, but I know it will heat up to 80 F today, so I dress in layers. I’m quickly out of my overpants. I suggest another essential item to hiking – a small towel to wipe away sweat!
About an hour into it, I notice the parking lot is getting quite a bit smaller, although it sucks that I can still see it at all after all of this work! I’m starting to see some incredible views on the switchbacks with the sun just rising – it’s really beautiful. I didn’t know Texas had scenery like this.
Final view of the parking lot
I finally loose the parking lot and begin into the conifer portion of the climb. I notice several barely visible paths off of the main trail and hike over to investigate. The views are well worth it. I take a lot of pictures here, drink more water and notice that there is a small outcropping nearby about 20 feet high or so. I begin to visualize the path up. What the heck, I drop my pack and go ahead and climb it. Pretty easy climb, and again the views are worth the effort.
Climbed this rock on the way up
I haven’t seen anyone on the mountain yet, but noticed an abundance of cars in the parking lot, so I’m sure there are people ahead of me.
About two hours into it, I think I’m getting pretty close. I crest the hill and notice it’s getting pretty flat. I look around and don’t see anything higher and think that maybe this is it – where’s the pyramid? I come around the corner and see the peak for the first time. After looking at the map, I see that I’m near the high country camping area. A little disappointing, but inspired at the same time. I cross the bridge and take a quick break to drink some more water and eat a Cliff bar. I didn’t wait very long afterwards and headed off. Seems like eating actually sapped energy from me rather than giving me some. Next time, I will wait longer after eating.
Is this view really in Texas??
I begin the switchbacks that I see lead to the top taking many breaks. After a while, I crest a hill and see El Capitan! Now I know I’m close.
I meet two guys coming down from the summit. They tell me the view is beautiful and I’ve got about 5 more minutes.
A few more switchbacks and I see the horse hitching area. Heading left, I finally see the pyramid and have made it to the top! I didn’t feel the relief or joy I expected, but rather a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
Obligatory summit pic
I sit down, drinking more water and eating some snacks. After enjoying the view for a while, I text my wife, kids and friends “Good morning from the Top O Texas!” It’s about 10:30 am.
I sign the summit register, write an ode to my wife on the pyramid and take a few pictures. I also notice some weird sounds whenever the birds fly nearby. They are really moving, chasing insects or something. When they come within earshot, they make a strange humming noise.
El Capitan is so majestic – I can’t quit looking at it. I try and remember the path to it from SP, but can’t. Another day, my Captain!
Majestic El Capitan
After calling my parents, I decide to head down. I see my first hiker just below the hitching area. Exchanging pleasantries, I continue down. I meet some college students next, near the campground.
I’m still monitoring my hear rate and notice that it’s pretty low going down. I begin to think that I should jog on the flat part of the switchbacks. I do it and am rewarded with my heart rate shooting back up to 140 or so. Unfortunately, jogging down a mountain is not a smart move. I stub my toe at a switchback and begin to stumble down. I catch myself and begin to balance. Just when I think I’ve got it under control, my backpack catches up to me and it feels like it pushes me in the back! I tumble down, cutting my hand, knee and elbow. Fortunately, that’s all I hurt. Lesson learned – don’t run down mountains!
After this incident, I begin to see a lot of people. I’m not sure whether to step aside and let them continue up or wait for them to step aside and let me down. I eventually figure if they are on a good pace, I step aside…if they are struggling, I let them take a break while I pass.
I met a man and his son who are on their way up - looks like they are going to make it fine. He mentions that he forgot his camera and asks if I can send him some pictures. I snap a picture of them and promise to send them to him.
I start to feel a blister on my right toe. I stop at an opportune time and bandage it up. I didn’t think to bandage the toe next to it up too and soon feel a blister on that one. I now see the need for good shoes, for the way down as much as anything. My toes are shoving into the toe section of my tennis shoes and I know they are going to hurt later.
Not much else interesting heading down, just a lot of people heading up. I guestimate around 20 – 25 people easily. I get to my car right at 1:00 pm. I drink some more water, Gatorade and have a sandwich that I bought at the store earlier.
I feel really good about the trip and am now hooked. On the drive back, I begin to plan my next trip – where should I go?
I caught this view on my way home