Sierra Challenge 2009 from a beginners eyes

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Trip Report
California, United States, North America
Date Climbed/Hiked:
Jul 31, 2009
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Sierra Challenge 2009 from a beginners eyes
Created On: Jan 22, 2010
Last Edited On: Jan 22, 2010


Thinking of the upcoming 2009 Sierra Challenge occupies my thoughts throughout my shift at work Thursday night. I had been working nights for the last few days and my shift ends at 6:00 am, Friday morning. It’s at 6:00 am when my journey really starts though. Topo maps, routes, logistics, timing of my arrival are among the things occupying my thoughts this particular night. The Sierra Challenge (SC) starts Friday morning at the Piute Pass trailhead near Bishop, Ca. Given that I am working near Las Vegas, NV until Friday morning, this might pose a problem of timing for me. Logistics are starting to come into play here, the actual driving distance aside, there is of course the night of rest I would be foregoing. I can always catch up on sleep when this is over.

Pawl and Jeff arrived in Bishop the day before and checked into the Motel 6. This year will be Jeff's second time participating in the SC, Pawl and I are newbies. Now since Jeff did it last year he had been talking to Pawl and convincing him that he should certainly do it this year. So he had been training all year long to get into shape so his body could take the kind of punishment that the SC demands. When you look at what each day of the SC imposes upon its participants it is more than your average hiker can undergo. Now do that TEN days in a row. That is what the SC is all about, it’s relentless. I did not prepare for this on the same level as Pawl and Jeff and I would soon find out.

The plan for Friday was for those two to climb over Lamarc Col and summit Mt. Goethe. Then they would climb over to Muriel Peak from the south. Their departure time was set for 4:00am. If everything went as planned they would be on top Muriel peak by 1:00 pm. Since I was leaving Las Vegas around 6:00 am I would not be at the trailhead until around 11:00 am. I was geared up to approach Muriel peak from the north, a much shorter route so I could possibly meet them on the summit.

Its 5:30 am Friday morning, and I am anxiously awaiting my relief so I can leave. He shows up at 5:35 am and we do a short turnover as he can see I am eager to depart. I quickly get to my car, stopping at my office to set my radio down and change out of my work clothes. After a short while I am in North Las Vegas heading for a gas station and some breakfast at McDonalds. Once we (the toyota and I) fuel up we head out for Bishop, CA.

About 100 miles into the 250 mile trip I start to get really tired. My eyes feel as if they weigh 4000 lbs and I can hardly keep them open. So I decide to open a box of cheez-its and pop open a Dr. Pepper (I had a 6 pack iced down in my cooler). This and the occasional thigh slap seem to be very effective in keeping me alert (I no longer slap myself in the face when sleepy at the wheel because I have read that you can actually knock yourself out if you hit your face just right, so its safer to hit the fleshy part of the thigh). 10 minutes later I get my second wind and finish the remainder of the drive without any more issues with sleepiness.

I arrive to Bishop, CA at 10:30 am, a very respectable time, even ‘the honduh’ would be impressed! I find the road to lake sabrina/north lake and head up. Once I get to the parking lot at north lake I notice that is like .25 miles from the actual hiking trailhead. Oh well, it is what it is. I see ‘the honduh’ parked towards the front and I park right next to it, but kinda off caddy whompus because the lot was very full. After parking, gear for the day is chosen carefully. Crampons, ice axe, running shoes and a wind breaker are among the key items chosen. I write a note and put it on my dash that reads "left at 10:45 am." This was for Pawl and Jeff in case we never meet up.

Day 1

Wearing my old hiking boots I start up the Piute Pass Trailhead out of North Lake (9250 ft). Its a relatively easy 5 mile trail up to Piute Pass (11,450 ft). As I make my way along the trail I pass quite a few people out for an easy day hike. A few of them had dogs and small children. I notice that I am passing people rapidly and think to myself that I am making great time! The first 3 miles are steady uphill and once the trail tops out over the first shelf it begins to flatten out around Loch Leven. It is decidedly flatter here for at least a mile, so I jog this section. As I am jogging I attempt to take my own picture with the Loch Leven in the background. When I review the pictures later I see that it didn't work so well, next time it would be a good idea to slow down and take a proper picture.

I continue along the trail making great time and arrive at Piute Pass by 12:15 pm (1 hr and 30 min, a record time for me going uphill at a little over 3 mph). I notice a family of 5 enjoying a lunch up at the pass. This family consists of mom, dad and three kids. They are returning from a backpacking trip and this is likely their last day out in the High Sierra. The first thing that I notice is that it’s very windy and cold up here so I put on my sweatshirt and wind breaker. Once comfortable again I eat my lunch at the pass and relax to take in the awesome view. After lunch I get out the topo maps of Muriel and begin to search for the best approach to Muriel. After discussing this with the dad of the family I decide to make my way up a small chute directly to my south.

This section is fairly easy as I negotiate over about .25 miles of High Sierra marsh lands. Once through the marsh the class 2 climbing begins up the chute in front of me. After about a mile since I left the pass I reach a point where I can see the Muriel class 3 cliffs and the southeast keyhole class 2 section that makes its way up to Muriel Peak (red star).
View to MurielView towards Muriel

It appears as though the keyhole will add another mile to my journey and by now it’s already 1 pm. I think to myself that Pawl and Jeff are likely already on top of Muriel waiting for me. So I decide to head straight for the class 3 cliffs in front of me instead of taking the long way over to the keyhole (the keyhole has a glacier on it so I would need to suit up with my crampons and ice axe which would add more time). I find out later that this was a big mistake.
Muriel Class 3

I make short work of getting over to the cliffs and I start climbing up. It’s roughly 400 ft to the top and from the bottom it looks relatively "easy." The rock has many foot and hand holds which makes the class 3 easy at this point. I get roughly 350 ft up and hit a "dead end." Now it’s not really a dead end, but it appears that the next 50 ft from here would be class 4 and I don't want to be that exposed. So I down climb about 20 ft and traverse south along the wall. I see what appears to be an easier route to the top and take it. During this down climb however I end up sort of jumping down a 5 foot ledge to a large flat rock below me. This turned out be stupid, I'll get to that later... Once my traverse was over I started to climb back up towards the top. I get up about 50 ft from the summit again and have to stop. One thing that I realized all day climbing was that my shoes were much more slippery than my new hiking boots. I had never done class 3 in these particular boots so I never noticed the grip on the soles. Well the next move required me to put quite a bit of pressure on my shoes on top of a slanted rock (roughly 45 deg) to push upwards so my hands could grab the top 3 ft away. After one try my shoes slipped off the rock and it was obvious that this was not going to be safe. Now I had running shoes in my pack that I could switch out, but those were also very slippery and only good for jogging. So that wasn’t going to be an option.

I backed down a few feet and got to a spot where I could sit down and analyze the situation and came to the following conclusions:
- I was physically fatigued since I did not sleep the night before (and only 9 hours from the previous two nights combined due to being on night shift, so I’ve only slept 9 out of the last 90 hours).
- I would have to down climb again to find another route to the top
- Its now 2 pm and Pawl and Jeff are likely to have turned back and headed home thinking I wasn't going to make it anyway.
- I am wearing the wrong shoes to really proceed safely.
- I was physically fatigued.
MurielTurnaround point

Based on these conclusions I decided to head back and do Muriel another day. So I go to retrace my steps and I get to the spot where I jumped down 5 ft to the ledge I was currently standing on. I realize at this point that it would be very hard to get up this ledge again since there aren't many hand/foot holds. I try to get up and fail. I sit down again frustrated to think. I can’t find an easier way down and realize that I have to go up to go down. My pack could have been restricting my movement and making me top heavy so I throw it up on top of this ledge. Once I am pack less I am able to manage this small ledge with limited hand/foot holds. This is a lesson to be learned, do not go down if you are not 100% sure you can get back up. After putting my pack back on I retrace my original path down the cliffs to the base of Muriel.

Making my way around the Lost Lakes and across the river that connects them, I rest near the small chute I went up after leaving Piute Pass earlier in the day. While sitting here I notice that my legs are both bleeding and realize I must have scratched them on the cliffs somewhere (likely where I slipped on the 45 deg rock as I remember my knee hitting the rock and sliding). My first aid kit is retrieved from my pack and I head back down to the river. The cuts are rinsed out well in the river and the area is dried with my socks (my socks are already covered in blood from it running down my leg). About 5 band-aids with Neosporin are applied to both of my legs and the bleeding stopped.

The path is retraced back to Piute Pass where I take a break once again, only this time to switch out my shoes. The running shoes in my pack will do much better jogging down the trail to the North Lake TH. Its now 3:30 pm and there is 5 miles of trail that stand between me and the car. Luckily for me the trail had far less people on it this time as the only real obstruction was a group of 4 horses making their way down as well. Once I pass them I was able to make it to the car rather quickly (a little over an hour).

Once I get to my car I notice that my note is turned over and there is some small writing on it. Pawl had left me a message that they finished hiking at like 11:15, only 30 min after I started. And since they started out on a different trailhead and ended up getting lost on that path, they returned to the car along that same trailhead, which is why I didn’t see them on my way up earlier. So I get in my car and drive down to Bishop to meet Pawl and Jeff at the Motel 6 to find out what the heck happened to them and to tell my story of semi disappointment.

Night after Day 1

We all share our tales of woe (since they got lost going over lamarc col and wasn’t able to summit Goethe and obviously not able to continue on to Muriel) and head to dinner at a local restaurant. After dinner we head over to the grocery store to buy some ice, beer, donuts (crumb delicious), peppers, onions and eggs. I believe the peppers, onions and eggs were for me to make breakfast burritos, but tragically that never happened.

Back at the motel, plans for day 2 of the SC are discussed in detail while we share some a few beers. It is a consensus to join the entire group in attempting Peppermint Peak. The main group will start at 6 am from the Pine Creek Pass trailhead. We decide to start at 5 am in order to give us a chance at summiting around the same time they do. Its during this discussion where I notice that each of them have set up their own little "area" on each of the two beds in this room as their stuff is just sprawled out all over them. So sleeping on a bed looks to be out of the question. After being rejected by the front desk concerning my request for a fold up bed, other options are explored. Conveniently there is enough space along edge of the wall to put my bedroll that I brought from home. When Pawl sees my bedroll he makes a comment like "where'd you tie up your horse?", however he does graciously offer me his big agnes sleeping pad to use, and I accept.

We turn out the lights around 10 pm and I quickly fall asleep in a loud room. I sleep for what seemed like 2 seconds when the alarm goes off at 4 am six hours later. I am slow to get out of bed because I notice that one of my knees is sore from the day before. We all get dressed and get our day packs ready for Peppermint Peak. For breakfast I empty two packets of peach oatmeal into my coffee mug and pour hot tap water into it and mix it up. Once I finish drinking that, I put hot cocoa mix in there and refill it with hot tap water. I find it interesting at this point that the “hot tap water” isn’t actually that hot to the mouth. I mean it felt hot to the touch, but when I was drinking it, it just felt warm which leads me to believe that the mouth is capable to handling much hotter substances than our hands.

The morning before the hike is a good time to hydrate your body in anticipation of rapid dehydration induced by hiking strenuous trails. Pawl offers me his GPS watch to wear today so I can monitor our distance, time and elevation. I ask him if he charged the batteries to which he responded "does a bear shit in the woods?" How can you argue with that? I give him a nod of approval while half smiling and take the watch.

Day 2 - Peppermint Peak

Jeff drives us up to the trailhead in his toyota. During the drive I open my package of donuts purchased the day before and begin to enjoy them. I share with Pawl n Jeff and they both compliment me on my selection of breakfast dessert as they are truly fantastic.

We arrive at 5 am, and on the trail by 5:15 am. It’s a little brisk and still dark so we are hiking with our headlamps on. Progress is very slow at first. We start out the day at a pace somewhere in the vicinity of 1.5 mph for the first 3 miles. The first section of this trail follows a road on and off for a few miles heading up to the top of this shelf/drainage.
View up DrainageView up the drainage

Once we reach the top of the drainage I am sure that the rest of the group (which started 45 min after us) is about to pass us, but they don’t. About 4 miles in we reach Pine lake where I stop to filter some water as I only took less than 1 liter with me in the morning. Jeff decides to keep moving and Pawl stops for a moment. Just then a few of the leaders of the SC reach us at the lake. Pawl stops and talks for a few minutes to one of them while I filter. When I finish filtering, Pawl moves on ahead on the trail and I stay back and put away my gear. I chat for a short minute with Sean and Matthew before I head out. I catch Pawl shortly thereafter and we both catch Jeff taking a break in a few minutes. So all three of us end up stopping for a break while a few other challenge participants pass us.

Pawl decides at this juncture to eat a bunch of cold pasta n tuna. I eat a few nutrigrain bars. After a few minutes we continue on the path where we leave the trail up towards Peppermint Peak (the remainder of the path consists only of cross country with some bushwhacking, class 2 boulder hopping and class 3 traversing to the Peak along the ridgeline, no more class 1 trails).

We make our way through some campsites near the lake towards the most likely route towards Bear Creek Spire. Peppermint Peak is actually to the right (east) of Bear Creek Spire. This section of the hike is very easy as we aren’t gaining any elevation yet. That was short lived however, because in a few minutes we started to go up, and that didn’t stop till the summit.

Once we started climbing up the chute it is clear this hike will be difficult. We walk for 5 minutes, rest for 5 minutes, climb for 5 minutes, rest for 5 minutes. Oh man, this is going to take FOREVER. I keep looking down towards Pawl’s GPS watch to see how much elevation we are gaining with the same frustration like a child asking their parents “are we there yet?” We are now at around 10,500 ft and we need to get up to around 12,800 ft.

Bob Burd, the SC organizer and founder catches up to us at this point. I say hi, having met him the night before at the Motel 6, he remembers me. We exchange a few words; he takes a picture of us, and then continues onward up. We continue to rest. I look over at Pawl and he is sweating profusely and breathing deeply. It is clear that he is completely exhausted. Jeff appears to be puzzled by this as he knows Pawl is in much better shape than that. (Later at the motel Jeff and I are enlightened to why Pawl is so tired. It was the pasta and tuna. His digestive system was working overtime to digest a meal with heavy complex carbohydrates that was riddled with protein). I check the watch again, its now around 10,700 ft and Pawl is not going to continue.

He instead decides to go exploring over towards Mt Julius Caesar. The details of his journeys are unclear to me; however I do remember him spending some time near some pretty lakes.

Jeff and I continue towards Peppermint. At around 11,200 ft we arrive at a very small lake. What makes this lake particularly special is that it is very blue. A soft clear blue, it definitely made an impression on me.
Blue LakeBlue Lake

View up towards PeppermintView towards BCS from this blue lake

After 10 more minutes we take a break to adjust equipment and eat some more food. I take on simple sugars by eating some candy bars, baby ruth and snickers, ‘the best Jerry, the best!’ Once the short break is over we depart and you can see Spire Col where we will hit the Peppermint Peak ridgeline to head onward to the right.
Getting CloserJeff headed towards Spire Col

At this point progress starts to improve a bit as we get into a rhythm of boulder hopping as we get closer and closer to the ridgeline. Once at the ridgeline we start to head up, this is where the class 3 starts and doesn’t let up all that much until the summit. From this vantage point we can see some other SC participants on the summit (red star marks the actual summit).
PeppermintView towards Peppermint

As we start to traverse towards the summit we come across some others on their way back down. Jeff stops to talk to them and discuss the path ahead of us. They inform us of a very tricky section right before the summit. The best way to describe where we will encounter this section they just say: “when you can’t go right or left you have to just go over it.” Then that was followed by, “oh yeah, and there’s quite a bit of exposure so be extra careful.” I could barely hear them as I was still below Jeff, he was leading the way. Since I was always beneath him I decided to put my helmet on just in case he dislodges a rock and it hits me. You never can be too careful. I climb up to where the people were; I smile and say hi, a smile and a nod are returned as they continue their climb down.

Jeff and I continue along the ridgeline steadily heading towards the summit. For the most part this is very easy class 3 climbing. I look down at the watch to see where we are elevation wise to see how many more feet we need to climb and low and behold there is a blank screen. I think to myself, “now how can this be, there must be some kinda mistake here because Pawl had assured me that he charged the batteries!” So I fiddle with the on/off button and shake it a few times to no avail. I do remember Pawl’s exact words were: “Does a bear shit in the woods?” Apparently they do not. I will have to continue this climb without the crutch of technology, how will I ever survive?

Almost to the top we come across a semi steep mini chute filled with really loose scree. Jeff heads up first since I am less experienced at this kind of climbing and it takes very careful placement of your feet on this kind of scree in order to not dislodge it. As Jeff makes his way up the chute he moves very little rock. I gain some confidence and start moving up right behind him. I am far less delicate and create small landslides as I make my way up. I yell “Rock!!!” as is custom when you create such a disturbance.
Scree ChuteHalfway up scree chute, looking down

Scree ChuteJeff finishing up the scree chute

Once we make it to the top of the chute we can see the peak and we are almost there! I start to think to myself about the warning given to us by the other SC participants we saw on our way up about having to go over something once we couldn’t go around it. As the peak looks very close and the path looks relatively “easy” again I think we must have already inadvertently passed that section.
Peppermint PeakView to Peak... Almost there!

Obviously we were wrong. In a few minutes Jeff approaches a section where on the left side is a 400 ft vertical cliff, I mean VERTICAL! On the right is a very steep dropoff with very few hand/foot holds. It would make for a very difficult climb to say the least. So this is obviously the spot we had been warned about.
Peppermint PeakCrux of the climb

Jeff starts to climb over the top as advised, but aborts shortly thereafter. This seems very straightforward, but there is an interesting aspect to this particular maneuver. As you traverse the top of this rock, it forces you to lean over the 400 ft cliff as you hang on with your hands and feet. So for a few seconds your butt has 400 ft of air directly below. Jeff is unsure of this and steps back to evaluate other options. We both make our way over to the right side to give it another look. There is definitely less exposure on the right side as a fall would most likely only result in broken bones, not death (as is certain on the left). As we make our way down a very steep chimney Jeff takes the lead and starts his traverse. As I watch I realize that it looks very difficult and start to get uneasy about the whole thing. The key move Jeff had to make (which later he confessed was a class 4 move) to get to the other side was to use momentum and trust that he was going to grip the next available hold which was a few feet away… so he gets his two feet on the same spot and lunges to the right and his foot makes contact and his hand grips the rock – SUCCESS he made it!

By now I have started to fill my mind with doubt about this move, but I start to trace Jeff’s moves anyways. I get to the position where he made the critical move and I think that since I have longer legs I could make the move statically (without the lunge). I try and try again to get my foot to touch the other ledge, but cannot seem to get it. With every second that I spend hugging this rock I start to get more and more nervous. After a few failed attempts to move my way further across I start to hyperventilate because I am overcome with fear. Jeff immediately notices and attempts to talk me through the move on how he did it. I am inconsolable at the time and the only thing that I am focused on is getting back to safe ground. So I move backwards to where I can rest on more firm rock.

Once I stop breathing heavily I inform Jeff of my decision to stop right here and forego summiting. 4,000 ft, 7 miles and about 8 hours of hiking/climbing I decide to stop a mere 20 vertical feet, 100 yards and 5 minutes from the summit. Jeff does not approve of my decision and tries to convince me to try again. I step back and rethink the situation. It would be a damn shame if I stopped right here, so I give it another look. I notice that if I continue down the chimney another 15 feet I can go down and around this whole section below to the right (this of course adds about another 30 vertical feet). So I decide to do this and Jeff is pleased.

We both summit a few minutes later and take a few summit pictures. It was rumored that there was a small summit registry placed here but we are unable to find it.

After being on the summit for a few minutes we notice Michael approaching. He is about to start the crux of the climb. He yells to us for assistance on which way to go since he comes to the same conclusion as we have and hikers before us, there is no easy way around this obstacle. We yell back that he needs to go over it, and he reluctantly does just that. A minute later he is sitting on the summit with us and we discuss the days hike. The most memorable discussion from this conversation was Michael talking about the “air” beneath him during that small section a few minutes ago.

While sitting on the summit and watching Michael conquer the crux Jeff decides that on the way back he will also do that section as everyone else had. I would like to believe that in my case “its not fear that grips me, just a heightened sense of things,” but that’s not the case, it really is fear. So I decide to return the same way I got there, by downclimbing and then climbing back up that chimney.

Jeff leads the way, but before we head out we switch cameras so that I can take a few pics of him on his camera as he climbs this section, and vice versa. He makes short work of that section that to me looks almost impossible. Once he is through, I start my downclimb so that I can go around this section. Jeff snaps a few opportune photos of me as I climb back up the chimney.

Coming back up this section was actually very easy and I complete the section without issues. Once at the top we see a few other SC participants making their way over to the crux. We give them the same information given to us on how to proceed from here. I also add an alternative way to navigate around the crux.

They continue on forward, as we continue downward. Once we got to that scree chute Jeff leads the way, which was a mistake as now he is downhill of my clodhoppers. Only a few steps later the folly of our ways is revealed as my untrained feet dislodge more scree and rocks down towards him. His ankle is struck by some small rocks as the larger stuff luckily passes by. I apologize and in an effort to place the blame on ignorance instead of stupidity I mention that I should not be behind him on this section.

Despite my suggestion, Jeff continues to lead the way down, however we do keep more distance between us. A few minutes later we meet some other SC’ers making their way up the north approach to Peppermint, rated class 5.6. I stop to chat with one of them who free climbed up in order to tie off safety rope for his companions. He teaches me about how to tie off safeties and attach them to the rock. I am intrigued by how easy it is to insert the gear into the cracks which end up holding a person. We chat for a few minutes and his friends start to ride him a bit due to his delay in setting up extra safety gear (he already had the main rope tied off and was setting up additional rope tie offs). This is also interesting as he did the climb with no rope… but insists on everyone else needing many! I guess that’s kinda like smoking in front of your kids but demanding that they don’t, do as I say, not as I do!

We say our cordial goodbyes and well wishes for the continued safety of the rest of the climb, and part our ways. Jeff is nowhere to be seen, I guess I didn’t realize that he hadn’t stopped with me and continued on. So I start making my way towards where I think he went. I mean if I am heading down, I must be going in the right way, right? Five minutes later I come to a section that I don’t remember and it does not appear as though it will be easy. It’s very clear that I cannot go on without some serious exposure for falling, so I start to develop a plan B. I notice that if I were to be on a ledge 5 feet away (there is a 20 ft drop between these two ledges) I could continue towards the bottom on a clear path. I think to myself that I can easily jump the distance. I was a long jumper in elementary school track for goodness sake! This will be a walk in the park.

HOLD IT RIGHT THERE… Am I INSANE? How thin is the air up here anyway? Oxygen deprivation starts to set in, obviously. I am no Ethan Hunt and should know better than to do something stupid like that. Thankfully I come to my senses before trying this maneuver and pursue plan C.

Plan C involved backtracking a little bit until I could find another suitable location to retreat off of the ridgeline. Once I get down safely I do not see Jeff anywhere. I start to call out for him, and he soon yells back “over here.” I guess he had to do some business off behind a large boulder.

The next 30 minutes of hiking was well spent by us boulder hopping down to one of the small blue lakes in the basin. This sounds easy, well it was easy, but still intriguing since each one of these boulders are like the size of Volkswagens. So each one is definitely not a no-brainer, so it’s kinda fun.

Once we reach one of the lakes, Jeff sticks his soon-to-be-full empty water bottle in a small waterfall into this lake. I take a seat on some High Sierra grass and remove my shoes in order to get a number of rocks out of them which managed to sneak their way in somehow. I also get out my water filter and filter some more water since I am running low again. I realize that I probably don’t need to filter it since there is nothing above us that could be in it, at this point it is pure snow melt. But I filter anyways because that’s just how I roll. After I put my shoes back on and re-tie them in my downhill style we are off. (Downhill style is a method taught to me by Pawl where you arrange the shoestrings such that when you pull them tight the boot only gets tight around your ankle and stays loose around your foot. This way it keeps your boot from sliding back when going downhill and prevents your toes from banging into the front of the boot. This is by far one of the best strategies I use for downhill hiking!)

The path we take back down to Pine Lake is not the same one we took in the morning, but that’s ok because now that we have the high ground we can see more clearly a faster route back. Once we get past the lake, we stop at a nice location next to the stream flowing out of the bottom. Here is where we both partake in one of Jeff’s hiking traditions: soaking your feet in cold water. Once our shoes n socks are off we set our sore feet into the very cold running water. Sitting there on a nice big piece of granite with my feet in the water was very comfortable. Jeff and I discuss some of the things to be careful of that usually accompany the hiking lifestyle. I take note and will try to remember the advice given to me here.

Feet out of stream, socks back on, shoes on, tied just right, on the trail we go! This is where we really started to pick up the pace. A brisk walk turns into a semi jog. One mile later I need to take care of some business as well, so I do. Jeff does not wait and when I am through, I jog at a much faster rate to catch up to him. I catch him about 10 minutes later and we continue down the trail until we reach the car at the trailhead.

Pawl who had bailed out on the hike earlier in the day had spent a good part of his time exploring somewhere, and had returned to the trailhead about 2 hours before we arrived. I’m sure this was a slight inconvenience to him, but I believe he might have taken a nap by the river and just enjoyed the mountains; at least that’s what I want to believe so I don’t feel guilty for making him wait.

Night after Peppermint

Stories from the day’s hike are shared on our trip back down the mountain to our motel. I inform Pawl that Bears do not shit in the woods and he of course diverts responsibility to the faulty design of the charger. Damn engineers can’t design a charger to work properly.

We get some dinner and afterwards we head back to the market to buy more donuts. We arrive at the market only to be disappointed when greeted by a “closed” sign. Our failure to remember that we were in a small town played a major role here in our failure as we could have went there before dinner. I regret now eating all of them in the morning because now I can’t have any tomorrow.

After dinner and our failed donut run we head back to the hotel to plan for day 3. I don’t seem to remember what the plan for day 3 ended up being, but I believe it was going to be Checkered Demon (14 miles and 3,900 ft elevation gain up to 13,100 feet). While discussing the plans for the following morning Pawl and I share a few beers. After two I start to feel very sleepy so I start setting up my bed again on the floor next to the wall with the air conditioner on it. Once I lay down I fall asleep within minutes.

Day 3 - Retreat

When the alarm goes off in the morning I notice that my body is aching. My left knee is absolutely KILLING me and my right leg is sore from those cuts I got day one. My arms and chest are sore from climbing and finally I feel like I haven’t slept in DAYS. I do believe that my lack of sleep from the days leading into this challenge finally caught up to me and I hit the wall. The human body is an amazing thing, but if you don’t treat it right it will eventually just not cooperate the way you want it to.

So Pawl n Jeff start moving about in the room preparing for the hike and I just stay in bed. They don’t know it yet, but I have already decided not to go and I decide it will be easier to tell them that right when they are ready to leave. They keep asking me if I am going to get up, and I just keep answering “I don’t know, I’m kinda sore and still really tired.” When they realize that I am not going for sure Pawl starts to get concerned about the pictures that I took from the day previous and wants to see them. So he gives me his computer password in order for me to log onto it when I wake up and upload them, he fails to mention where the charger is for it and I am unable to turn the computer on with a dead battery. When they leave I move into the bed and fall back asleep for another 5 hours.

Around 9:00 am I wake and start getting ready to depart for home. I collect all of my gear and load it into the toyota. Filling the gas tank and my stomach are the next two items that are checked off of my list.

An easy drive home transpires as I am no longer falling asleep at the wheel. It’s amazing what a good night’s rest will do for your eyes! Once I get home I unload my gear and prepare for another week at work, back to reality.

Work is work, I do it for about a week.

Return to the SC - Party at Moosetracks

Then on the weekend I drive back to California to complete the Sierra Challenge’s final days. I arrive late in the day and Pawl had sent me a text that everyone was meeting after that days hike at Moosetracks’ apartment in Bishop, CA. I arrive to the apartment alone since Pawl n Jeff are still on their way back down the mountain. After wandering around the complex for a few minutes someone sees me looking around like I was lost and asked me to come in. Luckily for me they were the people that I was looking for, so that worked out nicely.

I chat with a few people from the challenge and enjoy an ice cold Fat Tire courtesy of Moosetracks. Within minutes dinner is served and we feast on this very large piece of meat with some salad that was also very tasty. I enjoyed myself thoroughly at this particular meal. Jeff n Pawl arrives after dinner was basically over. They inform Bob of their conquest that day to which Bob realizes that Jeff is now well within reach of claiming the green jersey (over 50 years winner). Bob mentions this to Karl Freiburg in the form of “Karl you have a real competition here in the form of Jeff Moffat!” To which Karl silently acknowledges. Someone takes a picture of the group and we all part ways in order to get some much needed rest before one of the final days of the 2009 SC.

The end

Back at the motel once again plans are made for the following day and strategies are discussed in depth. It is decided that we will do the Dragon! The morning has a sense of déjà vu when Pawl wakes up and does not want to hike. He channels a bit of my antics from the previous weekend and stays at the motel. Jeff n I proceed to Independence. I follow his toyota there in my toyota. When we arrive at the trailhead at Onion Valley we see the whole SC group lining up for a group photo op. We park, get out of the car and head over there to join in. Bob snaps the photo, they head off and we head back to the car to get our packs.

Once we get to the car, Jeff sits back down and realizes that he is pretty tired and asks me if we can just sit there for a few minutes. I oblige and we sit for 30 minutes.

30 minutes later Jeff decides not to hike at all due to his feet. I guess 10 straight days of brutal punishment inflicted on the body part that supports our bodies tends to leave a mark. So we do not hike this day. Instead we go back to town and eat breakfast at the Whitney Diner.

I eat my meal, say goodbye and drive back to Las Vegas.

So in the end Jeff Moffat ended up winning the green jersey. Karl did not complete the hike that day and ended up going home perhaps assuming that Jeff had summited The Dragon giving him the lead. Since Karl did not hike the following day, Jeff revisited the Dragon and sealed the deal by collecting the W.


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WTN - Jul 20, 2011 9:49 pm - Hasn't voted

Great report

2009 was my first year as well.

I must say that your experiences were very much similar to mine.

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Sierra Challenge 2009 from a beginners eyes

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