Practicing for a 14-er?
Yeah…I know, there aren’t many choices for those hardcore passionate mountaineers who stay in the second largest state of the United States. Funny, isn’t it? That, for even a little bit of elevation, you got to drive some 9 hrs to reach the New Mexico-Texas border, and you have the Guadalupe National Park. The Big Bend National park has lots of opportunities, but it ain’t closer either. In a regular gym, it is more than funny to be the ONLY guy, with a loaded backpack, walking on a maximum inclined treadmill, with ten others running besides you, looking at you, like you are some alien, having come from Mars.
It was after I planned to climb the highest mountain in the lower forty eight states that I realized the kind of training needed approaching the mountain via Mountaineer’s Route. The first thing was to see what all gear I could rent, so that I don’t have to buy everything. A local rental shop (in Texas A&M University) guy wasn’t of much help, when he told me that I won’t get crampons, ice axe for rent, in the entire state of Texas, and I would have to go to Seattle or Colorado, if I were to rent them. And, while I know that it is hard to imagine renting stuff you trust your life on, the thought of renting comes into my mind because, back home in India, equipment does get rented out, as very very few people buy it (expense and quality, both act as deterrents). Well, finally, I had to buy everything, and so did my friend from Cleveland, Ohio, who was my climbing partner. The second and probably a more important thing was to think of how best I could simulate conditions similar to Whitney, out here in central Texas. So, I focused my attention on to Enchanted Rock, which is a frequently visited place for enthusiastic rock climbers within TX, as it offers some good routes up the domed mountain, from one side.
You don't have to go far...
The usual-Google-map-search told me a route, which involved going on 87N, then turning right on the cherry mountain loop, finally merging into Gypsum Mine Road, which in turn merges into state road 965, which takes you to E-rock. I suggest you take 965 straight from within Fredericksburg downtown, so that you don’t have to waste time on route finding, and rather use that time training on the actual hill.
Now, to be very honest, I am not aware of the coordinates of the E-rock, as in the N, S, E and W directions, which helps me explain the path I took, for a layman, like a layman.
After one takes the permit (probably 1 day) at the entrance of the park, one has to park the car in the provided spaces. A little stroll from the parking lot takes you to the point, from where you see E-rock directly in front of you. You have the restrooms over here. The trail you are standing on goes straight to the bottom of the rock, and there onwards, there is no trail. But, just before you start climbing the rock, you see a trail going right, which is probably called the loop trail. When I went there, the sandy creek was not flowing, and was all sanded up. So, we (Yamini and I) walked along the direction of the creek and after about ten minutes, turned left on a trail that goes to Turkey Peak and Freshman Mountain. Initially, we thought that Turkey peak might give us a good practice, but, unfortunately, it wasn’t true. But, when we were up on Turkey peak, I saw the gradient of E-rock, while still standing on Turkey Peak. This gradient seemed pretty good as a training ground. So, off we were, climbing the 425 ft rock, with about 30 lbs of load on our backs. I would say, it was something which I can surely recommend for Texans to come and practice, for their ascents in the Rockies (as if we have any other choice). There is nothing to be precise about, but the starting point up the rock is somewhere between Turkey Peak and Freshman Mountain. We did a bunch of ups and downs, let’s say, 6 or 7, interspersed with a breaks supplemented with energy bars and Gatorade.
Practice on E-rock helps! – believe me. I thank god for giving TX a place like E-rock, otherwise I don’t know how I could have coped up, in a state, with a lack of my favorite thing, but an abundance and famous for my second favorite thing – food – and in particular, BBQ!