Mile 717 to mile 737
At night the condensation descends on us like a ghost and when we wake in the dawn our sleeping bags have been dampened and then frozen stiff. I pull my clothes from the bushes- they are rigid with ice. Everything is covered all over in sparkling frost.
This would never happen in the desert, I think, as I put on my icy sports bra. In the desert wet items of clothing magically dry, even at night, and there is no condensation. So then, we are out of the desert!
Today we begin our climb into the Sierras. We will climb and climb and climb, for days and days, and each day we will be a little higher. Ten thousand feet, eleven thousand feet, twelve thousand feet! Until what? I think. What’s even up there, in those mountains?
We climb slowly, each of us feeling the altitude a little bit, in our own way. We stop for lots of breaks, and laugh and eat. I’m already hungrier than usual, and I examine my gallon ziploc of fritos. Will it be enough? Would any amount of fritos be enough?
“Let’s all get an apartment together,” says Spark, “after the trail.”
“A small apartment,” I say. “A very small apartment. And we can spread our sleeping pads on the floor.”
We climb for fourteen miles and, predictably, I run out of water, because there is no amount of water you can carry that will be enough for climbing all day in the sun. The instant I become thirsty, I’ve learned, my alititude sickness becomes worse, and by the time I reach the stream on the other side of the mountain I’m nauseous and dizzy and I feel as though I’m going to hurl. I fill up my bottles and sit in the dirt and drink a liter of water and then eat almost all of my mini snickers which, for some reason, make me feel better. Everyone is cooking dinner on their little stoves and then we hike on. It’s been a slow day and now it’s nearly dusk but we make it five more miles uphill, to a flat quiet forest on top of the mountain. We spread our groundsheets out just as dark falls and I lie there, looking at the stars. Ten thousand feet, I think. Ten thousand feet and counting.