Mile 741.5 to mile 766.5
There are wild amounts of condensation in our campsite and I toss and turn in the morning, cold in my damp bag. I guess I should’ve set up my shelter. But I love cowboy camping so much! Sleeping on the earth. I love sleeping on the earth!
The condensation has turned to frost by the time we wake and we brush it off our bags, stuff our things away. We’ll dry our bags later in the sun, during our midday break. Woody makes a morning fire and we huddle around it, warming our numb hands. It’s already six a.m. There are no four a.m. alarms today, no hiking without time for breakfast first. We’re in the Sierras and it’s where we want to be. We’ll get our 25 miles each day, no more, no less. Speed challenges have been shelved for Northern California and Oregon, put away in favor of cat naps in dewy meadows and snack breaks on granite passes overlooking everything.
We climb all morning to Chicken Spring lake, the first glittering jewel of the tour de alpine lakes that is the Sierras. Traveler and I jump in the water, which is as cold as ice. Afterward I hyperventilate on a rock for a while, almost don’t get warm but then I do and I eat the rest of my potato chips in the sun, dry my sleeping bag. The others are eating snacks and laying about on the grass- the ten or so dudes plus The Boss. NotaChance went on, set on a 33 mile day. NotaChance wants to do 30s through the sierras, like the incomparable badass that she is. I hope that we see her again- maybe she will get stuck in town somewhere? In the meantime this crew needs more women. Where are the women at?!
After Chicken Spring lake we climb some more, then switchback down to Rock Creek. We are starting to be able to see mountains today, all around us in a ring, their tops just barely iced with snow. The land is bright granite and twisted pines. The sun is stronger up here, and it roasts my arms. We’re at ten then eleven thousand feet and I feel the altitude- I’m dizzy and I have only one lung- but it’s not too bad, yet.
Rock creek is a pretty stream that tumbles through the forest over stepping stones- a real mountain stream! After the creek we switchback straight up the granite mountain, and suddenly the altitude hits me like a truck. I’m almost at the back of the group and I sit on the side of the trail and let the last few hikers pass me.
“I’m on the tilt-a-whirl,” I say to Sherpa and The Boss. “I’m riding the teacups at the state fair. I feel like I’m going to vomit.” (Sherpa, it should be noted, ran up and over a bunch of ridges today, ran them, off trail, in addition to doing our 25 miles. I’ve proposed that his trail name be changed to Andrew Skurka, to which he responded- “Who’s Andrew Skurka?”)
It’s really hard to hike when you’re riding the teacups at the state fair. It’s also really hard not to vomit. This kind of altitude sickness turns me into a 1.5 mile/hr hiker, and it takes me over an hour to reach the top of the climb. I rest constantly on the way up, trying to catch my breath and feeling sorry for myself. Will I feel this way nearly every day, just like I did last year in the sierras? Probably. Will I let it stop me from doing 25 miles a day? Fuck no.
Once I reach the top I rest, and on the way down I feel a little better. Dizzy but the nausea is gone. I eat snacks, work my way down the granite mess of the mountain as best I can. I reach crabtree meadows at 6, rejoin my wonderful (if disproportionately male) friends, soak my feet in the cold stream and eat my dinner. Woody shows me a picture he took of a marmot. I set up my shelter. We still haven’t found Twinkle, who is hiking with his sister somewhere in this wild world, and I miss him. The group doesn’t seem complete without him.
Currently bedded down, feeling the cold night come on.
In the morning- Whitney! Tilt-a-Whirl be damned!
Photos on instagram.