New to Group ~ "Hello" ~ TR ~ Middle Pal ~ My 1st

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New to Group ~ "Hello" ~ TR ~ Middle Pal ~ My 1st

Post by Advntr_inxs » Tue Nov 21, 2006 9:18 pm

“The lover of spotless sky, silent oceans, still clouds, lands without boundaries and of dreams…nothing but only to idle with infinite freedom” -Ashish Kundu

“Wanna hike to the top of a mountain this weekend?” was the title of the e-mail I received on Weds. afternoon. I just love Michelle’s spontaneity! “ Sure! What mountain do you have in mind?” I e-mailed back. The details were hammered out as follows: drive to Big Pine Friday night and meet up at the gas station. Drive to the parking area; hike a leisurely 7 miles to Brainerd Lake to set up camp. Hike another 6 miles to the top of the Middle Palisade the following day. Hike out and head home.

We ascertained how long it would take each of us to get there (I was coming from the OC and her from the Bay area). We picked a time to meet and arrived within 10 minutes of one another around 9PM! We walked across the street to have an overpriced dinner of salad, beer and bread. Our dinner was accompanied by the wonderfully serene piano playing of a fat, bald biker dude covered in tattoos, and I surmised he was part of the reason that the menu was as pricey as it was.

On the road again, I followed Michelle along the winding ribbon of asphalt to the trailhead where we parked. We stored our food into the bear box, and hit the sack. Her on her fold out army cot next to her car, and me in the back seat of mine. Come 6:00 AM we were up and moving, and on the trail by 7. The hike was absolutely stunning! We hiked along a meandering trail, which varied from sand, to hard packed earth, to steep boulder strewn pathways. Carpets of greenery splashed with wildflowers in an array of colors: gold, yellow, purple, pink, & orange delighted our eyes, amidst a backdrop of snow laden granite domes pasted to a bright blue sky.

The weather was perfectly clear & cool and the conversation lively and animated. We ran into three other folks along the way: two men returning from a fishing trip, and a woman and her dog. We spoke to the men briefly and took a picture of them with their camera. We spoke to the woman a little longer, perhaps 15 minutes or so. She was a resident of Big Pine, who’d moved here some time ago from Orange County. She’d also been a friend of Patty Rambert’s and she told us how they’d met one year at Costa Mesa’s rockcreation climbing gym.

We reminisced about Patty and the wonderful person she was. What a small world it is too & we marveled at meeting a friend of hers, here in the wilderness hundreds of miles from home. Patty was a fellow canyoneer and mountaineer who’d lost her life on Mount Mendel last month - June of 06. After a shared mourning there on the trail, we parted company and continued on our respective journeys.

We reached our destination in no time at all, five hours after leaving the parking lot. We had stopped for a snack & taken lots of pictures along the way. The mosquitoes were terrible the last mile or so, and they were even worse here at the lake. We unpacked and generally set up our sleeping quarters, had lunch and sat around chatting and swatting mosquitoes. “This isn’t good,” I thought. We couldn’t just sit around here waiting for the sun to go down.

From where we were situated, we could clearly see our destination and knowing it was only another 6 miles to go, I suggested to Michelle that we go for it. It didn’t look “that” far. It was 1:00 PM and she (having done this hike a couple of times before) figured it would take us about 6 hours to reach the summit. Our major concern would be bagging the peak, and getting back down the rock face before dark. She knew the route, had a GPS *and knew how to use it, and we both had headlamps. Hell, why not just go for it now?

We packed some snacks, water & windbreakers into our fanny packs and started out. From this point on there would be no more trail to follow. Michelle said she’d never encountered this much snow on her previous ascents! We weren’t carrying or wearing any special gear for traveling over snow or ice, but we managed OK. We quickly came to a small-glaciated lake, which was very surreal looking. I’d never seen anything like this outside of magazines. The icebergs (even though they were small as icebergs go) had a lovely blue tint and the scenery was otherworldly.

Deep snowfield after snowfield had to be negotiated, some of them very steep. Thank god for sun–pockets? Indentations to place your feet into. We traversed these snowfields making our way to rock outcroppings when we could, we skirted around lakes, & we clambered over boulder after boulder as we trudged on.

At one point we were crossing a steep snowfield over to a long spine of rock that had lots of flowing water running over it & beside it. Near the seam between the rock and snow was an undercut crevasse that we had to negotiate. The crevasse itself was only a foot wide, but we couldn’t really tell exactly how undercut it was. It was a little scary. We were extremely cautious here and a current of concern coursed through me at this point. “What if I pick a thin spot?” (It really was guess work at this point) crossed my mind, but dismissed it in favor of choosing what looked to be a “safe” area and just getting across the damn thing. We crossed without incident.

Onward and forward in this manner we traveled until we came to the pre-crux of the climb: we had to cross a glacier, which sloped at about a 30 degree angle for approximately ½ mile before we came to the base of the rock. From there, it would be a 1000 ft. class III ascent to the summit. Michelle was in the lead and I was alone for most of the ascent, getting off-route a couple of times. Midway up, I somehow found myself along a class IV ridge overlooking the blanket of white hundreds of fee below me, and I somehow got off route again near the summit.

A pounding headache had taken hold of me somewhere along the way up and it was getting worse. I’d also become dizzy a few times (briefly) and had to stop and wait until I regained my composure. Finally, we were standing on the summit snapping off photos of one another. An all- encompassing view of paradise was a feast for the eyes & I felt a strong Kashish (in Urdo this is the word for “tugging at the heart”) as I reveled in god’s artistry.

The vast and beautiful Kings canyon area spread out below us to the West, Majestic Mount Whitney & her maidens to the East, Mount Sill along the horizon and the view of the peaks and valleys over which we’d traveled. It was absolutely breathtaking! It was also 7:30 PM and we had little time to make it down before dark.

After signing the register, Michelle sat down and started to look very relaxed there as she kicked back to read through some of the entries. I chastised her for wasting time. I had been hurrying her along before and after snapping off photos and felt it was imperative that we get down onto the snowfield and hopefully across it before dark. I was worried about crossing the crevasse and about the snow icing over, and I wasn’t feeling well at all.

She just wasn’t moving fast enough so I left her sitting there and headed down. Michelle, being an absolute mountain goat on rock passed me at some point, and we met near the crevasse. There was one little snow bridge about two feet wide that attached the rock face to the snowfield. Everywhere else along the seam lay a fissure, which upon inspection on the way up, dropped down at least 30’ or more. Here in the waning light it wasn’t evident how far you’d fall in a misstep but we knew. We had no ropes, & had seen few souls early on before we’d reached our base camp. We were alone up here and one misstep could easily mean the end to either one of us.

Stepping gingerly across the bridge it was a relief to retreat away from the crevasse to find ourselves with nothing more than a half mile of steep and icy snow to maneuver. A slip here could mean a long slide toward a disastrous and abrupt body plant on the rocks below. How much speed would one have gathered by the time of impact? Not a heartwarming thought, but a persistent one nonetheless. I was feeling terrible and along with the pounding headache, I was starting to feel very nauseous. The light was fading fast and we moved fairly quickly down the slope heading for solid rock. Luckily, we were able to retrace our footsteps most of the way down as the snow was starting to ice up as the temperature dropped.

I had to stop at 11,000’ and throw up. Another 1000’ descended and I was feeling much better. My headache had become a dull throb and my nausea had completely subsided. We had taken our headlamps out and mine wasn’t behaving normally. I had purchased a Princeton Apex (that I would later exchange for a working model) but it didn’t work on high beam and the dim setting was dimmer than dim. I could barely see two feet in front of me. We somehow got off route and ended up lost to some extent. Nothing looked familiar, it was pitch black out and we found ourselves cliffed out a number of times, so we had to back track. Michelle’s GPS was pointing us toward the valley below and there was no way to get there in a straightaway fashion from where we were, as we would’ve had to make our way down a vertical cliff.

We continued to pick our way up and down through huge boulder fields, and snowfields, and steep granite slopes in some sort of haphazard fashion toward our camp. I was becoming increasingly giddy, as I always do when I’m tired…finding humor in everything; including the fact that we had no benefit of moonlight whatsoever, my headlamp had no real light to offer, we were lost, we were running on empty, the temperature was dropping, we had no warm clothes, we had no bivy gear of any sort, and we had no fire-sticks for warmth!

Every time we came to a flat rock that looked semi comfortable, I told Michelle I had to lay down for a minute. Luckily, there weren’t many inviting flat rocks, but the couple of times we did stop to rest, my eyes would close and I would pass out for a couple of minutes. The cold would set in, the shivering would snap me out of my stupor and it was time to get moving.

Finally, we were walking along a trail again. A short distance along this trail and there we stood at the very spot we’d left 14 hours earlier! Oh, to lie down on a puffy down bag was heavenly! It was 2 AM, and we’d been on the go for a good 19 hours! “Wow” I thought! This had been my longest day trip ever! I wasn’t quite ready for bed though and neither was Michelle, so we reveled in our victory by sharing the bottle of wine I had hiked in. We had a semi-tangible conversation of sorts (though I remember little of it) then we curled up into our bags, where I promptly fell into a coma like sleep. Just before I passed out however, I remember pulling my jacket over my face to block out the bright light of the moon.

Come morning, we awoke glowing. What a fantastic adventure we’d experienced! I was absolutely famished and went to make breakfast. I attempted to produce a warm bowl of Udon soup for Michelle and I, but discovered I had packed everything necessary for cooking except matches or a lighter! Michelle had no way to light a fire either! “Brilliant Randi!” I thought; I’d packed a stove, fuel, food that requires cooking, yet no matches!

Oh well, no use crying over un-cooked Udon. We had sandwiches for breakfast instead. We packed up our belongings, and started our mild mannered hike back to our cars. Along this timid and well-worn trail, I reflected upon the wildness of the terrain we’d traversed only hours ago and marveled at the arduousness of our adventure. I don’t know many women who’d even consider doing this kind of thing, let a lone initiate it, and I’m so happy that destiny or chance brought Michelle into my life. What a wonderful time I’ve had once again in her company. Michelle has become more than a friend to me, she’s become an inspiration.

After leaving the trailhead parking lot, we parked at the corner of that same gas station we’d met up on that Friday night. Across from the gas station was a Pizza place, so we decided on a goodbye luncheon. We fueled up for our long drives home and we re-lived our adventure knowing this was only one of the many adventures we’d share.

I drove home with a sense of fulfillment tucked away inside and an air of excitement thinking about all the possibilities for further adventures to come.

Pictures of the trip can be viewed here: ... 2344322147


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Post by ridgeline » Tue Nov 21, 2006 9:38 pm

Welcome to the site, really enjoyed the trip report and photos, hope to see more in the future.

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Post by Snow Nymph » Tue Nov 21, 2006 10:05 pm

Welcome to Topix!

Great report and photos! And to do it in a day! Awesome!

We had planned to do it this year, but couldn't get permits at the time. Oh well, next year!

Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison" onclick=";return false;

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Post by ERIC » Tue Nov 21, 2006 10:05 pm

Excelent! Thank you, and WELCOME!
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