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In Trouble

So my wrist hurts and I have to do 40 V4's tomorrow. Am I concerned about it? You're damn right I am. It hurts right now just to type this and, I suppose, I could consider this a bad sign. However, I did manage to get through the volleyball today. It hurt, but I was having so much fun that I would have kept on playing if anyone else had wanted to continue. Today was a great day. Sleep in, do some reading and relaxing, play a little beach ball ... hardly a challenge at all. I'm still very tired from Friday though.

Ah, Friday. So just what did happen?

It started very well. I began with Reed at midnight over a section that I had only some knowledge of but that I also didn't expect too much trouble with. I'd seen a topo so I pretty much knew what to expect. There were five peaks involved and the trail only went over one of them. I had Reed stay on the trail while I beat it through the bush looking for summits. I knew I would lose some time because of the darkness but everything went quite well and we finished under the two-hour time I had anticipated. 

After this, Bob and Reed slept while I ticked off 4 more out and back peaks. These I had done before and my times were actually ahead of my training times. I felt good and was moving fast, without spending too much energy. 

At 4 a.m. I took a short break for some food, then Bob, Tuco and I set out for my first long leg. I was anticipating 10 peaks and around three to four hours to do them. I had reconed most of it but there was a very remote section where I was counting on one trail report that I had read. I hadn't seen a 7.5-minute topo for the area because the stores I'd been to didn't have it in stock.

I was starting to get tired and slowed down some. I was more sleepy than fatigued and the first peak was just three minutes off my best time. We were out of the area that I had knowledge of before sun-up,  still ahead of schedule, kind of way ahead. We came to a very steep saddle that Bob said felt like we had "dropped down 3,000' and gone up 4,000". In reality it was probably half of that, but still it was much harder than most of the other peaks. I said "It's always the one area that you don't recon that goes bad". I had no idea.

At 7a.m. we had summited 7 peaks (16 total). From what I had read, it meant one more on the ridge we were on, then two as we headed back toward the car. I figured that we'd be back at the car by 8. Then I looked over at the direction we were headed and thought to myself, "uh, oh".

I had read that there was a four-mile out and back trail from the road. This meant that there would be a somewhat flatish trail that led to the ridge we were on before heading up. What I was looking at was a deep canyon, maybe three-thousand feet. I didn't see a saddle anywhere. I then said to Bob that if something didn't appear that we might be sandbagged. 

Nothing appeared. 

I was still optimistic as we dropped down one of the ridge lines. I still figured that somehow, something would work out for us. What followed was some of the toughest hiking that I've ever done. 

First, we had to descend a scree and brush filled buttress. This ended but it was nothing like the next section that we encountered. Instead of clearing up, the next ridge was choked with yucca and nearly-impenetrable manzanita. We were able to find a drainage that allowed us to get down. We had spotted a rock face that seemed to mark the bottom but when we reached it it was still 500 or so--sometimes technical--feet to the creek. 

The Thank God creek. We were almost out of water so Bob and I had decided not to drink anymore and save everything for Tuco, who was getting pretty hot. When he heard the creek he bolted off and was submerged in less than a minute. We were now pretty positive that we'd find a trail up to the next summit and the road. Once again, we were wrong. 

After climbing out of the creek canyon, the steep hillside above was choked with vegetation. There was no way we could negotiate it without cutting ourselves to pieces. We spent a half-hour or so scouting around before we found a faint deer trail that paralleled the creek. After a mile or so we knew we weren't going to find a proper trail and had a little powwow about the best way to ascend the slope. 

We headed up a very steep slope by following Big Horn Sheep tracks. I know this because I turned one corner and was face to face and about 8 feet away from a very-startled Big Horn. He snorted loud enough for Bob, around 50 feet below me, to hear, then took off down the mountain. This track  worked out very well for us and after about an hour and a half more of hot, dry, climbing up a mountainside that was about as stable as a beach, we reached a trail. The trail was still at least two miles from the road!

All in all the epic was fun. Well, I though it was fun. It was hard, I will say. So hard, that I thought to myself "This is how recreational hikers die. I'm in good shape and know exactly where I'm heading and it's arduous." I could really see how someone could get frustrated and give up. Of course, it could have been prevented by better planning but that is my style, to leave a little something up in the air. Maybe I LIKE epics. I guess I do. Bob even said that he thought I was looking very tired until the situation got serious and then I perked up and was fine. He is exactly right. I really do enjoy facing ugly situations and that is probably why I always tend to leave a little to chance. When things go wrong it allows you to see how you react under adversity, something I find very interesting. Much more so than doing something that goes perfectly to plan. I guess I'm a little strange in this way.

The next thing was to decide what to do. We were worried that Reed had called for a rescue because we were so far behind schedule. He said if it had been less capable people he would have for sure. When we got to the car he had a cold beer waiting. The first sip was one fantastic sensation, I'll tell you that! After that I worked on hydrating. I slept for an hour or so and my heartrate was still at 80, which is very high and meant that I was dehydrated. I knew I had no chance to complete my original challenge. Reed asked if I added the 16 hours to bring it back to the original 40 if I could make it. I could, but that wasn't what I wanted and it wouldn't mean much to me. The best "birthday challenge" option in our opinion, meaning the one that was most like what usually happens when someone has to adjust their challenge, would be to somehow finish 40 peaks, even if they weren't the ones I had planned on. I settled for this.

I had plenty of easy peaks that I had reconed because I had originally planned to do the 23 peaks I had failed on at 23, then do 17 throw-away peaks. As my training got better, the throw-away peaks became harder and harder until they became the peaks that I failed on. It wasn't easy to get my body moving again, but really, I was still feeling very fit and this went without incident and worked out fine.

This said, I will also say that I'm a little bummed that I couldn't complete my original challenge. I will try again, though with a different course, for sure. I was happy with the way I performed overall. I really felt as though I had a good shot at the thing. It can be done, I'm sure. And now I will force myself to stay in good enough shape to do it, and I'll probably have to wait until next summer.

I don't know how long the day was or how many feet of elevation change I covered. I will let you know if I find the proper topo. Probably 15 to 20K of elevation gain. Not a bad day out, really. I mean. Ratso was tired. And when Ratso is tired, you know you did something special.

Thanks for reading. My wrist feels better already.

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