Stranded In The Southland

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Death March Up Mt. Wilson Completed!

Pwhew, I made it! I'd been worrying for weeks that I wouldn't have the endurance to make it up Mt. Wilson, but it all went just fine. This was the sort of check-out hike for the Wilderness Travel Course I'm taking -- they figure that if we can hike 14 miles and get up 4700 feet, we're probably going to be able to deal with snow camping and clamboring over rocks in the desert.

All through November and December, I was trying to do longer hikes and get ready for this; alas, I got sick in January, and hadn't been hiking much at all. In fact, I was still snuffling as I started up the mountain. I'd put off getting new gear until I started the class -- we get a 10% discount at all sorts of places with the class -- so the last week was a blur of desperate gear buying. I was told that my old trusty $8 compass wasn't going to cut it, so I had to buy a $50 compass with a fancy declination adjustment. I'd been hiking in cotton gear for most of my life, but I needed to buy synthetic underwear and pants ("Cotton kills!"). I managed to buy some nice pants for $20 (instead of $45), but had to scramble to find a belt for 'em. I even needed to buy sunglasses for our time in the snow.

To my dismay, we were due to start out at 5AM, to ensure that we didn't run into the other WTC class starting at 7AM. I'm kind of anal about punctuality, so I tried to make sure that I was just a bit early to the meeting place. Alas, I hadn't checked closely enough, and it was a much shorter drive than I thought. I wound up there at 4:30AM. Shudder. Then, to add insult to injury, we didn't actually hit the trail 'til 6AM -- we basicly stood around for an hour, collecting the late-comers. Argh!

Once we started the hike, though, it was great. I got a chance to chat with the rest of the folks in the class, and got plenty of tips from the instructors, and generally had a good time. I had enough food, enough water, and my legs held up well. A few members of the class wound up falling behind, but we just waited, and they made it eventually. While we waited, we worked on compass and navigation skills, so it was all worthwhile.

We eventually broke into fast and slow groups; I was bringing up the rear of the fast group, but still managed to keep up okay. On the way back down, some of the members of the group had to be very careful of their knees, so it took a very long time to get off the mountain. As we were just going to have to wait 'til everybody got down before we headed out for beer and pizza, I just waited by a nice waterfall about a mile from the trailhead, rather than hurrying down and waiting at the ugly trailhead.

This morning I'm feeling just fine. My knees definitely ache, and my toes and the balls of my feet ache as well. About a half mile from the end of the trial, I'd noticed some hot spots and stopped to look at my feet. My waterproof boots must not breath, because my toes were all pruny and my socks soaked. Once I switched socks, I got down okay, but my toes are a bit calloused and aggravated this morning.

I'd noticed one of the instructors airing out his feet, and wondered at it. Not any more. From now on, I'll use my liner socks (they didn't seem that important before) and I'll air 'em out. I guess my previous hikes, while they went just as far, never took quite this long, so I didn't get to see how bad things could get. Oh, well, now I know.

So, all in all, a fine hike. I'm looking forward to our camping trip in two weeks.