Day 33 May 27, 14
Guitar Lake to the top of Whitney and then to Bubbs Creek
Where am I? I have one of those dreams and wake up thinking I’m somewhere else. I think I’m on a sailboat in Bellingham Bay and Cro is lying next to me and then I realize that I’m sleeping below Mt. Whitney. It’s 4 am, time to get up.
I can see Big Sauce’s head lamp half way to the top; he’s aiming for a summit sunrise. His ambition makes me feel anxious, so I frantically shove shit into my backpack. This rouses Twinkle. “How ya doin Chance!?” Twinkle is extra jolly this morning because he loves the big mountains; back home in Colorado he slays fourteeners. His enthusiasm makes me happy,
Whitney looks tranquil from down here. But I know on top it’s menacing and cold. It’s so cold your eyes will dry up and you’ll question where you are and why you are here. You’ll marvel in the beauty, but it doesn’t seem real. How long should I stay up here? How long does it take to process this? Did I get it? Is an hour enough time? But it’s so cold. And then you’ll pass by the bag of human shit and look in and OH! Maybe I shouldn’t have looked. “Sauce!!!!” I yell, “It’s human shit!” “I told you!”
My toes are numb. Time to go.
I didn’t have Whitney in my Sierra “plan.” I told my friends that I might not see them for awhile because I was skipping Whitney. I pretended to be noncommittal to the group. But when I got to the junction I changed my mind. Was is it because I missed them? It must have been because when I ran into Twinkle before Guitar Lake I felt relieved. There is something inside of me that wants to share this sensory overload with another human being. I talk to the marmots but they just hustle me.
On the way down I see Coughee and Mac charging up the switchbacks. Mac carries this ridiculous broomstick as a hiking stick which makes him look like a shitty wizard. I think it’s painted to look like wood because the stain is rubbing off on his hand and causing his skin to crack. It’s bleeding all over him but he’s very attached to it.
I tell them I’ll see them in Lone Pine, that I’ve cooked up the idea to climb Whitney and Forester in the same day. “OH WOW!” says Coughee. “OH WOW!” says the ‘Murican hiking club. “OH WOW!” says the ‘Murican tourists getting out of their cars. “SLOW DOWN!” says Muir to me and the cars.
There is more snow than I expected. But I’m here early, it’s only May. The approach to Forester takes longer and I don’t summit until 5 pm. I can’t see dry land for miles. I take a selfie, eat a bar, and push on. The traverse down the backside is soft so I run. I have to find dry land before it gets dark.
Nearing the valley the snow thins and everywhere there is water and brush. I posthole up to my knees and my shins start to bleed. Big Sauce will tell me later that he followed my blood trail.
Being in the Sierras during this spring snow melt feels menacing but I feel ALIVE! The Sierras are way more fun like this. But who in their right mind would want to be up here at this time? It’s mad. My feet are numb, I’m bleeding, it’s getting dark, and I still can’t see a dry spot. So I keep trudging.
I can’t see the trail but I know the route well; this is my fourth time after all. I know there will be a dry spot next to Bubbs Creek which will put me twelve miles from Kearsarge Pass, and to my next resupply.
It’s closer than I think and to my relief another hiker is camped there. His name is Quiet Man and I talk his ear off, buzzing from a hard day of hiking. “OMG the snow! Can you believe it?” “WTF just happened?”
An hour later Big Sauce runs into camp buzzing and tosses me a bottle of whiskey. He also summited Whitney and Forester in the same day. “WTF was that?!” “OH WOW!” say the Mountain Kings. “OH WOW!” exclaim the car tourists. “Want some more whiskey?” asks Big Sauce. “………..” says Quiet Man.
Whiskey buzz wins out Epic Day buzz and we lay our heads to rest amid the gurgling purging heaving laxative Sierra snow melt.