Nice work getting up to Muir, David! You picked an awesome day to go up!
June 27, 2010
Made the climb up to Camp Muir yesterday. A great experience overall. I think I’m in good shape for the summit climb in a few weeks, but for one item of note. This was my first climb at altitude. I found that altitude and me are going to have to come to an understanding.
I was doing very well, and from what other climbers along the way were saying, I was on pace to reach Camp Muir in about four hours. But that was not to be. At about 9000 feet (from what another climber said), I really began to feel it. Some of this may have been my pacing (I am very, very bad at that, way too impatient for my own good), and another problem may have been that I was wearing my base layer bottoms, which in the warm weather was sucking the energy from me. But I still believe the main issue was the altitude.
I stopped for a break at an outcropping of rocks where a number of other climbers were stopping. I stayed longer than I should have, because I only felt more fatigued when I started out again. As I began to traverse up that last snow field below the camp, I began to seriously wonder if I was going to make it. That damned camp never seemed to get any closer. I began experimenting with rest step (which I still haven’t figured out). Looking above and below me, I could see that a number of other climbers were having a tough time of it as well, and this actually urged me on.
In the end, due to the long break and the very slow trudging up that last snow field, it took me almost 5 ½ hours to reach Camp Muir, longer than I had hoped.
I stayed there about 45 minutes before heading back down. Once I had descended a ways, I actually felt pretty good again.
Some of that feeling good may have been due to my first experience with glissading. Glissading is very, very cool. I loved it, though some of this joy may have been because of my impatient nature and my desire to get back to my car. I glissaded at every opportunity.
Being a novice at glissading (and at mountain climbing in general), a couple of things I would like to point out to anyone else who has yet to experience glissading down the mountain…
Whatever you do, take any items you may have in your backpack side pockets and safely stow them inside your pack. Especially if it is your very last bottle of water and you are still within sight of Camp Muir and have a long hike down still before you.
Also, take note of the fact that some glissade slides end in the middle of a snow field; snow very soft and very deep. In such situations, the hike back onto the main trail will require more time and effort than you saved.
Still, the descent back to Paradise took me less than two hours and I felt pretty good all the way down.
Okay… a couple of other items to anyone else (like me) doing this for the first time.
First, when applying sun screen, do not forget your ears (ouch). Next, while climbers around me were wearing shorts, I was dressed for the Himalayas. This was my second conditioning climb (the first being Mt. Rose) and I regretted wearing base layer bottoms both times. For me… never ever again. I’ll put them on after I reach Camp Muir.
And a final note, this about being in contact with family. I told my wife that if I had a signal I would call her from Paradise before I started up, though I did warn her that I may not get through. And I didn’t have a signal. Being that I am a beginner at this, she was of course concerned about my climb. While I told that the hike up to Camp Muir was like the Interstate 5 of hikes, she nonetheless had this image of me standing all alone on some snow-swept mountain top where no one would see me when I fell off a cliff. I tried several times to call her on the way up (some have said they had a signal with Verizon), but in the end couldn’t reach her until I was back down and had driven out of the park. She was worried sick.
Make alternate plans. Find a land-line phone at Paradise and call before you go up and when you get back.