Sunday, December 2, 2012

Day 142 - The Knife's Edge, Goat Rocks Wilderness

September 13, 2012
Day 142
Miles: 20
Total Miles: 2303

Let me just post some pictures because really, words don't do this section justice.  Enjoy!

Mt. Adams Through the Wildfire Smoke

Mt. Adams at Sunset with Blackbeard looking for an optimal shot

Old Glory and Mt. Adams

The Knife's Edge and Mt. Rainier with the sunrise

Siddhartha perched on the Kife's Edge Taking in Mt. Rainier

Morning Fog near the knife's edge

Having a great time despite my crazy hair and beard!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 149 - Climbing Cathedral Peak

September 20
Day 149
Miles:  20
Total Miles:  2458

Cathedral Peak from Deep Lake

After seven miles of hiking, Siddhartha and I take a break together near Deep Lake in the Northern Cascades.  As we eat, he half jokes that we should take another side trip and climb Cathedral Peak - the large mountain looming in front of us.  I had wanted to summit another mountain since summiting Three-Fingered Jack back in Oregon, and his comment got me thinking of the possibilities.

"Are you still thinking of climbing that peak"?
"No, I want to get to Steven's Pass early tomorrow so I don't have to take a zero" came the reply.

And then I hike on, leaving him to finish his food.  When I get to the east side of the peak as the PCT winds around and to the north, I stall.  "Well", I tell myself, "I'll just see how far I can get before it gets too steep.  Just a fact-finding mission".

So I take my first steps toward Cathedral Peak.  Regardless of what I tell myself, I know that once I start up this peak I will not stop until I reach the summit.  However, at each increased level of difficulty; when dirt trail turns to steep switchbacks, when switchbacks turn to rock scrambling, when rock scrambling turns to climbing through a narrow rock chasm, when that turns to actual rock wall climbing, I justify going further by telling myself, "let's just see how far I can go".

Cathedral Peak from the PCT
And an hour and a half later I am a mere fifty feet from the summit, on a rock wall sloping maybe 10-15 degrees from vertical, taking a picture of Deep Lake below me.

I take the "I'll just see how far I can get" mantra as far as it will take me.  Here on this precarious perch below the summit, fear takes hold and gets the best of me.  Like Three-Fingered Jack, much of the climbing up Cathedral Peak is exposed, and I was risking my life - albeit a calculated risk.  However, unlike TFJ, I am alone.  A fall or injury would be serious with no one to help me.  Also, there is no one to guide me down the wall from the summit if I find myself trapped.  I fear coming down more than I fear climbing up.  These factors kept me from reaching the summit.

Fear is neither good nor bad, but just a mechanism for survival.  Many fears in society come from irrationality, false information, prior trauma or other bad experiences.  These fears are not life or death responses, but often people live restricted lives based on these irrational fears instead of facing them head on - which is often the best way to move past them.  Leaving my job and embarking on a five month hike of the PCT came with many of these irrational fears.

A near vertical snapshot of Deep Lake below me

But fear on the top of a mountain is direct feedback - your body and mind are communicating that you are in threat of physical danger and you should take caution; flight or fight.  This is the fear I listen to, and at this moment,  balancing on the side of an almost vertical rock wall alone, fear was telling me to get down off that mountain.  I'm glad I listened to my instincts, for far too often people ignore instincts and make grave errors in judgement.

Though I did not make the summit, I feel great about my accomplishment.  I also realize that to succeed in these climbs I need the correct gear and the proper training.  Taking a rock-climbing course is high on my agenda post-PCT.

Cathedral Peak from halfway up the climb
After an exhaustive search for my pack that I had ditched on the way up the mountain, I finally reach the PCT and walk on.  Ironically, a mile down the trail while casually hiking and searching on my I-Pod for music, I mis-step and tumble off the side of the trail, my left foot landing on a soft dirt shoulder, sliding down quickly and taking my body with it five feet down a steep hillside!  After being focused and on high alert during my sojourn up Cathedral Peak, I had relaxed my focus too much, let my guard down, and the result was me splayed face first in the bushes with my pack up over my head, arms still strapped in.  After brushing myself off I laugh at this turn of events and keep walking.

I hike ten more miles that day over Deception Pass, meet up with another hiker, Amigo, and reach the Deception Lakes before dark.  Log, a section hiker, Amigo and myself camped at the lake that night and traded stories of the trail.  What a life I live!

Looking up the Rock Wall to the Summit

PCT Northern Terminus

PCT Northern Terminus
On September 30, 2012 I reached the Northern Terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail. Thanks to everybody who supported and followed my journey. It was a life-changing experience!