Day 18: Mile 341.9 to mile 364.4 (22.5 miles, 36km, 9.5 hours)
Using Uber for the first time myself I soon found myself back at the McDonalds around 6:30am. Uber is uber cool and easy to use, I’m a fan.
What is one to do at a McDonalds on a Saturday morning? Breakfast and coffee of course. Unfortunately the Americans just don’t get coffee. At home even at Macca’s you can get real coffee anyway you like it. Over here it is drip coffee or nothing. Beggars can’t be choosers though right. And seeing as the opportunity presents itself why not order more food and pack it out for lunch – you only get to do this once right.
Thick fog was laying low initially this morning as I made my way through the long black tunnel underneath the Freeway. This was probably a good thing as today was all climbing and the mountains were hidden from view. It also made for damp clothes but they would soon dry.
Knowing today was going to be major climb all day, from 2500ft to 8000, 22mile uphill, I was mentally prepared for the long haul. This made the day go much easier. Rather than charge up the hill, which couldn’t be sustained, it was going to be the game of the long, slow plod. Embrace the suck.
The sun broke through the cloud around 9 and instantly things warmed up. My first coat of sunscreen went on. Like all good painters I usually apply two coats, one around 9 and another just before heading back out after lunch, although the second coat is more like just smearing dirt around. In the afternoon their is enough accumulated dirt and muck to act as a barrier to the sun.
Despite the gruelling climb all day today was a great day. It was like someone turned a switch and it was spring time. Everything was in bloom. A riot of colour everywhere I looked. It was brilliant. Lots of bugs out as well. There are bees that look like wasps, wasps that look like bees, bright orange backed beetles and humungus black flies I think. Hope they don’t bite.
What are those flower heads that you blow and make a wishes as kids? Dandelions? Anyway there were some bigger than my fist. Huge.
I keep seeing these lizards as well. Skink like but larger. Dark cooper toned with bright aqua patterns on their backs. They look like cooper ornaments with that oxidised blue colour that happens with copper or is it bronze.
I passed a few people early on the ascent this morning but then didn’t see anyone just about all day.
The sun was intense and the sweat poured out, crystallising salt as the wind dry my shirt off when stopping for a break. The climb was through lots of burn areas with very little shade.
Just before lunch I passed the 350 mile mark which means 2 things – we’re halfway through the desert or more positively, we’re halfway to the Sierras.
At around 2pm, with 5 miles further to ascend, I came across a rock overhang that provided the perfect spot for a shady rest. Ben came around the corner shortly after and joined me in the cool.
I didn’t see anyone else for the rest of the day. This ascent is bound to claim a few victims today with most not reaching the summit camp site.
With relief, the elevation gain saw the trail move away from desert, transitioning to forest again at around 6000ft. This brought with it a cooler temperature and for the first time since on trail some cloud cover to moderate things as well.
The final 4 miles of climb were tough and required frequent drink breaks.
There is meant to be a water cache on top but I never rely on these and so was toting 5 litres today, enough to get to the top and have a reserve for tomorrow morning. The added weight of water didn’t help hauling up hill all day.
At around 5:30pm I’d made it! Finally! And in good spirits. If not mentally prepared for such a big climb I would have arrived exhausted and pissed off.
And what is better than reaching the top of a 22mile climb up? Finding that your mates have ‘yogied’ some beers from day campers and placing a cold one in your hand on arrival. Zack and Ben had made it earlier. The only other person to roll in later was Omrie. I guess the mountain claimed quite a few victims today and that most others are camped down lower.
Hmm… thought I took more photos today but obviously too tired.