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Friday, March 26, 2010

A Misguided Ascent & Summit of Pyramid Peak

 As per usual, we agreed on this particular adventure with the understanding that a fair amount of training and preparation would be required.  Also as per usual, we did absolutely none of that.
  Ted was driving, as he needed to break in his new car for the many adventures and abuses that he is sure to put it through.  I was shotgun, toying with the seat warmers, and Clara was in back, making her way steadily through the constant intake of junk food that sustains her.
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  Somehow, in the delirium that only occurs during long road trips, we convinced ourselves that the single lottery ticket that we had split 3 ways held the winning combination.  Made half-stupid with excitement, our conversation turned to everything that we would buy, everywhere we would go, and all of the people who we would instruct to kiss our respective asses.  Somehow, we became so engrossed that we drove 20 miles past our exit, and crossed into the state of Nevada.
  Slightly, but only slightly embarrassed, we turned around and resolved to pay better attention of just what the hell was going on around us.  We arrived at Hanley and Jen's cabin, dropped our shit, and made for another friend's cabin nearby.  After a restorative session at Michelle's, involving cooked meat, cold beers and a hot jacuzzi in the frigid mountain air, we did the mature and responsible thing, and retired early.  There would be an all-out frontal assault on the highest peak in the Tahoe Sierra region first thing in the morning.
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  Our intentions of an early go were stymied by stops for water, McDonald's AND Subway, as well as a foiled attempt at obtaining a wilderness permit at the Ranger Station.  We were not worried.  Optimistic estimates, made while indoors and under the influence of whiskey and ego, had us completing the expedition inside of 7 hours, with snow, ice, a near-vertical ascent, and a lack of a defined trail be damned. 
  We found the "trail" alongside of a creek, assembled our gear, and stepped the fuck UP.  Literally.  We spent the next 30 minutes scrambling with hands, feet, and ski poles over rocks, branches, a rushing creek, and the constant, never-ending vertical climb.  Finally, our course came to a halt when we reached deeper snow, and we paused to put on our snow shoes, wipe sweat from our brow, and collectively wonder just what the hell we had gotten ourselves into this time.
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   We started up again, and it got worse.  Higher, steeper.  We would fall every 4th or 5th step.  This misery continued for the next several hours, before we finally ascended above the timber line.  There, we were awarded with our first glimpse of our nemesis.  It looked impossibly far away.  We stared at it while feasting on beef jerky and Ted's peanut butter M&M's.  After making sad faces at each other, we pushed on.  There was no respite.  Every time that we though the course could not get more difficult, it got steeper, more exposed and/or in less stable snow.
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   At this point, even Ted was hurting.  And when your Search & Rescue teammate is sucking wind, you know you're in trouble.  All talk had ceased, each of us wrapped up in our own personal miseries.  By the time we reached the final push to the summit, we were taking only 3-4 steps at a time before having to rest.  This is where it got a little hairy.  The ridgeline leading to the summit was completely exposed, far above where any trees could grow to block the strong wind.  Meanwhile, the cliff was as close to purely vertical as anything that I have ever seen, and we were in desperate need of crampons.  The wind was blowing so hard that we were forced to brace ourselves against it to avoid being swept off.  When the gust would suddenly stop, one would almost fall back in that direction from pushing so hard as a counter-balance.  The transition from agonizingly difficult to dangerous had been crossed.
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   30 feet above me, I saw Ted raise both hands over his head in triumph.  Clara and I summited shortly after.  I wouldn't have thought that any view could be worth that journey, but I would have been wrong.  
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After we took the obligatory "Victorious" pictures, we huddled beneath a slightly sheltered ridge and took stock.  I set a land speed record for the fastest devouring of a Subway sandwich, and we sipped on Basil Hayden Bourbon and Coors.  
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  The effort on the way up had forced us to remove layers, but on the top, sitting and resting, the icy cold temperatures got to us fast.  Fingers numbed despite gloves, warmers and pockets, and we were forced to start the descent quickly.  While less strenuous than moving uphill, descending created a new set of problems.  The sharp angles forced us to cut deep switchbacks whenever possible.  In other places, we had to lower ourselves with an awkward sideways stepping motion.  When it was an option, we would simply slide down.
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   Exhausted, we arrived at Ted's car nearly 10 hours after we started.  Pyramid Peak was conquered, although it's death throes beat the ever-loving shit out of each of us.  
   Ted soldiered up and drove us back to San Francisco, with a few stops made for vast amounts of candy, water, gatorade and carne asada burritos.  As a final adventure before leaving the Bay Area for good, I could not have left on a better note.  A successful adventure with some of my best friends, and having been challenged both mentally and physically.  As Clara said, the next time we embark on a serious adventure involving physical prowess, we will actually train for it...or at least seriously think about it.
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14 comments:

linda said...

dearest martin,
i'm afraid you're too hard core for me. i would have died.

also, the first picture you posted of yourself on this entry = cute.

finally, glad you're alive!

- linda

Alison said...

1st thought - AHAHAHAHAHAH!!! Genius.

2nd thought - whoa whoa whoa... ski poles? snow shoes? When did you get snow and ice and alpine like mountains in California? Is that not the land of sunshine, golden tans and toy dogs that need to be carried? Has TV been lying to me my whole life? i feel cheated

Sean said...

very cool.

Tracie said...

What an awesome trip Mart! And you didn't even have to leave the country. CALIFORNIA ROCKS!, as do you.........

floreta said...

that is so totally badass. I have never done anything like this yet I want to trek the Himalayas this year....

" As per usual, we agreed on this particular adventure with the understanding that a fair amount of training and preparation would be required. Also as per usual, we did absolutely none of that."

LOVE it! I think that will be my approach too.... (heh)

Andhari said...

Wow you guys are BADASS. The mountain climbing itself is hardcore but during such freezing weather? BADASS. Love the pictures though, and the snow. Fantastic view!

Lissa said...

Wow. I think I got tired just reading about that. LOL. The view is amazing, as are the pictures. Thumbs up!

jen said...

So I probably could've managed walking from the car to the bottom of the trail...but just thinking about the rest would've worn me out. If I ever got the the top I would be obviously exhilarated...followed swiftly by p*ssed off that I had to shimmy my butt the whole way back down the thing!

Clearly, you're a much better person than I! But I too could spend hours discussing what I AM going to spend my lottery win on!

Clara said...

Well put! The pictures turned out very well--thanks for being the cameraman. We definitely need to plan some more adventures :)

Martin said...

Linda - Far from hardcore. But thanks for the concern. I've been missing you lately, where ya been??

Alison - The answer is "yes." TV has been lying AND telling you the truth. California has the beaches and the mountains within a day's drive from each other. Life is good.

Sean - Cheers

Momma - Thank you! And yes, California does indeed rock.

Floreta - I can't wait to hear about your trek in the Himalayas. Damn...now you got me thinking. I want to go too!

Andhari - Thanks for coming by :) The views were amazing. I am happy with the pictures, but they truly did not do the views complete justice. You had to be there... :)

Lissa - Thanks! It's something I am glad that I HAVE done...actually DOING it was less fun.

Jen - If you join, your share of the lotto ticket is $0.25. If that is no problem, you are welcome to come on the next such adventure.

TT - Thank you :) The stories are a big part of why I do it.

Clara - Good times with you, as always. Loved your write-up of it as well...although I suspect that you were supposed to be studying for law school during that time you spent.

wanderingmenace said...

I am rapidly becoming more of a fan of following your adventures. Keep up all the excitement, I love it.

Juliana said...

gorgeous pictures, man. i'm still debating if this post motivates me to try the same or if it scares me to my couch under the covers... maybe i just adventurous friends.

Holly Renee said...

Wow, you are hardcore. I am too afraid to do any of the 14ers in Colorado (my native state) during winter or spring time. Slippery + steep = no Holly. Good job!! What a victory!

Martin said...

WM - Thanks for coming by :)

Juliana - You come out from Boston, we'll do something kickass.

Holly - if you're hitting up 14's ANY time of the year, you're more hardcore than me.

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