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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.