Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Big Southern Butte ID - Part 2

Leaving the truck behind, LC and I headed into the darkness of the first canyon.
The day was clearing and calm, but also cold, and as I looked up ahead of me and saw the steep dirt road that was still mostly in darkness, and as I looked on both sides of me and studied the hills, I knew that we would not truly hit sunshine and any kind of warmth until we found our way out of these canyons.
LC ran into problems almost right from the get-go.
The first mile of the road, that we had driven, was a straight and gradual incline.
Immediately after we headed out on foot the road narrowed through the canyon and the steepness surprised me.
There was no time for warming up, gradually increasing heart rate, gradually loosening up cold and stiff early-morning muscles.
It was hard work right up front................
We walked a few steps and stopped.  Walked a few more steps and stopped again.  Rinse and repeat and repeat.
As LC rested and caught his breath I continued to look around me and behind me.
The mountains 30 miles away continued to fascinate me and I continued to snap picture after picture..........
Feet turned into yards and we both continued to try and find a rhythm that we could maintain over the long haul.
But this tight, winding road was quickly becoming a concern.
The steepness of the grade continued to increase.  8 degrees.  10 degrees.  12 degrees.  14 degrees.
What I had anticipated was an incline and then a level off, followed by another incline and another flat section.
This road was NOTHING like that.
As we slowly and tediously rounded one bend after another the road just continued to get steeper and steeper.
We were making terrible time.
LC was struggling badly but continually gathering energy to walk a little further.
I looked back at LC and realized that if the road stayed like this for the entire trip to the top of Big Butte, we were not going to make it.
In truth it wasn't just my Mountain Boy who wouldn't make it.  If it was this steep all the way to the top, I wasn't going to make it either.
This early (long) section quickly became the toughest trail I had ever walked when I wasn't racing.
Within 10 minutes I had asked LC if he wanted to go back to the truck and ride up to the top.  He told me no.  10 minutes later I asked him again.  He said no.  
I didn't ask him again.
It looked like we were in this for the long haul.
We continued to climb.  Steep, non-stop, climbing around one bend after another, and through one canyon after another...............
Struggling badly but determined to stick with it...........
And still continuing to take pictures of the mountains behind me.
The desert floor slowly beginning to clear...........
If the road looks uphill that was the direction we were headed (there were no downhills and no flat sections what-so-ever).............
Yes.......downhill........looking back the way we had come.
We could have done some research on this trail beforehand but didn't because we wanted to just take it and tackle it as it came to us.
But the number of canyons, the steepness of the hills surrounding us on both sides, the never-ending, steep inclines were all startling, and we began to wonder if this thing ever WOULD level off.
Surely it must at some point?  Right?
I wasn't sure how far we had traveled to this point because the going was extremely slow and laborious, but we had been climbing for over an hour to this point................
A mile straight up.
That's an estimation of what we had climbed, when I looked up ahead and saw all the things that I had been hoping we would eventually run into.
The end of the canyons.
Wide open space and sunshine.
And yes.........finally switchbacks.
I didn't know if the switchbacks would hold for the duration of the trip but suspected that they would.
We still had a lot of climbing to do if we wanted to reach the top, but it would not be as endlessly, tediously, steep as it had been.
I was relieved when we finally made the switchbacks.  
Maybe we WOULD make it to the top after all.
Looking back at my tired man I raised my camera and stupidly said "Smile!"
Very tired, my Mountain Boy was in no mood for lightheartedness at that point.
"This is me smiling".............
There are no words to describe the feeling of relief I felt to hit this switchback.
It was still a long uphill, but after what we had just made it through this climb felt like nothing at all.............
We had already decided that when we reached the top of this hill we would stop, regroup, grab a quick sandwich and some water before continuing on.............
Still watching the mountains back the way we had come.
Still following the progress of the clearing of the desert floor..............
A look back down the first switchback.
If you look closely you can see the steepness of the hill we had just climbed before it............
We both snapped pictures from the top of the switchback.
After being stuck in dark canyons for far too long, and after finally reaching our first switchback, both of our moods improved.
If the roads held we still had a long climb ahead of us, but both LC and I believed that we had now seen the worst of the hike.
As we sat on a pile of rocks on the side of the road scarfing down ham and cheese sandwiches and sharing a bottle of water, we were both eager to see what lay up ahead.
After the heavy fog that had engulfed us first thing in the morning, and after the hike-from-hell we had just endured, we were finally in a place to enjoy the day.
The world was warm and blue and silent and beautiful...........
It's always further than it looks.
It's always taller than it looks.
And it's always harder than it looks.............
The 3 Rules of Mountaineering

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