In early spring of 2007 I decided to quit my job, sell my house along with nearly everything else that I owned, and to live out of my car while traveling the country. These are my stories (and pictures) of life on the road.

Monday, August 27, 2007

It's good to be on top

I pulled into Great Basin National Park and after looking at the map I knew that I had to climb Wheeler Peak. It topped out at 13,063', which was about 4000 feet higher then I'd ever hiked. There was a trail to the top and after talking to a ranger found that although it was a strenuous hike there was no actual “mountain climbing” involved. I set out early the next morning for the summit.

The trailhead started at 10,000 feet and was only 4 miles long, which would make for a semi-steep hike. Unfortunately the first mile was flat as a pancake and the second wasn't much steeper; meaning that most of the elevation gain would take place in the last two miles up the mountain. Great, the toughest hike will be in the thinnest air.

As promised the hike started easy and gradually got steeper. Once I got out of the trees I was walking on a ridge directly exposed to the wind. It wouldn't have been very cold at all if it hadn't been for the wind. Thankfully the trail turned around to the calm side of the mountain about 1/2 mile from the top so it was calm after that.

At what I'd guess was around the 2.5 mile mark I passed a family who had stopped for a snack. After them I couldn't see anyone else ahead of me. Looking back I could see one man in a green jacket following me. I was pretty sure I'd be the first to reach the peak that morning.

As I climbed higher the oxygen got thinner and I got slower. The trail turned into loose rocks and gradually got steeper and steeper. I was taking my time, stopping to catch my breath now and again and stopping to take some pictures as well. All the while the man in the green jacket kept getting closer. I can be a pretty competitive person but I wasn't feeling all that competitive this morning. I figured I wasn't going to kill myself trying to race him up the mountain. After all, I had a knee to think about and after growing up in Iowa and spending the last couple months in the Portland and Seattle areas I wasn't real used to high altitudes. I didn't exactly pick up my pace but I did try to walk a little more efficiently and I quit taking so many breaks. After all, I couldn't just give it to him!

The man in the green jacket was relentless, never resting. Just slowly and steadily gaining on me. I thought of just stopping to let him catch up and pass me so I wouldn't have to think about it anymore, but I couldn't do it. My lungs and legs both burned and screamed at me to rest but I kept on my slow and steady pace. The trail got steeper and the rocks got looser; I tried to pick a pace I thought I could maintain to the top without stopping. If he caught me at this pace then there was nothing I could do about it; I just couldn't go much faster. Another check over my shoulder found the green jacket a little closer. I knew he was back there thinking how he wanted to pass me and be the first to the top.

It looked like the trail had a ways to go as it wound its way up the mountain and I didn't know how much more I had in me. I was just about ready to give up and let him by when I noticed the trail made an unexpected turn straight up the mountain. This meant it was going to be shorter then I'd thought; but steeper as well. My competitiveness kicked in and I knew the first summit of the day was mine to loose right then. So I made one final hard push for the top and was easily able to hold off the man in the green jacket for victory.

I got to the top, hunkered down behind a rock pile to escape the wind, and reveled in the glory of knowing I was the first to reach the summit that hazy morning. I celebrated with an apple and some trail mix as I relaxed and enjoyed the view. The man in the green jacket sulked at another rock pile, obviously disappointed in himself. He tucked his tail between his legs and started back down the mountain as I continued to bask in my own glory.

It's good to be on top.

I shot a couple videos while up on top too; one that know my mom will appreciate. As usual the camera doesn't do the view (or the drop) justice. That was a long, steep, drop.


bjbuell said...

Al - that second video was just plain mean! How can you do such things to your mom?! ;)

debbieuu said...

Alan, this is your mother. Yes, it is cool but you should be wearing red so it will be easier to find your body.

Alan said...

It would be red after the fall

Edith said...

Al you are a stinker!!!

Josh Martin said...

Dude, that is way wrong! Moms hate seeing their kids on edges like that. My brother would do stuff like that when we were little, heck still does. Drove our mom crazy LOL. Stay safe man, and keep posting I love this stuff.


debbieuu said...

OK. OK. You win.
Please get home to me safely.

You've reached the end of the page but that's not the end of the stories. If you want to read more (and who wouldn't!?) then click on the archive links to the right hand side of the page. They're listed by month; the adventure starts in May.

The February archives aren't actually from this trip but are previous adventures I've had, which are worth reading as well.