Making miles and surviving the Climb of Death.
My first night on the PCT was peaceful but cold. Apparently the low in Campo had been 38f / 3c but was probably a smidge colder in the mountains. As I would wake up cold during the night I kept adding more layers until I had everything on and was just about warm.
Still it was an effort to start peeling off warm layers at those temperatures and put on just thin pants and shirt. I left camp at 6:30am – it still takes me too long to break camp, a problem I’ve never managed to solve.
An hour later at mile 8.4 I passed a hiker burning his TP in a cathhole dug in the middle of a small campsite. Not cool man, not cool.
I took my first break at 8:15 at mile 11.0 on a rock in some shade in just my boxer shorts to cool off. I could hear bees buzzing somewhere but hoped they were far enough away for me to be safe.
The morning hiking was glorious. The temperatures hadn’t yet reached their highs and the world was bathed in that early morning light that makes hiking so rewarding. Everywhere I looked were tiny squirrels, medium sized (serves 1) rabbits, marmots, butterflies and lizards scattering every hundred yards or so.
My second morning break was taken at 10am for 25 minutes, hydrating and preparing for the literal climb ahead, 1250’ straight up over 3 miles. Not particularly challenging figures in cool weather but tough in the heat. A thru hiker, Timothy Nodal, died from heat exhaustion in 2014 due to pushing on to Lake Morena on his first day – April 24th.
And just last week a thru hiker was rescued by helicopter suffering from heat exhaustion. It’s literally a climb of death.
I climbed steadily and found it pretty easy going. There are several shaded places to stop and cool off and I took advantage of one about two-thirds of the way up and had a nice sit down for a couple of minutes but I passed a couple and a single guy taking stand-up breaks in the full sunshine. Rookie mistake. I asked the couple if they were ok. “Dying” was the only response. They declined my offer of water so I pushed on. A similar exchange was had with the guy.
It was air conditioned. It had charging. It had good WiFi. It was happy to host hikers. For some odd reason the locals there also graciously put up with us. The place is a godsend and I made sure to tell the staff that we hikers appreciate it.
I ordered a chocolate ice cream malt shake, meatball sandwich and eventually would consume 3 large Dr Pepper’s too. I wasn’t going anywhere while it was hot and I had access to all these resources. So I stayed for 3 hours. Wouldn’t you?
Around 2pm Scooter came in and we caught up. His plan was to also chill there for a while, then grab some dinner to go and camp a mile further on. Making that climb in the worst heat of the day must have been hard. He needs to finish the trail in only 105 days so will need to do 30’s eventually.
I had already hiked 14 miles in just 4 hours of actual hiking but a 3 hour rest with good victuals meant a decent afternoon session was possible. The terrain was quite flat (and so sandy at times it was like walking on a beach) and the miles ticked by quickly. I had to force myself to stop at 6pm after a near-22 mile day as I mustn’t get carried away with the easier hiking and suffer a stress related injury again.