Friday August 22th.
I believe my alarm went off sometime in the 7:00 hour. I don't know for sure because I told it to be quiet and went back to sleep. Another alarm went off at 8:15 and I knew it really was time to get up now. I had to convince myself, then Jason, but we dragged ourselves out of bed and into the car so we could start the days adventure.... actually hiking, for the first time on the trip.
The farther we got from Mackay, the more glad we became that we stayed there for the night. It was a longer drive than expected, and then to have to set up camp.... definitely worth the motel. This was reinforced even more as we pulled into the parking area to find pretty much every campsite taken. I had expected a lot fewer people on a Friday morning. But there was plenty of parking, so we had no concerns.
After dumping all of the technical gear out of our packs that we didn't need we hit the trail. Neither of us were feeling particularly good, but we have the 'pound out your first wind so the second comes faster' mentality of starting. Today I cramped 10 minutes in. So a quick rest and some breakfast ensued. Not far from where we stopped it started to get steep. We made a few switchbacks and came onto a short spur ridge, which didn't last long. Then we were going straight up a face with the saddest excuse for switchbacks I had ever encountered. Our quick pace didn't last much longer, and we took another rest. At this rate we weren't going to be setting any speed records. A fellow hiker who had arrived at the trailhead caught up to us and we talked a bit. He was from Colorado and had been working for the forest service in western Idaho for the summer. He was stopping off on his way back. I was impressed with how well he was doing as he didn't seem the type to be going up a route like this as fast as he was. We pulled out ahead of him and never saw him up close again.
After a while of this brutal steepness we came out on top of the steep face and onto a ridge. We saw the summit clear as day, though a few thousand feet above. There was a short section of nice easy trail hiking before we reached another steep uphill, this time on rock rather than dirt. The scrambling was easy and straightforward. I did get off route at one point and had traversed over a large drop, but soon realized my mistake and came back. Made for some cool pictures.
After a bit of scrambling we reached the "Chicken-out" part of the route, which disappointed us greatly. "Are you kidding? People chicken out here?" Off to the north was a small switchback that was, albeit slightly exposed, easy to negotiate. We opted to simply stay on the ridge and down climb the short step to make things a bit more interesting. Once here we moved along the trail toward the one area with some snow still on it. It was a narrow couloir with some rather icy footsteps in it. And there was a bit of a traffic jam trying to get past it. One couple was on their way down and the girl totally bested the guy on the traverse. I don't know what took him so long, but she seemed to get some glee out of beating him so thoroughly. Once Jason and I got our turn to cross we just laughed to ourselves at how not intense it was. It was icy, and we watched every step, and before we knew it we were back on rock and dirt. Another up hill traversing a steep-ish face and we reached the final col before the summit. I figured it probably wouldn't take too long for us to get up it, thinking it was about the same as the final ascent of the Pfiefferhorn, but I was sadly mistaken. It was definitely longer. But we still made good time up the steep loose face, opting to go off trail onto some harder more scrambly, but solid, terrain rather than mess with the scree we would have to go up. This made things easier and soon we were at the top greeted by an American Flag, and a local drinking his victory beer.
We spent quite some time on top. The local was waiting for others in his party, and had taken some pictures of me and Jason for us. In return we offered to take pictures of his whole party when they made it up. In the mean time we signed the log, laughed a bit about the American Flag being on the summit, and talked about some of the adventures we'd done. This whole group was from Challis, just north of Borah, and didn't do much by way of hiking. In fact I believe this was their first summit and they had decided to climb it the night before. Interesting. The rest of his group eventually showed up and we took their pictures for them. Jason offered them some Runts, which they were very excited about. And as they were less experienced and in not as good of shape as us, they were a little low on water. We checked our reserves to find that we had barely even touched ours. Knowing we wouldn't need nearly as much on the way down, we gave them a few liters figuring they could use it more than us. They were indeed grateful, and we bid them a farewell.
Jason and I both have knee issues, though his are far worse than mine. This makes downhills problematic, and steep downhills downright hellish. Coming off the summit we simply "skree skied" our way down to the col. moved through the rocky sections, across the snow, through chicken-out ridge (we took the switchback around the north) and down the final scramble. The going was easy on the next stretch as it was downhill, but not steep, allowing us to run easily. Then came what the part we had dreaded since we came up it.
The steep face of loose dirt and intermittent trees. Our knees were starting to bother us (well, Jason's were probably bothering him when we started, but now they were noticeably bothering him) and we had quite a bit of elevation to loose. We had a decision to make, and we both decided quickly and unanimously. Go quickly. Going down this steep of a hill can either be as slow and tedious as going up, or you can basically let gravity pull you and make ski-like turns to stay in control. Both ways were going to hurt, but one would be a lot faster.
This was all intensified by the fact that I had broken a shoelace on the last steep we did. So I tied a bowline to make it work at least a little bit, and hoped the losse shoe didn't send me head over heels.
We started down and didn't take another rest til the bottom. We stopped on occasion to see where we were, or if we were going to run into something, or someone. In fact we pretty much passed most of the people who had been coming down on our way up. But we didn't want to stop as the afternoon sun was beating on us and scorching us. It was so hot I could only think of one thing: the gallon water jug I had in my Jeep. The first thing I did upon reaching the car was to pull it out and dump it over my head. Oh what a relief. I changed my shirt and we started off bound for Logan.
We did a quick pit stop in Mackay (where we learned how to pronounce 'Mac-Key') for some mountain dew and snacks. We were hungry for real food, but knew it wouldn't come until Pocatello. We hit the road and made it to the Jack in the Box there, filled up on gas, and made way to Logan, passing through Preston on the way. When we got to Travis' house he wasn't home but had given me his garage code. We got in, settled his dogs down, and cleaned up. Travis and Sarah came home before too long and we had a grand time before crashing in bed. Except Jason who stayed up all night watching BYU women's Volleyball...
The next morning we hung out for a bit and took off for home figuring this trip had been enough. After getting something off the BK breakfast menu we made our way down the road back to normal.