25m+9(k)VF+1ch(btl)=Mt. Tyndall Day Hike

Originally posted on the WPSMB on 6-23-08

This was all Rick Graham’s fault.

Seriously, he sent me an e-mail a few weeks back about my birthday weekend, asking what my birthday challenge was going to be. Why do some of these guys insist on pushing the competitive button?? I’ve been an athlete WAY too long to not jump at any opportunity to push myself to my limits (and beyond if need be!). So, with the day off before my actual birthday, and knowing I’d be heading up solo, I dove headfirst into finding something that I might be able to pull off.

A solo trek of 35 miles might have been pushing it with there still being a fair amount of snow in the backcountry. (For those not there yet you base the challenge on your age.) Trying to get 35K of vertical won’t do unless I’m in a plane. Tom gave me the idea of adding the pieces together, coming up with 8. So, what’s 8? Well, Split was my Lucky 7th 14er ealier this year, so how’s about another 14er? Up until late last week White was out (except for the West Ridge, not a good idea solo I think quite yet), and the one I had left to link my current list of them was Tyndall. With a grin on my face, I was headed back to Shepherd Pass.

Dayhike of Mt. Tyndall!

A few stats:

Mileage: 25 miles
Elevation Gain: 8888ft
Starting Elevation: ~6300ft
Pack Weight: ~25lbs (crampons/axe/helmet included)
Start Time: 0200
Summit: 1145
Finish Time: 1845
Burger Time: 1945

A few notes from the day:

1.) I am certifiably sick in the head: I love the Shepherd Pass trail. The way it winds along Symmes Creek, climbs up the south walls, then clings to the northern slopes of Shepherd Creek as you climb to the bench at Anvil Camp. Of course, I was doing this in the dark, and the creek crossings were, well, let’s just say I didn’t fall in. As I climbed above the noise of the creek, I entered what seemed a dead zone, with the only noise being my breathing, tapping poles, and trudging feet. The rhythm at 3 a.m. was hypnotizing, and I kept thinking I was seeing green eyes everywhere I turned. (I’ve been a might spooked about starting in the dark solo since last fall when I was faced w/ the evil green eyes in Yosemite, and Mike STILL swears it was a squirrel). I reached the saddle around 0400, beginning the contour/drop/rise around to Mahogany Flat.

2.) One of the most brilliant sunrises I’ve ever had the privelege of observing greeted me just above Mahogany Flat. The rocks warmed and suddenly burst into flame all around me and I stood in the growing day. Shepherd Creek cascaded in a thick white ribbon down the bench, and the local birds finally decided to get out of bed and warbled at my approach. It was nice to have company again as I walked into the green of Anvil Camp . After greeting a few campers, I found a nice nook near the stream to eat breakfast and rest before the push to the Pass. It was 0615, the water rushed to the Valley far below, and a morning breeze gave me a slight chill.

3.) At 0700 I headed up from Anvil and into the Pothole. There are the (I suppose) usual snow banks against the walls of moraine here, occasionally hiding the trail but not for long. The snow was suncupped and somewhat soft, even with the early hour, and it was here that I began to realize that I wouldn’t probably need my crampons/axe. Oh well, training weight (for the record, I’m not really sure WHAT I’m training for anymore, but it always sounds good). I came upon four more campers by the base of Junction Pass (yet ANOTHER good excuse to come back to Shepherd Pass in the future!!), who looked a bit surprised to see me. Just above them came the first full view of the Pass , which looked exactly like it did when me and the boys climbed Big Willie on Memorial Day 2007. A short but loose jaunt up the right hand side scree and I was on top of the pass! (I thought about using the crampons, but since I just had trailrunners on decided to just scree it). The snow traverse was full of sun cups and some boot track, making it quite easy to step carefully across. It was 0845.

4.) Now, a nice benefit to this hike is that routefinding is really not much of an issue in terms of getting to the peak. I mean, you really can’t miss Tyndall as it sits east of the Pass. Get there, turn left. What I had to decide was which route to climb: the Class 2 NW Ridge or the Class 3North Rib , otherwise known as the Sierra Crest. No brainer, really: I’ll take boulder hopping over scree anyday. While I was resting, I came upon three guys heading for Big Willie, one of whom recognized me from the WPSMB. Wassup Hoser23?? Forgive me for forgetting your name (was it Keith?), but I didn’t forget your brother Darryl and your other brother Darryl (I mean your friend Richard)!! Woohoo for the Bay Area Boys ! At 0930 I was heading across the high mountain plain towards the Rib.

5.) Do yourself a favor: don’t even THINK that making a straight line for the Rib will save you time. Laws of math apparently don’t apply to moraines. It took me 45 minutes just to get across, only to look down and see a nice sandy approach and about 300 yards of moraine to cross just a little further north than my hypotenuse idea. Whoops. Finally I was at the base of the rib, so I donned my helmet (axe and crampons had been stashed back at the Pass) and started up. Now, this is rated Class 3, and up at the top or if you get on some of the steep slabs I could see it, but it’s mostly Class 2 scrambling. Still, once again in the steep stuff my pace slowed to a crawl, and the notch I was aiming for just never get any closer. I was hoping to summit by 11, and I finally got there around 1145. But what the hell: the view from yet another notch blew me away.

6.) I had the summit to myself, seeing two others at the notch who had started climbing from the lake at the Pass that morning. Since the timer on my camera is only 10 seconds, I scrambled as far as I could up the summit block and turned to look back to smile. I did it!! Break out thebubbly ! Yup, the gorgeous peak I had stared at from Williamson last year was now under my feet. Once again, the wind died, the view was spectacular, the sun warm on my face as I broadly grinned.

7.) I descended the North Rib as well, since I didn’t want to deal with the “very exposed” gendarmes that guarded the NW Ridge route, even if it meant not getting a nice scree descent. No worries, since the snow was absolutely trivial and the slabs offered tremendous friction. The view to the Great Western Divide was amazing, and I found a perfect rock to shoot my Moment of Well-Earned Bliss! I gathered up my gear at the Pass and headed down, resting at Anvil Camp for a water-up and realizing that stopping again would not really be an option unless I wanted my legs to freeze up.

8.) I hated to leave the green of Anvil Camp, but the beer-dar had been a bit prematurely activated and I started calculating how long it would take me to get down and could I make it to the Portal for a burger??? Strong motivation indeed! I practically flew down the trail until below Mahogany Flat, when, at 1700, I reached the dreaded “WHOINTHENAMEOFALLTHATISGOODPUTAGD600FTDROPINTHISTRAIL” hill . Sun baked the traverse, and my feet really started to swell. OK, pace it out, Big Moosie. 1..2..3..4..breathe in for 2, out for 2, use your poles, go legs go! The afternoon light and some clouds that had popped up created some backlighting and shadows on the snags and opposite walls, so at least I could stop a few times to snap some pics. Upon reaching the most evil false saddle on the PLANET, I actually smiled and knew the worst was over. I crested the real saddle and didn’t look back. Down the switchers on the other side was a bit tortuous, with my feet so hot and tired from the climb. So I didn’t feel so bad when they got wet on the crossings, and I finally fell in at the last one. Dernit.

9.) The TOF was in view by 1845. I was back, safe and sound , throwing my stuff wildly into the TOF so I could hit the road. Some guy at the trailhead asked if he needed snow gear for the ascent. I tried to assess his comfort level by asking if he’d ever used them before, to which he scoffed that ‘obviously this is too hard of a question’ and trudged back ot his van. Sorry, dude, but I’m not having your injury on my conscience because you can’t tell me how much you’ve used crampons or if you can self-arrest. I tried to tell him I didn’t use them, but he really didn’t care. *sigh* Rule #1: People are dumb. Next time, I’ll just be sure to say, “Yes.” The portal was calling, and Nick, bless his heart, threw a cheeseburger on a clean grill so I could end the day in triumph. It probably helped that I walked in the door of the store with a case of Lobotomy Bock.

So here’s the new math:
25 miles + 9(000) vertical feet + 1 bottle of champagne = 35 years old. That’s me, the ‘young pup’ as so many are reminding me. It was the toughest day I’ve ever cruised through before.

Some other moments from the day:

Rest of the pics are here.

From the luckiest girl in the world: Climb hard, be safe.


PS: On a quick side note, I’ve had phobias about my weight since I was a teenager. I mean, you don’t get a nickname of Moose without being somewhat bigger and stronger than some of the other kids. This morning, I jumped on a scale for S+G’s and saw a 1 at the beginning of my weight for the first time in 16 years. I was just talking to Mike about this yesterday at the Portal. Now, I know that Friday’s push and Saturday’s follow-up helped, and that a few pounds or so was water weight that’ll probably gain back in a day or two. But for those who have struggled, as I have, to see that 1 instead of a 2 meant everything. While it’s not as important to me as being strong, it still had its effect. Maybe that’s what the ‘training weight’ is for!


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