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I met up with Rick at the Cottonwood Pass TH almost exactly at the 3a meeting time. I had thought I'd be up to an hour earlier when I left San Jose after 8p the night before, but alas there would be no catnapping for me. Rick had arrived a few hours earlier, had slept a bit and was already dressed and ready to go with his trademark smile when I pulled in. Rick graced me an extra 15 minutes to get my act together and off we went.
It was still dark when we went over Cottonwood Pass at 4:40a, but soon daybreak crept up on us, we stowed our headlamps, and on we slogged as the day caught up with us. The trail isn't particularly steep, but it has a good deal of sand that tends to sap one's strength. It wasn't so much a problem in the morning while we were still fresh, but would be more of a pain on the afternoon return. We reached the crossing of Rock Creek before 8:30a where we took our first real break. Five hours into the hike and we were at a lower elevation than when we started, a bit demoralizing. But we were finally much closer now and could see our peak rearing up to the northwest. The creek had only moderate flow, and getting across was no issue. We continued up to Guyot Pass, marked by a large carving on a pine tree where the trail goes over the pass - crude, but effective. Turning southwest, we started up the Northeast Ridge towards the summit of Guyot. It was an easy class 2 climb, though Rick found some class 3 to play around on as we reached the summit ridge. I was just trying to get to the summit by this time, so I bypassed the class 3 on the northwest side, only reaching the summit a few minutes ahead of Rick.
It was after 10:30a, more than seven hours to reach the summit. Ugh. Somehow I had hoped it would have been faster than that. We signed into the register that went back only a year or two, then had another rest before starting down. We weren't too excited about climbing Chamberlin, but it seemed shameful to come out all this way and leave the other peak unclimbed. Neither Rick nor I wanted to make the call whether to climb it or leave it, and by the time we got back to Guyot Pass the decision was still not made. Compounding the decision were clouds moving in from the southeast, making it look like we might be in for a thunderstorm or two. Seeing that Rick was going to wait me out, I decided to call it quits. I just couldn't see making the slog to Chamberlin and actually calling it fun. And so we headed back down the trail, and to be honest I didn't mind having to make another trip of it. My philosophy has been to try to keep the fun factor throughout the hike as much as possible rather than suffer for the last 7hrs of a 21hr marathon.
We got back to Rock Creek at 12:30p, taking a break to remove our boots and cool our feet in the cool stream. It was rather refreshing as the day was quite warm and our feet had been getting a bit too toasty in our boots. Continuing on, we ran into several parties of PCTers making their way north into the Whitney region. One group we talked to long enough to find out their trail names (Fireball, 30/30, and Ladybug). They had looked surprised when I had asked - maybe they expected this was a tradition only known to fellow PCTers, but were happy to offer them up and give us the short stories behind them.
The clouds came in a little thicker as we climbed uphill towards the western flank of Cirque Peak, but the rain never came. In fact by the time we got back to Cottonwood Pass the weather was a non-factor altogether. I was content by this time that we hadn't gone to Chamberlin because I was teetering on the non-funness of the outing. We both commented on the seemingly unending switchbacks east of the pass, not having remembered it as such in the freshness of the early morning by headlamp. Shortly before 6p we finally hauled ourselves back to the trailhead where we had a celebratory beer. The only really good things about the hike were that we had reached the summit of Guyot (and thus crossed that one off the list) and secondly that it hadn't taken any longer. But the scenery and climbing were less than inspiring and it seemed unlikely we'd be remembering this one fondly anytime in the future. Oh well, they can't all be great outings. :-)
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Guyot
This page last updated: Thu Oct 4 11:55:50 2007
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