Tue, Jul 3, 2007
Ryan (my 10yr-old) had been out with me on some peak climbs a few weeks earlier, and this was only a bit harder than those. But it didn't take him more than 15 minutes before he started complaining about how difficult it was. We hadn't even made it to the fork with the Morgan Pass Trail, and hadn't gotten to any of the steeper portions of the trail. The other three were off ahead some 50 yards or so while I followed behind Ryan. He would shuffle his feet in the dust, which not only made the two of us breathe more dust than necessary, but took him more energy than lifting his feet a bit. I let him know he was being a wimp (in about those words), told him to suck it up and to try to complain less. The late start meant that it was in the 70's when we started, and with the full sun beating on us and little shade, it warmed us quickly. After about 30 minutes the others started to complain, asking how much further, where was the pass, how steep would it get, etc. Having been on this trail more than a few times in the past, I was able to give them very accurate information on miles to the next junction, to the pass, elevation to climb, etc, but this really didn't mean much to them. They wanted to know how long would it take? Of course that depends on how many breaks we took and I patiently tried to explain this. I don't think they cared, or didn't listen, because the questions were coming pretty regularly now, and there wasn't much variation in the way they were asked. Immediately after answering Marisa, Ryan chimed in, "I thought you said..." Losing patience finally, I cut him off, "No, I didn't say. You guys are going to drive me crazy."
They left me alone for about five minutes, but the urge to ask again was too strong. A big part of the problem is that kids lose all sense of time when they are suffering. It's probably not restricted to kids, but perhaps they are more vocal. I can say it's five minutes to the next junction, but a minute later I get, "I thought you said it was only five minutes..." I began to think that Mono Pass was going to be too much for them and came up with a new plan. When we got to the Ruby Lake junction, I let them know we were at the halfway point and still had another hour to go to Mono Pass. I gave them the option to go to Ruby Lake, only a few hundred yards further up. They dreamed about swimming in the lake, though I knew it would be much too cold for that, but let them dream anyway. The vote came up even - two for Mono Pass, two for Ruby Lake. Marisa had surprised me in voting (with me) for Mono Pass. Even though her complaint level had increased, she was the only one mentally toughing it out to continue. Kristin was completely undecided, declaring this the most difficult decision of her life. She was able to verbalize that she wanted to go to the pass because it'd feel good afterwards to know she didn't give up, but her body was trying to tell her something altogether different. After a few minutes it appeared her impasse was not going to be relieved, so I gave them a further incentive - I said anyone who makes it to Mono Pass gets ice cream afterwards, the others don't. This was somewhat of a last ditch effort and I really didn't think it was going to have much impact, but I was surprised at the sudden resolve. Clearly they couldn't have been suffering that much if they would agree to continue for something as trivial as an ice cream. Kristin led a team cheer for Mono Pass or Bust, and off we went.
Of course this didn't mean that the complaints were going to diminish any. Marisa came out with the first one only 30 seconds past the trail junction. "This is too steep!" It wasn't any steeper than what we'd been climbing, as the trail is graded with switchbacks (for pack animals) and has a pretty consistent grade most of the way. Ryan's complaints reached a plateau and never got any worse after the trail junction. He moved from last place along the trail (excepting myself bringing up the rear) to second behind Kristin. Marisa and Lauren were beginning to flag and increase the complaint to footsteps ratio. Both started complaining of nausea. We took a good deal more rests, and they started lasting longer. Kristin chose a quiet moment to inform me she didn't have her inhaler with her. Nice. Nobody told me I had an asthmatic with me. "Uh, where's your inhaler?" I asked, thinking it was back in the car somewhere. "It's in Los Angeles," she tells me. My sympathy goes from 80% down to about 10%. She can tough it out - the nauseous ones are a bigger concern. Of course I wasn't that worried about them either - I've barfed a number of times on tough hikes and always felt better afterwards. Still, we rested whenever they complained of it and waited until the feeling subsided. I didn't want to catch the wrath of one of the Moms. Onward.
We started off with a few gallons of water and flavored drink, but it went pretty quickly. I got the job of sherpa in carrying most of it, though Krisin had a fanny pack with some of the water for the first half of the hike (I ended up with it after that). I tried to explain the art of slaking one's thirst without guzzling all of it. "You have to take care of the pain, but still feel thirsty afterwards," I tried in the way of explanation. Blank stares. "Huh?" It didn't come out right. None of them were seriously thirsty (though it would be impossible to tell from listening to them), and I don't think any of them has probably been really thirsty in their lives. Oh well, this wasn't the proper time for such a lesson. I rationed the last two water bottles the rest of the way and nobody seemed to complain about it so it couldn't have been too bad.
The trail switchbacked a few times and where the kids started up a shortcut I had to call them back sharply. "No cutting!" "Why?" came the inevitable reply. I gave them the standard reasons about trail errosion and how it makes the trail look bad, etc, knowing that the lesson was only as good as I could keep an eye on them. That's another thing about kids - Wilderness is appreciated until it rubs against their more selfish impulses like littering and throwing rocks and cutting trails. Hmmm, there are some adults like that too, now that I think of it.
After the last switchback we got around the corner to where we could see to Mono Pass (almost), as it was pretty much hidden until this time. This seemed to motivate my front-runners, but Marisa and especially Lauren continued to flag.
"I just can't go another step."
"This is as far as I can go."
"Can't I just stop here?"
Giving only lip service to the complaints, I continued herding them to the pass. "Look, it's only ten minutes if you don't rest," I pointed out.
"How long if we rest?"
It was getting funny by this point. A patch of snow a few hundred yards before the pass got them all to stop. Not more than a few square feet of the cold stuff, it was enough that they could rub on there tired, overwarmed legs. You'd think they'd just found their way out of the desert after 40 days without water. The sandy parts in the trail helped reinforce this image as they shuffled their feet through, agonizing over the heat and unrelenting trail (even though it was flat in the sandy parts). Lauren sat down again and said it was impossible to go any further. I pointed to Ryan and Kristin ahead and said, "Look, they're at the pass."
"But it's so far away..."
"It's only seven minutes (which was the truth)."
"Think about the ice cream."
It was just before noon when all of us made it to the pass. The jubilation was somewhat subdued. "This isn't very scenic," one of them commented.
"Hey, I told you there'd be no trees, just rock. Be glad there's some snow."
The snow in fact was the big thing that captured their attention and they walked around in it and threw snowballs and generally had fun until their shoes were soaked and their feet were numb. In the meantime I hiked down the north side of the pass to the lake to refill all the water bottles, then came back to join them. They were eagerly eating the sandwiches and other snacks I had carried up in my pack. They said they wanted to stay there a few hours, though I knew they'd get bored sooner than that. They all looked at me like I was a moron when I asked if anyone wanted to continue up to Mt. Starr. "Ok, I'll be back in an hour. Kristin's in charge while I'm gone. Don't kill each other," and off I went.
It took only 25 minutes to reach the summit, my second visit to Mt. Starr. I took some photos of the fine views, rested for a few minutes ("Ah, no complaints..."), then headed down. I was back in less than 50 minutes and as expected, they were done with the snow and had moved to the bored phase of their existence. At least no one was threatening to throw up any more.
Going down was easy, for the most part. Kristin and Lauren were out in front and never stopped until they got back to the trailhead. Marisa and Ryan did well, but struggled a bit as the end neared. I was required to provide minute detail on how far to each junction, and woe to me if I misjudged any of the distances. We passed a number of parties on our way down, some backpacking, most dayhiking like ourselves. Back at the Morgan Pass trail junction I met up with another father who asked if we'd made it to Mono Pass. "Yes, we did," I replied.
"Was it grueling?" he asked with a small grin.
I looked ahead at Ryan plodding down the trail. "Incredibly grueling," I countered.
We made it back to the van at 3:30p for a 6hr adventure. They were all thrilled to take their shoes off, only improved by the acquisition of ice cream from the Rock Creek store. Back in Mammoth, the four of them were all asleep by 5p, and it was only with some effort on my part that I was able to rouse them to dinner an hour later. Promptly they went back to bed afterwards, with the exception of Ryan. I had offered to take hime fishing in the evening, and it was only by sheer will and his overwhelming love for fishing that he was able to forgo the napping. I'm sure they'll all remember this day fondly ever afterwards. Or else maybe that's the last hike they do with Uncle Bob. We'll see.
For more information see these SummitPost pages: Mt. Starr
This page last updated: Sat Jan 22 19:28:30 2011
For corrections or comments, please send feedback to: email@example.com