My alarm goes off and I unbury my face, pulling my sleeping bag liner and Zenbivy quilt down below my chin. The air is cold and it’s dark aside from Journey Man’s red headlamp light. I lay like that for a few minutes, my face exposed while my body is kept warm. I know I should start preparing for the day ahead, so I do everything I can from inside my sleep system. Socks, leggings, contacts. Deflate my pillow, eat breakfast. I look around for something, anything, to do from the warmth of my quilt but there are no other options. I release the air plug from my mattress and sink two inches towards the ground as it lets out a defeated hiss; in my opinion, this is the saddest sound in the morning. Time to really start the day.
When I climb out of my tent, the stars are still bright in the sky. Journey Man points out a cloudy smear of stars—the Milky Way. The sun is far from rising; it’s about 2:30am now. We need an early start for optimal snow conditions. Bags are packed, crampons are on. We need to start moving before our toes get cold.
The group is ready by 3:30am. We file into a line and start the morning climb. The one-point-something mile climb feels long. It’s steep. It takes us over an hour to reach the top. When we do finally get there, the sun has started making its way up. The sky is layered in pink and lavender, and the small peak I’m on is surrounded by taller others.
I drop my pack and walk over to Journey Man, pulling him in into an embrace. My vision was blurred from the tears in my eyes as I looked at my hiker companions. Twist’s eyes were glassy as well. “Sometimes you just know in the moment that it is one you’ll never forget,” he said.
We all put our packs down and stab our trekking poles into the snow so they stand upright while we take in the 360° view. The sun started to come up over the far ridge to the east, and an alpine glow starts to creep its way down the mountain peaks to our left. Feeling the swell of emotions, we stand silent in each other’s company just soaking it in. The giddiness comes through soon enough with exclamations of our luck to catch the sunrise in this spot today. We take turns snapping pictures of each other.
When the cold reaches our fingers, we know it’s time to start moving again. We descend, then cross a meadow, and have two more climbs before we make camp for the day. The sun is up and it feels hot by the time we break for lunch around 10am. It’s a little too late for me; my stomach has been growling for an hour, but I was too stubborn to stop for a snack. I peel off my rain pants and waterproof seal skin socks, laying them out in the sun to dry alongside my tent. I feel my mood improve as I fuel my body, and I smile as the sun warms my face.
The snow is slushy when we resume hiking after our meal. It’s a slow trudge for the next few hours until we get to camp. Our tents are set up by 2pm. Some of us nap while others snack again. The Sierras burn so much energy; careful steps on the morning ice, careful steps along sun cup edges, careful steps through the slush taking care not to post hole. It takes a physical and mental toll, every step a decision. As soon as my mind wanders, I am susceptible to a career-ending misstep. Despite the difficulty, my body feels strong. I’ve learned to trust myself as I trek through the snow. Dash says you just have to have faith in your gear, and Journey Man says you just “fall gracefully” down the trail. I’ve accepted that 10-12 miles through the Sierra snow and terrain will take a full 12 hours. I love how I feel. I love the support of the group I am with.
My tramily congregates for dinner at 4pm. Conversation is light; we joke and reflect on the day. There’s an anxious undertone, because we summit Forrester Pass tomorrow. Conversation turns more serious as we review our strategy for the next morning. 5pm rolls around and we are ready for bed. We bid one another goodnight, “See you tomorrow, dark and early!” We laugh dryly knowing it’ll be another early morning. We have fallen quickly into the routine of early to rise, early to bed. It’s easy to fall asleep, our bodies and minds exhausted yet excited for the what the next day holds.
My muscles are sore even at the beginning of the day. My feet need to be massaged at lunch. Some days I have an insatiable hunger from the amount of calories I burn. I look forward to reaching the top of a climb. I’m always more than ready to sit down for a long lunch break when I can soak my feet in a cold stream. The moment I can...
When they returned, they revealed goodies that they carried for us. Fresh cherries, huckleberry ciders, and cookies! What treats! We dined together and swapped stories, staying up well past hiker midnight. In the morning, Talia and Mohamed hiked with us for an hour before turning back to...
We immediately started seeing familiar faces once we arrived. It was a big, beautiful reunion of wonderful people. By day, we wandered around with various friends and visited all the vendors. I even got to see...