So, on account of the weather, the "Geezer Hike" was canceled once again. I decided early yesterday that I would venture forth today...weather be damned! Since I was going to be wet and miserable anyway I chose to up the ante. I chose to hike Chorro Grande to the Pine Mountain summit. This grueling hike would start in the rain, summit in the snow, and end in the rain. Chorro Grande is an old packing trail and ascends 3,309ft in 7.4 miles. Hard, on a nice day. Today it was really tough and by the time I was nearing the truck I was done.
As the lower trail consistently climbed through rain and chaparral I had to work my poles in greasy mud. At times, the trail was basically a creek (1st pic below). I was able to ascend through the rain and muck quickly and was relieved to find that I had reached the snow line, though the snow was wet and heavy. As I progressed, the weather cut me a break. The precipitation slacked off and views improved. I was grateful for the break. As the trail wound it's way, ever upward, it became steeper and the snow got deeper. I chose not to take breaks while ascending and instead, slurped a couple of GU's, ate a bar, and sucked down water. I wanted to be summited and descending before the weather deteriorated, certainly before any thunder storms developed. As I approached the final 3 miles to the summit I started post-holing. A couple of times I sunk up to the groin. My mental mode changed over to a stubborn persistence.
The final 2 miles to the summit were brutal, cold, and steep. As the terrain changed and a fog rolled in I found myself having to really use good trail-finding technique. Also my GPS became the MVP of the day. I kept looking hopefully upward for any indication of Pine Mountain Rd and my destination: the eastern-most camp site on Pine Mtn. The fog was really cutting visibility when I decided to use the GPS to put me right at my destination, I dodged 0.2 miles of trail by heading strait up the last few minutes worth of mountain. I was very relieved when I popped over the rise and walked right into camp. I stayed long enough to take a couple of pictures and started straight down. It took me 3.5hrs to climb the trail. I subscribe (based on bitter experience) to the school that says, "In inclement weather, summit and get down. Then feel good about yourself.".
As I descended most of the weather I'd experienced on the way up hit me on the way down, however, the temperature had plunged by 10-20 degrees. I was comfortable, though. The Gore-tex in my boots and my rainwear were holding up well. Plus, I was well layered. By the way, I had in my pack a back-up layer and gloves, a Gore-tex bivuac sack, first aid stuff, headlamp, extra food and water, and everything else I would need to survive a night up there in the event I couldn't move. That kind of planning is my MO (again, a product of experience). All that extra weight in my pack sure was reassuring. By the time I returned to the truck things were getting cold and nasty.
So, not the usual way to spend a stormy day. But that was the point wasn't it?
Ortega Hill and Ortega Peak
1 week ago