Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hines Peak/Topatopa Bluff, 04/09/11

How about a long hike in decidedly un-April like conditions? Cliff and I hiked the Sesar>Hines>Topa>Sesar 22 miler on a day that ranged in temperature from 25-55 degrees (depending on where the clouds & wind were), half of that time spent travelling on snow. We got going at 06:45 and rushed through the cold, early miles. The sunrise cast a silver haze on the frosted brush. The creek is high and we heard a chilly roar as we passed above White Ledge falls. We had reached the snow by the the time we passed the picnic bench on the ridge.
We trudged through the long miles, sometimes in shade, sometimes in sun, always on snow until we finally stood at the foot of Hines Peak's steep summit ridge. I sensed that Cliff was a bit apprehensive about the angle of the ridge in relation to the amount of snow. In other words, I think he was wondering how much risk this would entail. I remember having the same sort of feeling a long time ago when I was less familiar with climbing on snow. I threw on my Yaktrax and assured him that we'd make the top. After all, we weren't contending with black clouds, atomic lightning, or flesh eating wind, all of which conditions could have been present.
We quickly opened the Mountaineering 101 Handbook to the chapter on "cutting steps" with excerpts from "understanding your trekking poles" and "basic rockaneering". I cut the steps and Cliff did just fine following in my steps. He got through some of the rocky and exposed stuff without difficulty. He was wall to wall grins on the summit. It was a good summit and a good climb on a cold and breezy day. The down climb went smoothly and we headed back towards Topa Topa which was obscured by clouds.
*Hines is definitely Class III in real snow conditions. Class III can be described as "scrambling with the opportunity to really hurt yourself".

We rolled over to Topa, stopping for a good sit at the saddle junction before facing the last big "Up" of the day. As we approached the summit of Topa we beheld a strange phenomena: fins of ice clinging to manzanita. Clearly, the cloud bank roiling by just a hundred feet from us had receded just minutes ago. Very neat.

As for the summit of Topa, that weird occurrence with the clouds butting up against the bluffs that I've mentioned before was in full effect. It wasn't the kind of day to linger. Down we went and a couple hours later rambled back to the truck.

Let me take a moment to share with you a new found hope for an ambulatory and active future. The inspiration for this brain-bulb comes from hiking with these really great older guys. I ran into Rick Bartell, a friend in his early 60's, on the Arroyo Verde trail. He was charging up some sick hill right beside me. And how about a tip of the hat to Mr. Cliff Griffiths, electrician of the first order, 59 years old, and can hike 22 miles, climb up an icy summit, etc... and be able to do again next weekend. How's that for tough.

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