Tuesday, September 7, 2010

South Sister Attempt 9-6-10

This climb was a serious learning experience, mostly of the what not to wear and how the wrong gear can wear you out in a hurry. Add to that the fact that I only got maybe 5 hours or so of sleep then drove 3+ hours to get there, yeah, I ran out of steam. I did however cover 8 miles round trip and 2400 vertical, so still qualifies as the most grueling hike I've done to date. The next go round for this climb I'm going to be doing quite a few things differently. First off is either staying at a hotel in Bend, then driving a half hour to the trailhead, or make it a two day and camp near the lake first night. That right there takes the first 1600' and 2.5 miles or so out of the hike.

The next problem I had was over dressing and over gearing. I'd been looking at the weather, and although it was calling for clear skies, it was calling for temps below freezing in the Bend area. I decided on long johns, lined jeans, UnderArmor tshirt, Carhart shirt, and fleece pullover. In my pack, I had my milspec GoreTex, extra hats, gloves, little bit of food, 3L of water, as well as my normal first aid and survival gear. That adds up to a lot of weight in a hurry. I was going the wrong direction for layering. In reality, with the late start and warmer temps, I should have gone with shorts and tshirt, left the extra gloves and hats, and used a lighter pack. Next time around, I'm also going for some lighter weight GoreTex gear as well. The milspec stuff was cheap and durable, but heavy! Fine for hunting season and flatter ground hiking, but that's probably an extra 10+ pounds in the pack for a serious climb.

Now, gear issues aside, the biggest factor that I feel prevented me from making the summit is too much too soon. I only quit smoking 53 days ago! Plus I'm also not in the best physical condition, so pushing myself to climb mountains this soon is hard on a body that isn't really prepared for it. Plus the boots I bought last month were horrible. My feet were in such pain by the time I reached my truck, I almost went straight from there back to REI to return them! I bought them based off of reviews on REI's website, and they seemed to have an over abundance of positive reviews. Only thing I can gather is the positive reviewers have never owned $200-$300 boots in their lives, and so far they were the "best bang for the buck". I'm getting my Danners resoled and sticking with them. Great boots, super comfortable even if the "waterproof" part was never true. Only reason I didn't wear them is the tread is pretty much flat on them.

So, today as I write this, I now know what I really have to look forward to when it comes to climbing 10,000'+ mountains. Yesterday gave me the insight I needed to start fixing the issues that kept me from the summit. First, physical conditioning. Even though I won't be able to see much for elevation through the next few months, I can lose weight, build joint strength and improve my overall cardiovascular function. Second, improve my gear. This is the same lesson I learned from the "Wilderness Adventure" about how better gear equals comfort with less exertion. After that episode, I started investing in better back country camping gear, but then again that was for relatively flatter terrain.

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