This summer has been so busy that I've hardly had time for any hiking or mountaineering. Since it was the last week of summer term and I was all caught up on homework, I decided to head back down to McLoughlin, this time fully intent on reaching the summit. This time around, I drove down in the evening and car camped near the trailhead so I could get an early start. Weather was clear and cool, but fire danger was high, so no campfires. I was able to get at least a few hours of sleep before I decided to get moving around 5am. After getting my gear sorted out, camp broke down, and chugging a crappy cup of instant coffee, I was on the trail by 5:45. First time finally starting out by headlamp before sunrise! I was the first on the trail, but I knew it would get crowded as the day went on. This time around, I decided to stop about every hour to hydrate and eat something so that I wouldn't run out of steam before the summit. I started meeting other groups that were coming up behind me and we would leap frog each other for awhile up until around the 7000' mark (side note: around this point I ran into kylenicolls from summitpost.org. We both knew each other would be on the mountain that day.) I was moving slow and steady, so it didn't bother me to get passed up here and there. All together I believe that around 10 people had passed me up by the time I reached the summit, but there probably at least another 40+ people behind me. I reached the summit around 11:30, under six hours was not bad at all for 5.5 miles and 4000'. The last mile was nothing but boulder crawling and scree which made for a miserable finish up until the last 50 yards. As I was finishing the last little stretch, I was cheered on by the other groups I'd talked with along the way, giving me a boost of energy to make the final push.
After taking some pics, calling the folks, and updating my facebook (yep, from the top of a mountain), it was time to make my way back. I was able to get moving before any major bottlenecks occurred on the lower slopes. By that point, there was a line of people making their way up the southeast ridge. I made the return in about 3 hours having to stop a few times to throw some tape on toes and heels. My footwear issues continue, but I think mostly to profuse sweating and lots of crawling around on steep terrain. I didn't care, I'd bagged the summit and was on my way home. Other gear and personal notes were that I still carried too much gear, but just the right amount of water. I could have left the shell jacket and pants, gaiters and puffy jacket in the car which would have saved me a few pounds. There was no snow left on the mountain, and the forecast was clear and hot for several days, but I opted to bring everything anyway. I need to work up to heavier packs for overnight trip.
Just out of the parking lot on the trail, there's a foot bridge crossing a nice stream. I ran into another gentleman who'd made the trip ahead of me and joined him at the creek to soak my feet for a few minutes before I made the 4 hour drive home. At the parking lot, there had to have been at least 50 vehicles. Popular climb for a sunny Saturday afternoon. I definitely want to go back after we start getting some snow. On last years climb, the long snow approach was miserable, but the final push up the summit ridge was easier since there was no boulder crawling. If I can time it for a clear approach with about 4-5' of snow above 7000', that would be a nice climb. We'll see after the snow starts falling later this year.