Johnson worked till 8pm Friday and then we took off for Big Pine. Renegaded a campground at 1:00am and up at 6am on Saturday. Packed in to Third Lake; ate a lunch of beef stick, cheese and cherries and took off for the base of Venusian Blind on Temple Crag. Of course, I couldn’t find John so I started climbing something harder than I should only to look down and see a trail up to a class 4 start where I was already climbing 5.7 to 5.8 and scaring myself half to death. I blamed having pneumonia last winter for my hugely labored breathing; but the thought occured that perhaps I was just fat and old. I thought, “if the whole day goes like this; I’ll be fried mentally and physically long before I finish”. So much for being psyched on the first 30 feet of the climb!
Finally I saw John on the true Arete putting on his harness and I climbed past him for several pitches up to pitch 4. Well, we never did take the rope off my back and finished after some scary headwalls up the arete (5.7 and one section of 5.8) and along the ridge with drops of 1,000 feet down on either side. We passed a pair of young dudes from Oregon. As we did; they just stared wide eyed at us as they pitched it out; especially Johnson with his torn and ripped approach shoes that have seen more time on construction sites than ridges. They didn’t say anything but the vibe was clearly, “Who are these two old, fat guys running past us with no rope, no shoes and useless harnesses?
We finished the route (14 pitches in 2.5 hours) quickly but it seemed much longer somehow. We were going to kiss off the summit since we’d been there before when some local Bishop Chica overheard us and yelled back, “Oh, you HAVE to bag the summit.” It was like Brennan channeling a pretty, hot, young Bishop thing; disconcerting and not just a little weird! We finally got up there, sat and caught our breath and worked our way down to the OLD descent path.
As we rapped down to the downside of Contact Pass; Deja Vu struck. I wondered to myself; hadn’t we done this before? Isn’t there a rap that goes right to the TOP of the pass? Wasn’t the hike UP Contact Pass a real drag last time? Yes, Yes and Yes! As my feet slid down half a step in the sand with each effort and my heart beat at 165 bpm, I heard fairer voices ahead.
Yet I knew the two Bishop gals were way behind us tagging the summit. Nope. I heard John ahead of me, “there’s the rap we missed last time.” And THIS time too, I thought. A torturous way down sand, VW beetle sized sliding talus and finally we hiked across a path and the dam; and found our campsite. After a relaxed dinner of pasta, canned chicken and a few sips of whiskey (Yukon Jack or as John called it; white cough syrup); we found spots semi-protected from the howling wind that night and slept the sleep of old satisfied fat men.
A nice hike out, feet in the river and a cold beer at Glacier Lodge completed the weekend.
Tips: Don’t park at the official trail head; park at Glacier Lodge and hike across the river and up the switchbacks to stay out of the baking sun. Stop at the Ranger’s Cabin (Lon Chaney’s old place) and sit on the deck and admire the view of the creek. Bring a six pack (cans) and tie them up outside of the cabin or where you parked so you have cold beer without worrying about ice chests. Camp at the outlet between 2nd lake and 3rd lake and save yourself another mile hike in to 3rd lake. On the descent; work your way toward the north and find the rap that goes to the top of Contact Pass; don’t get fooled in to following the trail that lowers you down to the back side of the pass. Slow down enough to look around and enjoy one of the nicest Peaks in the Sierras!