Saturday, September 29, 2007

Three mountains

Even though I am done training for the Grand Canyon, I'm not quite done with my peak bagging for the year. Today I marched up to three different peaks, including my first Juneau summit over 4,000 feet - Sheep Mountain (Sounds funny, doesn't it? 4,000 feet. The home in the Salt Lake suburbs where I grew up sits at a higher elevation than that. But in Juneau, Alaska, 4,000 feet feels like a real accomplishment.)

At about 12-13 miles and ~6,000 feet of climbing, it was my most difficult Juneau hike yet. In hindsight, it was much too ambitious to attempt one week after walking across the Grand Canyon. I seem to have sustained a tendinitis-type injury on the bottom of my left foot, and it flared up in full force today. The last mile and a half was close to agony, and the whole time I'm just thinking "Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!" I hope this injury doesn't stick around. It's right on the bottom of my foot, which means it's painful to put any weight on it at all. I'm guessing, though, that I could still push a pedal.

The top of Sheep Mountain had a fair amount of new snow ... about three inches deep, windswept and frozen to a hard sheen. A thin layer of clear ice clung to the rocks, and the temperature with the windchill was well below freezing. And there I was, still sporting all of my summer gear ... no hat, no coat. Luckily, I found a pair of still-damp gloves in the camelbak left over from a recent bike ride. But wow ... I was underprepared and pushing through an overuse injury. Good thing I am, as my aunt puts it, "low maintenance." Otherwise, I might have been miserable.

But I had a great time. I was wrong about the last cruise ship having come and gone. The last cruise ship of the season came today, and with it, the last day that the Mount Roberts tramway was open. I stopped there to take the cheater/shortcut/tram ride to the docks rather than limp the last two miles of trail. I walked into the building to buy a recovery drink - a tripleshot skim mocha grande - in order to spend the minimum $5 required to hitch a ride down. The barrista insisted on giving it to me for free, because it was the last day of the season. He then plied me with free muffins, ice cream and even a T-shirt (I politely declined the T-shirt, which had a scribbly font scrawled over the image of a roaring grizzly. It was pretty much unwearable, even by the standards of cheese that are acceptable in a tourist trap T-shirt). I caught one of the last trams out. I sprawled out beside a window and sipped my hot drink. From the frozen edge of the wilderness to the lap of luxury in one hike ... it doesn't get much better than that.

The top of Sheep Mountain, looking northwest.

Looking back at Sheep Mountain from the top of Mount Roberts.

Looking back at Sheep and Roberts from the top of Gastineau Peak.


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  2. Not like you to be unprepared. Glad you still enjoyed. Sorry to hear about the injury. Hoping it clears up quickly. I'd try ice and massage.

  3. Although I love riding my bike, I also find something special in climbing to the top of a mountain. It's best if it's clear but I still get a special feeling when it's cloudy.

    I live at 6100 feet and pretty much everything around here is up except for the plains to the east. When I graduated from high school, my brother and I flew to Alaska and did some first recorded ascents of 11 mountains. They were all in the 8,000-9,000 foot range but our base camp was at 2,000 so they were longer climbs than most mountains around here.

    I haven't climbed any mountains in a couple years. It would probably be good for my mental health if I would do one before too much snow flies here.

  4. I've been reading your blog for a few days, and today I was messing on the guitar for an hour while reading...and as I record at home, you got a tune. It's here:

    Thanks for the words and pictures. They've helped a lot in a tough month.


  5. Great ascent, and story of the last tram day, Jill.


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