Okay, I am lying. I was neither shoeless nor in Seattle. But it makes a nice title, doesn’t it?
Not many a times does one actually get to live life. People who know me would know about my passion for mathematics. It seems like modern human society tends to look down on me for being so ‘academic'(read nerdy) at times. Not that I mind, but I would be the least workaholic if you ask me. To emphasise that I shall talk about my other passion. Hiking. (Yes Shivam, this is another travelogue)
I began hiking last summer. Being in Vancouver and being excited about it did help. Although most of last summer was spent in India and Seattle, I did quite a few hikes which introduced me to the general structure and terrain of the Coast Mountains. The only hike which went slightly overboard was the hike to Goat Mountain.
This year has been bad in terms of weather. I have been to a lot of places but there has been too much snow and work to do something really exciting. Off lately, one of my friends Zheng Hua had decided to move to Kansas. He had some unfinished business at Hanes and I was itching to do something right after my defense. We concurred upon a plan. I carefully found everything that I could about the hike and equipped myself with an ice axe, hiking poles, a compass, bear spray and mountaineering boots. Not everyone was as excited as us. My adviser considered giving me enough work so that I would not be able to go(he thought it was a bit risky 🙂 ). My mother was extremely unhappy at the developments. “isse acha to tum darpok hi rahte.”(It was better back then when you were a coward.) I am still a coward. I still get scared. I guess I now know how to tackle it better. Meticulous and careful planning.
I woke up early at around 6:30. Another 10 minutes were spent in trying to open my eyes. I got ready and was interestingly punctual. But how could things be that way. I put on my boots to walk. I must make this public. If you have not tried them before, walking with mountaineering boots is hard. My speed was easily halved if not more and I just made it onto the bus. It was about a kilometer from the bus stop to the trail head. By the end of it, I was dead tired. People somehow complain they have never seen me tired. This was your golden opportunity. I tightened my shoes in the proper way. The trail began.
We started on our way to the Norvan falls at about 9:30. It is straightforward trail which people ‘run’ on. Run did I say, I was struggling already. Getting used to the shoe was the first difficult part.
In the mean time I met this old(?) man. We talked a bit. He started asking me what places he should hike around this place. I started rattling off some names. He said,’Strange. I have never heard of these places.’ So I started telling him more about them…He was rather patient. Suddenly something struck me. I asked him, “Do you have a particular place in mind?” He said “Mt Mckinley”. I shut up after that. I must comment, I meet very interesting people sometimes.
My hiking partner was far ahead of me. The poor fellow had to wait a lot at various locations. But I knew I was in for a long one. No point taxing myself. At about 1, we were at the lynn creek. We had lunch. Pao Bhaji tastes better after work.
We were doing great with time. By the way I walked over this log. Falling would not be too bad. At most a few broken bones 🙂
The day was beautiful and the scenery truly astounding. After this crossing we were basically kings of the trail. No one for miles around. We made it to the end of Hanes Valley Route. For reference here is the map:
600 metres above the sea level, now began the actual hike. I must note that it was very pretty around us. We were cradled in between mountains.
It is as difficult as it looks. It was two hours of scramble in between tumbling stones and tumbling snow. I have not sweated so much for quite sometime now. I was concentrating on crossing the boulder field without falling in. My bag somehow dangled mid air and down went one of my hiking poles in between two big rocks. Here I made a wise decision of just leaving it there. It was risky to try to retrieve it. I had lost an important support. I must say the mountaineering boots were a blessing in snow and a curse on the firm ground. They kept my ankle very firm. It kept on becoming more and more challenging and four limbs were not enough. The following happened so many times. I was holding on to a tree. Suddenly it would break and down I would go crashing. But I was careful(lucky?) enough to avoid anything beyond a few bruises. The scenery behind kept on becoming more and more beautiful.
The trail till the beginning of this climb was more or less well marked. Here it was more difficult to find the trail. There were few markers and difficult to spot. The only thing reminding us of human civilisation were helicopters. There were so many of them. I think they were for touristy purposes but I am not sure. I can imagine someone looking at me as I pulled myself up. Very cool. 🙂 We hit snow at about 800 metres. I think being on the leeward side of the mountain made the difference.
We reached the Crown Pass at about 4:30(1000 metres). It is strange. Never in my life have I every been able to do a chin up. I was an object of ridicule, I tried so hard but never. Here there were many instances where I had to pull myself and my bag up only by the strength of my arms. It was so much more difficult. But I did it, and it was not bad. Situations can indeed dictate.
There we met a person returning from Crown Mountain. He passed us in a matter of seconds and we did not see him after that. He was so fast. We kept on. Our next destination was Little Goat. There were lots of bugs and steep snowy slopes. I must say my concentration was very intense. I am rarely so focused. One never gets to know about his abilities unless he does something like this.
While we were struggling to remain in one piece we found bear tracks. Very soon we heard a bear and Zheng saw one. An immediate reaction was to run, but I had the bear spray at hand. We walked on confidently and the bear never faced us. We were lucky. Bears have a lot of advantage in such a terrain. My melodious voice must have soothed his soul.
We kept on slipping and rising in the snow. Finally at about 6:45 we had made it to Little Goat. In the mean time we had lost the way a couple of times. Navigation was slightly tough. The compass turned out to be really useful. It was a very good buy.
We were completely wrong about our conclusions of where is what. At a particular slope I slipped down and could not hold on to my hiking pole. I had two options. Either dig my knuckles in or catch hold the tree. I caught hold of the tree. It had thorns. Ouch. I made my way up, caught hold of the hiking pole and slid down the slope again. 🙂 It was fun.
It took us a few minutes down to realise that we were going in the wrong direction. Out came the compass and it was yet another day when the world was saved. We made our way to the Dam(ned) mountain. The portion was not too bad, a bit slippery but I was at the fag end of my strength. Walking with mountaineering boots had really strained my foot. My thighs and hands were exhausted. My elbows and shins were red and badly scratched because of all the sliding on the snow and the rocks at the rock scree before. At the last few meters up the Dam I pulled my left thigh muscle. For minutes I lay on the steep snow slope writhing in pain. I knew what this was about and what had to be done. I gave it sometime and then massaged it vigorously. Within 5-10 minutes I could walk again. There was a soft pain but nothing that I could not tolerate. I must admire Zheng’s patience and maturity. Another person might have gone into hysteria. Hysteria is much more dangerous than a pulled muscle.
We pushed on. Whenever we felt our sweat, the cold snow beneath and the tiredness within we only had to look up. Far away we would see Mount Rainier after an expanse of the Pacific Ocean. We made it on to the top of Dam.
From there it was a lot of fun sliding down. It was safe and I knew the trail very well. The snow had gone down in the area in the last few weeks. But there was still a bit. Maybe a few cms. Enough for me slide down and have a gala time.
I changed at grouse and took off my shoes. Frankly, I have had enough of those for this day.
It was a wonderful trip and we had a very good time.
I made my way to the downtown and watched the fireworks along with Venu. As usual, he was shouting at the top of his throat. 🙂 It was fun. I was not wearing shoes and had horrible drab clothes. (I was too tired to wear anything proper. ) This was a great source of entertainment to the general Vancouverite. “Are you Maha Yogi?” Not that I care.