The Russell Project — Page 10

Mount Whitney

Hiking Out

I find hiking down among the hardest tasks in mountaineering. Yes, it's easier to go down (usually!), but the exciting work is done, and now comes the tedium and suffering.

It takes a great deal of concentration to hike down, trying to pay attention to placing each foot on good ground, trying to forget how much each foot protests. We can see our destination far, far below, a vertical mile guaranteed to induce despair.

A wrenched back

Back Therapy

The weary author

A Weary Author

Above Lower Boy Scout Lake

Above Lower Boy Scout Lake

Mount Whitney Trailhead and Whitney Portal

Trailhead: 13 1/2 Hours Later

On the chutes below Iceberg Lake, Bob slips and twists his back.

Meanwhile, my headache has continued to blossom, putting a persistent, get-it-over-with grimace on my face.

In contrast, our scientist seems to have found his second wind.

He eagerly points out nearby features of geological interest (interesting to him, at least), and shows no sign of slowing down.

I am glad to have the company of this quirky father-son duo.

There are advantages to traveling solo, but sharing adventures with close friends surely trumps them all.

Days like these are precious.

It is rare enough that my friend Bob and I see other at all, given the distance that separates us.

To be here together in the beautiful Eastern Sierra is a fine treat, indeed.

With a little help from Dad, Bob is back on his feet, and we resume hiking downward.

To amuse ourselves, we begin speculating about what shape we'll be in tomorrow.

Too sore to walk?

Bob notes that we'll have to wait 48 hours, as that seems to be when muscle soreness peaks. I don't know that I'll set any personal bests in that department, but my own legs are certainly tired. In any case, a big salute must be given to our senior climber, Hugh, who has survived this day in fine form and remains—at least for the moment—fully ambulatory.

At Upper Boy Scout Lake, I stop to tape up my feet and dry my socks—a little preventative medicine for the remaining few miles. My companions press on. I'll catch up soon enough. As father and son pass slowly out of sight, laughing and joking, I feel a great moment of satisfaction in having orchestrated this little adventure.

Perhaps, someday, it will be a much-older me hiking down with my son, talking excitedly about the rigors of Russell's East Ridge, the unexpected snow, that South Face Headwall downclimb. I hope so. For now, I lace up my shoes, take a drink of water, and hit the trail to keep from falling too far behind. Just another day in the Sierra.

Special Thanks for Additional Photography: Robert Kieffer

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