Tyndall in a Day — Page 11

Mount Williamson & Mount Tyndall


It's far from clear where climbing and skiing a mountain fits into life's list of traditional achievements. Where, for me, does Tyndall in a Day rank? What, ultimately, will this day mean?

Despite the heavy load on my back, thoughts of food and drink and rest are motivating me to practically run down the trail. These last hours, however, won't pass easily. Time seems to stretch, like watching a clock just before quitting time. And the body is starting to hurt now!

Symmes Creek & John Muir Wilderness Sign Andy's Shadow Shepherd Pass Trailhead Andy is Smiling

But none of this can dampen my rising sense of accomplishment.

Barring something really wacky happening—wild animal mauling, space alien abduction—I'm going to be off this trail soon, having met my goal of climbing and skiing Mount Tyndall in a single push.

As for the actual time total, I'm thinking it's going to be right around 19 hours.

That number sounds...big.

As much as I've enjoyed this outrageous personal marathon, I don't envision myself repeating anything remotely like it anytime soon.

Then again, who knows when the next idea will seize hold of me?

All these switchbacks! Feet feel like they're getting pounded into hamburger. Deep breathing to try to get the dizziness under control. Better. Water tastes like spit.

I can hear Symmes Creek now. Soon, I've dropped the last of the switchbacks, and I'm on the first creek crossing, elevation 6979'. Can't be more than a mile to the car, now.

Nice fat air feels good in the lungs. And there it is—the Shepherd Pass Trailhead sign. Unbelievable! Absolutely Unbelievable! I end this journey as I began it: alone, just me and my thoughts. That pack and skis come off as quickly as I can manage. I open up the car and start tossing gear inside—no small task.

A cool wind is still blowing, stirring dust across Owens Valley. Time to return to that crazy, confusing place we call civilization. I've come to realize I use these hikes, these adventures, as a way to explore not just mountains but also myself. It's not so different, really, from the purification rituals of our ancestors, from the sweat lodge to fasting in the desert.

Boil away the superficial, the comforts, the illusions...and see what remains. Find out who you are, what you're made of. Find out what happens when it's just you and your fears and doubts. It's not a Pass or Fail test. It's not something that can be bought or sold. It's personal—a glimpse of the soul. And who knows—what you find up here might just stick with you when you head back down below.

At least, that's what I'm hoping.

About SierraDescents

When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.