Day 6: June 15,2012
David left us today; we are so dead. He waited until after breakfast (we had his food, after all), then was off down the trail at about 70 mile per hour. Seriously, I think this guy rivals the cheetah as the fastest mammal on earth.
We started hiking, following him and in 3.4 second he was out of sight. And this was on a half mile stretch of straight trail. The next section of trail was quite boring, just rocks, dirt and sticks all mixed together. I feel like I am less charitable to the ground when I am hiking across it with an extremely heavy backpack on, but then again what good can you say about the ground? It is almost literally lower than dirt. We started a game of conundrums to pass the time. The game was so simple that even a crew of Boy Scouts could understand it. One person gave a scenario (i.e. A man jumps off of a building. Half way down, he hears something and realizes that he doesn’t want to die.) and the rest of the crew had to determine what was going on by asking yes-or-no questions to get information (i.e. Was all the man wanted for Christmas his two front teeth? Did the man have his two front teeth when he jumped? He certainly didn’t have them after he jumped!)
Four or five conundrums later, we arrived at Crater Lake, though it looked more like just a Crater since Lake implies the presence of water. There was a cattle drive going through that area since Philmont is still an active cattle ranch. The cows were probably going, “Isn’t this Crater Lake? Where’s the water?” “I know. This is more of just a crater.” The experience was interesting since I have never seen a real cattle drive complete with cute cowhands. Neither had Steven, evidently, though that didn’t stop him from striking up a conversation with one of the cowgirls (since the cowboys were admittedly less attractive). He was so good, he managed to trip over a rock, just as he was saying something; it was a smooth move and the cowgirl must have been a hard nut to crack for him to not get her phone number after that.
After Crater Lake, we had a slight disagreement over the reading of the map. I hate to admit this, but I might have kind of been wrong on this one. Anyway, after wasting a bunch of time, we got on the right trial (actually it was the left one) and headed for Miner’s Park. We got in with very little time to spare, picked up food for the next several days, cooked dinner (because it required water and our campsite would be dry tonight) and ate. We barely managed to cook and clean the dishes and make it to our climbing program on time. By “on time” I mean about fifteen minutes to half an hour late, but the free spirits of climbing are apparently never on time for anything, so we were in good shape. We sat through a safety talk which in essence said, “Don’t do anything stupid and kill yourself,” grabbed helmets, and headed for “the Pit” that is, the climbing area.
There were 2 paths to climb: Sweet Tea with a difficult of 5.6 and Hot Sauce which was a 5.8. We had 7 scouts climbing, 4 up Hot Sauce and 3 up Sweet Tea. Nash claimed that he would smoke us all because he has been climbing for a very long time; however, I managed to beat him by half his time which was good because I had been smack talking a LOT. Of course, Michael beat me by 30 seconds, but who cares about that. I wasn’t racing him (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) and he’s just a bloody spider monkey. Clearly he didn’t make eye contact with the girl at the top or, as Steven pointed out, he would have frozen and fallen back down. Then he would have only beat me by 5 seconds, and that would have been a shame. My older brother David also climbed Hot Sauce and all of the members of our crew completed their climbs which was better than the other crew that was climbing with us. What can I say, we’re competitive and inspired. Once the first climber made it to the top, we were good to go.
At the top of the climb, we clipped ourselves to a safety line and walked down a ledge to the repelling station. That is repelling like down a cliff, not repelling girls, though our smell was probably doing that after several days on the trail. A girl named Sarah ran the repelling station; Steven must have eagle eyes because he commented on how good she looked, and he never climbed the rocks. Michael almost fell of off the ledge when he saw her; good thing he was tied off. Sarah tied us to the repelling line and gave us a run down on how to do it so that he wouldn’t fall and bust our faces on the stone wall. I tried it a few times, but no matter how many times I slammed my face into the stones, I couldn’t make it look any better even by a little bit. As we were waiting to repel, she kindly informed us that one of us smelled horrible. She was very kind to remind us of that in case we had forgotten that we had been without showers for 3 days now.
It was after 3 before we left the climbing area and headed off to camp, bragging to all of the crews about Michael’s fast climbing time. I don’t always claim his as my brother, but this time I did! I was assured multiple times by multiple people that the hike to camp from the climbing area was only 2 miles, but I think it was more like 4. We dropped down to a creek where we filled up all of our water bottles and two collapsible water bags. We also met some staff members there who were kind enough to point out the latrine for me. I am very grateful to them. We also met some staff doing GIS stuff which was cool since that’s what I just went over this past semester in college.
After a good rest, we headed up a steep grade, carrying our packs and the two water bags with about 20 or 25 pounds of water in each. They were incredibly heavy especially considering the terrain, but we knew that we would appreciate the effort the following day when we actually had water at our dry camp. One of our adult leaders counted 9 switchbacks on the map, though it turned out to be more like 15 of them. Our brains were addled by the exertion and lack of oxygen, so we invented hiking song lines to take our minds off of the idea of passing out and rolling all of the way down the hill. The worst part would not be the bruises that it would inflict, but having to climb all of the way back up.
At camp, we saw several deer that were evidently not afraid of humans, probably because you can’t kill them (the deer, not the humans) on the ranch. The photographers of our crew found this strangely fascinating and took an ungodly number of pictures of them. We even had one kid try to get closer by using his fingers to emulate antlers to “disguise” himself as a deer. Who comes up with ideas like this but a bunch of Boy Scouts?! Needless to say, the deer was a bit smarter than our crew and saw right through the disguise.
We turned in early since we would be doing a good bit of climbing the following day. In the night, a fantastic amount of wind came through and knocked down our dining fly and David’s tent. I suppose that’s what you get when you camp in a pass.