It’s currently 48 degrees and partly cloudy up top. Yesterday’s high was 53 degrees, with a low of 43 degrees.
After posting yesterday’s blog, the clouds parted and sun warmed the mountain. By evening, the clouds rolled back in, cloaking the mountain.
A Summit Effort
I moved gently down the mountain. Jogging lightly, I thought of the effort I planned to put myself through. The goal was to run from the Alum Cave Trailhead to the summit of Mt. Le Conte. The warm weather and ice free trails made for a great opportunity to attempt a fast climb. My personal goal was make it up the mountain quicker than my time from the beginning of the season. Continuing the descent, I soaked up the sun’s warm rays. At the trailhead, I peeled off as many layers as I modestly could. It would be a hot climb. Feeling solid, I started my old Casio and began the ascent.
Legs humming beneath me, I focused on my breathing. I couldn’t help but revel in the beauty of the trail. The mountain looked so different from the weeks prior. My eyes continued to wander. The trail steepened. My focus came back to the task at hand - breath management. The trails namesake came into view. Twenty minutes had elapsed. I ran the climb, ignoring my body’s request for air.
The Pulpit appeared in front of me. Relieved, I knew I could use the flat section to catch my breath and make up a little time. Monotony Ridge lay waiting on the other end. Moving fast, I managed across the wet rock as quickly and as safely as I could. The long climb started sooner than I expected, but I knew this section well. I settled into a pace I could maintain for the entirety of the monotonous climb. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Focused, I continued upward…onward.
With Monotony Ridge in the rearview, I ignored my sluggish legs and made for a much desired landmark, the horse gate. Though the gate no longer stands, the checkpoint remains a beacon in many a hiker’s mind. The landmark marks the end of the climbing along the Alum Cave Trail. In control of my breath, I rounded the bend and sprinted down the trail…
I climbed the steps to the first bridge, after the junction with the Rainbow Falls Trail. My watch read 49:26. I’d bested my November attempt by 5 minutes. Satisfied, I walked a few steps. My original goal came back to the forefront. THE SUMMIT!
A few minutes later…
I smiled, gasping for air, atop the high point.