Day 49, Cloudripper
My body groaned in protest as I pedaled up the steep pavement. Cycling uses a very different set of muscles than climbing mountains, and all those little non-mountain-climbing muscles were angry. My seat was too low, my butt and back ached, and a strong headwind impeded progress.
I was running out of peaks that make logistical sense to ski, and the road to South Lake was still closed and gated, despite being bone dry, and so I was slowly grinding away up the incline. I was on my way to Cloudripper, certainly the best named SPS peak.
I reached the trailhead, stashed the bike, and started skinning up through patchy snow, glad to be back to using more familiar muscles.
The thin, poor coverage continued for the entire climb. The seasons are certainly changing. I was able to find sections of continuous snow most of the way, but the descent was bound to be frustrating.
After climbing up and out of a fairly uninteresting, barren cirque, I crossed a broad, alpine plateau to Vagabond peak, a sub-peak of Cloudripper that stood directly in my path.
A strong, gusty wind made staying upright a bit tricky as I ditched my skis, climbed up and over Vagabond, then jogged across the open tundra to the final climb. It was easy and pleasant talus hopping despite the gale, and before long I was clambering up the peak’s small, sharp summit spire.
The views were absolutely phenomenal. To the south, the Palisades loomed tall, dark, and jagged.
The Evolution crest held nearly as proud of a position to the west.
To the north, the familiar peaks of Humphreys, Basin, and Tom seemed distorted and alien from this unusual angle.
I gazed out at so many peaks that I’ve climbed already, and so many more still to come! To me, this view encompassed the entire heart and soul of the Sierra.
In no hurry to leave, I lingered long on the summit, eyes slowly tracing the great, sweeping forms of the rugged ridges in every direction. Eventually, the cold wind and a hungry stomach sent me downward. I jogged back across the open plateau, found my skis, then picked my way down the long descent, dodging all manner of obstacles.
The lower I got, the more tedious progress became, as I constantly scraped over rocks and tangled in brush. My poor skis don’t deserve a fraction of the abuse they get. Multiple times, I gave up on skiing, only to wallow hopelessly, up to my knees in the wet, mushy mess, and be forced to revert back to picking and scraping my way down.
I suppose, after so many great descents in a row, I had to be reminded that ski mountaineering is supposed to suck. I eventually emerged onto the road, body and skis only slightly worse for wear. I stashed my skis and boots under a rock for the next day’s escapade, then whizzed back down the road, enjoying that downhill travel much more than the skiing. To make up for missed turns, I weaved in between the dashes on the road, carving hard with rubber on asphalt.
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