San Joaquin Mountain (#247)
August 12, Day 118
August 12th, 2022 was a surreal day. For the past four months I had woken up and set off to climb mountains either with Nathan or alone. This time it was with my family. My two worlds had collided and created a kaleidoscope of emotions.
A month ago, July 11th, I was faced with 73 mountains to climb alone after Nathan and I emerged from the Palisades. He was the first person to complete the SPS list in a "single season" finishing in 138 days. I had climbed 174 mountains in 83 days. Anything could happen: nothing is guaranteed in the mountains and I knew there was still a chance I would not finish. I also knew if I stayed focused I could finish the list at the edge of human possibility. I'd already averaged more than 2 peaks a day, a staggering amount for an effort this long, but how much more did my body have to give?
My parents were visiting me on the 12th so it became my goal to finish the list with them. My schedule for the next month gave me only one rest day. In the last two weeks Nathan and I had climbed 48 mountains. While exhausted, I was determined to dig deep and stay on my projected schedule.
Everything had been going according to plan until the weather forecast for the last 10 days projected thunderstorms: every day. Very stressed, I called my parents and told them it was unlikely I would be done by the 12th. The plan was falling apart. Their advice was simple, take it one day at a time. So I did.
I woke up early every day so I could beat the storms to the summits. I did. Slowly but surely I continued working through the schedule despite the conditions but was thrown another curveball: the Onion Valley road had been washed out and was closed. The trailhead for my final overnight trip of 5 days and 14 peaks lay at the end of this road. My world came crashing down.
All I wanted was to finish the list with my family but it now seemed impossible. I rearranged my schedule, climbed a few peaks out of North Lake and Piute Pass and hoped for the best. When I returned to cell service I was bestowed with good news and the return of hope: the road was open! I cruised in for the last big trip and even though the weather was still stormy, I was just happy to be there. After finishing the trip on schedule, I drove to Mammoth Lakes for the final 6 mountains.
So I was elated when the morning of August 12th finally came, and as I had planned a month earlier, there was only one mountain left to climb: San Joaquin. I had worked so incredibly hard to sit at that table and eat breakfast with my family on the final day of setting the Fastest Known Time for the SPS list. It meant the world to me they were here and would try their best to reach the final summit.
Coming from sea level my family was a bit nervous about the elevation. Even just being in town at 7,500' was the highest they had ever been. The summit of San Joaquin is at 11,500'. I had faith in them and knew they could do it. "Let's just start walking and see what happens," I said. "That's exactly what I've been doing for four months and somehow it works every time!"
At the trailhead we met some of my friends I had met in Joshua Tree and Yosemite along the dirtbag climbing circuit. They are a beautiful community of supportive, compassionate, and badass monkeys. At 9am we left the parking lot and set off. The energy was high.
It felt so good to hike with other people, especially those so close to my heart.
We climbed up to the exposed ridgeline and earned breathtaking views of the Ritter Range and the Minarets. I pointed out yesterday's linkup to my family. From afar the route up Clyde looks quite scary and my mom was not psyched but I assured her it was easy, whoops!
We continued the parade over to the feature called Two Teats and took a break. We scrambled up the rock while everyone caught their breath.
From here San Joaquin was a short ridge walk away. I could tell my family was getting tired but they persevered.
A hundred feet from the summit I stopped and let everyone pass. Emotions coursed through me. I sat on a rock and savored the moment. I reflected on the journey. This is it. This is the finish line. But I found myself not wanting it to end. The past four months had been the best of my entire life. I learned so much about myself and these mountains and now this chapter was coming to a close. I continued to sit for a few more minutes and made my peace with the ending of this odyssey. I watched my tears cascade down into the dry soil. I promised myself that I would never ever forget this moment and then stood up. It was time to finish what I started.
Everyone was already on the summit but I could hardly see them through my blurry eyes. I heard their distant cheers as I approached the summit block. I walked over, gave it a tap, and stood up.
"I didn't think I could do this."
I thanked everyone for being here, it meant so much to me. My family had reached the summit! My brother had carried a bottle of champagne and my friends talked me through how to open it. You learn something new everyday. I popped it and shook it in the alpine wind!
My mom pulled out a banner from her pack that she made and we took pictures. I couldn't believe the moment I had dreamed of was actually happening in front of my eyes. It was so special.
My heart was filled with so much gratitude and love. I owe that moment to so many people; Dan, Nathan, Jason, I couldn't have finished without them. And most importantly I owed that feeling to the Sierra Nevada. These mountains are magical, the range felt like home to me now. And even though I had spent four months exploring every high point, I knew this was only the beginning of my relationship with these lofty, magnificent alpine giants...
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