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Mailbox (yet again)
posted by John : December 19, 2010

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Tough life

Yeah, it's Mailbox. Again. This makes the eighth time this year. 32,000 feet of gain on a single trail. And roughly 24,000 feet of it was lousy. The hike below the open slopes remains one of my least favorite. It doesn't matter if it's dark or light. Raining or sunny. Snowing or windy. The dead zone sucks.

But that leaves 8,000 feet of glory above the treeline. Spectacular views of mountains, flowers, rocks, and snow. So much trouble, but it's worth it. Especially when you're chasing an elevation goal and you're running out of time.

So Eric, Scott, Tom, and I set out at 5:30am in the dark. In the dark it's easy to put your head down and go. Not fun, but easy. It was finally light enough to see without headlamps right as we got out of the darkest part of the woods and broke out into the open slopes.

The snow wasn't deep enough for snowshoes, but was too slick for just boots. Behold, the magic of MicroSpikes. Thank goodness for the moderately pokey traction provided by the MicroSpike.

By the time we were next to the base of the talus field the dry snow was drifting on the trail. Eric jinxed us by suggesting there was no wind even though we were about to jump onto the exposed ridge. Suddenly... wind. Thanks, Eric.

Of course, I'm not smart enough to stop and put on any more clothing so I continued climbing in just a t-shirt. Actually, I was chasing. Eric, perhaps fearful of our wrath at inviting the wind was pushing hard to make the summit before anyone else. His 350,000 feet of gain this year allowed him to escape us at least temporarily. He was lucky.

Up on top we were treated to amazing views with wispy clouds on high and a few cotton balls clinging to peaks to the east. Truly, it is the easiest and quickest way to get out of the valley and see the sights.

With the wind cutting through even heavy down jackets we didn't spend too long on top and were soon heading down. Not surprisingly, we had seen no one on the climb up, but once we were back in the trees we saw four in quick succession. Bets were made and I, being extremely gifted in the guess-a-random-number department, wound up being both precise and accurate. I was both disappointed and thrilled we hadn't formalized any actual terms.

Total distance was the usual 5.5 miles and 4,100 feet of gain. That leaves 4,358 feet to go or approximately one more trip up Mailbox.

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