Remember Mailbox Peak? The mountain that was supposed to provide one of the most difficult, thigh-burning day hikes in the region? When I climbed it last October my reaction was a cocky “Psch. That ain’t no challenge! Maybe will a full pack it’d cause some pain.” Yesterday, I climbed it again. This time with a 60lb rucksack on my back.
Reaching the summit took three exhausting, slow hours. I allowed myself only one 10 minute break each hour. For the last quarter of the hike I was just stumbling along, slowly plodding my way up higher and higher (thinking “Whose bright idea was this?”). The trail near the top was too covered with snow and ice to make it smart to attempt without some sort of traction device, so I opted for the neighboring boulder field. Scrambling up that required more leg power, balance, and mental facilities than I had left at the time, but I managed to make it.
Upon reaching the summit, I immediately dropped my pack and sat down. I could only relax for a minute before realizing that I was freezing. And so I had to exert myself further by grabbing more layers from my pack and tossing them on.
I realized that I was dizzy, shaking, and – despite having been constantly sucking on my hydration hose on the way up – not sweating as much as I felt that I should have been, so I took a packet of Emergen-C from my first aid kit, dumped it into one of the 1 liter water bottles I had been using for weights, and forced myself to drink it all down before starting my descent.
I felt better after that and, munching on some granola, wandered around the summit, enjoying the view. It had been a spring-like day, with only a few clouds and temperatures around 50F at the bottom. Gazing at the other peaks with their light dustings of snow, I decided that the hike had been worth it.
There was only one mailbox up there this time. The black one must have blown away.
I decided to head down. The boulder field was tricky going, but, afterward, it was just a slow and steady plodding down the mountain. Near the bottom I had to poo, but, upon assuming the position, discovered that I didn’t have the length strength left to squat.
Finally, I made it back to the trail head, around two and a half hours after leaving the top. That night I had energy only to shower and eat a double serving of oatmeal before crashing. Today, I am stiff, but not as sore as I thought I would be.