A Partial Castle Peak Loop

In Running, Longform, Personal

“Dreams are the beginning of every new adventure, and our greatest dreams come from the person right in front of us.” — Christopher McDougall, Running with Sherman

I’m writing this journal entry a week late.

This entry’s been hard to write because I’ve had so many thoughts about this episode, that I don’t know what I want to write anymore.

I’ve already captured a lot of my discomfort (and embrace of it) in my initial Strava description:

  1. I almost died today.
  2. Lucas Horan is a f’ing mountain goat.
  3. This one deserves a full writeup. Gimme a couple days.

And notes I added later:

  • I’ve never had so many 30+% grade climbs and drops in my life all at once in my life.
  • I’ve never done so much scrambling, including one where I really thought I was going to slide over 300 feet down a slab wall. I’ve experienced fear while running some sketchy single-track next to mountain cliffs. This was on a different level.
  • I’ve never bushwhacked so much in my life. On some summits, I was literally climbing the slopes by balancing on branches. On another, I army-crawled. For our “bonus miles”, Lucas and I literally went through dense brush on 30%+ slopes. At least there weren’t spiders (like the last time I bushwhacked).
  • I’ve also never tried to run (or even hike such technical terrain) through 1+ inches of snow, which went up to about 2-3 inches above 8500ft with a few knee-deep surprises. I’ve also never run or hiked through snow conditions without winter gear (crampons, anyone?) before either like today either. The snow pretty much multiplied how technical everything already was. 😛
  • Lots of firsts today. 🙂

Beyond this, what’s there to add? Why I did this? How I “trained”? A mile-by-mile play-by-play typical of the average race report?

At this point, my best chance at finishing this writeup (and actually adding something of interest) is to caption some of the hundreds of photos I took. Despite the test that this trip turned out to be for me, the scenic payoff was totally worth it. I haven’t been able to stop admiring them through my computer monitor all week. Now I want to annotate them. Here we go.

Friday

A Partial Castle Peak Loop 1
11:31PM. South San Francisco in the distance.

But first, Friday night. I won’t recap what happened. What’s key is that even before Lucas and I left to start this adventure, he was already proposing another one.

Simply said, if I hadn’t seen Lucas’ call for runners on EBQB earlier that day, I wouldn’t have jumped my first barbed-wire fence or tiptoed around a possible ranger at 2:40 in the morning. If those didn’t happen, I wouldn’t have found myself scrambling over a snowy ridgeline in high winds or traversing almost a mile of loose rock on 30-degree inclines today.

It’s funny how life works out this way.

A Partial Castle Peak Loop 2
This was my first nighttime trail run that I’ve run only by moonlight. No headlamps required.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 3
A naked man rising from the chilly waters of the Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir Friday night (or Saturday morning at 1AM), while Nicole and I look on. (With long exposure and Google’s Night Sight algorithm making this look more like daytime.)

Saturday

Because our plan involved leaving 1AM on Sunday, I planned to do as little as possible yesterday. This was fine. Since I had gotten home around 5AM, all I wanted to do was sleep. (Though unfortunately, I didn’t actually sleep that much — Fitbit claims, with all the staring at the ceiling I did, I only slept 63 minutes between Saturday and Sunday!)

The only other thing I planned to do with stock up. And stock up I did.

A Partial Castle Peak Loop 4

Castle Peak

A Partial Castle Peak Loop 5
4:55AM. Despite planning to leave the Bay at 1AM, and start at 4AM, we ended up leaving at 2AM and start at 5AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 6
5:03AM. Because I was prepared to start at 4AM, I wore a headlamp. But by 4:30AM, it was light enough that no artificial light was really needed. What I wasn’t prepared for, though was all the water. Though I thought the snow was recent, there was enough melt and runoff at our starting altitude that getting my feet soaked was unavoidable. “I should’ve worn waterproof shoes!” I thought (and boy, did that thought come back time and time again during this trip).
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 7
5:06AM. As I geared up on Saturday, Lucas texted “there might be an inch or two of snow.” From the forecast, it didn’t seem like it’d be that bad, so I visualized mostly dirt and rock. I wasn’t expecting snow everywhere.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 8
5:08AM. Actually, in the beginning, the snow was manageable. In fact, the trail was more mud than snow. In hindsight, this had more to do with our relatively low altitude (around 7200ft).
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 9
5:09AM. Looking back toward where we started.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 10
5:14AM. I had my first inkling of how deep the snow could be when I saw this sign half-buried in snow.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 11
5:23AM. As Lucas, Nicole and I continued upward, the snow got a little deeper. And all of a sudden, I realized my feet weren’t reaching dirt anymore. Our shoes were pushing through fresh powder, and landing on older, frozen snow/ice underneath. These thoughts were only momentary though; I was busy admiring the trees.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 12
5:36AM. Mile 1.8, just after Castle Pass. I took a photo here after realizing that we had passed the treeline. I didn’t know it at the time, but we had passed Castle Pass, where our trail had intersected with the Pacific Crest Trail. At this point, we had climbed about 700 feet to 7900 feet (2400 meters).
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 13
5:37AM. Mile 1.9. Altitude: just under 8000 feet. Before we began, I remarked “we’ll be climbing for most of the first 3 miles!” Most of the climbing up until here was fairly reasonable, ranging between 7 to 20%. But as I admired the sunrise coming up behind Castle Peak to my east, I also braced myself even steeper vert.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 14
5:40AM. My trek up the trail was delayed incessantly. I stopped every minute or so to soak in the view. I couldn’t believe the amazing mixture of white, grey and pink before me.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 15
5:44AM. 2.2 miles, 8200 feet. By the time Lucas got to the top of the the ridge, I was already using my hands to power-hike up. At this point, grades ranged between 20-50%.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 16
5:45AM. Sunrise.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 17
5:48AM. Because Lucas had gone ahead and the wind had blown away his footsteps, I couldn’t tell which way to go. So here I followed Nicole. It might sense to go up. So up I went.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 18
5:51AM. Unfortunately, Nicole and I went up a false peak. It’s clear now from my GPS track that the actual Castle Peak Trail went around the peak we went up rather up than over it. Actually, we couldn’t have gone over it. When I finally caught up to Nicole, she was unsure how to proceed; there was a space between two rocks that would take us to the other side, but the drop was far too steep without rope. Fortunately, Lucas came back to look for us before we decided to do something stupid.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 19
5:54AM. Still quite a bit of climbing left!
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 20
6:05AM. On deeper and deeper snow too.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 21
6:14AM. 2.8 miles. 8900 feet, with 200 feet more to go.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 22
6:21AM. 9000 feet. To my disappointment after we were done, this was not the actual Castle Peak summit (though we were quite close). But at this point, the wind was blowing hard enough that I just wanted to get off.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 23
6:24AM. Getting down wasn’t an easy feat either.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 24
6:27AM. Hitting 5K after over 1.5 hours, with over 45K left to go. 🙂
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 25
6:30AM. Impressive cliffs.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 26
6:35AM. An impressive backdrop.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 27
6:37AM. The way forward.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 28
6:54AM. Basin Peak. 9019 feet. According to the Outdoor Project: “The panoramic views from the tops Castle and Basin peaks may be among the most rewarding in northern Tahoe, but the elevation gain from the trailhead that exceeds 1,800 feet is punishing, making this climb a choice for the committed.”
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 29
7:08AM. Because she didn’t think she was ready for a 50K through rocky, snowy terrain, Nicole had found a route that would take her back to the car. She’d get 9 miles in (which was exactly what she wanted to do). Because Lucas was concerned about Nicole heading back on her own, he gave her his bivy. To me, this meant that in even in the worst-case scenario, we’d have to get off the mountain before nightfall, since Lucas would now be significantly less protected if we were to stay the night on the trail.

Going Off-Trail

A Partial Castle Peak Loop 30
7:24AM. At the time I didn’t know this, but after dropping about 800 feet over a mile after Basin Peak, the trail ended. We were going off-trail.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 31
7:26AM. It didn’t really matter if there was a trail or not. There was so much fresh powder that wayfinding by human signage or trail markers was moot. All I could focus on here was to keep moving, without slipping on the snow.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 32
7:30AM. As well as take breaks to admire the view.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 33
7:39AM. And follow Lucas’ footsteps.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 34
7:46AM. I knew the plan was to cross over to Carpenter Ridge, and I knew that we’d have to somehow cross in-between Paradise Lake (pictured above) and Warren Lake. It’s easy to see how on a map. But in real life, the elevation drop going down to the Lakes and going back up to the Ridge was stark.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 35
7:48AM. We’d come down along this stretch, Lucas pointed out, then we’d head back up then turn right to make it across the “1”, “2”, “3”, maybe “4” summits in the distance.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 36
7:50AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 37
7:53AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 38
7:55AM. Warren Lake and Carpenter Valley to the east.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 39
8:01AM. Here, we “only” went down 8300 ft to 7700 ft over about a mile — something I’ve run many times before. This was not exactly runnable, though!
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 40
8:01AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 41
8:02AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 42
8:03AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 43
8:22AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 44
8:23AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 45
8:25AM. Warren Lake.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 46
8:37AM. After making to the saddle point between Basin Peak and Carpenter Ridge, a long climb awaited.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 47
8:41AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 48
8:48AM. Because I wasn’t confident in my footing on snowy slopes, I hugged rock walls when I had the chance, even if it significantly slowed me down. Here, the crevice between the snow and the rock was up to my waist (and up to my chest at points). But I still felt safer in the crack then potentially sliding down maybe 50-100 feet into trees.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 49
8:55AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 50
8:59AM. 8.1 miles. 36% incline. My main thoughts here revolved around how I could get stronger at climbing. I’m neither strong at climbing nor at powerhiking. So it was slow-going for me up this (and following hills).

Carpenter Ridge

A Partial Castle Peak Loop 51
9:03AM. Looking back, I was surprised to have come this far. I was on that peak just a couple hours earlier, and I had just crossed that little bridge just now.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 52
9:03AM. Still more vert to climb though.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 53
9:04AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 54
9:06AM. On this climb, there was at least some flats and bits of downhill. And great views to boot.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 55
9:15AM. On one of these flats, a little lake had formed. By this point, I had drunk most of my water. So I called out to Lucas and told him that I had to refill here. This was a good call because I didn’t have a chance to fill up again later (though I thought about melting snow).

This was my first time filtering water out in backcountry too. In all previous hikes and runs, I’ve always either carried enough water or suffered dehydration. I also wanted to carry less water today so I could carry more food and layers.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 56
9:27AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 57
9:28AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 58
9:29AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 59
9:29AM. Now that I’m going through these photos, and timestamp-ing them, I’m a bit surprised how “fast” some of these climbs where. While I was hiking up, some of these slopes seemed to go on forever.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 60
9:33AM. But in reality, though the last climb had felt taxing, I had only ascended from 8200ft to 8500ft from the lake to the first peak on this ridge (albeit over 0.3 miles, or 1000ft/mile, or an average grade of 19%). Boo.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 61
9:33AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 62
9:37AM. When I saw this formation in the distance, I hoped that I wouldn’t have to climb over it. Fortunately, it was possible to go around.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 63
9:39PM. While I hiked around it, Lucas went over it.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 64
9:41AM. On to the next peak.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 65
9:43AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 66
9:51AM. 9.3 miles, 8350ft elevation.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 67
9:53AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 68
10:07AM. Usually, tree roots and vegetation underfoot slows you down. But here, I was glad to have them provide more traction and grip (while feeling guilty for stepping on them).
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 69
10:13AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 70
10:24AM. As we went off-trail, Lucas asked me a few times to let him know if I ever felt uncomfortable. Yes, I was out of my comfort zone, but I knew I could press on.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 71
10:26AM. But it was here, while we traversed this slope, that I almost started to panic. Before setting off, we estimated that the drop was some 300 feet. In my mind, I was quite certain that if I lost my footing and slid 300 feet, I wouldn’t like the outcome.

I was able to get across the ridge — gingerly — for the most part. But about midway through, I found myself with my back against the dirt/rock wall, one foot against a small protruding rock, and no way to either get back to where I started or to move forward.

At this point, I yelled to Lucas for help. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much he could really do, and in my mind, I didn’t want him to risk his own safety by trying to rescue me off the slab.

Fortunately, when I saw him walk toward me — with firm, heel-first steps — enough confidence returned to shake me out of my paralysis. I took two relatively big steps up, trusting that my footholds would stay firm, and got out. I think this was the closest I’ve ever felt to a falling death on a run or hike — perhaps on par with Half Dome, but without cables! The image of looking down and visualizing how I could best survive a 300-foot drop is still fresh in my mind…
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 72
10:38AM. After that episode, more drops came. Now, they were on snow!
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 73
10:49AM. What goes down… must go up?
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 74
10:57AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 75
10:58AM. 10.7 miles, 8200 feet. To get up the slopes earlier, I had to use my hands (and knees) at some points. But at this juncture, it was closer to bouldering, without climbing shoes.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 76
11:02AM. Another saddle point, another peak.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 77
11:28AM. And more climbing. This is me pointing my camera straight ahead. I wasn’t even on rock and I had to use my hands to get up this thing. (Note the fresh footprint ahead of me that I’m following!)
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 78
11:36AM. View at the top of this peak. Was it worth it? I think so.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 79
11:37AM. When I got to the top, I saw Lucas holding a piece of notebook paper. I didn’t know what he was doing, so I assumed he had brought this paper along.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 80
11:39AM. Mile 11.5. 8850ft. But I was wrong; someone had placed a summit log here, and Lucas wrote in our entry. After taking this photo, I covered it up again with these rocks.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 81
11:41AM. It was a little crazy to think that I was on that peak on the other side a few hours earlier.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 82
11:46AM. But there was still more of Carpenter Ridge to go.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 83
11:54AM. Because Lucas was so much faster than me, and I couldn’t afford to spend any time checking my phone for navigation, I literally followed his footprints.

Additionally, I realized during some of the slopes earlier that I tend to go straight up, through rock, bush, snow, whatever. Lucas, on the other hand, found more efficient routes, even if he had to switchback up a slope. This let him power-hike. So following his footprints also allowed me to “see” better routes through the terrain.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 84
11:55AM. 12 miles, 8700 ft.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 85
12:05AM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 86
12:05PM. I think it was around here that I noticed the snow coming up one side of the mountain, while leaving a shadow on the other side.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 87
12:12PM. After I saw this, I couldn’t unsee it.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 88
12:13PM. On top of this mini-peak there was some kind of solar-powered antenna. Someone, or someones, had to carry all this up.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 89
12:22PM. Mile 12.5, 8550 feet. It started snowing as we descended along the ridge (with many miles left to go).
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 90
12:27PM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 91
12:28PM.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 92
12:30PM. It was around this point when Lucas thought we would start heading downhill.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 93
12:33PM. Unfortunately, to continue downhill, we’d have to go down these drainage rocks.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 94
12:35PM. After descending about 400 feet in the span of about 0.1 miles on unstable rock, or an average of 37 degree decline, I started to suspect something was up.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 95
12:38PM. According to Lucas, we were close to a trail. But where was it?
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 96
12:43PM. At this point, we had descended another 100 feet over a very short distance. Now it was clear that we had taken a wrong turn. We had a little more to go on the ridgeline; Lucas had been too eager to start heading down.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 97
12:45PM. For better or for worse, it wasn’t only drainage rocks that we traversed through. There was also rather dense brush. “Good thing we’re wearing pants!” Lucas remarked. The brush was definitely more stable than loose rock. But the thin branches and thorns got caught in my shirt, my bag, my shorts, my compression leggings, etc. Unpleasant.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 98
12:53PM. At first, Lucas held out hope that the wall we were traversing would end soon (“1 mile”). All we needed to do was persevere and we’d be back on trail. As we continued to trapeze through the rock, I realized that “proper trail” couldn’t come soon enough. I was scrambling over these rocks so inefficiently, with my hands at times — with my center of gravity really too low — that I was seriously getting tired.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 99
1:19PM. Finally, after an hour descending then traversing the steep side of the ridge, Lucas decided that salvation wasn’t coming. Looking at the map now, he was right — we would’ve needed to continue for at least another three miles to get back on the trail.

If we couldn’t go forward, we had to either go up, back to the ridge, or down, into the valley. Uncertain of where we were at all, I thought we should go down. Lucas thought we should go up.

We went up.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 100
1:25PM. There were two phases to our climb back up. First, we had to climb up rocks. Then we had to bushwhack through brush. Because the brush was so thick, I think I actually preferred to climb up on the rocks, despite how steep they were.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 101
1:38PM. Though I had been eating here and there throughout the morning, I felt that it was time to eat the burrito in my bag (It’s green because it’s spinach tortilla).

While I ate, I was curious where we were. Since I trusted Lucas’s navigation, I hadn’t checked my phone at all. Surprisingly, I had reception and surprisingly the GPS lock was strong. Unsurprisingly, as I said to Lucas: “We’re in the middle of nowhere!” But, on the map, I could see where we were trying to go — yay!
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 102
1:53PM. After a 15 or so minute lunch, it was time to move back up. The grade was easier, but the brush got denser and denser.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 103
2:00PM. This wasn’t exactly what I signed up for, but in a way, it was. I was looking for a different experience. Hiking up this kind of terrain was definitely different!
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 104
2:08PM. At last, the ridgeline was in view.

The Way Down

A Partial Castle Peak Loop 105
2:14PM. By the time I got up to the ridge, though, I was pooped. While we were on lunch break, I asked Lucas if he still planned to complete the entire 31-mile loop.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 106
2:32PM. No, he said. Our little detour was enough. “This was totally my fault,” he said.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 107
2:35PM. The plan now was that, instead of heading back up to Castle Peak to complete our loop, Nicole would pick us up when we’d get down to the valley at the end of Carpenter Ridge.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 108
2:39PM. The problem was: without reception, how would we contact Nicole? Where was she? Where would we meet up?
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 109
2:46PM. As I descended, it was hard to figure out where Lucas was going, since he was mostly in front of me. During this time, I’d yell out “WHOOOOOOO” and he’d yell back out in return to indicate where he was.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 110
2:55PM. Despite being a lot faster than me through both rocky and wooded terrain, Lucas would wait up for me. I definitely felt like I was slowing him down. He insisted that he appreciated my presence.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 111
3:10PM. Finally, we made it out the road that Lucas had wanted us to get to. This would eventually lead us down to the valley where Nicole would (hopefully) meet up with us.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 112
3:13PM. Unfortunately, I had no gas left in my legs. I had already spent a lot of it scrambling on the rocks. Additionally, shortly after eating the burrito, my stomach started getting all kinds of upset. So I stopped eating, meaning that as I continued on, I got weaker and weaker. What a time for GI distress!
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 113
3:21PM. During my descent down from the ridge, I noticed some weird things.

(1) There were a lot more cleared trees than I would’ve expected out here. Someone was out here chopping trees, and I wasn’t sure if it was legal.

(2) It looked like some of these clearings were done with fire. A few of these clearings looked like lightning strikes (with trees sheared right down the middle), and burn marks everywhere. Others looked potentially manmade. I couldn’t tell.

(3) Finally, on one section of trail, there were blue markings in saying “Hi.” As I passed by these, I couldn’t help by feel CREEPED OUT. Who wrote these? What were they for? I wanted to ask Lucas but by this time, he was so far ahead of me that he was out of sight.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 114
3:49PM. The great part about this section was that I was now back on relatively groomed trail. The not-so-great part was that I was now literally pooped.

After ensuring that there were no water sources nearby, I dug a cathole and relieved myself. This helped alleviate my worsening stomach cramps. (Actually, this helped a lot.)
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 115
3:51PM. By this point, I had descended far enough under the tree line for conifers to start growing close to one another. The weather was also markedly improved.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 116
3:55PM. I’ve only been to Tahoe once before, last year, for my first century. During that trip, I was curious about what these ubiquitous plants were. Actually, at the time, I thought these are miner’s lettuce (meaning they’re edible!). But doing my research now, I’m not so sure.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 117
3:59PM. As the 11th hour approached, I started getting a whole bunch of pings from my usual LMJS Racing Team, as well as a weekend board game group, that were about to start Zoom meetings. It was slightly surreal to be out in ostensibly backcountry, while being reminded of urban, connected life.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 118
4:01PM. I debated turning off my notifications. But at the same time, I was so far behind Lucas that I thought I should keep them on, in case he or Nicole needed to reach me.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 119
4:24PM. I knew there was less than 2 miles to run/hike by this point. This meant I only had half an hour left in this journey (since I was only trotting along at 17-ish minutes per mile). Despite my sluggish pace, Lucas waited up for me before our final miles.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 120
4:36PM. This wouldn’t be a proper adventure without one final challenge. On the map, this is a creek. But because of the snow (I think), this creek was now more of a mini-whitewater river. I’d estimate the current to be 10-15mph.

Of course, for Lucas, this was easy; with a couple steps he made it across to a metal rope attached to a boulder in the middle of the creek. Then with one big heave, he grabbed on to a metal handhold attached to the top of the boulder.

Unfortunately for me, I’m not used to fording waist-deep, fast-flowing rivers without rope. But I still made it across. When I got to the rope though, I had a problem: I couldn’t reach the handholds on top! Ultimately, Lucas gave me a hand and hoisted me out of the water.

“I’m tired,” I said.

The End

A Partial Castle Peak Loop 121
4:44PM. After fording the creek, there was more climbing. I knew that the end was near… but how near? So I kept trucking.

Suddenly, Lucas and I reached the end of the trail, where lo, there was open gravel road. This was really the end.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 122
4:53PM. As I checked my watch, I realized that, though we had been out for 12 hours, we had only covered 20.9 miles, out of a planned 31 miles. I felt bad about how sluggish I was on the rocks, and again on trail. But I was glad that we were able to bail before nightfall.

As I looked down to survey the damage, I was amused to see a whole bunch of new holes in my Peregrines. That said, they didn’t fail me at all, so they did their job. I just have to do mine better next time, I thought.
A Partial Castle Peak Loop 123
5:43PM. Shortly after Lucas and I emerged onto Carpenter Road, we encountered one of Lucas’s local friends. When we were on the Ridge, Lucas had mentioned that his friend would be meeting us somewhere. I guess it was here, at the end!

The first comment the friend had was: “When I saw your route… eh… I thought it looked sketchy.” As he said this, he shook his head and smiled.

The first question the friend had for me was: “Are you cursing Lucas’s name right now?”

This trip was really a different kind of fun. So of course, I wasn’t (though I wasn’t so sure about the rocky detour we had taken).

Fortunately, Lucas had gotten in contact with Nicole earlier, and she was waiting for us at the gate on this final road. Then, after getting some burgers, she drove us back.

As we returned, Lucas turned to ask me: “Would you do this again?”

At first, I wasn’t so sure. I thought about the terror of falling down to my death in the middle of nowhere, and strain of traversing steep slopes for hours on end. But by the time we arrived back in the Bay, the answer was unequivocal: Of course, I would!

And, now that I’m writing this, it looks like I’ll be back sooner than expected. 🙂

Fin.

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