Monday, March 7, 2011

Saddle Up,,,,,and Up,,,,and Up

Ooo you make me live
Whenever this world is cruel to me
I got you to help me forgive
Ooo you make me live now honey
Ooo you make me live

You're the first one
When things turn out bad
You know I'll never be lonely
You're my only one
And I love the things
I really love the things that you do
You're my best friend
I'm happy at home
You're my best friend

Mix in a perfectly wonderful early spring day, 5 friends whom I love dearly, the most challenging, difficult hike imagineable, a ton of sweat, lots of laughs, quite a few regrets, more fear, spectacular views and scenery, and one guy trying desperately to keep up, not fall off a cliff, prove a thing or two about himself to himself and others, and you have my Friday hike. Saddle was a special hike that I wanted to do and asked if Eric would join me. We added Paige, Lisa, Renee, and Trevor to our group and headed out to the back of Tuacahn to start the ascent.

Now when I was on the hike Thursday I had asked whether Saddle was comparable to Camelback and the guide said yes it was similar. That was the first lie. Saddle turned out to make Camelback look like you were walking to the mailbox to get the mail. We dropped a car off across Snow Canyon Park and then drove the 4 miles over to Tuacahn to the start of the hike. Well except for Paige, she dropped her car off early and just jogged the 4 miles over.

We arrived on the trailhead at about 8:15 and I got my first look at what lie ahead. It was a daunting presence to say the least. The Stop Sign hike gains 1,000 feet of elevation in around 4 miles. This hike gains it in about 1 mile. The terrain didn't look very friendly either. Boulders, loose sand, serious dropoffs and lots of climbing. The fastest time I have ever heard anyone going top to bottom on this climb is 34 minutes. I had a feeling that number wasn't going to be in any sort of jeopardy. I had offered up the suggestion of this hike to a few of my friends coming in. We had settled on this date and I knew it meant I would have to hike everyday to get myself ready for it. And while I felt like I had done quite a lot and feel really good I wasn't ready for this hike.

Did I mention this baby was up and up. I put my hands on more rocks than I have ever done hiking. I needed to boost my ass up all hike long. Even with really long legs that I could use to get high on many of the rocks I still found myself staring up trying to figure a workable path. And when I wasn't looking up I was looking down at my feet. There were areas when you would be climbing rocks in sand. Trying to get higher while holding on and then listening as the sand and pebbles you displaced tumbled a few hundred feet down into the ravine. This was not like anything I had experienced before.

If you look way in the back in some of these pictures you can see where we started. The slight bits of civilization on the sunline were the start of this trail. I was about an hour into the hike. Seriously huffing and puffing, sweat dripping off me, and thinking this up part is about the hardest thing I have ever done. There's no turning back either. You keep going or you pitch a tent. We got passed by the advanced hiking group that was also doing this hike. I wasn't bewildered by being passed, I was actually happy because as they went up the mountain in front of me I could see that I wasn't that far from the top.

The scenery was really breathtaking and my photographer who had done this hike the previous week was all too happy to snap away pictures. I will give her massive kudos for this cool shot through the rocks. In fact she did a magnificent job of capturing me going up this hill. The photos dont really tell the story of the steepness but I promise you it was STEEP

About 1.5 hours into this I reached the summit of Saddle, I didn't feel triumphant, I felt relieved. Everyone said that the climb up is the hard part of this hike. This was lie number 2. It was hard, really hard, but we were just getting started. And like they say what goes up has to come down. And Jimbo had sort of forgotten this part when he was thinking about this hike. I am going to save the rest of this hike for tomorrow's blog. I still really can't believe that I did this. I got asked half way up the hill if I regretted my decision to do this hike. My answer was no, I regretted ever stepping foot in Utah 3 years ago. I was, of course, joking; stepping foot in Utah is easily one of the greatest moments of my life. The feeling I got when finishing this hike was another. At no time during this hike did I regret doing it. There were plenty of times where I wished we were done. But quit or not do this? That thought never crossed my mind.

I will leave you with some summit pictures. I don't think when I started this adventure 3 years ago I ever imagined I would be doing a climb like this. It took 18 months before I even attempted any off-road hikes and now I have completed the toughest hike they offer. Not bad for the non-hiking, barely walking, slob who showed up here in 2008. This place is magic for sure, but the people and friends I have met here are 100 times more magic. Peace Love, Hearts and Stars, Jim


Kerry said...

I will never forget doing that hike. It made more people cry than any other hike I've been on, and was totally the hike I'd bail on every time it was offered. (PS - Sabine fell on me on Saddle. S'all I'm sayin.)

Sabine said...

Hey my friends,

Not sure how Kerry managed the first word, but may be I am having the last word ..........
Jim, you got me to tears again

Apparently you went up there with the FR elite. Unfortunately that does not make the hike any easier.

Kerry....sorry for falling on you. Why don't I remember????

Since then I did saddle 2 more times in 2010. I am probably trying to

I am interested to know if this is really considered to be he toughest hike.
To me it was, but last summer everybody claimed the toughest was volcano....

May be you can get some feed-back at the Ridge on this one

Greetings from the cold North (almost like Wisconcin , but we have our elected officals actually showing

I really hope this 'mess" in Wisconcin will get sorted out rather sooner than later, and you know where I stand on this issue..
Good night!!!