|The rest as told by Bob himself...
"Not the best kept secret in the house, my latest try at summiting CA's 14,242' White Mountain Peak. This was going to be a mix of great people this trip - three I'd met (Carol, Todd and hikerduane) and two I knew only from the Backpacker forums - ScenicRoute and hikrchick395 (Andy and Cheryl). Driving home Sunday evening I found myself a blur of thoughts and impressions, not just that I'd gone farther than I had at any point in the past, but of the people without whose help I'd have had no chance.
I was the first one at Grandview CG Thursday afternoon, at 8500 feet. We were to meet there, and as I passed through Bishop on the way I met Cheryl at the ranger station. I filled container after container of water as we talked for quite awhile. I was glad she'd driven into town to say "hi", and looked forward to her joining us up on the mountain the next day. Just as the sun was going down, Andy pulled into the CG. Carol and Todd were due that evening, too, as was Duane. We settled in after setting up, grabbed a warm campfire and talked. All were finally sleeping by 11:30 or so, as we looked forward to a leisurely drive up to Barcroft Lab the next day.
Friday went according to plan - a stop at the Visitor's Center at Schulman Grove where we got our first look at the bristlecone pines, then up the dusty road to Patriarch Grove, one of the most scenic places on Earth, beautiful in its starkness, awesome as you think how these trees, thousands of years old, withstand the harsh conditions in which they appear to thrive. Talking to Andy during the brief time we'd had together brought forth impressions - we'd never met, yet we talked and interacted as if we were old pals catching up on things. The thunderstorms of Thursday evening gave way to absolutely perfect weather, and given the team that had assembled to help me out it appeared as if we were in for one heckuva good trip!
We drove to the locked gate indicating the entrance to the Barcroft Lab facility, maintained by University of California. They have graciously given me permission to drive to the lab and use it as a base camp, at 12,200 feet. This made the round trip to the peak 11 miles, over some of the gnarliest terrain a crazy wheelchair hiker can be exposed to. I had decided to sleep in my car Friday night, Andy in his, Carol and Todd in their tent. It was just before dusk we caught up with Duane, as he was getting back from his first summit hike. I drove him down to the gate to pick up his truck, and we all chatted and laughed at Barcroft until we passed out for the evening. It was at this point my old nemeses, nausea due to a combnation of altitude and high blood sugar kicked in. As much water as I drank that night, I coughed up at regular intervals from 1 AM until dawn. But it didn't wipe me out like last year. I woke up sore and tired, but with more than enough energy to move forward, up the nasty, rocky half mile to the Barcroft Observatory and, hopefully, beyond.
As I was trying to assemble my gear for the trip over the next hill, Andy let me know he'd planned to take his gear out with me, then return to our starting point to pick up my pack. He and Cheryl lugged my pack along after bringing their own gear. Cheryl is a true mountaineer - she glided up the trail no matter what she was carrying and no matter that my pace was snail - slow. It didn't appear that either she nor Andy was gassed at the altitude, although I was sucking wind in a big way. We reached the observatory, where I picked up a gallon of water Carol had lugged up for me earlier that morning. And I felt guilty -Andy and Cheryl were gracuoisly, even cheerfully lugging my pack, then going back at intervals for their own. As we dropped down about a mile north of the Observatory, Cheryl and I staked out a pleasant camp site as Andy went back a long way for his gear. I was tired, and again nausea caught up with me at this point. It was here we found company provided by a camera - seeking marmot, who'd posed for a long while as Andy and Cheryl took pictures - he / she was doing classic marmot poses - standing up as if her was searching earnestly for...something. Cheryl helped me set up my tent and I crawled in to take a nap. After awhile, I woke to hear voices. Andy had returned, and two members of a research team from the University of Washington stopped by to chat with us. We met many members of their group, all of them interested in my latest attempt at this peak. And I had questions for them...all kinds of physiological stuff. They seemed like quite a fine bunch.
Cheryl hiked back to Barcroft to sleep there Saturday night while Andy and I sat, talked and listened to the wind. It was cool, but not the bitter chill that a typical very windy White Mtn evening would normally bring. As the moon rose, almost full even two days past its prime, I felt remarkably good for having come this far. But the usual worries manifested themselves later on, as I lost what little I had eaten that night during the early hours of the morning. At day break (much later for me than most! ), we made the decision to turn around rather than press on, as I was using far more calories than I was able to take in. At some point it was bound to catch up to me. Cheryl caught up with Andy and me Sunday morning, and as reluctant as I was - after all, I felt pretty darn good - we decided it was prudent to pack up and head back, even this close to the summit. Had we moved forward, we probably would have spent one more night just below the base of the peak. A crystal ball would have been helpful at this point, but I just had to go with the gut feeling. I asked Andy if he wanted to summit, as I would be quite happy to wait, but he was all about helping make my dreams come true, as was Cheryl. It was still going to be a long pull off this side of the hill on which we camped, so I got up slowly, and packed as Cheryl walked all the way back to drop her gear at Barcroft so she could return and pack out my gear. Andy's 4 - season tent looked like a Hilton on that tundra, and he deftly packed it up while I tried to shake off the cobwebs. There was no disappointment in my failure to go on this day - Andy and Cheryl both made it clear they were here to help ME...that stirred some deep emotional stuff inside me, to be fortunate enough to meet folks for the very first time and find them so giving, so willing to help me in any way they could. And that was the message of this trip - what more could one hiker give to another, to help facilitate a dream?
Getting to the point where we called it off was still a lot farther than I'd gone before. And I felt better, despite my little squalls of nausea, than I had before. We even met a friend of Larry Gallagher, the gentleman who accompanied me last year and wrote the article for Backpacker. Small world!!!
As we made the slow trip back up to the Observatory and down to Barcroft, many positive thoughts crossed my feeble mind. Physically, I was in awesome shape. Maybe another day or two at Barcroft would acclimate me better, making the following days less painful. Andy pointed out that using a chair with front wheels large enough to barrel over the rocks might be the ticket for my next trip. I started looking into that yesterday - it sure would remove the hours of lift - and - drop the front wheels for miles on end. I'm used to it, but why not try to make it easier?
Highlights of this excellent weekend - Carol bags one more 14'er. hikerduane does it twice! 4WB gets farther than ever before! And meeting Andy and Cheryl...a true highlight. I'll try not to understate this, but they are two of the kindest, most caring folks I've ever met. I'd rather have missed out on the summit than to not have met them. And hopefully, we'll all be together up in the Whites next year...or next month? Heh heh..."