We gave ourselves the luxury of an 8 hour sleep on day 3. Neither Arielle nor I could stomach the thought of another 4am wake up call. Both of us were feeling the effects of the last two days, and we took some extra time in the morning to tape up any hot spots on our feet and massage our sore joints back to life.
We left the campground at 8:30am and 10 minutes later we were hiking up Rimwall. Oleg led the way up the mountain, and with his expert route-finding we made it to the summit without issue. I was impressed with the efficiency of our movement, maybe it would be a short day! I began to dream about a shower and a soft bed.
The scree run down Rimwall was super fun and we were laughing as we flew down the mountain. It was the calm before the storm.
I don’t remember exactly when it started, but at some point Arielle began to complain about some pain on the inside of her knee. As soon as she described the pain in detail I knew what it was – pes anserine bursitis. I have had this condition a few times and it is very painful. The only way to relieve the pain is with ice, but we had none.
The condition is aggravated whenever you have to lift your leg more than a few inches off the ground. Seeing as we were scrambling over boulders and up steep mountain terrain, this meant it was aggravated with every step.
The route up The Orphan begins in a dry creek bed which is littered with flood debris. Normally this kind of boulder hopping would be fun, but Arielle was soon in tears. Every step was agony. We found a cold stream and took some time to ice the knee. I tried to comfort Arielle by telling her that this was not a long term injury. My experiences with the same condition had never lasted more than a few days. I’m not sure that my words helped.
Arielle soldiered on up the steep slope to the summit of The Orphan. It was our 9th mountain of the weekend and we were both ready to be done. One more to go, we told ourselves. We could do it.
The steep downhill was agony for Arielle and she would break the silence every once and awhile with a scream of pain. If this was her coping mechanism, that was fine with me. Just let it out!
We stopped at another cold stream to ice. Arielle looked so determined. I would have been totally okay if she had thrown in the towel after hobbling down The Orphan and called it quits, but she never mentioned stopping. Her determination was so inspiring. I thought about all the times that I’ve given up when things have gotten harder than I’d bargained for.
I was apprehensive about going up Big Sister. Big Sister is not an easy mountain. It is relentlessly steep with tons of slab and Arielle’s knee was going to hate her. Not only was Arielle moving like a peg-leg, but I was also having my own issues. My mind was completely spent. It was like I had used up all of my emotions and now I was reduced to a walking zombie. If shit happened I didn’t trust myself to make any rational decisions. I kept these reservations to myself, trusting Vlad and Oleg to make the rational decisions for us.
We followed Vlad and Oleg up the mountain, with Oleg keeping a careful eye on Arielle and acting as the ultimate pacer. Thunderstorms swirled around us, but Big Sister remained dry. It felt like we had some sort of higher power watching over us. Eventually we made the summit, and enjoyed a muted celebration. We weren’t done until we made it down. We all knew that the down was going to be ugly, but at least we also knew that every step was leading us closer to the finish line.
I must have fallen 10 or 20 times on our way back. They were controlled falls, but still … my coordination by this point was completely deteriorated. I felt stoned and drunk. I could only imagine how Arielle must have felt.
As we neared the bottom Oleg asked me how I felt about completing this adventure. The truth was, that I didn’t know. At the moment I didn’t feel anything. And to be honest, I rarely feel much of anything (besides relief) when I reach a finish line. I am so process oriented that I get nearly all of my joy out of the hard work and preparation which goes into eventually (hopefully) succeeding at a goal. To borrow a quote I recently read on Amelia Boone’s Instagram “If you love the process, the results will follow. And if the results don’t follow, it doesn’t matter because the fulfillment and joy was always in the process itself.”
In the weeks leading up to this event I loved mapping out the route, scouting out the trails with Arielle, figuring out what gear we would need, putting together a team of committed friends, and getting as much vertical as possible into our legs in an attempt to make them unbreakable. During the SV10, I loved the problem solving Arielle and I had to do as we ran into unexpected road blocks. I even value the mistakes we made, such as not going back to the campground to get the right equipment or my epic bonk on the first day, because those mistakes are learning experiences for future adventures. I didn’t enjoy seeing Arielle in pain, but I loved seeing her unshakable determination.
After some reflection, I would say that I feel pretty good about this adventure. It has been a great learning experience which can be used as a stepping stone for other projects. It is another part of the process in the push towards finding my own personal limits.
The rain began to fall a few minutes before we reached the parking lot. It was a refreshing way to finish our journey. Vlad and Oleg went ahead, while
Arielle and I reached the parking lot together. We were too tired for a jumping photo, but we did manage a synchronized handstand shot.
Total Distance – 135km
Total Elevation Gain – 12 000m
Total Time – 13hrs + 18hrs + 12hrs = 43hrs of moving time. 65hrs elapsed. Just a little longer than planned 😉
Thank you to everyone who has supported us throughout this journey. We could not have done it without you!
- To the friends who joined us along our journey: Patrick, Ryan, Andrew, Colin, Vlad, Alex and Oleg
- To our crew who took care of us when we were too tired to take care of ourselves: Matt and Elena
- To Ian and Susan for supporting us throughout this journey
- Icebug (shoes)
- UltrAspire (packs and hydration bladders)
- Swiftwick (socks and arm sleeves)
- Veriga (crampons)