FEBRUARY 26 and 27, 2011
SPRING LIKE CONDITIONS
The weekend felt like early Spring. The snow and almost all the ice were gone. The only ice to be seen was a very rare small patch located here and there. At Bartenders Spring high on the Ridge Trail switchbacks I saw around 30 small Nat like insects swirling around in a swarm over a pool of water. Higher on the mountain I heard a birds singing spring like songs. On the day of the December 21 solstice the sun only reached a noon altitude of 28 degrees above the horizon. This weekend found the sun at about 42 degrees above the horizon at mid-day. For the first time this year the sun's rays seemed to me to have some real strength behind them. From this point up through sometime in June our average temperatures will be increasing by about two degrees per week. Even with 20 to 30 mile per hour winds the summit air was warm and balmy. A few weeks ago I was bundled up and bracing against biting cold. Sunday evening I was in shirtsleeves and the warm balmy air reminded me of summer evenings when you can smell the Honeysuckle wafting through the air.
On Old Rag the best climbing conditions occur when there are no leaves on the trees and the air and sun are warm on the hands. Late in the day I was just about to go through the cave on the Ridge Trail when I suddenly heard the crashing of brush and the chime of climber's placements clinking against each other somewhere along the the base of the slabs on the first false summit. I waited a while and sure enough I was rewarded by being able to watch a team of climbers doing a route up the middle of the face.
It was about 17:00 when the climbers were finishing their route. I was about to start up the trail again when I heard young childrens' voices on the top of the first false summit. A mom and dad with four kids between the ages of six and thirteen had hiked over the top of the first false summit and were starting up the rock scramble. I decided to wait and speak to them in order to make sure they had lights and knew what to expect if they continued to the summit. I ambled down the trail a little bit and we met at the little saddle between the first false summit and cave. As I was approaching I could hear the parents explaining to their troop of kids that they had hit their turn around time and would have to head back to the the car. They promised the kids that they would return in the future so that the family could make it to the summit. The kids successfully negotiated with their parents to be allowed to hike up the trail and touch the next blue blaze before turning back. They then made a little ceremony out of touching the next blue blaze while committing to come back and go beyond it. The kids probably did not realize it but they had just engaged in an old climbing ritual of making a promise to oneself to come back and exceed one's last high point. There is something in our genetics that makes us want to push on, explore beyond the next bend, climb above the last high point, and discover that new piece of knowledge. My conversation with the parents determined that they had lights and were very comfortable with their ability to get the troop back to the car so I headed back up to the summit.
Old Rag Human Activity
There are many reasons I enjoy volunteering on Old Rag but one of them is the countless interactions I get to have with folks of all different skill levels, personalities and persuasions that for a myriad of reasons find themselves hiking on Old Rag. Sometimes hikers test my patience as when they are engaged in some ill advised activity like trying to trundle a large rock off a precipice. Sometimes I get to take great pleasure in watching the explicit joy of someone discovering the wonders of the mountain for the first time. Sometimes I get to be inspired as when I was able to help a young hiker who was absolutely terrified of heights but who would not let that fear prevent them from reaching the summit even though that meant they had to work through 10 or 15 panic attacks as they progressed up the rock scramble. Yet despite the fact I have seen thousands of Old Rag visitors I still get surprised by something unexpected on almost every trip. This last weekend I was in the parking lot when I noticed some young men heading off on their hike with snowshoes, ice axes, and crampons. When I mentioned that they would not need all the ice and snow equipment they responded in a completely serious way that they would need it for any potential crevasse rescues they might need to do up on Mount Robinson. Right after that they laughed and explained that they were on a training hike for an upcoming trip to higher mountains and just wanted to practice with all the equipment they needed on their upcoming trip. On the days when I actually encounter a few hours of genuine solitude I enjoy it but I am even happier on the days when I get to see 1,000 plus hikers enjoying the mountain.
The Mountain Laurel have started sending out their new growth shoots for the year.
For most of the day the skies were mostly sunny.
Seals and Crofts Summer Breeze heard in background