Climbing Mountains (Part 2)

Editor's note: This is part 2 of a series. Be sure to read Part 1.

After coffee and breakfast the next morning, we set out over Burro Pass for the unmarked trail to the top of Matterhorn Peak. We reached the pass quickly, walked down the trail for a few minutes, and then went off trail to the class 2 scramble we hoped would take us to the summit.

Progress up the mountain

My progress was hindered by mountain stomach, which I attribute to altitude and diet and the body’s sudden realization that it is in fight or flight mode. What are you doing to me?!

Occasionally we picked up a faint use trail, but most of the time we were picking our way up the mountainside, often tacking left and right to manage the steepness of the ascent.

As we climbed, the view down Matterhorn Canyon, of stunning Whorl Mountain, and of all the distant ranges and peaks became more and more spectacular. Smoke from fires to the north tempered the scene slightly, but didn’t diminish the overwhelming beauty of the landscape.

Setting mini-goals

Passed 11000’ I was stopping frequently to catch my breath. Maybe it was because the trail had turned to sandy decomposed granite, making each step feel like two.

I kept setting mini-goals for myself, kept repeating my mantra, “One step, one breath, one step, one breath.” When we reached one of my mini-goals, a pine tree-shaded natural granite bench at 11700’, I turned to Devin and said, “I’m good. The peak is all yours. I’ll be here when you get back.”

Looking back down at our campsite area from the hike to MatterhornFeeling contentI’ve climbed higher peaks, like Whitney and Langley, both over 14000’, but on this day I was content with the elevation I had reached. It seemed fitting that the oldest of my three sons, the one who got me back into backpacking, would bag the peak for us. As I sat on my comfortable rock perch, looking out over a vast expanse of the Sierra, I was happy and grateful, so relaxed that I actually fell asleep for a few moments.But soon I heard a voice, sooner than I expected. I turned to see a beaming Devin descending the last few feet to my location. He’d made it to the top in twenty more minutes. In the summit record, he’d written, “Baggin’ one for the Joneses, Father Will and Son Devin. A salute to all the Beats and Dharma Bums young & old.” What more could I ask for?Mutual admirationAfter a break to absorb all the good feelings, we started down the mountain, not an easy task given how steep it was. Within 90 minutes or so we were back at camp. Devin disappeared for a minute and came back holding two non-alcoholic beers he had brought along for the occasion and stashed in the lake to keep cold. Even real beer, something I gave up a long time ago, never tasted better. Hard to imagine a more thoughtful gesture.I had my sight set on a walk to the end of one of the lakes where I would shed my clothes and dive into the freezing water, which I did several times. Devin, on the other hand, spellbound by the look of Matterhorn Canyon, and in training for an October marathon, decided to run back to the pass and head down the canyon. He ended up running twelve miles, two-thirds of what turned out to be an 18-mile day for him. Later, when we were out of the mountains, he referred to me as a “bad ass,” and I referred to him as a “beast” of the outdoors on Facebook posts. There’s nothing like mutual admiration between father and son.Lake where we camped for two nightsDreaming of the next oneThe next morning we woke up and decided, having accomplished our main goal, to hike all the way out to the trailhead. We left camp at 7:45 and made it out at around 3:15, a total of almost 16 miles, including the long haul over Mule Pass. We passed Crown Lake and Robinson Lake along the way. We stopped with four miles to go to jump into Barney Lake, a pause that refreshed for the last push.Almost nothing feels better than dropping heavy packs at the trunk of the car, popping the lid, quickly removing hiking shoes, and slipping into sandals. A quick stop at a store in the campground where we had parked for cold drinks and some chips (for me) and ice cream (for Devin), and we were on our way back to Bridgeport and our room at the '50s style Redwood Motel for a hot shower and a good meal. All that was missing was the magic fingers. Jack and Gary would have been proud of us.With all the evidence I needed to feel secure that my heart was functioning well, not long after the pain and the fatigue had worn off, I started thinking to myself, “When do I get to do that again?” That’s what a few days in the granite cathedral does to you.Do you have a heart failure story? Click the button below to share with our community!My heart failure story

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