Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Hut Hike of Doom

When Bug was old enough to start doing longer hikes, we came up with a plan to hike to all of the AMC huts with H's Dad. He worked at the huts when he was in college and has spent 60 years hiking the whites.

The plan was to start easy and then work our way up in a smooth progression as Bug got older. It was a great plan except that we didn’t account for how aging works. Bug is speeding up way faster than we planned for and H’s Dad, while he can still kick my butt on the trail, is slowing down faster than we planned.
For this years hike we decided to skip a level and do Greenleaf Hut. H's dad said it was difficult but not too bad. When I looked at the trail description and saw that included a stretch called the three miseries, I should have doubted his recollection....
It had rained a lot in the days leading up to the hike, so that didn’t help trail conditions and eliminated  one of our routes up (I doubt that route would have been much easier).
The trail started out nice it was steep, but not too bad. It quickly transitioned into sections of fairly steep climbs with brief interludes less steep sections. We all, except Bug, realized that we may have bitten off more than we could chew. We trooped on though. I figured we were in the misery section and then things would level out; front loading the pain is always better than the opposite.
Then we got above tree line and H's Dad said we were entering the miseries.... They are steep rocky sections that involve climbing up chutes of smooth rock.
I'm not sure which was harder: the physical work of climbing or the mental energy required in managing an eight year old, an anxious wife, two older climbers, and my own sanity....
Everybody did a great job. Bug's only problem was her fear of dogs that caused her to panic when a dog showed up on the trail. Fortunately she is a strong enough climber that she could get herself out of the way without putting herself into too much danger. H's Dad and wife climbed like old pros. They were slow and steady. H did her best to just focus on getting up the mountain. I did the same.
The ridge line is beautiful. The day was clear and one could see for miles. It was also steep on the sides, so it required caution. By the time we hit the ridge we, except for Bug, were close to spent.
The hut itself is nice. It is a small clearing in a notch just below the peak of Lafayette. There is not much there except for the hut, but that is enough.
H was a little bummed that we were not going to hike to the peak because we were pooped. I told her I was game; we had already done the worst part. She stood her ground and we did not do the summit. The voice of reason may not be fun, but it is usually correct.
Amazingly, Bug found a playmate at the hut. There was a boy about her age that was as into gymnastics as she was. They spent the remainder of the afternoon doing tricks on any flat patch of grass they could find.
H spent a lot of time researching easier routes back to the parking lot. Her Dad spent some time napping. I spent the time just hanging out watching the child, reading, and chatting.
The huts are always great places to hangout.
Over dinner there was some half-joking talk about how this might be the last hut hike for the group. The exertion and climbing was a little much for H's Dad.
H's extensive research made it clear that the easiest way down, given the trail conditions, was the same way we had come up.
The next morning, with some trepidation, we headed back down. The trail seemed easier on the way down. Then came the rocky patches....
The patches were just as steep and slippery, but going down felt much more treacherous. Going with gravity adds to the sense that one can fall and crash into the rocks or other people or over the edge and into the abyss.
We all took it slowly and made it down to the forested patches of the trail that were more manageable.
By the time we got back to the cars were tired, but not exhausted. There was talk of which hut to try next summer....

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