High Sierras with the General – 1st time a Woman got to go

December 18th, 2014

Tuesday. Shopping from list for Chuck Yeager’s trip to the High Sierras fishing golden trout.

Wednesday: Two people cancel. General Yeager looks at me and says: Would you like to go?


I ran out to buy boots. Yes, kinda silly – we’d be hiking miles and miles up and down mountains in four days. No time to break them in. Or to break me in.

The extent of my camping experience prior to this was the weekend before 8th grade, our first year in Upper School. Two nights. The headmistress or someone had the bright idea we should all go on an Outward Bound weekend. My group had the heaviest teacher there was and one of our tasks was to get the whole group over the wall. Even using all of the girls we could not lift him and none of us were going to have him walk on our backs so we told the guides: No. Otherwise I enjoyed it. The others wondered why my face wasn’t as dirty as theirs. I wondered how they got so dirty.

I tried every boot within a 50 mile radius. The best fitting ones were the cheapest. The tread wasn’t great but…

On Thursday, we packed our packs and sleeping bags and one overnight bag for Friday night – which we would spend in the local motel.

On Friday, we picked up GCY’s brother, Hal at the Reno airport and set out for Lone Pine, driving through some interesting, historic towns. Hal gave a running commentary.

I was the first gal GCY had brought into the Sierras on the annual “boy” trip. He had taken Glennis and the kids but this trip which always had the group returning on July 4, no girls.

Hal was curious as to how I’d work out.

We had a big dinner Friday night in Lone Pine with the hotel manager’s son, who was going to accompany us, and his parents and others.

A few others had come into town to walk with us up to the pass, have lunch, and return to town.

We started out. My pack was 35 lbs. CY, Hal, and M’s were around 50lbs or more.

As we walked, GCY gave me a few pointers. One guest a few years back had raced up the first day while GCY walked slowly. GCY passed the rabbit who was puking his guts out from the altitude change.

Every few switchbacks, GCY would ask me if I wanted a “blow”. That was my cue. I’d say: “Yes,” and stop.

He would sit on a rock. I found sitting down okay – it was the getting back up with the 35lb pack on my back that was challenging so I learned to just stand for my rest.

We’d sit for a minute or two, then move on. Some of the others went on ahead. We had two guys and a gal with us who were returning after lunch.

GCY likes to tell the story this way: I’d say to him: You look bad – let me take some of the stuff in your pack. I’d say this to him every time we stopped and by the time we got to the pass, my pack was weighing 55 lbs and his 35 lbs. I assure this is not true.

This go and blow happened several times as we gained 3000’ from 9000’ to 12,000’ in about 4 miles. My own pace is a little faster but my feet most likely had blisters – boy did they hurt. I decided that they hurt, but that there was nothing dangerous like infected blisters. I was afraid to take them off – afraid I’d never get them on again.

One of the 2 guys was a doctor and he advised not to take them off when I first felt a blister coming on even though I had moleskin. I had played enough field hockey in new shoes to know I better have a good supply. I don’t know why I thought he would know what he was talking about – he was a cardiologist, not a foot doctor.

When we got to the pass, what a relief. We sat down in the sun and ate our sandwiches – the last ones we would have for at least two weeks. Deeeelicious.

We bade our farewells, and four of us continued on. At a certain point when we were climbing again, I was in the rear of the group – I about fainted but sat down and regained my equilibrium. I was short on iron and oxygen for sure.

The rest seemed downhill. Eight miles. But downhill.

When we got to where we’d be camping, there was no rest for the weary. We started putting up our tents, gathering firewood, getting out food.

GCY asked me to help M with getting water by the stream. I had taken off my boots at last and as expected, just the thought of putting them back on was excruciating. M saw my feet, had brought slippers for himself, but handed them to me. Too big, it wasn’t safe to walk down to the stream in them – two many rocks, boulders, and barefoot was not an option – too many things to stick on one’s foot.

GCY saw my feet and was stunned. There were blisters on blisters, clearly painful. He was stunned because I had uttered nary a complaint or indication of this.

I meekly asked if it was all right if I stayed close to camp and continued gathering wood instead. This also surprised him as I was willing to work just not get hurt more.

Yes was the answer especially as M was in good shape and was willing and able to gather the water.

Supper, since we weren’t near any streams with golden trout, was ramedan soup as well as hot chocolate with marshmallows. I forewent the jerky – too tough for me and the hot chocolate – chocolate would keep me up all night no matter how tired I was. The altitude might be enough to overcome re trying to sleep.

Hal offered to use his share of the food from his pack. Sounded nice to me until CGY clued the new kid (me) in: He’s just trying to lighten his load. Say no.

GCY and I went to bed right after supper. We changed into our pajamas and huddled together to keep warm.

It was a beautiful night.

The next morning, we had oatmeal (and grits for Hal), coffee, tea and packed up after filling our canteens. I delayed putting on those boots as long as possible.

Yeowwwww-ch. That was what I was thinking but it didn’t get voiced.

We headed out. How beautiful. About half a mile later, the 2 guys who had hiked with us flew over. We flashed our mirror at them so they came closer, waggled their wings and headed west.

The High Sierras are such beautiful country. We came around a hill, across a meadow of blue ??? and red flowers. Very marshy in areas so we had to be careful not to get wet.

GCY gave us a couple of atta-boys to get over the next hill. Atta-boys are Werther’s butterscotch candy – you get one to encourage you to get over the hill or one after you have achieved it. Hal brought a similar candy too – but a chocolate version.

M and Hal got way ahead of us – we didn’t mind too much – they could set up camp. And if we didn’t arrive, they’d know how to backtrack to find us.

This day, it rained. So GCY set up the tarp under which we waited it out. We also built a fire to keep warm. Frigid rain.

When the rain lightened up, we took down the tarp and continued on. GCY is a great leader. Knowing I was exhausted, cold, a little wet, feet hurting, but not complaining; he starting talking about the new regulations – no fires about 11,000’. Most of the wood is below that so why have that regulation? Then he told me stories of when he brought Glennis and the kids up. One year there was so much snow around Rocky Basin lakes that the boys built a tunnel inside the snow to slide down from the top of the cliff to the lake.

We hiked on up to our next stop. I immediately took off my shoes and stood on a rock airing out the blisters.

We built a big fire. Viktor Belenko called it the B.S. fire because usually the guys would talk b.s. into the night around it.

So beautiful. I put my ouch boots ouch back on and climbed down to the stream to wash up a little and bring some up for tea, coffee and ramadan noodles

The next morning, we had oatmeal, coffee, tea, grits for Hal, got packed up and headed out.

As we crested the hill and were coming down the other side, we stopped for some almonds, raisins, and jerky. Lunch.

We continued about 10 minutes when GCY said: Its going to pour in 5 minutes.

His brother said, No, I think it will hold off. We should be at Fungsten (lake) in 3 hours.

GCY ignored him and started setting up the tarp. I helped him. I had no doubt GCY was right.

To the second, five minutes later, le deluge!

We got under our tarp nice and comfy.

Hal and M came running back. We shouted: “No room! No room!” but of course we let them under – it was a tight fit. There is a photo somewhere.

I kidded Hal: “You doubted your brother’s take on the weather?”

He just shook his head at himself: “You’d think I’d know better after all these years.”

After about 30 minutes, the rain subsided so we gathered the tarp and set out again.

We reached Fungston in the afternoon and the usual campsite area about 45 minutes later. We unpacked. We’d be here for at least a week.

Then we headed up to Fungsten to get dinner. A little easier climb without the pack.

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