Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Western States 100 week Tue 23rd

That's more like it. I could keep up a more respectable uphill hiking pace today despite the temperature ratcheting up and the sweat flowing freely, and I even managed some running! After yesterday's struggle amidst much puffing and panting and pauses to admire the view (actually to recover and catch my breath), and zero inclination to run, today I felt a bit more energetic. The acclimatisation must be working. It's following the same pattern as the four previous times I've been here.

I entered Squaw Valley village via the front door today for the first time instead of from above via the back door. I joined the Shirley Canyon trail from the top end of the village to the right of the cable car. The footpath climbed variously through pine and fir trees, alongside a tumbling stream and across wide expanses of steeply sloping granite. The cable car to the left was soon out of sight on the other side of the mountain as the path took me on a now familiar wilderness journey.
Entering the village via the front door.
Guess where the trail goes.
The trail was marked in parts by markers of blue spray paint, known locally as blazes (blazing the trail with blistering blue blazes), which were fading and easily missed. Across the open granite slabs and boulders they disappeared completely. Scanning left to right revealed nothing blue with nothing to follow apart from my nose uphill. Inevitably I lost the trail and the nose-following continued up terrain that required hands, feet and a dash of daring. I was thankful for the extreme grip provided by the rough granite. Seemingly any gradient could be climbed without a single slip.

I knew I was aiming for Shirley Lake. I aimed right towards a clump of trees that seemed to surround a depression and it wasn't far from the stream, so I guessed the lake might be there. The ground foliage beneath the trees was impenetrable but a steep granite slope appeared ahead which I climbed, mountain goat style, to get a better view from above. There was no lake. I contoured back along the precipice with increasing sense of urgency because I had to catch the last cable car from High Camp at 5pm and I hadn't even reached the lake yet!

Climbing now to the left brought me back to the trail with a massive sense of relief. The markers were newer and more frequent for now and led me to Shirley Lake. Across the other side of the lake was a cable car terminus. I guess the lake forms a winter playground for the skiers from the High Camp area high above.
Shirley Lake.
The path climbed around the lake to join the steep access track left up to the wide plateau above High Camp. After power walking to the top I ran (note, "ran") down to High Camp in time for a sandwich and taking in the views before taking the penultimate cable car down at 4:40pm. The 1.5 mile climb back up to the guesthouse completed a reassuring afternoon's exercise and another 7 miles under the belt.
High Camp down below. Fire smoke still lingers on the horizon.
Here's the photo album.

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