Tuesday, January 17, 2006


So I took a "sick" day from work today. I wasn't really "sick", but as our company doesn't have a "I'm a friggin' pansy, I climbed a mountain yesterday, and today I can't move my legs so I need a day off" day, I settled for "sick".

The girl and I made a full frontal assult on Old Rag in Virginia yesterday. The hike is (roughly) a 7 mile out-and-back, or a 9 mile loop (counting the nearly 1 mile walk (each way) to and from the parking lot to the trailhead). Total elevation gain/loss is about 2200 feet. So while she ain't Everest, she's still a good workout. Especially for a guy and a girl who's last walk up a mountain was many months ago (at best).

The first couple of miles of the hike is nothing more than walking up a seemingly endless series of switchbacks in the woods. Nothing to write home about. The good stuff comes in the last mile or two before the summit. That's where you get to the boulders. The trail becomes nothing more than blue paint blazes marking the "trail" over huge friggin' rocks (note, those are not my photos. I debated taking my camera, but thankfully, I didn't. I'd have definitely felt the extra weight. Additionally, the bulk in my pack would have made squeaking through tight rock crevaces impossible).

Try as we might, however, we didn't make the actual summit. We probably got within 100 yards of it (following the trail) and 20' (vertically). Ya see, Old Rag is one of the most popular hikes in VA. The summer outdoors season is a extremely busy time to make the hike. So bad, in fact, that on nice weekends, lines of hikers form while waiting to get up/past some of the more interesting obsticles. Therefore, a winter assult is a much more appealing thing (at least for me). Alas, the drawback of winter climbing is ice. As we neared the summit, the smooth rock faces, coupled with a slick 1/4" coating of ice stopped us. We managed to get past one really tricky/ice coated spot, but the next section was impassable for (non-climbing/amateur hiking/really f*ing tired/losing sunlight fast) us. With fading light and fading energy, we decided to turn around and make the hike back the way we came. The route down the boulders was just as interesting as the hike up, and the hike down the switchbacks was just as uninteresting. By the time we reached the bottom, our legs were jelly-like. The final insult is the mile walk down the road to the parking lot. I think the next time I make the hike, I'm going to bring along my beater singlespeed. I'll park in the lot, then bike to the trailhead. Lock the bike to a tree. Do the hike. Then bike back down the hill to the truck. Hell, the road slopes so much from the trailhead down to the parking lot, I doubt I'll even have to pedal. An extra mile or two doesn't seem like much, but at the end of the hike, you feel it.

Supposedly, somewhere near the summit, there is a scree field. Either we didn't make it that far, or I have no real idea what the hell "scree" is.

By far, the favorite part of the hike (both the girl and for me) was the bouldering. Anybody know where we can do more of that, without the long switchback/woods walks to tire you out beforehand? If you do, share it!