Day 7                  
   
The never-ending climb from Simpson Meadow   See? I actually made it to the top.   The specifics of the route. Note the unofficial name...
   
Scanning the last ridge of granite for the pass   To reach the pass, one must pass through the slums   Beginning of the End... Last pass of the journey

Day 7 begins at 4:00 AM. I must climb up from the verdant depths of Simpson Meadow, at 6,000 feet, to the alpine heights of the Lake of the Fallen Moon, nestled below Granite Pass at an elevation of 10,000 feet. The trail in between is known, semi-officially, as "The Bitch", perhaps because it begins with a 4,000-foot gain in elevation over 5 miles, with no access to water. This can be difficult under any circumstances, but in combination with recent high temperatures, it could be downright dangerous. The only way to improve the prospect was to carry a full load of water and finish as much of the climb as possible before the heat of the day set in.

The night before, following dinner, I made the next morning's breakfast (oatmeal with dried fruit), set that aside, packed away everything I could, laid out everything I would need in the morning (so I could find it half asleep in the dark), and settled in for a few hours rest.

As planned, I awoke at 4:00 AM under a quarter moon, and blundered through the motions of eating dressing and packing as well as my sleep-addled brain could manage. By 4:40, I had reached the beginning of the long climb, and began to ascend, wondering if I'd make it to the top before the temperature started to rise. The climb was, by far, the most difficult part of the trip, and there were many times when I knew I'd done the right thing by starting before dawn. As it happened, I made it to the plateau in 3 hours, 30 minutes, in the sunlit but still cool morning. I was down to my last half liter of water, but otherwise feeling pretty good. Though I'd only planned on hiking to the foot of Granite Pass and camping there, the feet were in good shape, and the body was willing, so I ended up walking to, then over Granite pass. Amazing what a few pieces of tape can do.