July 17: Table Mountain, or: recognizing one’s limits

IMG_0353The good news first: we both made it there and back.

IMG_0314La bestia was the perfect vehicle to drive up the gravel road, which my old Audi would probably have failed to master.

IMG_0312We parked her near the road closure gate pictured at the center of this photo (right below the lavender-colored “1” in a square) west-by-northwest of the Highland Lookout, a fire lookout at times of extreme wildfire risk.

IMG_0316Harry at the treeline. Note the Highland Lookout in the upper left.

IMG_0324Just below the lookout.

IMG_0322It was windy and much chillier than I had expected… light mittens and a woolen hat would have been nice.

IMG_0327From there we had to climb Red Mountain (10,070ft / 3.069m), which probably got its name from the red rocks. Its summit is visible in the upper left.

IMG_0330Harry was a commensurate mountaineer — indeed, the only commensurate mountaineer on the team…

IMG_0334Once we had conquered Red Mountain, we got an idea of what was still awaiting us: Monument Peak (10,136ft / 3.089m) followed by a hilly traverse–with Emerald Lake (lower left) at its feet–and, finally, Table Mountain (10,223 ft / 3.116m), visible in the background. I had estimated the total duration of the hike–including breaks–to be around six hours, but at this point it became clear that it would likely take longer.

IMG_0342This photo shows the terrain around the ridge that connects Red Mountain and Monument Peak: rocky and–and least for my taste–pretty challenging. Harry, in contrast, moved around like a reborn caterpillar. Note the peak of Red Mountain in the background.

IMG_0338Snow in July! Harry loved it and took a hearty bite.

IMG_0344A view of gorgeous Emerald Lake from below Monument Peak’s summit.

IMG_0346We made it: atop of Table Mountain. The ascent took four hours and five minutes, about an hour more than I had anticipated. The crux: while I had packed the camping stove and a dried meal (vegetarian chilimac), I had forgotten to bring a lighter. As a result Harry and I were down to two hard-boiled eggs, a quarter-pound of red grapes, and two mango bars. Taken together, this ration simply didn’t contain enough calories. By the time we had scaled Table Mountain, all we had left were a few grapes and one mango bar. Let me assure you: I’ve learned an important lesson about proper preparation.

IMG_0355Both of us were exhausted (Harry really only lies down when he’s at home on “his” couch in DC — or dog-tired) but we managed to get back. It wasn’t pretty, but thankfully the clouds didn’t get gloomier and the thought of a hot meal pushed me forward. The return took us a little over three hours; in total, the hike was almost eight hours. The chilimac ranked among the best dinners I’ve had in months, and that’s not because of how it tasted. Back in his automobile crate Harry kept licking his paws, but he seems to be fine overall. Both of my hands are burned from sun exposure (I was hiking with poles) and my legs feel like lead, but otherwise I’m alright, too.

Day 16The next stop will probably be Helena, Montana’s State capital.

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