The Hardest Day for Dad – My Second Most Impressive Performance…

Most of us woke at 5 a.m. with Dad giving the wake-up call. Unfortunately he hadn’t slept so much because it was very
warm inside his sleeping bag and he lacked my fur coat bug protection allowing me to sleep atop my own sleeping bag.
Over-heat or chewed by bugs, Dad chose the mostly over-heating non-sleeping option. Earlier in the morning I heard him
reflecting that the day prior had been the five year anniversary of Ostend passing away unexpectedly and I think he was
fighting a bit of melancholy so here’s a link to Ostend for all of you:

Brent was the first up and immediately got going which is something the rest of us would learn to do in the future. As
such he was able to help Dad and others get things going to be more effective. Bear hangs gatherred we met at the cook
site and had a jovial albeit sleepy breakfast. Camp was fully broken, water loaded and by 8:15 we were on the trail
which was a little later than ideal. I had my first larger than normal breakfast as Dad upped my food shares for the
trip since we were going to burn so many more calories than normal. He also told me I would get water early and often
in this hot weather.

Things started off well enough with us making decent time for the speed of Dad. The trail was more narrow and began to
slowly rise up as we approached one of the 4K peaks: Bondcliff. The spot was working fine so folks could track us at
home. One common mistake during early and inexperienced hikes is to take breaks which last too long. We fell into
this trap as breaks got too close to 20 minutes too long. The heat was swelterring and Dad was soaked and tired sooner
than preferable. He was also doggedly determined (!) and continued to work. We did encounter a few blowdowns which
called for the saw to make the path manageable and those were just bonus breaks for those not on trail clean-up duty.

We encounterred several small stream crossings which were handled by Brent who really wanted to be sure of Dad’s safety
on the rock stepping version of these. I was asked to sit and stay and looked on disapprovingly as Dad was put into
the trust of others. I admit rock hopping isn’t quite Guide range work but I still have my union contract for Dad
worrying! Fortunately I have to admit Brent has high levels of experience in this industry for a reason and he
developed a working and safe system. So much so he even let Justin take a turn at one point after we had started some
of the more steep sections. Justin actually had a tougher crossing but handled it very well and Dad was soon safe on
the other side calling me to hurl myself through the stream to get to my post at his side.

Now most of you know Dad isn’t just a blind man, he has some damage to his cerabellum which causes a near constant
Vertigo he’s learned to manage. The Nystagmus in his eyes is sort of scary at times and you can always get a good read
for how much it’s impacting him by those eyes. So when a rock eventually and unsurprisingly tweaked his right ankle
the ginger work made it easy for pack shift to cause him to work even harder. As the trail grew worse I tended my job
with some pretty tremendous devotion if I do say so myself – and I do! He was working too hard and both Brent and I
knew it. Actually I suspect the whole class knew it because when you hike with a slow guy you all get to hike slow
typically. They were tremendously supportive and positive and to his credit Dad just kept working away. The Camel bag
was his lifeblood as he took sips of water near constantly to power him through the effort. Brent even suggested a
little redistribution of the pack contents to some others and Dad resisted the notion as we approached the heavy run of
‘stairs’ which transition to the higher points of Bondcliff. Dad set upon them with my guidance and an amazingly
supportive group of also hard working companions.

Surprisingly we passed a few groups coming down from the summit and folks said it was fun to see their surprise when
they realized the job I was doing on the hike! Some of that is they knew full well the challenge of this route and
while it’s not unmanageable, it is a lot of work and moreso given the heat, humidity, bug assault and pack weights.
Speaking of Bug Assault I was fighting the buggers away from my ears and lips near constantly. Amy had a great natural
solution later for me but Dad better finish his research into the best protective alternative for me in the future.
Matt says “Pet Guard” is a gel we might want to consider and I’m in favor of any solution. Now I won’t complain too
much as poor Courtney had 93 bites just on one side of her neck and we have the pictures to prove it (shudder)! She
didn’t complain about it either and I have to say she is one of my many heroes on this trip.

At the top of the staircase we loaded up on water for the last time until Geyot Shelter which means summit Bondcliff,
cross the saddle and summit Bond and then drop down to the shelter. We were behind schedule in part due to Dad’s slow
pace and in part due to our overly long breaks. Dad’s exhaustion wasn’t helping and he really was pushing through a
physical and mental wall in driving himself forward. I’d be proud of him and in fact am but I think he already knows
it was a quality accomplishment. He’s done harder hikes and pushed harder at things before but given the collaboration
of challenges at this point, he said it was his hardest day though not yet his hardest moments on the day.

The trail got narrow and that’s where my small size and low maneuverability helped me Guide Dad with as much speed and
accuracy as possible for the conditions. When we hit a blow down that needed clearing Dad dropped to the ground and
took a hard rest until it was clear. At this point Brent made a right call which Dad didn’t like but which he also
wisely accepted as necessary. The group redistributed much of Dad’s pack weight to make it easier going for him. I’ll
thank the whole lot who loaded up on bits and pieces to make it work and kudos to Dad for accepting it. The best props
go to Brent for his style which lets people push when appropriate, grow and learn when appropriate but ultimately makes
the right mandatory decision for the group when that is required. That’s a hiking leader’s role.

The rest of the journey to the “Hillary Step” was definitely hard still but we had a mndset of pulling together and
making it happen. We fully understood the reality of the challenge and were pushing on with more purpose. They roped
Dad for the climbing of the short Hillary step and while perhaps over-kill it was in part a test of what might be
necessary. It was handled and we shot up from there to the top of Bond cliff for much celebration. It was 3:15
already (or so) and that means I got dinner while they all got lunch. We took pictures, shot video and celebrated the
amazing views all around us. The views were easily worth the work as the 360 degree panorama was amazing on this
cloudless day. Special thanks to Sarah who gave Dad a scenic tour while Kyle did some film work and
I…well…honestly…slept a much needed and very restful sleep in the first shade of the afternoon!

This time on the top rejuvinated us tremendously. Strength of spirit counts for a lot and I think everyone had their
spirits touched by the accomplishment, the view and a wind finally strong enough to thwart those steroidal Bondcliff
Bugs which seemed immune to all winds below 20 mph!

I followed Brent into the descent of one long Saddle between the two peaks. We were now headed down and over before a
rise up to Mt. Bond. I was making great time, we were all enthusiastic and the below video again shot by Kyle on the
Teva Flip Cam highlights some of the way we work through this tough terrain. It’s a longer video but has some great
scenes and you can tell the wind was pretty impressive here as well:

It seemed sort of storybook here and Dad later recounted this as one of his favorite times on the entire hike. He’d
gotten past his wall and while he was still working doggedly (t.m.!) the reward of the first climb and the pride of
accomplishment were able to drive him onward. His pride in my work was pretty spectacular and all agreed at this point
that my ability was pretty essential to the success. That’s why it is sort of sad Dad missed the opportunity to note
the rocks which had dominated our travel for some time. He was packing my Ruff-wear boots which could have saved me a
little discomfort. My bads and nails are strong but a mountain is simply stronger. It was probably on this saddle
somewhere that I cut the pad of my back right leg and broke a nail on my front paw which cut to the Quick and bled a
very little bit. I was too intent on my work and so didn’t let it be obvious but the timing really suggests to them
this is where it took place.

Roughly half way through the up portion of the saddle it was some terrain that I really couldn’t fully guide Dad.
Brent took over the Guiding and much to his dismay Dad cracked his knee pretty good. at least he made enough noise
about the boulder and knee connection that it seemed pretty good. It’s the only real sore spot remaining from the trip
but ultimately just a good solid bruise. They treckked on through the challenging areas with Aimee and Sarah each
getting a solid shift of leading Dad. Everyone was working hard and a couple of folks took packs to the top and came
back to retrieve a few packs from others. This was the group helping each other to ensure everyone could reach the
summit because due to the pace and a choice of weight reasons to not have filled the last camel pack (105 ounces) at
the last fill point; the group was unreasonably low on water. We made the Summit of Bond in considerable exhaustion
and it was very late. I took over the work and led Dad towards the Geyot shelter with Brent while others went ahead
and got the Shelter ready as well as refilling water. There was lower celebration on the summit and as an amazing full
moon rose to light the night, we headed down the often snowy trail from Bond. It was just under 1 mile and we made
reasonably good time again with me back leading Dad. Everyone donned headlamps, except Dad, and Jenny marvelled that
effectively for Dad nothing had changed. We were all wiped and mentally I was pretty tapped as we neared a 15 hour
total hike time this day. Nature gave us a pretty incredible boost along this route for standing in the snowy trail
with a bright full moon we also had the pleasure of seeing South Twin glowing pink and we all paused to share the
spectacle with Dad. The Sun had set for all of us but was still refracting atop South Twin to make this impressive
view! THere’s something to be said that so incredibly tired and tapped we could appreciate such a moment in such a
remote location. Not long after this Kyle and Sherpa arrived with fresh water bottles to the rescue and we all drank
deeply, me included!

When we hit the offshoot trail for the Shelter it was steep, very challenging and the light was even a little too low
for me. Sherpa tried to let me use his head lamp but ultimately we just let him lead the final stages. Dad was in
plod mode which didn’t help and I don’t prefer to lead him when he’s not mentally sharp enough to be fully attentive.
I followed along and at the Shelter I immediately went to lay on my sleeping bag and pass out for the night. It was
the soundest sleep I ever had. I don’t think I heard anyone running their stoves, eating their MRE and other meals or
talking about the plans for Wednesday. I am after all Adventure Dawg and would be ready but I needed sleep. Dad came
to bed after midnight and he got the most sleep of the trip until this point. A deep exhausted sleep complete with
cramps on all his stablizer muscles for which Brent, sherpa and Aimee ensured he drank a bottle of water with a Gator
Aid supplement added. What a day! What an accomplishment! We were only 1/3 of the way through our journey.

Tune in tomorrow for more!

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