Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Great Silence (AKA Matterhorn Peak: Horseshoe Pass 3/7)

“As we got higher we got more tired and now like two true mountain climbers we weren’t talking anymore and didn’t have to talk and were glad, in fact Japhy mentioned that, turning to me after a half-hour’s silence, ‘This is the way I like it, when you get going there’s just no need to talk, as if we were animals and just communicated by silent telepathy.’”(Kerouac, Jack. Dharma Bums. (New York: Penguin Group, 1986, p.62)
In the last blog you saw this peak, and for quite some time while hiking this particular route it is your destination. Once you are at the base of it you then take a right (west) which heads up the final section to Horseshoe Pass. Keep in mind I am showing you the easiest class 2 route. There is a more direct approach where you climb straight up closer to the front of Matterhorn Peak. In the route I am showing you here it is more like going around it and coming up the backside of it. From reading the book and consulting a few others it seems like this is the route Kerouac and friends took.

“I sat down the best I could on another rock and we both said nothing and meditated. Only I meditated with my eyes closed. The silence was an intense roar. From where we were, the sound of the creek, the gurgle and slapping talk of the creek, was blocked off by rocks.” (Ibid., p. 70)
Again, there are use trails, but it gets to the point that in some cases just climbing up the rocks anyway you can is the best. Like the quote in the last blog, you get to the point you just start to hop along the rocks. The times I have done this I have also had to cross snow patches at this point on the way. I would say another 45 minutes to an hour gets one... the pass. I usually turn around here, relax, and see where I came from. Then I turn around and prepare for the next part.
Horseshoe Pass. It is a big snow pit here. That little opening there at the middle top is what needs to be reached. In theory, you can climb up higher to the right side of the picture if you want to evade snow. In the past, I have just crossed the snow. It can be a little scary here climbing on this type of snow. It's around the three and half to four hour mark of the hike so the legs get a little tired, and you don't want to make a mistake.
Yosemite! After all you have been through things really open up here. Extremely quiet and beautiful. This is a reward in itself. Very much like the experience of characters in the Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit where after much work in a journey they go through a pass and encounter something spectacular compared to where they just were. This is real though. For the longest time the type of talus rock is all you see, but then a nice looking summer green meadow shows up! Trees in the distance!

Although, as I have said to a person while getting here, it is like reaching the finals of any sport. You still have the hardest job to do in order to win the whole thing…let’s go! I’ll continue the final ascent in the next blog.

As an aside, one time coming here after not seeing a soul the whole morning, there was a German couple camped out up here just beyond the pass. I just said "hi" to them as I headed up the mountainside. I think they took off not too long after that. I got the idea they came here from Yosemite and not from the direction I am showing you. It is always a little odd to see anyone out this far into the backcountry when you have gone so long without seeing anyone, but it does happen.