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How I hiked to Alta Peak, 3,415m, and didn’t die

After the StartEngine interview didn’t yield any results, I decided to use my time in California for traveling and hiking. This US trip was simply a situation where you cannot lose :-). Funnily enough, my first hike in the Sequoia National Park put this attitude of invincibility to a major test…

The hike from Wolverton through Panther Gap and all the way up to Alta Peak is 7 miles one way. The first part to Panther Gap is some three miles through mildly sloping forests which weren’t very interesting apart from encounters with mule deer and a wolf. But the view from Panther Gap into the valley finally gave me what I came for:

View from Panther Gap

The following two miles were pretty easy and offered more beautiful views from the rim of the valley.

View into the valley

Scaling the last two miles to the peak was the most difficult part. The very top is nothing but stone rubble which makes walking difficult and there are no trees to shelter you from the sun. But no victory can be undeserved…

View from Alta Peak View from the top of the world. 3,415m / 11,204ft.

However, there was more I had to deserve that day. I spent too much time savoring my victory at the top, and then on the way down crippling pain in my feet forced me to make frequent breaks and walk slowly. By the time I got back to Panther Gap the sun was already setting.

Sunset over Panther Gap Sunset in the mountains is beautiful, even when it means you’ll be walking in the dark.

The remaining three miles through the forest were like a near-death experience. Darkness fell and I soon had to walk the rocky path by the moonlight and with a flashlight app on my iPhone. My feet were giving way and I had to lean on a stick made from a tree branch to make each step. Above all it was a mental exercise. When I thought I was one mile from the car, I estimated it would take 3,200 steps to get there and started counting every step aloud just to focus on something and keep going.

I soon had to make breaks every 400 steps. Then every 200 steps. But my head stayed amazingly clear. Thoughts about bears, getting lost in the dark, tripping, injuries or freezing cold didn’t even enter my mind. Once you decide to succeed, you are going to succeed.

When I collapsed against the side of my car after step number 3,112 and threw away the stick, it all felt oddly obvious… of course I knew I would get there in 3,200 steps. I had decided to survive, hadn’t I?

October 27, MMXII — Travel, Los Angeles.