While the mercury was flirting with 100 degrees Saturday in Manteca I was busy collapsing a snow bridge on the way down from Sonora Peak.
A snow bridge — for those smart enough not to hike in the high Sierra in the late spring when there is still ample snow to melt — is semi-frozen snow bridging streams of water fed by snowmelt. Typically they’d be found over small streams but with the remaining snowpack and the warmer weather most mountainsides above 9,000 feet harbor endless snow bridges.
I’ve crossed snow bridges before over fairly good-sized streams but that was when the snow was deeper and the temperatures colder allowing me to gingerly cross unseen water with my 170-pound body plus backpack.
Usually you can hear the water but you can’t see it. I swear I didn’t hear water below me but in a split second I punched a hole through the snow and landed in two feet plus of water. Of course I didn’t stay standing even though I was using hiking poles. I ended up falling on my back — much better than a face plant — with my legs bending under as snow collapsed on top of me.
When I first went to get up I was stopped from doing so thanks to the snow. I soon realized frozen snow this time of year that melts slightly during the day and refreezes somewhat at night is far from being light and fluffy.
The first thing I did was to think about how stupid I looked. Given that I encountered only one other hiker on the 9.4-mile round trip hike to the peak at 11,464 feet, that was fairly silly of me.
Knowing I wasn’t in deep water was why I didn’t panic.
After I got myself up besides my hiking boots being caked with an inch or two of mud along with frozen snow jammed inside them and my socks soaking wet, I realized my left leg was bleeding pretty badly. It seems frozen snow can cut deep and sharp.
It’s safe to say I didn’t expect to collapse a snow bridge Saturday given summer was just 19 days away.
It was my sixth hiking trip to Sonora Peak. The Sonora Pass with its access to the Pacific Crest Trail that passes beneath a fair amount of peaks to tackle as well as St. Mary’s Pass that leads to the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness offers a number of day hikes. It is made even better by the lack of crowds as well as light traffic once you get east of Sonora. Compared to day hikes in the Yosemite high country it’s desolate.
About two thirds of the hike was covered with snow Saturday assuring my upper body would get a good workout. While it wasn’t my fastest ascent and descent, surprisingly it was my second fastest which brings me to a bit of advice based on me being a klutz at age 62.
Most of us have the ability to improve our health, stamina, and strength regardless of our age. In doing so you will feel better, discover things about yourself you didn’t know, as well as open new vistas.
I’ve been doing some form of exercise daily now for 32 years after deciding at age 29 that I didn’t want to turn 30 and still weigh 320 pounds and get winded climbing stairs.
Less than a year ago I stepped up my weight work — dumbbells and barbells — not to look buff (it isn’t going to happen with my DNA) but to have more functional strength. I did it by adding what I did at home with Body Pump classes at InShape. When they first started offering them several years ago I tried them and hated them. I’m more of a cardio junkie — think step classes — and was less than thrilled that InShape, at the time, slashed their aerobic based class offerings significantly. That has since changed.
Doing Body Pump drove home the point I make when I try to encourage others to start an exercise program of some type even if is just walking 40 minutes a day. If you stick with something and go at it on your own level you will see, notice, and feel differences. You will improve your health, not fatigue as easily, get stronger, be mentally sharper, and discover you can do things you never thought possible. If you had told my high school PE teacher Jack Gayaldo I’d become addicted to exercise and try to take hikes every other week that involved covering 10 miles and gaining 1,000 to 3,000 feet he would have bet his teacher’s retirement that would never happen.
The stepped up work with strength classes paid off big time Saturday. That amount of snow hiking with the elevation gain would have been more difficult for me a year ago.
I’ll never be an animal like Body Pump instructors — Mary, Christine, Susie and Jill — who have to deal with my fairly unique approach to their classes. But to tell you the truth it doesn’t matter.
At age 62 I can honestly say I’m stronger than when I was 61.
It’s a great feeling knowing you can nail a summit when you can qualify for Social Security, be less fatigued and do it in near personal best time even with the challenge of hiking in snow than when you were 55, 30 or even 18.
The added bonus is the incredible vista at the summit.
As much as I hate to say it, Nike’s marketing gurus are right. Just do it.