Sunday, October 04, 2009

trail to mt osceola

trail to mt osceola
Originally uploaded by wereldmuis.

This is the trail downhill, as it heads to Mt Osceola from the summit of East Osceola. It's calling me onward!

Once I had reached the cairn, I was curious about how the trail would proceed if I continued towards Mt Osceola. I knew there was supposed to be a steep chimney on the way. There's a trail you can use to avoid it, but I definitely wanted to climb the chimney.

It was tempting to continue on and ascend Mt Osceola, but it was already around 2:30 p.m. at that point, and I knew the descent was going to be arduous and time-consuming. So I decided that pancakes were the better part of valor, and retraced my footsteps.

I had noticed that the boy scouts were using hiking poles on the ascent, and I thought I would try using mine on the way down. After a brief attempt, I decided that they were less than helpful, and stored them away again. Instead, I made my way down most of the rocky parts by climbing down backwards (i.e. facing the rocks, the way you would when climbing up). It was slow going, but my knees thanked me. I've rarely had to do this on a trail before, but this trail is especially difficult, without doubt the most difficult trail I've ever hiked. Normally, I'd slide down the bigger rocks on my butt, but it wasn't comfortable doing that with my backpack on (the bottom of the pack sinks lower than my butt, which made maneuvering difficult).

The trick to climbing backwards is to take a moment to reorient yourself when you turn around again. I found that when you've been climbing down backwards for a minute or two, and then turn around, you can experience a flash of vertigo. This is fine if you just stand still for a moment to reorient. The first time it happened, I nearly lost my balance; vertigo doesn't go well with a loaded backpack on a steep trail.

I traversed the rocky slide this way, as well. I think I could have gone down it face-first if it had been dry, but I decided that it would be helpful to have a handhold for security.

The trip down was actually fairly uneventful. I think I'd become overly nervous at the summit because I had gotten cold. But that's fortunate; if I hadn't been as nervous, I'd probably have attempted the summit of Mt Osceola, which would have been cutting it close - I might have ended up hiking out in the dark. So I think I did the smart thing to head back down when I did.

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