This was supposed to be a ridgeline hike. The only reason I was going to do this again was to take Angela. She invited Wendy and Sam. The very well understood plan was that Wendy would come up the night before and camp at Carney. I was to pick her up there at 6:30am and drive her to Mining Camp, leaving her truck at Carney for our shuttle, and we would all hike out from McKellips at 7am. All phone numbers were exchanged in case of any problem.
I arrived at Carney by 6:20am and Wendy wasn't there. (?!) I drove up and down that end of Peralta road looking, but there was no sign of her, so I finally just drove back to Mining Camp to meet Angela and Sam, who were waiting there and it's now 7am. Angela says that Wendy just called her and said she was on her way. On her way to where... Carney?! I'm not driving back there again. That would put us at least an hour behind schedule and I didn't think we could afford to lose that much daylight on this one. Angela wanted to wait for Wendy, but after getting up an hour early and already having made the 35 mile round trip, I was feeling a bit less generous, so we made a compromise. Thinking that Wendy would make better time than Angela going up, we decided that Wendy should to drive to Mining Camp and then meet us on top by the Flatiron. That would leave us without a shuttle at the end, but Angela rattled off a list of people she could call for a ride. OK.
So, up we went, stopping often to peer through Angela's 'camera binoculars' to look for Wendy's car in the parking lot. I thought we should call her again to make sure she was coming, but Angela said Wendy told her that her cell phone battery was almost dead. (another ?!)
I felt pretty good going up and I think we all could have made better time, but although Angela didn't appear to be struggling (in fact, I thought she seemed in very good form), Sam and I had to stop quite often to wait for her. Knowing that I was drawing a hard line on this and wouldn't wait long at the top, I'm sure she was holding back a bit, hoping to give Wendy more time. Angela just wants everything to work out for everybody, but my whole purpose for this trip was to make sure Angela got her ridgeline and
had time to take photos and enjoy it. Knowing how hard this hike is to complete, I wasn't willing to let anything or anybody else get in the way of that.
We finally pulled ourselves over the wall at 10am.(3 hours into the hike) and began our vigil for Wendy. Restless, irritated and increasingly nervous, I paced around on the top, while Angela and Sam sat below, peering over the edge. Some 45 minutes later, Wendy appeared. I watched in horror from above as Wendy sat down, removed her pack and began 'story telling'. I tolerated this for almost 10 minutes before calling out to them sternly that we needed to get moving. Wendy yelled back something about needing inspiration. Seething, I paced around for another 5 minutes before yelling down, "LET'S GO!!!" Sam bounded up and waited with me for the other two and by the time everyone was at the top, it was 11am.
Finally coming face to face with Wendy for the first time, she simply says, "Hi, Kat" (no apology for anything), which I returned with silence and a stern glare. Addressing the group, I stated the obvious (that we needed to make up some time) and I was off like a rocket, with Sam keeping pace. After only a minute, I hesitantly turned around to discover that Angela and Wendy were nowhere in sight. I looked at Sam, wondering how much he must hate being in the middle of this drama, and apologized to him for this nightmare. After stopping several times for them to catch up, it was obvious that Wendy was more interested in talking than walking and Angela was compelled to be polite and keep pace with Wendy.
With time ticking away and my patience about to reach critical mass, I waited one last time for them to catch up and then asked Wendy, "Is this as fast as you're going to walk for the rest of the day?" She nodded yes. It was noon and we had not even gone 4 miles.
Game Over. I turned to Angela and said that I thought we should turn back. The way things were going, it seemed very likely that we'd be hiking down in the dark. The replies all around were that they all brought their headlamps. I promised her that I would do this hike with her another time and strongly suggested that we go back now, because after this point, we would be committed. I again stressed how difficult this is and that they would be very tired long before they were finished and 'dark' was not an option that I was willing to plan on. But, she said Wendy didn't want to go back down the Flatiron and that she felt they could do it. Sam backed her on this and I knew he could finish, but indicating he would stick with 'the group', he was in for a dark ending, as well. I may have been 'trip leader', but if they insisted on ignoring my advice and mutiny, I was not going down with this ship. Fearing for their well being, I continued to plead with her when Wendy piped in with, "The more we stand around and talk about it..." That was the snap for me. I cut her off in mid-sentence by saying, "See ya" and took off back to the Flatiron, wishing Angela good luck over my shoulder.
I took my time going back and even took a long break, just in case they changed their minds, but I ended up at the Flatiron solo and when I got there, I thought I was in the wrong place because it looked more like the mall than the wilderness. There were hoards of people crawling all over the place (did I mention this was a Monday?). There was a line of 11 people waiting to get down the wall and an equal line below waiting to get up. Apparently, the crash site has become a real tourist attraction and has taken this already too populated hike to horrifying levels, bringing out all kinds of people who don't belong here in the first place. That explains all of the trash we saw going up.
All the way down to the draw, I was part of the ant parade, with rocks raining down on me from the people directly above who were so close I could hear them breathing and snorting and there was no escape from this. That was the icing on the cake of my day. I saw two people take pretty good tumbles. Again, I wonder how there isn't a pile of dead bodies at the end of every day and how soon it will be until they just station a helicopter on top. After the slick rock, I ducked into a drainage just to get away from my current nightmare and took that down until it met up with the trail. When I emerged from my hiding place, there was an older (than me) couple standing there and the man spoke to me:
HIM: "Do you see that white cross up there?"
ME: "Yeah, I've seen it."
HIM: "That's where that plane crashed last year."
ME: ~ sigh ~ "No, it isn't. It crashed up at the peak." I pointed and kept walking.
All the way back to my truck at Mining Camp, there was someone so close behind me I could feel their heat. I'm not coming back here for a long time.
I don't know yet how the rest of Angela's hike went. I thought about them for the rest of the evening.
This is why I generally hike alone.