Sunday, July 13, 2008

Julia, Mike and I headed to Yosemite on Saturday at 4:45am. It was to be a fun and beautiful day running 28 miles round trip from Tuolumne meadows store to Donohue pass and back.
The weather was perfect a few clouds in the sky but nothing to worry about.
I made sure that we all brought rain jackets, rain ponchos, gloves and plenty of food for our run.
I always carry a rain jacket just in case a storm rolls in. I have trained and run 100's of miles in the high Sierras . I have even fastpacked the JMT 6 times. I know that you should always be up and off a pass by 3pm. That is usually when the storms hit, if they do.

Beautiful sunny day heading out on our run.

Our run was going well we were able to run the first 9 miles of trail until it started the steep climb. We saw only one PCT hiker on the trail. He was happy when we told him he had only 4 miles to the store.
We passed and met a lot of JMT hikers.
I stopped to talk to two young guys going up the pass. One was really out of shape but figured he could do it in 21 days. They already had one friend quit after two days. I wished them well and kept moving.
I noticed clouds forming behind us, but thought it was to far away to worry about it. It didn't look bad at all.
I stopped a few times to wait for Julia and Mike. I would move ahead again and wait. I waited at a bridge and we had a snack. Everyone was feeling good.
As I got farther ahead I noticed behind me the clouds getting darker, and thicker.
They still seemed far away. I figured we would make it up the pass, and back down to the meadow before the rain came in.
I decided to keep moving up the pass. As I got higer I noticed dark clouds coming from another direction. It was building fast. We were planning on having lunch on Donohue pass.
I thought the storm was moving fast and once they got to the top, we had to get low before the storm hit.

The storm is coming.
Julia and Mike reached the top at 2:20pm. I told them we needed to go down that I felt the storm was going to be here soon.
I had no idea what was about to happen.
As we started down the rain started. It was cold the drops of rain were huge , within minutes it turned to hail the size of small blackberries. It was really coming down had and it hurt. I remember all the hikers heading for cover. I remember seeing a Father and his two kids 11 years old heading up the pass. I thought I hope they're ok.
I stopped to look back to see if Julia and Mike were behind me. I didn't see them. I couldn't wait the hail was getting worse and the wind was blowing. We had stopped a few minutes back to put on our rain jackets and that was the last time I saw them.
All I thought was I need to find some trees for us so we could take cover. The thunder was loud and I heard the crackle of lightening. I must admit I was a little freaked, but it wasn't the first time I had been in a storm.
The hail was sticking to the ground it was huge I have never seen hail so big.
Having a snack on the bridge.

I finally found the perfect trees to take cover. I stood and waited for Julia and Mike. I saw a couple and they headed up to me. They were JMT hikers heading south. I forgot their names but they were from Scotland. A few minutes later the young guys came up that I met earlier.
We waited as the storm got worse. Still no Julia and Mike. At some point they finally made it to where we all were. They had gotten off trail. They made their way back when they saw a couple other JMTers under some tress.
At least we were all together.
Mike looked very cold, I know we all were but I think at some point he said he was worried about hypothermia. I told him everything would be ok.
In the back of my mind I was worried. I knew we weren't prepared to stay out long in this storm. At least we were under the trees.
At some point the lightening started hitting around us and lighting up the sky. The Scottish couple asked if this was a normal storm. I said it's normal for a storm to hit around this time of day, and gave them advice about the JMT and climbing all the passes in the morning.
This storm was bad I told everyone it would pass in maybe 30 min. But this storm was not letting up. The tress became useless and we were all being pelted with the hail and we were getting soaked to the bone.
I know I had to use my thinking cap because I had lead my friends into this crazy adventure.
Being a fastpacker/hiker I know I carry a tent or tarp at all times. The weather was getting worse and I felt I needed to take charge of this situation to keep us safe.
I asked the young guys do you have a tarp??? They said yeah we have a foot print and tent. I said perfect can we put it over all of us? They said yeah of course. The Scottish couple, me, Mike & Julia held the tent over our heads and huddled really close. Julia and Mike put there arms around me and I put my arm around the Scottish girl and she held on to her boyfriend. Julia started shivering than I noticed Mike. Eventually I did too. I did feel warmer being close to all these people.
The two young guys held the foot print over them.
I kept up my usual positive attitude and told everyone it would let up soon. But in my mind I could see it was getting worse. The hail was sticking to the trail and you could not see the trail it looked like snow the trail was covered in white hail stones.
Our feet were soaked and covered up to our ankles in water. The hail was sticking to the tent over our head and was heavy . I flipped it up with my hands and about 3 inches of hail fell off. The trail was really about 3 inches deep with hail. I kept peaking out hoping to see the break that wasn't coming.
I really was worried about my friends safety I took them out there and there was no way I wanted anything bad to happen to them.
I was really getting worried thinking how long can we stay up here, in this freezing cold weather.
I was talking with the Scottish couple, and I said I really think we should all head down to the over side of the lake, where there was more trees to cover us.
They had a tent and said we could all get in and huddle together when we got to the other side.
I agreed but knew that Julia, Mike and I needed to get down to Tuolumne and to the car. The couple was very nice, but I thought we have no dry clothes ,I knew they were soaked too and this would get worse if we all stayed and became hypothermic.
I finally said lets make a move. The couple took off and I followed. Julia and Mike were behind me. The trail was ankle deep in freezing cold hail and water. The little streams along the trail were raging I fell in one trying to cross on the slippery wet rocks. The guy helped me out, he decided to run ahead and set up the tent. The girl said she would help Mike and Julia across the stream.
I stayed with the Scottish guy. We got to our little lake crossing which was a rock hop on the way up. It was now deep. He said he would set the tent up on this side of the lake. I thought no that isn't going to work!!
I said that we needed to be on the other side in the trees. Also if we got to cold there was no way we could make it across later in the day ,through the icy waters.
I said lets wait for everyone and we would hold on to each other and make it across safely, and then he could set the tent up on the other side.
Mike, Julia and the Scottish girl came down the trail. We never did see the two guys again once we left them. Not sure what they did.
We all held Hands the guy, me, Julia . Mike and the girl.
We found a shallow area but as we got out further it got waist deep. Julia started getting hysterical she just kept saying let go of her, and she was freezing and wanted out. She stepped down and it got deep and she had a mini melt down. The guy grabbed her and pulled her to shore. She just kept moving. Next he helped me across and the water was up to my chest. I think we were all freezing and really couldn't stop. Julia was shivering and said she needed to keep moving I felt the same way. After that freezing cold water, I knew we couldn't stop moving and there was no way we could stay put and lay soaking wet in a tent. So we just started running. After about 10 min. we all were feeling a bit better but realized we didn't say good bye to the couple or thank them. Our only thought when we left them was to get low where the weather would be better.
I would say after about an hour we started talking and making sure that we were ok. I felt we really weren't out of the woods just yet, but felt we were no longer in danger of freezing to death.
I just knew in my head it's not over till it's over. Meaning when we were back at the store to the car.
Once we saw the 5.4 mile sign we all felt better we knew we had about 6.5 to the car.
Julia and I talked a lot on the way down, about what happened and how thankful we were. I even mentioned I prayed to my Mom a lot ,and asked her to help make the right decisions. I actually asked all my angels to help me do the right thing.
It worked ,we all made it down safely, we looked a little disheveled but were happy we worked together as a team through the whole ordeal.

Mike always says when you go somewhere with Catra it's going to be an adventure.
Yep, Mike is right you can count on me to take you on an adventure.
Heading up the pass into an epic adventure.

Day 1 Tuolumne adventure run.
I will write Day two's adventure later, on how we made it off of the Peak near Sonora at 11,000ft and back to the car as that storm hit ;)


Jo Lynn said...

I care about all three of you guys and am so happy you're all safe!
~Jo Lynn

Jan-o-rama said...

Wow! What a story! Thankfully you all made it out safe. :) I'm sure all your angels had your back!

HappyTrails said...

Yikes! How scary for you guys! We live in Colorado and have had some similar experiences - where afternoon storms move in earlier and faster than normal. The hail hurts and is cold!! But the lightening is what scares me the most, up high, as we've known of a couple of people killed by lightening. Thank goodness you all got out of there safely!!!

CoyoteGirl said...

Great post Catra! What an epic run/adventure.

ottoman said...

Hey glad ya'll are ok, I enjoy reading your blog.

*Ultra*Rockstar* said...

wow, that was written so well I got anxious reading it lol
Glad you all made it out safe

Jeffro said...

Holy cow, what an adventure! Glad you all made it out alive.

Caren said...

Holy f*!&ing sh*T! I'm so glad you guys made it out okay. Wow, what an experience. Thank god you seemed like you kept your head Catra.

Fishmonger said...

Hey, I'm the father of the two kids you met on your way down from Donohue. We did manage - but it sure was a nasty storm up there with about 6" of hail on the ground at one time, plus a river of ice water just cascading down the trail. We got seriously wet and cold before we simply set up the tent on the switchbacks just below the pass. Aluminum survival foil does have it's uses - first time ever I had to unfold these things, but they worked. We went across the pass after the hail and rain slowed. Not a fun night with my down sleeping bag being fully soaked and useless. We dried out the next morning and moved on, covering another 170 miles before the kids finally ran out of motivation at Taboose Pass. We're back in '09 to do the full Muir

This is what we looked like for a few hours during the worst part of it, trying to stay warm:

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