They were completely fearless. Likely looking for salt.
At breakfast we got our first surprise of the day: one of our members, the outlier, had decided not to go on. His alternate plan was to stay at the camp for the remaining 4 days and wait until our return. The guides chatted with him but he felt he could not go on. We left one bear canister of food with him and started on our way.
After lunch we started out again. Within a quarter of a mile there I was getting no better, to the point that I got slower and slower - until I threw up.
Welcome, my friends, to the wonderful world of Acute Mountain Sickness, also known as Altitude Sickness.
The amazing thing - after I recovered a bit and took a drink - was the reaction of the group, most of whom I had literally met 24 hours prior. I soon found myself stripped of my sleeping bag, tent, clothing bag, and bear canister (and eventually, my backpack). There was no question or issues; everyone just pitched in and put something in their bag.
Leaving me and one other person, either a guide or an experienced hiker, to make my way up the remaining two miles.
Could, The Commissioner asked, I do thirty steps?
I started out and counted thirty as I moved. To be clear, these were not big regular steps (or at least as big as I could make them for me); these were almost literally shuffles. But I got to thirty.
And so, fifty steps at a time, I advanced into the Sierras.
The fact that this was happening was a shock to me - in all my life I had never had my body fail me the way it was. Sure, I have tried to lift things that were too heavy or to distances longer than I should have - but even then the spirit was there but I simply did not have the strength or stamina - but I still fell I had the energy. Now I was deprived even of that energy.
Forty-eight, forty-nine, fifty. Stop, breathe, gather strength.
One, two three..
You may note my picture selection seems a bit thin for this post. Literally, these are all the pictures I managed to take for the day - and most of them were before lunch. The beauty of the Sierras was lost to me; not surprisingly, if all you are doing is looking at the ground and putting one foot in front of the other.
Twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two.
The second person with me switched out from time to time. Every one of them was encouraging and sympathetic - not in a syrupy sort of way, just acknowledging that there was an issue - and appreciating the fact that I still continued to move forward.
After the fact - when I was back where I could read up on such things - I learned that ascending too fast (more than about 1,000 feet a day) can bring it on - certainly with my two other experiences (that I recognize now) that was the case: the first was hiking in 2022 when we crossed a pass at 11,000 feet, the second was Mt. Whitney when I reached the top. And it is not stamina that determines it, but rather the rate of the ascent (thus why no issues except ascending Mt. Whitney itself, where our ascent was more gradual and we spent more time at altitude). Turns out some people are more prone to it, and it it appears that I am one.
By the time we reached our goal - the aptly though ironically named Disappointment Lake - I was thoroughly spent. The Commissioner very kindly had erected my tent for me. I crawled in and almost immediately went to sleep. My late afternoon and evening were spent drifting between sleeping and wakefulness, forcing myself to eat a bowl of soup and drink water, and just generally being miserable.
At least the sunset was spectacular.