Hiking Mount Wilson: Enjoyment vs. Challenge

22 01 2011

I like to hike. A lot. When I had the opportunity to join a crew that was planning a climb Mount Wilson in Angeles National Forest this past Sunday, I jumped at the chance. I dropped Ayo off with some good friends in North Hollywood and drove out to Arcadia, about 20 miles east of NoHo. We had contacted a Jewish organization in Arcadia who let me overnight in their quiet lot, and all was set for the climb.

(Too) early the next morning, I met the hiking group at REI and we carpooled to the trailhead. Their style of hiking was a bit weird. It felt like we were doing time trials for the first six miles or so, and once the serious climb started they slowed down a lot and I breezed my way up the last few thousand feet of elevation change to the top.

Beautiful Views (The Tan Mountains Were Lush Green Until The Station Fire Tore Through)

Beautiful Views (The Tan Mountains Were Lush Green Until The Station Fire Tore Through)

Actually, breezed is too nice a term. The climb kicked my ass. It felt great when I reached the peak, but making my way up steep grades – some over 45 degrees – for nearly a mile was killer. I was glad to do that section solo, as it made for a good personal challenge. I invented climbing patterns on the way up to keep me motivated and focused, and sucked down water to make sure my body kept moving.

Arcadia (Our Starting Point) In The Distance

Arcadia (Our Starting Point) In The Distance

The climb down was similarly weird. I felt like the group was sprinting back and ignoring some awesome views. I ditched them at a waterfall when I was refilling my Camelbak, telling them that I would continue on solo a few minutes later once I treated the water. Hiking back on my own was such a pleasure compared to hiking with the group.

Now, maybe I would have enjoyed the hike more had I done the whole thing alone, as I generally prefer. On the other hand, I’m not sure that I would have made it up the nearly 5000′ climb had I not known that five people were on my tail.

The Crew Up Top

The Crew Up Top

Which brings me to the question that I’ve been considering recently: Do I really enjoy intense ‘challenge’ hikes, or would I prefer a less grueling hike where I can better appreciate the natural beauty? Mount Wilson was definitely in the first category, but maybe it would have veered more toward the second had I taken it at a slower pace. At the same time, there is something very attractive to me about tough climbs. For the past few days I’ve been on an ‘extreme mountaineering’ kick, reading up as much as I can about technique and specific summits.

It’s premature to pick one way or the other – or even a combination. I just need to do some more experimentation to figure out what really does it for me.

A Pretty Ridge Hike

A Pretty Ridge Hike

posted by jay

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