Head, Heart and Guts on Sleeper and Welch-Dickey

Submitted by Nancy

Mountains: Mt Welch (2,605) and Mt Dickey (2,734)
Date: November 12, 2007
Time: 4 hours and 30 minutes
Weather: Mostly sunny, 40's - 30's
Miles: 4.5
Elevation Gain: 1,819 feet
Steps: 12,965
Trails: Welch-Dickey Loop
Holy Shit Factor: After turning around on the Sabbaday Trail, these two pimples kicked our butts

Picture Gallery

I'm emotionally and physically exhausted. How can that be? We climbed Mts. Welch and Dickey - two pimples in the White Mountains. The trail was 4.5 miles long and the elevation gain was only 1,819 feet. Now COM' on!

Well, perhaps that's not the whole story.

When Pat picked me up at 5 am, I had my backpack full of necessary hiking paraphernalia and I had my inner physical reserves stashed for the climb - extra energy, fortitude, strength, and stamina. You know, all the extra physical "stuff" I need to get up and over a mountain that I don't necessarily need in the office.

We had decided to climb Sleeper, a 100 highest - but, oh by the way, you need to climb the Tripyramids -- a couple 4,000 footers to get there. On the drive up we discussed routes. We'd already done the Livermore Trail, up the North Slide to the Tripyramids and then down the South Slide via the Tripyramid Trail - a 10-mile route. Pat was interested in doing a new hike. So we decided on the Sabbaday Trail, a 13-miler that would take us over Middle and South Peak and then on to West Sleeper. So a hefty hike and we are ready - we think.

We arrive at the Sabbaday Trailhead at 8 am. I'd read the trail description from the AMC White Mountain Guide, so we know what we will find - steep at the top and water crossings...

We pass Sabbaday Falls, a gushing, thunderous waterfall, and take pictures before continuing on. Did I say gushing and thunderous? Little did I know that pictures of water would be almost all I would take.

We get to the first stream crossing and remember the guidebook said we could bushwhack the one-tenth of a mile to meet the trail again, so we continue on the herd path that seems very well traveled - which makes sense to me since the stream is roaring and there does not seem to be places where one can easily cross. There is lots of cold water in that stream, the rocks are either all glazed over with ice or covered with freezing running whitewater - not very inviting. I'm not worried...yet. The bushwhack is easy and we get to the third water crossing, knowing that we have to cross this time to continue on the trail.

I begin to look for a place to cross. My inner dialogue goes something like this: Huh - holy moly - lots of white water...doesn't look very good there. Let's go up a ways. Wowsers, look at all that ice, not crossing there. Well, we could get half way across there, but the rest of the way looks a little touch and go...OK that rock to that rock, to that rock, I'm pointing with my index finger as I map out a route, to...huh, not there. SHIT! Oh wait - what about there...

We move up the river, scout, shake our heads, mutter to ourselves under our breath and move up a bit more. About a half hour into the search and we're still making our way up and down the stream. FUCK! I scream.

Pat is doing the same thing, mentally hopping from rock to rock to see if we can find an easy crossing...nope...any crossing...we keep moving up the river, tripping over leaf-covered rocks and roots, climbing over fallen trees, shoving branches away after they poke us in the eyes...my frustration level is rising.

We are both frustrated. Pat tries one spot and slips and comes back. She decides to take her boots and socks off.

What? Are you kidding? Holy shit - that water's freezing! I am not doing that my inner sport says. I know, I know. It is just water and rocks, but for some reason, all that ice has me jittering with cold. Now my head is saying, "Now Nancy - it's ONLY water for heaven sakes. Take your F____ boots off and cross!" But my gut is saying, "I don't want to do that!" and my heart is wishing I could find a place to cross that looks doable so I wouldn't be faced with this dilemma. Dejah, my daughter's 3-year-old lab, keeps looking at us like, "What are you girls doing? Let's go!" She certainly doesn't mind getting her feet wet. She goes part way across, looks back at us pleadingly as if to say, you can do this, and I know she is thoroughly disappointed when we don't follow.

FUCK! I scream again.

I see a tree trunk going across the river. It is pretty high, so a fall would not be fun, but I think I might be able to walk across it with poles. That sends Pat over the edge. Not her thing. So, now an hour has gone by, we are freezing and we are still on the WRONG side of the river. We decide to give up. And believe me - we are not give up girls. We head back down the trail towards our car when we pass the narrowest crossing we'd seen. I say I think we can do it. We put our stabilicers on so we can get a good grip on the icy rocks and carefully make our way across. Phew - that's done! Ah, not so fast... We walk a few steps and realize we are on an island in the middle of the river and will have to cross to the other side of the island to get to the trail.

We find a possible place, sharp rocks, water flowing all over them, ice. Pat bravely steps out, starts to slip and immediately, but very slowly and carefully, comes back to the bank. We come back, cross over the narrow area and head back to the car, both of us fighting our demons. Pat says she feels defeated. I am angry with myself for not being willing to take my boots and socks off and wade across. WIMP! We get up in the pitch dark to drive 3 hours to the White Mountains all to be turned back by a little white water? AAAHhhhhhGGGGGhhh!

Then I say, well, maybe we weren't supposed to cross the river. Maybe instead of fighting it we should be saying WHOOO HOOOO! We're smart girls and we're not crossing that goddamn river! YEAH for us! Maybe it is a "meant to be" we conclude. Maybe we aren't defeated. Hey, we're not crossing that river -- yeah - one more decision made for us! This makes us feel better.

We get back to the car and talk about doing Sleeper from the other side - the one we were originally talking about - 10 miles. I am worried about time, it is already 10 am, and I am tired. I had shot the wad of hiking stash at the river and all my fortitude, stamina, and strength is drained. And I'm not sure that I had a regularly full load to start with. Pat and I have been exercising a lot lately. Last week we hiked or ran 45 miles. This week it was 36. I suggested Tecumseh - a 5-miler close by. Pat suggested Welch-Dickey because we have not climbed them and it would count. And you know how much I love it when it counts.

Let's go!

We arrived at the Welch-Dickey trailhead around 10:30 and up we go.

As we climb we talk about the water crossing we didn't do. We share the messages we received from our heads, hearts and guts and deliberate about when to listen to which organ.

In the car, talking about which mountain to climb, Pat's gut told her to take the shorter route up because she knew we had had stressful weeks. Her heart said she wanted to do a big hike, because we hadn't done one in a while. I wanted to follow Pat's desire. She rarely says what she wants, and she did today and I wanted to honor that. I am not sure where our heads were at this point. It would have been nice if one of our heads had said, "A water crossing in November? The book says it can be dangerous in high water? What are you? Nuts? Not a good hike for this time of year!!!" However - neither of us received this message. (And, oh by the way, wait till you read our NEXT trip report...because we STILL didn't get this message! We tried it AGAIN! What are we, STUPID??)

At the river, my head was telling me to "buck up and take my boots off and cross the damn river." My heart so wanted to get to the other side. My gut said, "No way - I'm not taking my boots and socks off in the freezing cold and wading a 100 feet in over my knees in gushing water on slippery rocks to get to the other side. FUCK NO!"

As we climb we know we have hit on something important...a learning. Gee, you would hope we would get something out of what feels like a very difficult day...

Back to Welch-Dickey. It is a stressful hike. Below tree line there are lots of dead leaves covering moving boulders, roots, small logs and other unhealthy things for our feet. Above tree line, there is lots of ice on the steep massive granite rock faces. So we are pretty tense going up. When we finally get to the top of what we think is the second peak, we see that we are really only on top of Welch and have another mountain to climb. But, distances can be deceiving in the mountains. In this case, it looks way worse than it actually is and we stand on the top of Dickey, taking pictures and laughing at ourselves. The hike down is more ice and leaf stress, coupled with tired legs.

But you know what? We learned something today. We learned that when we are presented with a choice, there are many answers that come from all over our bodies. And we need to be aware of them all and where they are coming from. It seems our hearts show us what we hope for, what we want to have happen. Our heads give us valuable information if we choose to engage our brains. But our heads might just as easily become our enemy, choosing to be our critics, which is not helpful at all because the critic is always wrong! Our guts tell us what we really can manage at any given time. So perhaps, when making a choice, we need to listen to our hearts, engage our intellects, fire our critics, and honor our guts.

Stay tuned for our next trip report - you won't believe it!

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