Ewart trots out all of the goodies he has brought us: the 18L of fresh water, some turkish delight sweets, many Rittersport bars, nuts, you name it. There is actually way too much stuff here. With all of the food we have here, we could have food for a hike twice as long as this one! (er, we'll save that
hike for another day, I think).
Markus' new strategy of periodic minor hydration sips with a water bladder is working really well for him - glad to hear that, too. Pu and Caroline and I wander around in the thick scrub atop Saddleback, trying to find the absolute highest point, even though it is only a few inches higher than the open ledge we are on. Oh well... just to be sure!
Soon, we are all filled to the brim with water and food. We thank Ewart profusely for his help. And, I'll thank him directly again right now: Thank you very much Ewart! The plan is for Ewart to head back down the Orebed brook trail to John's Brook valley (the way he came up) and from there back to the car. We, on the other hand, will continue along the ridge, summitting Armstrong, Lower and Upper Wolfjaw before taking a different trail down to John's Brook valley, and then from there back to the car. We will obviously take longer than Ewart will take, but he offers to lounge around at the carpark waiting for us.
Soon we are off from Saddleback, and we are immediately treated to an impressive view of the west flank of Gothics - a very impressive peak to look at. We can see the thin ribbon of trail rising impossibly steeply up the west ridge. Looks like a huffer-and-puffer!
We make our way down to the Saddleback-Gothics col, and then tackle the super steep slabs up Gothics. There used to be a cable-line for hikers who were a bit nervous about this stretch, but for anyone who has a modicum of trust in their boots, it is really no issue. Don't try when it is icy without crampons, though!
The majority of the ascent up Gothics from the col is like this - steep, continuous, and mostly in the open. A really good stairclimber style workout. Even had Pu puffing on this one!
The top of Gothics is reached shortly after noon. We've now done five of our eight peaks. Not bad for noon! We've started to encounter the weekend hordes now, and there are a lot of other hikers on the summit. One guy, hiking with a young kid, hears of our little adventure and swaggeringly claims that yeah, he might do the whole great range today, too. Alright, buddy - better get started, 'cause even if you are fast you will be hiking in the dark big time. Oh, and he welcomes us to America, too. Thanks, guy!
Looking back on our route, it is neat to trace the line we've followed thus far. We _really_ have come a long way now (picture with caption The route thus far
Also, we are now perpendicular to Big Slide. A few hours ago on Haystack we were looking at Big Slide from a totally different angle (picture with caption Big Slide, but different angle
and Big Slide from afar
). What a neat feeling to know that we've moved that much using just our feet!