Miles hiked: 15.44 (2272.9 to 2288.34)
Number of times I swore at the trail today: ~164
It occurred to me later today that most hikers don't plan to climb Cispus Pass and go through Goat Rocks on the same day. Though 4300+ feet of elevation gain is not generally unmanageable, the rumor that Goat Rocks is difficult probably dissuades people from trying what we just did. On Any Minute's birthday.
First, the climb to Cispus Pass was damned near pleasant. There was a reasonable grade and there were excellent views, even through the haze of smoke from a distant fire. By 1pm, we'd knocked out about 2500' of the climb and began some straight uphill scree walking. Jagged pinnacles, bare but for piles of grey and black rocks began to close us in. Forest thinned and fell away entirely, replaced by huge patches of snow. We dropped our packs near the first snowbank by the trail and collapsed in it, throwing slush at each other.
Further on, the trail narrowed, steepened, and became poorly arranged talus in places. It must be noted that this whole area is on a you-won't-survive-this-fall slope. For many hours. After crossing a very dicey snowfield, we moved on to an open ridgetop with an amazing view of valleys and lakes below and Mt Rainier above. On both sides were certain doom. Each trail step was either straight up or straight down, often on washouts, over broken boulders or on sand spread over granite (most dangerous thing ever). I absolutely loved the challenge of concentrating on every step, of very real peril.
After all the amazing views and awesome ridges stopped, the trail continued to be very hairy. All of my muscles were worn out and shaky. Any Minute also seemed spent as we stumbled repeatedly on the steep rocks down the other side. I thought about the High Sierra passes and decided that this had been as hard as any of them; I also remembered that 15 miles was a perfectly acceptable mileage on those long ago passes. A campsite appeared magically as I was considering this, and Any Minute was quite happy to stop as well. Hell of a birthday walk!
Picas whistled at us while we set up our tents and cooked. A diffuse pink and blue sunset backdropped those harsh rocks. Crazy good day. Even my abdominal muscles hurt.