An Unrequited Love Letter – A High Sierra Misadventure

We are excited to hear from Tahoe resident and climber Chris Doyle today on our blog. He wrote up his story in response to all the stoke coming from The Love Letter project by Fitz and Becca Cahall, sponsored by Osprey and Outdoor Research. Fitz and Becca are former Tahoe residents who now live in Seattle, where Fitz runs his ever-growing empire of adventure-telling via Dirtbag Diaries and numerous other projects. When they set out on their 300-mile journey to find new and classic climbing routes across the spine of the Sierra, they called up Chris to meet up with them along the way. Here’s his story. Be sure to watch the film (embedded below), and write your own love letter on The Love Letter’s Facebook page.

If we’re talking in terms of love, I had bought the ring. The Sierra is known for perfect summertime weather. It’s got the best climate in the country for being able to make your plans a month before. You usually don’t have to worry much about things not working out because they usually do. There wasn’t a question in my mind when I left to meet Fitz and Becca that we weren’t going to do the route. It’s not too big or too hard; we were destined for a fun, good time. The Edge of Time on the Citadel was definitely going to say “yes.” Or so I thought.

I hadn’t hung out with my old climbing buddy Fitz in a long time. You know, he moved to Seattle, started spending lots of time with his phone, became a legit Dirtbag… So when I got the call that they were heading my way on their big trip and I should join them, I didn’t hesitate. We analyzed their timeline, picked a couple dates and places where they hoped to be, thought about spots I hadn’t been — somewhere that’d be a new adventure for both of us.

I like to go to routes that are off the beaten path, ones away from the road that a lot of people don’t climb. I’d always heard the Edge of Time on the Citadel was a really good route, the timing was right, and Fitz was fired up to make it happen. So it was settled, I would drive the 4.5 hours from Tahoe, hike the 16 miles in, and see my trail-worn friends. We’d meet far out in Kings Canyon, their tired arms reaching out to greet me, me fully stocked to stoke them out. I’d packed a nice, boxed wine, some fine cheese they requested, and the fixings for the finest dinner these backpackers would see in all their 300 miles.

I set off the day before our scheduled rendezvous. The plan was to get my wilderness permit that afternoon, then drive up to camp at South Lake where it’s nice and cool. I’d go to sleep, get up early, and hike in. Which is what I did. I just happened to get food poisoning somewhere along the way. My mellow evening turned into four hours of puking on the side of the road at South Lake. The next morning I was pretty worked from the up chuck, and not having eaten any dinner. But it was nice out, and I was destined to see my friends. Puke and rally.

I got brutalized right off the bat. The six or seven uphill miles at the beginning of Bishop Pass (11,972 feet) didn’t help my condition. My stomach was shredded. Some 15 miles later, I made it to within a mile our meeting spot. I had only seen a few other souls out that day, but then two park rangers appeared. As soon as I got within speaking distance, one said, “Hey are you Chris Doyle?” (Strange.) “Yep.” “Well your friends got sick and hiked out yesterday evening. So they’re not here to meet you.”

OH the AGONY! 15 miles in. So close. And now this? Apparently Fitz’s phone didn’t have reception until it was too late to warn me. So there I stood. With no partners to tackle the route, no one in sight but the rangers, I turned around and set up camp by a set of nice lakes in Dusy Basin. Alone. But I made the most of it. And I don’t regret a step. I took a great hike, had a beautiful camp all to myself… any time, no matter how heart-breaking, is well spent in the High Sierra. Sadly though, thanks to my food-poisoned stomach, I couldn’t fully enjoy the gourmet meal I packed, but it probably wouldn’t have tasted that good anyway. Like the wise Charlie Brown once said, “Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.”

The view from my camp in Dusy Basin

A month or so later, Fitz, Becca, and I were going to give it another go, this time at the Pharaoh, north of Yosemite. They called me from Twolomne Meadows. The weather had shut us down; they had to hike through a burly snowstorm. Sometimes you have to let love go. Sometimes adventures don’t love you back. Sometimes you get the Sierra bitch-slap.

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