That’s the first picture. That is a mountain that I found myself at my limit. I nearly died.

We entered the Jacinto Wilderness. All the mentioned dangerous sections conquered, and we crossed towards Taquitz Creek. These miles were long and slow. My body wasn’t used to it, being from Alabama. This was my first snow venture.

We show up to Taquitz Creek and it was completely snowed over. We had been melting snow all day and felt demoralized after pushing around 10 miles of uphill climb and snow walking, so we looked to Taquitz as our exit to Idyllwild for a zero.

We hadn’t done the research about how treachorous this pass actually was. We start postholing toward where our navigation told us to go, but there was no trail. We had tracks to follow but then those went away and we were left to posthole our way up and around the mountain.

We climb over a boulder in the way and continue, Shaman was behind me the whole time. It was decided that I be in the middle, having the least snow experience. I hear “Puffy!?” and quickly respond “Shaman? You good?”

There was silence for a moment and my eyes widen in horror as I watch Shaman’s hat and trekking pole slide down the mountain. Shaman is behind the previous boulder, so I don’t see him but I know something is wrong.

Bald Eagle is a trained lifeguard with experience saving lives, so he quickly asks me to hand him my pack so I can quickly get to Shaman. I make my way over to him and quickly realize he is hanging on a rock face that was under the snow and behind the boulder.

“Im slipping Puffy!”

He was holding on for dear life.

I ask him to slowly take off his pack and hand it to me. Those seconds felt like hours as I watched him slowly shimmy the pack off. The weight lifted, he more easily maneuvered over the boulder and I returned to a spot that we were able to rest for a moment.

Bald Eagle knew first aid so he quickly bandaged him up.

That moment sent me into a wild adrenaline rush so I began mentioning the urgency of us making it to the watchtower, since it was late afternoon. I start postholing straight up to the ridge. We climb hand over foot up boulders to get to the ridge and manage it slowly. I felt my legs wobbling every bit I climbed, and definitely lucky my arms were more fresh for lifting me and the 35 pounds on my back. This ridge was steeper than anything I’ve ever climbed.

Bald Eagle spots they watchtower and yells back a joyous sound. When we got there the rush of endorphins and euphoria overwhelmed my body. We all started laughing.

This mountain range is beautiful. It changed my life. We survived, went back in after two zeroes and conquered the rest of Jacinto. Thank you for shaping me.

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