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Day 4--June 10, 1997, Tuesday:
The long, restless night in the summit cabins ends with the appearance of the earliest traces of light in the eastern sky. My mind is in conflict, one part telling me to stay put to avoid the cold and to give in to the fatigue that wracks my body, and and another urging me to arise and remove my carcass from this inhospitable realm.
When he sees me stir, Bill calls out from his bunk across the cabin. Did I sleep well?
Bill reports having suffered through the worst night of his life.
There is no question we'll be departing from the summit cabin today. It's just a matter of how soon. And we're hopeful Bozo and Potsy will not be with us, for they indicated they were considering staying another night at the top before descending. But, alas, the troublesome twosome opt to leave with us, mumbling something about wanting to spend time scuba diving.
We set about to the task of packing up before departing. When I retrieve my cooking pot from the kitchen, I discover that some water left in it from the night before has frozen! Brrrr...
Meanwhile, Potsy goes to fill water from the tank in the back and finds that either none is left or that the contents of the tank has frozen solid. This creates a bit of a predicament for un-dynamic duo, who only have 2 liters between them. Being a humanitarian, I donate two liters to them.
I take a few minutes to sign the cabin logbook and while flipping through the pages I see an July '96 entry that mentions the names of Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club friends Grant Oka, Kost Pankiwskyj, Ken Suzuki, among others. Many entries mention the excruciating stretch from the 13,000 foot marker to the cabin.
We click off a handful of snapshots, bid farewell to the haole couple as they leave, and by 7am, Bill, myself, and the-hikers- we-can't-shake stride away from the summit cabin and then past the latrine with the best view in the world (watch that updraft, though). Nothing but blue sky lays overhead and an extremely brisk easterly breeze snaps our senses to attention.
I intentionally dawdle to let Bozo and Potsy get ahead of us and although they wait for us to catch up, they eventually continue on when it's apparent that Bill and I are in no rush.
At 8:10, I complete the 2-mile leg to the 13,000 foot junction at the edge of North Pit (Bill is about 5 minutes back). Potsy and Bozo are waiting there, and I tell them to press on at their own pace instead of waiting for Bill and I. I address their concern about water by telling them to stop and wait for us if they run out. They nod and are off. After Bill arrives, we snap more photos, rest, and set out for Red Hill. It is 8:30.
The descent phase goes more smoothly, and when we're hiking, we move along at a 2 MPH clip. Rest breaks tend to last longer and we pause often to take pictures. Invariably, the discussion turns to food-- about the revolting nature of the add-water-to-eat stuff in our packs and of our dream meals: mine--teri chicken, macaroni salad, piles of rice, XL drink; Bill's--chocolate shake, chicken casserole, kalbi, and more. Yummm...
Meanwhile, Bozo and Potsy are nowhere in sight, which suits Bill and I fine. We both agree the trip would've been much more pleasant if we were free of their presence. In the morning before we left the summit cabin, they had mentioned the possibility of foregoing the layover night at Red Hill and heading all the way out today, and we hope that will be the case. Bill even asks me to consider hiking all the way to the trailhead today, but our leisurely pace so far has left us without enough time.
At around 10:30, a lone summit-bound hiker, a mid-20ish, haole male, passes by looking tired and grim. He can muster no more than a nod of the head and a howdy as he trudges by.
We're at 12,000 feet at 11am and at Dewey Cone, 4 miles from Red Hill, at 1pm. We stop to take 30-minute rest/nap breaks on two occasions and only with some diligent clock-watching prevent ourselves from wiling away a couple hours sleeping on the lava (it's actually very easy to do). The day has warmed up considerably, with temperatures probably in the mid- to upper- 50s, a bit toastier than the 30-degree temps earlier. During the descent, water consumption is no problem at all, with Bill drinking less than two of the five liters he carried and I downing only two of the six I lugged.
We roll into Red Hill at 4pm, and to our disappointment, Potsy and Bozo are sitting on the cabin's front porch, looking as if they're planning to spend the night. No one else is at the cabin. More blitzkrieg pidgin ensues from Bill and I, prompting more bewildered looks from the P and B
Without a word, Bill grabs a mattress from one of the bunks in the cabin, plunks it down on the porch, and sprawls out. A few minutes later, I follow suit. In the meantime, Potsy and Bozo lose nary a beat, continuing with their pointless, headache- inducing arguments.
Our appetites are virtually nil, with Bill forcing down a granola bar and I slurping down the contents of a can of sardines.
We spend the remainder of the afternoon resting and napping and little do I know Bill is formulating a plan to rid ourselves forever of our friends. Before nightfall, Bill tells me of his scheme and I agree to participate in it.
And, no, it's not murder. :-)
Next: Day 5--The Great Escape.