JMT Day 3: Eddie Takes Early Retirement (guest post by Tracy)

Hi, it’s Tracy again.  I got back to Austin Sunday night and have been delinquent in finishing this post to relay the news from Jim and Eddie.  On Thursday, after Eddie made what seemed to be an excellent recovery from a brutal first day on the trail, he had another bout of altitude sickness followed by a sleepless night (he told me he spent 9 hours lying in his tent with his eyes open).  Things got worse on Friday morning when they set out on the trail and Eddie had a pain in his chest as they climbed.  For those of you who don’t know Eddie, he has an aortic aneurysm that was diagnosed several years ago.  He has been under the care of two of the top aortic specialists in the US (he keeps them on each coast—one at Cornell and the other at Stanford), and has continued to run ultras, hike 14ers, and generally behave like a mountain-goat, with strict adherence to few hard-and-fast rules set by these doctors.  They include such things as keeping his heart rate and blood pressure below certain levels, and slowing down or stopping the minute he experiences chest pain.

Eddie has always been a Teflon man with an iron constitution and [insert choice of additional “indestructible”-type metaphor here], but his survival of a rattlesnake bite a couple of years ago inflated those perceptions even further:  Eddie was out in Briones (or nearby east-bay trails) on a run by himself, when he felt what he thought was a stick snapping against his leg as he stepped on it—but then when he looked down, he saw the fang punctures.  He walked calmly all the way back to his car–I want to say it was three miles—and then drove himself to the hospital, where he spent several days in intensive care and required 49 vials of antivenin (seven-times the volume “normally” needed for treatment).  First, they thought he would die, then they thought he would lose his leg, then they thought that even if were able to keep his leg he might not be able to walk again…and then he ended up with a not-so-bad scar.  I digress, but that’s the gist of the resilience thing with Eddie.  His friends tend to take for granted that he can do anything (as we try to keep up), and forget that he has a real heart condition to which we need to pay attention.

So anyway, back on the trail, the guys slowed their pace and Eddie’s chest pain subsided, but then along came another pain, and this time it was during a downhill segment when he was maintaining a lower heart-rate. So he blew the whistle, threw the flag, and gave himself a red card.  Jim got him packed up and on his way back to the ranger station at Tuolumne Meadows.  Then, after many many hours and a series of rides on shuttle buses, Amtrak and BART trains, and a taxi (all of which by Eddie’s own account had to undergo intensive fumigation treatments after his rides), he made it back to Walnut Creek late on Friday night.  Eddie is fine and all is well.  He is planning to head down south this week or next, and will meet Jim at Lone Pine (the closet town to Whitney Portal) at the end of the month when, if all goes roughly as planned, Jim will emerge from the wilderness.

Meanwhile, Jim is now armed with the SPOT, which he has renamed “Eddie” and to which he now talks to keep him company.  He started out on his solo tour on Friday and made it through Lyell Canyon and over Donohue Pass, and camped Friday night near Island Pass and Banner Peak.  Google Earth has some good photos of the area linked to the satellite map (I took the SPOT coordinates and dropped them in).  Here’s another one.  Of course there is no snow right now, but these pictures are a nice placeholder while we wait for the real ones. Speaking of SPOT, it is still being spotty, so don’t worry if it looks on the map as though nothing is happening out there (e.g, Saturday).  Jim is making great progress and all is well.  This entry is already too long, but I will post a catch-up tomorrow with highlights from the past couple of days.

Congratulations to Eddie for making it through a rough but beautiful abbreviated trip, and cheers to a second early retirement by the original Man of Leisure.

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