I’m lying here in my tent. It’s dark outside. And I’m exhausted. I spent 15 hours grinding away and making miles on the trail. Today has probably been one of the toughest days I’ve had hiking.
4am, the alarm sounds. It’s still dark outside. I make my coffee, as usual and force feed myself some pop tarts. I usually eat oats every morning and regret the change. I dislike poptarts.
We set off hiking up a steep hill at 5am. The sun is just starting to light the sky but we still need our headlamps. We have about a 1500ft climb ahead of us. My altitude sickness of yesterday seems to be ok. And my energy levels seem as good as can be expected. My altitude sickness seems to be ok. A night camped at a lower altitude helped.
Nearing the first little plateau I was surprised at just how much of the trail was snow free. The melt is happening fast. Though I’m wishing it would speed up.
Nearing the top there was an impossible set of snow covered switchbacks barely visible. At the top was a huge overhanging cornice. I told Spontaneous of this. He said, “I want to try it”.
I climbed to get a closer look. It was too dangerous. My eyesight is very good. My hiking partner struggles from time to time. I tried to point out the danger. I tried to explain that there seemed to be a much easier route, albeit a little longer.
Spontaneous continued climbing and I set off on the easy route. If something happened to him I would be unable to help as it was too hard for me to reach him. I continued on my easy route as this small dot with a green jacket kept climbing. Traversing impossible slopes then rock climbing up a near vertical face. All at 12800ft. The guy is part cyborg.
“That was very scary. That was very hard”, said Spontaneous.
Getting down off this height was no simple task. First there was the 40 degree slope we had to traverse. It also had a lot of exposure. My fear of heights hasn’t magically disappeared. This time I chose not to look down. Not once. I made it across quite easily.
We continued descending. At one point I glissaded down. That’s what it’s called when you slide downhill on your butt. Unfortunately, the snow was quite firm and icey. Most of my padding has been consumed by my body in its constant need for energy so I felt every bump. Then there was the Postholing. Lots of it.
At the bottom the was a lone tent set up. A hiker was inside. It was ‘Limey’. I met him on the PCT last year and met him again only 3-4 days earlier in Pagosa Springs. He was in the group ahead of us. He suffered from a combination of altitude sickness and a heavy backpack. He chose to take a day off from hiking and stay in his tent. This is called a ‘trail zero’. We offered for him to join us but he was set on resting and eating as much food as he could to lighten his pack.
Upward again. Into the arms of a large thunderstorm. In fact many of them. All around us. They happened to be at their worst when we were near the top. Rather than risk getting hit we retreated into a forest and traversed the slope under the cover of the trees. This didn’t shelter us from the rain.
The rain continued but the lightning faded to the distance. I studied the maps and found that I could link up several other hiking trails for a couple of miles of potential snow free hiking. We jumped at the rare chance to hike on dirt for a change.
The Trout river trail isn’t a trail. Maybe it was back in the 80s. We followed elk and deer trails which sometimes had fresh bear poo on it. Other times it had Moose poo. Almost every fallen tree seemed to find itself in front of me at some stage. It was very slow going. Despite the negatives there were lots of deer, maybe 20-25 were spotted. And a lovely narrow canyon that funnels the water over a waterfall.
By 8pm we exited the narrow gorge and set up camp to the sounds of running water. After 15 hours of hiking we covered 15 miles. I don’t think I’ve ever put in so much effort in one day. To make matters worse we need to make an early start tomorrow. We need to follow another trail back up to the snow covered mountains. There is a potentially dangerous traverse we need to do. At least that’s how it looks on the map. Better to do it in the morning when the snow is firm and more safe.
Well, after my 15 hour day I’m ready for bed. Just had to quickly write this blog post before my day comes to an end. It’s now 10.15pm and I need to wake again at 4am. Good night.