Thursday, June 19, 2014

Day 10: Monarch Pass to Hancock Lake Trailhead

We picked up Atlas and drove back up to the Monarch Pass Trailhead. Jeff joined us, and the four of us began hiking. 

We soon reached the Monarch Mountain ski area. Although the resort is closed for the season, we could not resist climbing onto the ski lift for a short break. Continuing through the resort, we crossed several crunchy snowfields. The ski area's namesake butterflies fluttered around our heads as we hiked. 

Leaving the ski area, we climbed onto the ridge and Jeff said his goodbyes. Icy winds blasted us as we hiked along the ridge, making it difficult to breathe. We took shelter behind a large rock outcropping for lunch. 

After lunch we descended into the lake basin below, slowly postholing our way across countless snowfields and squishing across marshy ground flooded with snowmelt. 

Crossing a creek, we met a large trail crew building a new (but unopened) section of trail. We thanked them for their work, then began the climb to Chalk Pass. We soon hit snow, and once again began slogging through knee-deep snow. Near the top of the climb, a snowshoe hare, with gray summer cost and white feet, scampered across the trail in front of us. 

The top of the pass was breathtaking, with a small lake reflecting snow capped mountains lit by the golden rays of the late afternoon sun. Pressing on, we quickly descended the steep, rocky trail on the other side, my ankle screaming with pain.

We found a soft, pine needle covered camp surrounded by patchy snow. We camped, happy to have found dry ground for the night. 

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