Sunday, June 22, 2014

Day 13: Stream Near Lake Ann Pass to Camp Below Hope Pass

Embrace the Brutality! This is the CDT motto, and the trail certainly lived up to its motto today. 

The day started innocently enough.  We woke to dry shoes and the sun peeking through the trees just down the trail. 

We managed to keep our feet dry through several creek crossings, then began the steep climb up Lake Ann Pass. As we climbed above treeline, a pika scurried across the rocks near the trail. We crossed a few easy snowfields and watched Atlas from a distance as he paced the top of the rocky, snow-free pass. 

Or so we thought. Reaching the top of the pass we realized that the reason Atlas was pacing such a small area was that the rest of the pass was covered with snow. A huge, steep, corniced snowfield covered our descent, running out into a rocky, frozen lake basin below. We all donned microspikes and pulled out our ice axes. 

Atlas gingerly lowered himself over the edge, settled himself down, then shot down the steep mountainside like a cannonball, digging in his ice axe to slow himself down. Sierra went next, tentatively lowering herself over the edge and shrieking for the first 50 feet as she struggled to plant her axe, then slowly continuing her slide. I went last, quickly shooting down the near vertical top section while desperately dragging my axe to slow my slide. I felt the cut on my thumb reopen. When I finally came to a stop, the thumb of my right mitten was covered in blood from my reopened wound. 

We finally reached solid, flat ground, having completed the steepest, longest glissade any of us had ever experienced. But our snow travels were only beginning. We spent the next hour postholing out way down a series of steep, soft snowfields. 

When we finally reached solid, dry ground, we discovered a smoldering campfire abandoned by another hiker. Atlas scooped up water from a nearby creek and extinguished the coals. 

Continuing downstream, we caught sight of an animal - probably a beaver - swimming in one of the many beaver ponds. It slunk into the woods before we were able to take a closer look. 

We spent the afternoon putting on raingear, overheating, then stashing it away again as the clouds gathered, drizzled, then stopped again in a seemingly endless cycle. We met a large trail crew from the Colorado Trail Foundation and were happy to have the opportunity to thank them for their service. We also met three brave souls descending from Hope Pass who intended to climb up the steep snowfield we had glissaded earlier in the day. 

The clouds parted as we made our way up the steep climb to Hope Pass. We all Wasabi-ed our way up the final switchback, running, waving poles, and celebrating. The descent to our camp was mostly snow free, with only a few short, snowy traverses. 

But upon reaching our camp, tragedy struck. Maple was missing.  Sierra was heartbroken. Maple is a special stuffed spider monkey she has carried with her for well over 3,000 miles as she has completed the PCT, the Colorado Trail, and many other adventures. Maple rides in his own special magenta dry sack, complete with a viewing window. 

Devastated, we choked down our food and went to bed, hoping that someone will be able to find Maple somewhere along the long stretch of trail between our lunch spot above the Winfield trailhead and Hope Pass. In the meantime, the trail has separated a little girl from her most treasured possession. Brutality indeed!

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