Most mornings on the trail, getting up time was mostly determined by what our bladder said about what time we needed to get up. This was one of those mornings as it was still cool outside the sleeping bag. We had chosen this as our stop as the guidebook and map showed this as being one of the last flat spots before the trail began getting steep going up the Continental Divide. So today, we started climbing. Not long after we left camp it started raining again. Unfortunately this meant that the sky was filled with low hanging grey clouds so we couldn’t always see much scenery.
Did I say the trail was steep? Well, it was steep. We eventually worked our way up a draw to where a miner had built a cabin. By this time it had started snowing. We were hungry, so we stopped here and got behind the cabin to try to keep the wind off of us. Not long after we started eating lunch, Rusty caught up with us while we were eating. He shared a spot behind the cabin to eat as well. Soon, the sun came out ,and it stopped snowing. The view from up at that spot was really nice. It’s crazy how storms work in the mountains. In just a few minutes you can go between extremes of weather.
Rusty set out before we did and continued up towards the divide. Apparently we are slow eaters. Thankfully this part of the trail had some real switchbacks. Coming up to this point, the person who had surveyed the trail had made “switchbacks” that were more of a zig zag up the side of the ridge at a rather steep grade. At this point we were somewhere close to 12,000 ft. I could definitely feel the altitude having an affect on me. The switchbacks made the trail much less steep, but I still was having a hard time going very fast. Not that the trail was hard to climb, but I just couldn’t go as fast as I normally could at that grade without going anaerobic. Not long after we started the switchbacks, the snow started up again. Visibility dropped and the snow started coming in sideways. The trail was slick at the end of each switchback with mud, so walking those parts was tough. I noticed along the way that the blowing snow was accumulating on my hiking poles.
Once we reached the top, we were socked in with clouds. It would have been nice to be able to see the view up there, but we couldn’t see anything as visibility was just a few hundred yards. Rusty came walking into view soon, he had gone off the the right to find another trail that he had heard about that leads down to Kite Lake. He said the trail stopped, so he came back. We took the route that was shown on our map and began descending down into the bowl. Once we made it down into the bowl, we began hearing motors. That’s an odd sound when you are in a wilderness area as no motorized things are allowed. The bowl here was near the boundary for the wilderness area. We could see some motorcycles on the ridge across the way. It was a shame that we had worked this hard to get here only to find ourselves in proximity to civilization again.
We spotted a rise in the basin with trees where the creek came close to. We had talked about this being a possible stopping place, but we would decide how we felt when we got there. If we didn’t stop, we were going to make our way over Hunchback pass. Wendy and I headed towards the rise we had spotted and decided to use it for a camp. Rusty separated from us at that point and found another place in the bowl that had trees. The bowl was very pretty. We could see weather still wrapping around the ridges around us. There was snow that was going to be coming close to us but just managed to miss us. Once we got camp setup, Wendy and I retired to our tent to stay warm while we waited for supper time. Rain and wind swirled around our tent most of the time. Wendy and I got more reading in. We waited for a small break in the weather to get out and make supper. After supper, we headed back into the tent to go to sleep.
The altitude in this bowl was a little over 12,000 ft. I had a hard time sleeping. I attributed it to the altitude as amnesia is a symptom of AMS. During the night another storm rolled through with lightening. One lightening strike was so close it was a 3 count. You can estimate the closeness of a lightening strike by counting the number of seconds between the time you see the lightening and the time you hear the thunder. A 5 second count is about a mile away. Thankfully, that was the only strike that was within a mile of us. I told Wendy to make sure she was on top of her mat as that was about our best bet of staying safe where we were.