Monday, May 27, 2013

Thur, 23May - Post holing into two feet of water.

Wow, fantastic but challenging day!  Spent most of the day around 12,000 feet with magnificent views in every direction.  At least 90-95% of the day was spent on deep snow either kicking steps in icy slopes, post holing, breaking through the snow into hidden streams, rivers, and mountain tarns (one almost two feet deep under the snow), or glissading or sliding around.  Sunny but windy.  Feet were in ice water all day.  

Passed many lakes and tarns mostly only identifiable by the turquoise blue water visible through the wet translucent snow.  At one point our route took us along the steep edge of Blue Lake.  You could see the edge of the blue color of the lake just under the snow and the stress cracks in the snow covered shore line, where the snow had fractured and tipped toward the water. It was difficult to be sure where the waters edge was and the steep cliffs along the bank left little room to navigate. hiked a quarter mile around the lake always worried it would break and find us sliding into the lake.  As we rounded the end of the lake the route climbed into the trees and made steep switchbacks in the soft snow on a steep angle.  To avoid the steep wet postholing and route finding I decided to climb a very steep rocky talus slide straight up a 35 degree ravine. The dark rocks facing the sun made for a mostly snow free but difficult climb of the high angle loose rocks but the views back at the snow covered lake were worth it.

Slow progress, maybe only 12.5 miles today.  Stopped early because it looked to be steep ahead with no where to camp possibly for many miles.  Found a spot just before traversing around a cliff that had a couple of spots that were dry without snow in an area that was surrounded by deep snow.  Decided to camp early to enjoy the sun and warm up and also to not feel so tired that it would spoil such a great but difficult hiking day.  Lots of snow but no running water so we decided after setting up camp to look for some melting water.  I hiked back to a snow field that had a ravine beside it and was sure there would be a stream of melt water but it was dry.  Thought that was strange and started climbing lower when I could hear a gurgling sound.  Sure enough there was a stream right under the snow. I poked my hiking pole into the crust and a hole opened with a raging streamlet of ice cold Rocky Mountain spring water!  Perfect end to another great day.

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