Camp: CDT mile 673.6
Elevation at camp: 11400 ft
Before it was time to get up I woke to the smell of pine needles. We had miraculously found ground without snow on it last night and set up camp on a thick bed of pine needles. It was delightful. I also noticed that my lips felt kind of funny. Turns out they were swollen, like the botox fairy came to see me in my sleep. I had chapstick on all day yesterday, but it was without SPF, so I must have gotten too much sun. I made a point to put on sunscreen and better chapstick today, hopefully it helps.
We started the day with a steady climb up a mountain. The sun was bathing the surrounding peaks in a soft pink light, starting the day out beautifully. We had to walk across a steep, snowy traverse that we were more than thankful was frozen in the morning hours…I even took out my ice axe for the first time.
We were soon to find out that the first traverse of the day was merely a warmup. When we got to the top of the first climb we could see a much more intense traverse on the menu. The trail led up a steep mountainside and then crossed the snowy slope. It was a little scary, but I walked with cautious confidence and made my way to a ridge with amazing views. I cannot find any words besides, “wow,” “holysmokes,” and a few I will keep off the blog…but you get the idea.
Walking down from the ridge was a bit slick. We dug our microspikes into the mountain sude and had a steep descent in wet snow. The day was already growing hot and the snow was softening in places. I tried to remember everything I’d learned about using an ice axe and it came in handy. At one point, my down slope foot slipped and I felt myself buckle. In the same instance, my ice axe bit into the snow and held on tight. I realized my whole weight was on the axe and I was safe. I self arrested for the first time ever and adrenaline coursed through my veins. I hung onto the axe and got my footing, then had to use a trekking pole to free the axe from the snow above me. I felt amazing as adrenaline took over my body, and I humbly took a moment to realize the very real danger of not self arresting. I will be more alert.
I made my way after the guys as they were breaking trail up the next mountain. Elevation was gaining quick and at over 12000 feet I had to stop and catch my breath a few times (probably more than a few). It was exhausting climbing up the snow on a steep slope, always clutching my ice axe in my uphill hand, ready for anything. I fell a couple of times, but never badly…and I was rewarded with breathtaking scenery.
The rest of the day was more beautiful scenery, tons of steep traverses, another self arrest and glissading! We got to slide down 2 big slopes on our butts and it was so much fun (Handstand took video which I will link to when it is up)! This came with more adrenaline! I floated through most of today, but it was super challenging. I am very tired, a bit sore and not quite all dried out. We set up camp just before a huge storm rolled in over us…it is currently pouring cats and dogs outside my tent, thunder and lightning all around. I have a feeling it will be a very cold morning as we prep for another big climb and lots more traversing.
After all is said and done for the day, I can say this has been my favorite day so far. It was really hard, but oh so rewarding. I loved every minute of it and can’t wait to keep hiking tomorrow. This trail only gets better.