Miles: 11
Camp: CDT mile 684
Elevation at camp: 11600 feet

Last night’s storm lasted for a couple of hours and brought on quite the deluge. What started as your everyday thunderstorm soon turned into a dramatic hailstorm. There was long and intense thunder claps accompanied by lightning and about an inch of hail. The rain continued quietly after the big show, so nothing ever dried out.

I’m not sure why, but I could not sleep all night. I was tossing and turning, exhausted and awake…dreaming momentarily of eating breakfast in a diner. I sure like diners. At 4am I was still awake, sad that I never got good sleep. I wonder if it was yesterday’s double dose of adrenaline. At any rate, I was very tired and had wet socks and shoes to look forward to putting on.

I struggled with the cold and the wet, but kept reminding myself that the views would soon take my mind away from my complaints. The day would turn out awesome, that is practically a given out here.

So I started the day tired, cold, wet and nauseous (a side affect of exhaustion). I thought about how it is really hard to do this sometimes, how I have to force myself to wake up before dawn, to put on wet and cold clothes, to climb up a mountain with nausea at 12000 feet. I mentioned it to Squirrel in an, ‘I’m still thrilled to be here,’ kind of way and he quoted ‘A League of Their Own,’

“If it was easy everyone would do it. It’s the hard that makes it great.”

That made me feel better, but as we climbed steeply up to 12600 feet I still had waves of exhaustion and nausea. We would walk about 50 steps and take a breather and then repeat. I think it took us 2 hours to finally summit the mountain. It was called Summit Mountain in fact. Still just Squirrel and I, we took out our tents to dry and we ate lots of snacks. My toes were actually numb, so I put on some wool socks while we snacked and looked at the unreal world around us.

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It is such a blessing to be here. We are lucky to have this opportunity, and I’m constantly amazed by myself and the trail. My confidence is at an all time high after the last few days, hiking through all the types of snow in some pretty sketchy terrain. I feel so indescribably amazing out here. I want to be in town less and less the more I’m out here. My life back home seems so foreign to me right now. This is life.

We caught up with Charge, John and Handstand after break and we all walked together. We have seen no one else since the storm…they are all somewhere behind us, or they took an alternate route that avoids the higher elevations and snow. The 5 of us did some crazy traverses and glissading today, always with an epic view. We used all of our snow gear in one day: snowshoes, microspikes and ice axes. It is nice to use all we carry, and to change up the footwear from time to time. My feet are a complete non-issue right now. It feels phenomenal! Even my arms are getting strong from crawling out of postholes and using the ice axe a lot more (no self arresting today).

When we made it to Elwood Pass a storm was on the horizon. This is going to be a daily thing in Colorado, so we best get used to it. The thunder was already cracking at 1:30 and we had made enough miles for the day, so Squirrel, Handstand and I decided to set up camp early. It is awesome. Everything about hiking in the San Juans is awesome. I am in my element for sure.

Cloud and Goosebumps rolled in too, having just finished the lower alternate. Goosebumps doesn’t have snowshoes so she had to go low…but they are back on regular trail now. It’s fun to see them as we have never hiked together, and we lost the rest of the group. I really like how our group keeps morphing, and how we are all so cohesive working on a new team. 99% of the time it has been a show of excellent teamwork, and it makes it fun to be in a group again…especially one that is always changing day by day.

Now I’m in my tent listening to the thunder and rain/hail hit my tent, watching the world light up with occasional bolts of lighning. It is only 4pm and I’m cozy in my tent, so tired from the big climb/postholing/glissading we did all day. Tired from fun. The best way to be! And I get to camp out with some of the coolest people in the world every night.

It is hard, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dinner: mac and cheese with tuna, kale and salsa.

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We traversed that slope...my heart was in my throat.
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The northern San Juans in the distance (next week!)

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Handstand ain't scared to eat dinner in the rain
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Oh hail!
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View from the loo
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