Miles: 11
Camp: CDT mile 695
Elevation at camp: 10185 feet

The rain kept on for a couple of hours last night, so I dove into my book. I almost devoured the entirety of “The Pearl,” by John Steinbeck. It is a re-read and as good as I remember. I had to put it down with 2 chapters left in order to have something to read tonight. Early and rainy nights in camp leave a lot of free time to work with. It is hard to entertain oneself for long when stuck in a tent…and you can’t talk to your campmates because the rain is too loud.

At any rate, I slept quite well last night, waking naturally at 4am. I’m pretty good at training my body to a schedule, but fluctuations in the schedule throw me off a lot. It does feel a bit like work to wake up so early, but it really is the best way to get the most out of the days here. We walk on the frozen snow before it gets too warm and then set up camp right around storm o’clock. I have to remind myself that it is only hard at first, but it always gets easier.

The hiking was pretty mellow this morning. Lots of snow to walk through, and Handstand has some foot issues with his crampons. Most of us use microspikes, and they are much more fitting for hiking all day than crampons. His poor feet are miserable. He braved the ice skating rink snow in his Altras this morning though, and I feared for his tailbone. We did get to see our first CDT blaze in a long time today which is quite comforting.

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CDT blaze at sunrise. Still a bit of snow.

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I took a lot of sunrise pictures today. Can you blame me?

About halfway through the day we ran across John and Charge on a mountain we had just huffed and puffed our way up. It doesn’t seem to get easier, hiking at super high altitude, but walking in snow is now second nature.

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Green!!

We al began hiking down from Silver mountain on a real dirt trail. It was nice to walk without thinking about it too much, but the snow camp back for some scary traverses. I was walking along, whistling a tune and minding my own business when the trail just stopped in front of a wall of snow. I looked down at a steep rocky ravine, and up at more giant snow drifts. All footprints were gone and my friends were ahead…so I made the decision to climb. It looked more stable above than below, though tricky.

Once on better trail I saw where my friends had gone. I made my way to them but ended up on a steeper slope than I expected. My ice axe was on the back of my pack, but I wasn’t in a good position to retrieve it. I moved forward cautiously and suddenly postholed. My leg went deep in the snow and was instantly trapped there. I knew I had to get my axe for pure safety and then dig myself free.

I swung my pack in front of me and switched my poles for Jerry (my axe) while my foot remained trapped in snow. I took my time and used all of my patience and caution in getting things situated. It was steep enough that if my pack slid, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible to retrieve. Once everything was secure, I proceeded to dig my foot free as Handstand and Squirrel watched from across the ravine.

I used my axe to take slow steps across the almost 45 degree slope, snow slick and soft beneath my microspikes. I refused to look down or up, just focusing on each and every precarious step, slowly making the traverse. Once on the other side I was welcomed by my partners and the dirt trail. Sweet relief.

We saw on our maps that the trail went down a ways, so we found some snow and glissaded to a sweet creek for lunch. We ate and relaxed for a long break before climbing up again. The trail from there was quite a mess. It was mostly rocks/dirt, but walls of snow or blown down trees would block our way frequently. It was not smooth sailing, and a storm was gaining momentum on our heals. The sky behind us was turning dark fast, and thunder was making it’s presence known. We hurried along the trail hoping to find camp. The trail kept turning around corners on steep slopes with no flat ground in sight…and the storm was charging towards us. Finally, the guys made a call I had to go along with. We were going to cut off trail into the valley below for the night, returning to trail in the morning.

It was a steep hillside, but once we committed there was no turning back. We raced down 700 feet to a lake and set up our tents just as the sky opened up. We will have a lot of this in Colorado. A lot of running off ridges to avoid storms.

We are going to be in town tomorrow, so we are all unconcerned with wet tents tonight. It is a nice break to know we have some real rest coming…and food! High altitude hiking increases hiker hunger tenfold, and we are all dreaming of the plethora of food choices to come. That and hot springs. This next town is going to be quite a treat after these snowy days. As much as I’d rather be on trail, town sure sounds nice with its beds, showers, heaters, dry socks, foods and hot springs. With 100 more miles of snowy travel to go, we can use some pampering. Tomorrow will be a real treat.

Now I’m going to finish my book with some ginger tea in hand before bed.
Here is the link to Handstand’s newest video. I’m in it a lot: glissading at 11:02 and using my ice axe at 16:51 (if you just want some of the highlights) https://youtu.be/Z_RiN2Q-ozw

Dinner: tortilla soup with cous cous, veggies, summer sausage and cheese.

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