I woke up in the dark, wide awake and chilly but still dry as can be. I crossed my fingers against oncoming weather and called out to the other tent. Apparently Anna wasn't feeling well and we debated having her stay tucked in the tent while we went and got the car, but she said she wanted to hike, so soon enough we wandered out into the dark and onto what we hoped was our trail.
One of the beauties of hiking in the dark is that trails are even trickier to find. This area seems to be particularly hard. I was lost last time I was here and we had met multiple hikers who were lost, or at least heading the wrong direction when we had been there two days before. Needless to say we were not on our trail, maybe 5-10 minutes later our upwardly sloping trail started to cut down and we found ourselves at Red's Resort. Oops, a few more circles and some snapping on my part (not proud but being cold and not on our intended trail makes me cranky) and I decided a side trail looked promising and we headed back up the mountain. This time the trail continued to head up and soon enough we had a real junction, success we were actually on our way to Mammoth Pass (Thank God)!
Soon enough I was able to strip off some of my layers and other then the very creepy glowing eyes my headlamp kept coming across the trail was uneventful. However I was soon to learn that this was going to be a very tough morning for me. It was cold and the trail was well graded and I wanted to book it to the top. Instead we were stopping constantly. Anna had to take breaks very frequently, so instead of forward motion it was one constant stutter step. And as we gained elevation it just got colder, I got crankier and was actually starting to hate this trip a bit. Basically I wanted to walk and I wasn't being allowed too for group safety. Needless to say those were an incredibly long few miles. I recognized the defeat in Anna's voice when she would ask how much farther and I tried not to snap that I had no better idea than her, darkness blocks landmarks and we all had looked at the same map. I was not a happy camper, and to be fair I don't think either of my companions were either. Everyone had misjudged their capabilities. Anna was out of her league big time hiking wise, Diana's hopes were still bigger than what her feet and body could handle and my patience with less experienced hikers was simply not what it should have been. The others were popping Ibuprofen like candy over the last few days and I found myself constantly frustrated. Standing still in the darkness sure gives you time for self reflection (and plenty of self pity).
Despite the drama we finally neared the top and as the sky started to lighten and Diana shouted "Yes!" I thought she had seen an intersection and was excited we were actually at the top but no, it had started snowing. I did not feel like it was time for rejoicing, instead I tucked my hands farther into my pockets and hoped we could pick up the pace. And then we really were on the top and swiftly cutting down towards paved roads and only a few short miles from the car. We hit the first real road and took off.
We sped down the road, the snow picking up in intensity when we where less than a mile from the campground. Heading uphill with our heads tucked against the snow I was getting worried about driving and I was emotionally done. Reno seemed much too far away.
My car sat all alone in the parking lot, soon enough we were inside with the heat blasting and on our way to Mammoth. Yet again tempers frayed and finally after a few circles and zero decisions we decided to eat some breakfast and see what the storm was going to do. I didn't have chains and food sounded delicious so it seemed like a good plan. Breakfast was pretty good, even if we picked the one spot that seemed to have their heat broken (I was not happy to wear my down jacket through breakfast) and the snow petered off. I think we were all pretty done with each other, everyone wanted to be home. We hit the road, hoping for good weather. A beautiful if uneventful drive had us back in Reno and going our separate ways a few short hours later.
This entry took me a pathetically long time to write. The thing was every time I started it all came out so very negative and that's not what I was going for. The overall trip was not a bad thing, just like most trips it was one giant learning curve. Overall I really enjoyed it. I loved exploring a corner of the Eastern Sierra a little better and getting to know two other hikers a bit better as well. I just think that for my own sanity and enjoyment I might take a bit of a break from backpacking trips with fairly new folks to backpacking/longer trips. Good thing its winter and I have only day hiking plans!