Miles: 14 (although my iPhone pedometer thing says 19.5, just saying)
Total trip miles: 670.7
Where to start? Unfortunately I spent way too much of this day in a pretty godawful mood. I was nervous about the group thing and even though all the people are great it's been really rough with the terrain, stress, miscommunication and general crankiness. There are some totally awesome parts but it's been hard.
We woke up early, aiming to leave at 5. But of course it took a bit longer for everyone to actually be ready, waiting around in the snow is a rough beginning. We started out in snowshoes but didn't need them for very long. Making it to a ridge we had dry ground for a moment, then shorter sections of snow covered traverses in the trees. A few sections were very steep and one was bad enough we turned around and just walked up to the ridge for a bit.
So far in this section the trail is more of a general direction, there's just too much snow to always be exactly on trail. Especially because the trail doesn't always go in the safest of spots (avalanche danger anyone?). Again not an issue when it's not covered in snow, but we have a ton this year so mileage and trail are about of a mystery most of the day.
The morning was getting stressful. I was feeling nauseous and overall crappy. My shin was sore and hanging out over 11,000 ft was taking its toll. Hiking takes a bit more effort for sure up here. Either way it wasn't just me having a hard morning, everyone seems to be dealing with something which causes lots of fun tension and even more stress.
Regardless of group dynamics we had miles to make. We had been told to expect maybe 12-16 miles per day on snow. That sounds so low compared to the high 20's we've been doing but I assure you it's tough out here and turned out to be a pretty fair mileage estimate.
We were back on snow soon enough and Mountain Spice and I got our snowshoes on. They make it so much easier to hike compared to just sinking in the snow all day! Such a worthwhile purchase. We found water a bit off trail at a frozen lake and then we were back at it again.
Snowshoes on, then off to scramble straight up to a ridge. Then on for a bit, then off for a ridiculously steep climb up to a ridge line putting us over 12000 ft.
Snowshoes back on, and yes this on and off again thing gets old real quick. Across a plateau and then slowly down and around. Lionheart had the amazing eyes to spot a bear running across the mountain slope although it was too far to get a close look it was plenty close for me. Otherwise we just saw herds of elk and lots of small chipmunks scittering across the snow.
Lunch spots were scarce but we made it work. Even meeting two new hikers, Nancy and Iceman. It's rare for us to meet new people but suddenly I'm 6 days behind and feel completely out of sync with who's nearby.
We headed off, in snowshoes of course and soon enough were climbing down. Partway down there was some discussion about plans and routes and possibly a bit of cross country. Unfortunately it went a bit haywire and it took us 2 hours and a lot of elevation changes to make it what would have only been 0.3 miles on trail. And for once I wasn't the person leading us in a giant circle south. Needless to say the crankiness hit the roof.
Then it was time to climb. I went ahead but ended up waiting as the group became super spread out. People were dragging and when we reached another plateau that miraculously had some snow free patches we debated camp. Group decisions aren't our strong point and we eventually kept moving.
A bit apart from the group I post holed over my waist and had to spend far too long digging myself out. It was the softest snow we had traveled on so far and I was pretty rattled being stuck in the snow alone. We only made it another half mile before we found a vaguely dry flat spot. No one else felt like continuing on and it was glorious to know I would actually get some sleep. Sleeping on snow had been rough, I think I only slept maybe an hour at a time if that. I kept rotating all night so I didn't freeze. My shoelaces froze while I was setting up my dinner but it was one of the prettiest spots I've yet to camp so I was willing to accept a little ice if I could have the view.