Total trip miles: 684.7
I woke up feeling ok, I actually got some sleep and my stomach seems to have settled so that's all exciting. We started out snowshoeing and it was Mountain Spice's turn to be feeling lousy. But we had my favorite sunrise of the trail so far which was pretty great.
Up and down across the snow we went. Spreading out and steadily climbing. There was an unexpectedly steep traverse through some trees and Mountain Spice and I split from the group to head higher for hopefully slightly less sketchy trail. We found our way up to a slightly wider section, feeling justified as we found lots of footsteps heading our way. We ended up back down and were surprised to see Funsize pop up behind us. I guess they had headed up just a little after us and ended up behind us. As we took a water break it of course started to rain/snow. Not for long but it was clearly the start of the weather for the day.
8 miles into the morning we reached our first intersection and decision point. The sky was dark and we were getting snowed/rained on. The official trail went up to 12000 ft on ridge lines or we could take the lower purple alternate. A number of hikers had recommended the purple route for snow and weather and the group didn't debate for long. Mileage looked pretty similar and the sky looked pretty ugly so down we went. Passing bear tracks and lots of footprints we were on our way. The route followed the creek and after crossing a snow bridge or two we kept on trudging through the snow.
My shin didn't like the downhill one bit and I was glad when the group stopped for lunch. It of course started raining minutes later and I'll admit Mountain Spice and I looked pretty beaten down.
After lunch we rounded a corner and the most miraculous thing happened, real dirt trail! It didn't last for long but after I accidentally glissaded down to the trail and got a break from my snowshoes and my mood was through the roof. A break from snowshoes!
The trail was nice, winding along the creek. Back in the snow it stayed pretty nice. Of course it didn't stay that way. The hillside got steep and we found ourselves picking our way carefully across blowdowns and steep snow. But it was soft snow and mostly just annoyingly slow. The biggest downside was when we popped out at the river. We looked around and picked a likely spot to cross. We had to wait awhile for the whole group to catch up and it was raining by the time everyone was ready. Not drizzle like before but full on cold rain. Looking at the maps it looked like a second crossing was less than half a mile away and the original plan was to cross the first and then get to the second as quick as we could so we wouldn't have to get dry put warm things on and the take it all off again a few minutes later.
The water was icy cold and we crossed as a group. I never worried about falling as the group felt solid but being at the end was rough. The two front folks went incredibly slow and I'll admit by the time I got to the bank I couldn't stop shaking and was pretty close to frustrated and panicky tears. My feet were numb with cold and it was pouring rain, not a great evening experience. Postholing out of the river we got to the dirt trail, turned the corner and were met by only snow and trees. Plan fail, I shakily tried to put gaiters back on and very very slowly tried to get to the next river.
Still close to tears I was just frustrated and beaten down. Another slow group crossing sounded miserable and I guess everyone agreed because before it could be discussed two people had started on their own across the second river. I was the last one to head across and it was hard. The water was so very cold and at least crotch deep. I was keeping my footing but slowly getting pushed downstream. I was more than relieved to get to the other side, I am not a fan of river crossings. It was still pouring rain and I really didn't care what we did next. I just wanted to stop and get warm. Funsize and Shannon decided we should camp and headed for some trees. I got there last and tried to set up my tent. The stakes wouldn't go into the rocky ground and I was pretty shaky. The group started to have some discussion about the next day and I lost it. Cold and wet is not the time to make decisions. I finally got my tent up using rocks instead of stakes and climbed in. It was around 6 and I had no plans to move for the rest of the evening. Shaky but slowly warming up, eating spoonfuls of peanut butter and just generally feeling sorry for myself. I could occasionally hear the group talking but my tent was too far away. It was a very emotional evening and I really wanted no part of the group. I was tired of the talk of quitting and was happy by myself. I spent the rest of the evening looking at maps and calculating miles, I fell asleep without even eating my dinner but I was dry and slowly getting the feeling back in my feet which was a plus.