Sunday, November 1, 2015

Into the wind

Rain gear...no rain gear? I debated as I hurried toward the Ice Lake junction. The forecast was truly awful, or great if you enjoy fifty-mile-an-hour winds and 70% chance of rain and snow. But it was my day off, and I wasn't going to waste it sitting at home. 

A steady sprinkle burst from the threatening clouds overhead. It's always hard to know the tipping point between donning rain gear and not. Too soon, and it's a steambath. Too late, and it's hypothermia time. I decided to stick it out, which was the right choice. The blustery wind acted as a blow dryer set on the cold temperature, keeping me fairly dry.

I clumped along in hiking boots, worn because I anticipated snowdrifts. In fact, I wasn't even sure I would be able to make it to the lake, seeing as the last few days had called for over a foot of snow. I had forgotten how heavy boots can be, and I tried to pick up the pace to compensate.

A soggy but lovely trail!
I caught two guys on the switchbacks. I knew I would, because the sound of music had wafted from external speakers on one of their packs for awhile. (Please, please do not do this.)"Are you climbing the Matterhorn?" they chirped. Lugging backpacks festooned with crampons and ice axes, they obviously planned on it. (Although it was a bit too early for that mountaineering gear, I decided not to tell them.)

"Just a day hike to the lake," I said. I always am unsure about whether to dash people's dreams. It was obviously way too windy to climb the Matterhorn. They had never been here before, and they would have to figure it out for themselves. "It's pretty windy," I said diplomatically before speeding on. 

As I made the final push to the lake, the full brunt of the wind caught me. The situation was brutal. If I had carried a tent, I would have turned right around and marched back out of there. Whitecaps boiled the surface of the lake. It was not a place to linger.

As I turned around, A came running gracefully up in shorts. Shorts! "I thought that was you," he said. We discussed how hammered the trails are getting. There are trails that cut the switchbacks that are as wide and deep as the real trails. (Don't do this. The trail has switchbacks for a reason.) People are discovering these mountains, but not always doing the right thing. Cutting a trail might save them two minutes, but it erodes the whole mountainside. 

A ran on and I descended without my anticipated break at the lake. This turned a 16 mile hike into a non-stop five and a half hour march, but sometimes it just works out that way. I arrived back at the trailhead glad I had overcome inertia and "bad" weather. The forecast calls for high mountain snow and pretty soon it will be June, or later, before I can get to Ice Lake. I'll take all the chances I have left.


8 comments:

  1. Turned out to be a nice outing.....your distances on a "day hike" are amazing. Glad you got to Ice Lake before snow closes it in.

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    1. Even though it gets a lot of use, it's still one of my favorites (it was nicer when you had to cross on the shaky remnants of a collapsed bridge. Kept people out)

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    2. I still have my photo of Ice Lake from the air...partially frozen in July of 2011. Beautiful area

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  2. It's always frustrating packing for trips this time of year. I always carry too much gear for the possibility of something (rain, snow, high winds, etc) and end up feeling a little silly when it turns out I don't need it.

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    1. I hiked in running tights for the first time. I don't know why I haven't thought of that before. There's a certain window (not too cold, not too hot) where it seems to work.

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  3. Taking all the chances you have left! What a great attitude!

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    1. Trust me, I don't always have a good attitude, but on hiking days I do!

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  4. His Mary, you are one hiking machine. Winter is just starting here. On Friday a friend and me decided to break in his new Supercub on floats and fly out to my remote cabin. Sunday morning he calls to tell me his lake froze over. Ahhh! Life in Alaska, lol

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