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.