Day 44: One step forward, two steps back

Miles Hiked: 6

This morning 12 pack and I woke up at 3am. I didn’t sleep super well last night because I was so nervous about today. It was cold this morning but not as bad as I expected it to be, having the winter gear to handle it really helps. We collected water from the nearby stream and started hiking at 3:30. The snow was rock solid. We crunched atop the crust moving much more quickly than yesterday. We were following the snow shoe tracks of Horse and Hamilton over a long snow field before getting back on to frozen muddy trail that traversed the side of a mountain for quite a while. There were some pretty steep patches of snow but we were able to get enough traction from the one-two sets of post holes frozen into the snow. We kept climbing in elevation. About 5am we had made it a little over two miles when we ran into a problem.

The trail turned into a wall of ice and a set of foot prints disappeared on to it after about 25 meters. Above the wall of ice, a rocky and grassy ridge allowed for you to traverse to the mountain pass ahead. At this point 12 pack and I were a little lost on what to do. At first we put on our spikes and tried to traverse on the actual snow covered very steep trail. We ended up deciding that it was too dangerous and turning back. After that I climbed the ridge. When 12 pack got up there he realized that we could traverse on top of the ridge but we would have no idea if there were any steep drop offs. It was still pitch dark outside although the sun was rising. At this point it’s was 12 pack who decided he was ultimately too uncomfortable to continue trying to hike northbound. We were constantly losing he trail this morning and we knew that almost no one else was out here attempting to go through this. I also realized that this ridge is most likely not the only time we would be running into this problem. 12 pack has a significant amount of snow experience and I would consider myself to have zero experience. I figured if he wanted to turn around it was probably a smart idea. Also there was no way we were going to leave each other alone out here. We hiked back to the stream near where we camped last night.

It was 6 am by the time we got back and I was able to see a great sunrise. We both set up our sleeping bags and passed out for a couple of hours. During this time I thought really hard about what I wanted to do moving forward. I had enough service up on the ridge to find out that our friend Jenga flip flopped up to Wyoming. I decided that ultimately I still want to finish this trail mid September. I also have no desire to sit around town waiting for snow to melt. It was then I knew that I really did want to flip flop and it makes the most sense for my goals. I can still get lots of miles done going a different direction rather than sitting still and not making any progress. I told 12 pack that I was planning on flipping up to where Jenga is as fast as I could so that I could continue to make more progress on the trail. At the moment we really hadn’t made any forward progress in 3 days. It would be at least another two days before I could start hiking south from Wyoming if I was lucky.

We both have packages arriving in the next town northbound (Pagosa Springs, CO) so we decided to just spend the day taking a zero (essentially) on the mountain. This way we wouldn’t waste any money sitting around in town. I was also happy that we wouldn’t have to deal with any of the town drama from the other hikers who have been staying there for weeks. It was hard to kill a day with no service, but I spent time studying the maps and eating lots of food including some snow cones made from MiO and snow. Around noon I saw a person walk by so I ran out to see who it was. It was a guy named Sweep hiking southbound, he must have set out and turned around today. He was too far away to talk to by the time I reached the trail. I sat on a log for a minute and then Horse and Hamilton came around the corner. They too had turned back. Hamilton wasn’t interested in going through the snow after she experienced it as well. They made it farther than 12 pack and I and let us know that we in fact would of had to climb up the mountain pass via the ridge. After seeing them turn around too I felt like our decision was very justified.

We had a great sun set at camp and I made sure to take some good pictures. I can’t wait to get service tomorrow to start making plans to get up to Wyoming and to talk to my family and boyfriend about it!

Happy Trails!

-Early Bird

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