Saturday, August 25, 2012

Day 123-124 - The Scenery Continues

On Monday I had a decent view of Mt Adams while eating lunch.
The hike around Mt Adams wasn't as much climbing as I expected, only going up to around 6,000'. There was one large stream flowing down from the glacier in the picture above. Someone had made a bridge from several skinny logs. It's nice to have a bridge, stream crossings can be tough enough without them being through freezing water and lava rocks. My feet wouldn't appreciate that combination at all.

There was another glacial stream later with a nice bridge over it. Late in the day streams like that can get pretty high. This one was deep and rushing strong nearly over its banks. I camped near a cool spring that flows out from under the end of an old lava flow. Someone piled up some rocks to form a pool between the spring and the trail.
Tuesday didn't have much excitement. There were some going-away views of Mt Adams and lots of overgrown trail.
But towards the end of the day some clouds started rolling in. The trail went up over a saddle and gave a great view of a huge valley and a rocky ridge; I just couldn't see the ridge. In this next picture the clouds are pouring over a high pass at the top of the valley, completely obscuring the scenic (I assume) ridge.
When I got up to that cloud-producing pass, it wasn't a simple step over the top. The top was fairly steep and had a huge snow drift below the edge. I elected not to take a long switchback that it looked like some hikers had been using to get around the snow and I stayed on the actual trail. The snow was a lot steeper up close than it looked from way back, probably 45-55 degrees. I spotted a place where some other hikers had made footsteps up it and started over to them. Where the snow met the ground was an interesting phenomenon; the ground looked solid enough to stand on, but when I stepped on it it became a mini-mudslide. My boots sunk instantly into 3-4 inches of waterlogged gravel, sand and dirt that oozed down the hill in a bizzare fashion. It's probably tough to imagine without a picture or better yet, a video. I stood there staring at the strangeness of it for a second before I tried to figure out how to get out of the mess I was suddenly in. After some backtracking, some tiptoeing on larger rocks and more mud oozing into my shoes I made it onto the first snow toe-hold.

That wasn't the only challenge though. I still had a very steep, 30-40 foot high snowdrift to climb. The footsteps were probably at least a day old and were a bit melted. The snow was solid enough and I was able to kick them into useable steps. For some reason I didn't think until I was halfway up about how awful it would be if I slipped and fell off. While it wasn't nearly such a long way to the bottom as a fall near Sonora Pass (where I hiked over the steep ice in the dark), it would have been a cold slide down on my stomach, most likely ending with me sinking into the mud up to my knees. Then probably having my feet slip out from under me and doing a bellyflop in the mud. At 6:30 on a cold evening. On top of a mountain pass with clouds pouring over it from the side I'm headed for where its likely raining. Days from the nearest warm motel room and washing maching. When I could have easily just hiked around this mess. With all this suddenly rushing through my head I started being very sure about each next step and was digging my fingers into holes left by other hikers' trekking poles, hanging on for my life, or my comfort at least.

I made it to the top and turned to face the wall of clouds billowing over the gap. I started hiking down the far side in a dense fog. Turns out it wasn't raining. I got below the clouds pretty quickly and found a spot to camp in one clean piece. Well, relatively clean.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds tricky and scary. Glad you made it over with nothing more than a pair of extremely muddy shoes. At least it gave you some new adventure to add to your blog - besides "I walked 25 miles today."