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Posts Tagged ‘Thundersnow’

Once we got off of the paved roads and the dirt roads, the CDT became its usual self of being a trail then disappearing, then reappearing, then disappearing. It liked to disappear right around dark and Guthook would just have a note that said, “follow cairns.” Easy enough, usually, in daylight. Tougher with headlamps, but do-able for a bit.

 

Sunset

The CDT hit some amazing ridgelines that offered stunning views and even more stunning sunsets and sunrises. The ridges all soared above treeline, except when we needed to get over to another ridge.

On one such ridgeline, we lost the trail in the dark. After having already lost it and found it several times, we decided to just camp and find it in the morning. According to Guthook and Gaia, we were on trail, but there was no tread. Classic. We were supposed to contour down to a saddle, which would be easier if we could see some tread in the daylight.

Conveniently, the top of that ridge had just enough internet to check the weather. Of course, the prediction: severe thunderstorms starting around noon the next day throughout the afternoon.

I checked the elevation profile on Guthook to see how exposed we’d be. Guthook showed a startlingly steep climb up and over Parkview mountain with about five miles totally exposed. Thrilling.

I switched to Ley’s maps to see the bigger area. He noted a forest service road as a “thunderstorm avoidance route” which was nine miles compared to five, but the dirt road would keep us between 10,000 and 10,600 and still below treeline. If the storm became bad, at least we would have somewhere to hunker down.

We had a solid eight miles or so to the junction which would place us there right before the thunderstorms would probably hit.

Ducking down for the road, we stopped and ate an early lunch while it wasn’t raining. Eating lunch in the rain is the worst. While we sat there and moved multiple bars into easy access places for the storm, an ATV roared up. Atop it sat a hunter completely in camo with a gun on his hip belt and a very large bow strapped to the back. He stopped to chat. The same general hunter/hiker conversation began.

Hunter: “See any elk recently?”

Me: “Not since Wyoming.”

Hunter: “You all have hiked here from Wyoming?!”

Me: “We started in Canada, actually.”

E.D.: “We’re thru-hiking the continental divide.”

Hunter: “So…where’d ya’ll park?”

Memphis: “We don’t have a car…we walked.”

Hunter: “From Canada…”

Memphis: “Yeah…”

Hunter: “So you parked in Canada?”

Memphis: “No…”

Hunter: “hmmph. Where ya going?”

Me: “Mexico.”

Hunter: Blank stare. “Huh.”

After lunch, we walked up the rough dirt road and within fifteen minutes, we had to scramble to throw on rain gear. The rain, which came quick and fast, shifted into hail almost as quickly. Thinking it would only last a few minutes then return to rain, we ducked under a conifer tree. A few minutes went by. The hail continued with equal voracity. Damn. We gave up cover and just walked in it, leaning forward and guarding our hands. The hail stings when it hits exposed skin.

 

Some of the hail.

The hail continued for upwards of half an hour while thunder boomed nearby and we caught occasional flashes of lightening when we weren’t staring at our feet to avoid hail to the face. The storm did let up on the hail, but the rain kept up for about five more hours. We had to keep moving to keep warm; if we stopped, we would become too cold. I kept reminding myself that it could be worse…we could be higher and more exposed through the lightening.

We got back to the trail and crossed a road. Memphis decided that we were camping early because it was his birthday. I came to the conclusion that trail birthdays on the CDT were cursed because of the storm that day and the thundersnow on Scallywag’s birthday.

 

The fog after the rain.

I didn’t particularly want to stop early because I wanted to get over Bowen Pass the next day before any more storms invariably came in to drench us, but it’s hard to argue with the birthday line and it did feel good to lay down.

The next morning, we did have to haul ass to get over to and up the pass with storms forming in the distance. It was a long climb, but not horrendously steep, so with some loud electronic music, it went quickly.

E.D. surged ahead and Memphis took awhile on the downhill. I accidentally scared the shit out of some day hikers who didn’t hear me approach until I said, “Hi” behind them in an attempt to pass.

I found E.D. chilling under a privy porch cooking ramen while it misted. The main storm had passed, but a bit continued now and then. After we called the hostel in Grand Lake, to let them know we’d be coming in a bit late, we trudged through the last few miles where we saw about 25 elk in two groups.

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After Leadore, we awoke to the frequent morning rain shower, which meant that we all rolled over and got some extra sleep, then tried to procrastinate getting out of the tent as long as possible.

I was in the process of procrastinating and tweeting to find more stuff to do in the tent when the rain stopped. On cue, I popped out of my tent and quickly packed it up.

Thinking it would just be another day of on and off again rain and thunderstorms, I began to mentally prepare myself for being generally uncomfortable. We had camped almost at the top of a 9500 ft ridge and had a few miles of bumpy exposed ridge before dropping down to 8000 ft.

Almost at the top, I ran into a nobo, Jon Z, whose pack I couldn’t see because it was so tiny. I asked him where his pack was and he had to turn so I could see it. We did the customary exchange of beta for about 200 miles in either direction, then kept going.

On top of the ridge, I suddenly became aware that the temperature was plummeting drastically as the rain began again. I quickly added a mid layer underneath my rain shell and kept waking to stay warm. Only my feet were wet.

One bump on the ridge complete. The wind picked up and the rain began to pelt me sideways. I tilted my hat to protect the side of my face, tightened my shell and kept walking.

The Darkness came up behind me. She had asked Jon Z if he was trail running because she hadn’t seen his pack either. Her hands were pulled up into her shell and she said she had to walk faster to keep warm, so I let her pass me.

Two bumps on the ridge down. Scallywag comes up, hands jammed into his pockets and poles strapped to his chest because the metal poles were too cold to touch. I was suddenly extremely thankful for my laziness in not bouncing my felted wool mittens and awesome over-mitts made by my crafty mother.
Scallywag and I talked to try to not focus on the bad weather which consumed our thoughts. The sideways rain turned to sideways sleet. Awesome.

Then it started snowing. Happy July 27th Birthday to Scallywag…snow!

Three bumps on the ridge down.

“Cooooey!”

Scallywag looks at me, but I hadn’t cooied. We look around. We saw The Darkness shivering under her tyvek against a lone downed tree. We went over and sat on either side to warm her up.

It wasn’t working and the temperature continued to drop. We had to either get up and hike the four miles down to the lake at 8000 ft or set up a tent because she was quickly progressing from mild hypothermia to moderate hypothermia.

She decided a tent would be better, but hers was at the bottom of her pack and her hands were too cold to set it up. I had a one person tent so that wouldn’t fit all three of us. Scallywag grabbed his and the two of us quickly set it up and threw The Darkness inside it. We got our two sleeping pads and our sleeping bags, dove inside and set up. The Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 is technically a two person tent, but in reality, it’s a one and a half person tent. All three of us were inside.

Since only my feet were wet under my rain gear, all I had to do was change socks, but the other two were wet straight through and had to put on their sleep clothes and any dry layers they had. Then we wrapped ourselves up in a blanket of down.

It took about two hours for The Darkness to stop shivering sandwiched in the middle. In that time, I found it too hot and had to take my puffy off which I then used as a pillow to take a nap. Might as well rest as the snow piled on top of the tent. We all thought E.D. was the smart one who stayed in her tent in the morning through the storm.

Several hours later in a break in the storm, we heard voices and called out. E.D., Hiker Box, and Heartbreaker walked up. They had all hunkered down.

Heartbreaker: “When things get rough, I just tell myself, at least I’m not pregnant!”

Then the storm started anew and Hiker Box and Heartbreaker went toward the lake while E.D. dove into the tent with us, making four people in the two person tent. We listened to some podcasts, took naps, and all had to roll over at the same time.


Finally, around 4:30pm, the storm seemed to subside enough to dash down to the lake. I was so ready to be out of a tent, I took the opportunity and E.D. jumped out too. The Darkness and Scallywag feared getting their only dry clothes wet or putting on their soaking wet layers and getting too cold again, so they stayed.

The snow had stopped and we made it down to the lake just fine to find Action, Shortstack, Andy, and Leah there. We camped with them and took our time getting up in the morning to give The Darkness and Scallywag more of a chance to catch up to us.
The next day was cold, but sunny and we navigated over some great alpine terrain. Scallywag and The Darkness managed to catch us by dinner.

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