We didn’t die in the hail, thunder and lightening storm but we did see a lot of lightening and it rained intermittently throughout the night. In the morning most of the hail had melted but on snow it half melted and half stuck to it to make it nice and slippery. We said our goodbyes to the beautiful magic old tree we camped/sheltered under and walked on south.
We hadn’t gone far before we saw a brown bear in a valley far below the trail, it’s the first bear I have seen in the wild! But we didn’t get close enough to make out it’s features, cos I reckon it was probably cute. We stopped for breakfast on the top of the ridge with 360 views and got phone reception. The tip of my old reeking pole came off yesterday but the miracle of amazons fast delivery (unavailable in Aus) I ordered some from Daves account and they will be waiting for me in Etna. Real world success! We also drank the last of our coffee 😖 what are we gonna do.
On the descent to Paradise Lake we met the group of 4 we have been following and hearing about from other hikers and log books for the last week. They had turned around after trying to cross a snow bridge which collapsed and one of the party had twisted his knee. We have already been nervous about this section from the horror stories we have heard from NOBO hikers and this news didn’t help.
Paradise Lake was beautiful and clear standing below snow clad cliffs with 5 waterfalls and 2 streams feeding it. We saw long strings of frog eggs, like dirty pearl necklaces, and lots of newts (my favourite)! We stopped as the internal frame of my ULA Circut had burst through the bottom of my pack and was stabbing me in the leg. Borrowing Dave’s strong thread i repaired 2 holes in the pack, one internal one which was tricky to get to.
We left paradise walking along the trail which traversed the north facing slope of the range, which means snow snow snow. He reached the creek which injured the previous party and decided to cut below the snow down an incredibly steep scramble, balance was crucial.
Continuing on the snow was patchy and passable until we came to a series of snowfields. We crossed the first which was manageable until the end when the traverse became really steep and snow mushy and slippery. We all made it across ok but I was not enjoying myself and panicking a bit as it was impossible to turn around. We reached dry ground and walked around the next ridge to saw our trail ending in more steep snow traverses leading to a saddle. We stopped for a break and for me to collect myself and I said I didn’t want to go on. Our group was very nice about it and didn’t seem to mind turning back too much. I just do not have the mental capacity for snow, physical yes but I just can’t keep my head. We also saw 3 more bears, all quite scared of us and way way down in the valley.
Back at paradise we decided to stay the night even through it was only 1pm. It’s such a beautiful place. We went swimming, frog spotting and I make a makeshift fishing rod out of Dave’s fishing gear and my trekking pole. The fish were jumping but too smart to bite my garlic flavoured rubber worm. At 5.30 3 hikers rolled in and were so relieved to hear that there was minimal snow north to Ashland as they said the last few days were so gruelling. It took them 12hrs to hike 6 miles at one point. After dinner we read our books for ages and finally fell asleep thinking of all the bears that we don’t want to come into our camp.