Snow sleeping is wet wet wet, the floor of our tent was 3/4 wet but as our mats take up most of the floor space everything remained dry. We got up at 4.30 to try and get some firmer snow, but as we feared it was warm overnight and the snow was still soft and slushy. We hit the road and after some more navigational hiccups and a rock scramble down a steep bank found some clear trail! But not for long, only 0.5 miles from where we camped we hit a snow drift that continued patchily to Dicks Pass. The drift ended about 10-15 meters below the trail in rocks and chaparral on a steep slope. It was convex and so even steeper than the already steep gradient of the hill. We tried walking across in our crampons but the snow was so rotten we were struggling to get firm holds. We tried going above but the snow ended in an overhang on a rock cliff. Below was also not an option due to the steepness of the slop. Stumped we stopped and made coffee and breakfast to mull it over, but even after thinking time we still couldn’t see a way forward that we were comfortable with so we sadly and frustratedly turned around and headed back to Echo Lake. This brought up quite a few emotions with me as I feel I have been scared and stressed for most of the last 2 weeks of hiking (as dramatic and beautiful as they have been) and I was hoping flipping would end these emotions so I could get back to enjoying myself.
On the way back we got to follow our footsteps and we were amazed at how much quicker we were able to travel without constantly consulting our GPS. We ran into Chopper and Tripod on our descent from Gilmore Lake and then further on we saw Hamlet, Coffeebreak, Fluffy Soup and a big crew heading out. Unlike us they seemed delighted (still) with the snow.
Crossing the stream leaving Susie Lake I used a dead pine floating in the water to keep my pack out of the water while I waded next to if. Good idea in theory but the stream that was up to my chest yesterday was now above my head (the melt is on!) and my pack got a bit wet. Luckily i had dry bagged all my important stuff except for the shoes. In hindsight this wasn’t such a big deal as further down the trail it became a stream up to a foot high. The others did not follow me and found a good place knee high with strong flow a little way downstream.
We left Lake Aloha just after lunch and suddenly went from feeling alone in a snowy desolate landscape to being surrounded by day hikers. It’s a Saturday! Everyone’s first question for us was is it snowy like this all the way? I hope they are prepared to sleep on snow.
As I already said, the melt was on and happening extremely quickly. In the one day we had been out memorable snow banks or icebergs in lakes had shrunk to a 1/4 of the size they had been. Similarly the amount of water on the ground and the size of the streams had risen by extremes. Hopefully as we retreat from these snowy mountains the heat remains so we can come back again soon and actually see the lakes in all their glory.
We cowboy camped by Echo Lake again in one of the most beautiful spots, on a rock ledge overlooking the lake surrounded by twisted pines. As Mushy put it “it feels like we have been fighting” our bodies are so sore and beat up from the slushy snow. We are all also sporting quality sunburns in the 80.F heat reflecting off the snow (yes mum we put on sunscreen). I had a wash in the lake and cooked Dave dinner as he was too tired (plus he kicked out all those steps like a champ).
Due to my low mood in the morning after turning around I didn’t take any photos, so the ones in this post are by Dave and Mushy, thanks guys!