I decided to do a day-hike on Friday, question of giving my knees a rest from lugging the overnight pack up and down the High Peaks. I opted for Dial-Nippletop, Colvin and Blake and after my usual one-hour warm-up I began to haul ass. What a difference pack weight makes! It was very humid and a bit hot and my baggy shorts became soaked in their entirety, which was not at all comfy. Views were of the inside of a bright white cotton ball. However, from time to time holes appeared and items such as the shining slides of Basin appeared and disappeared. I made it to Nippletop from the parking area, (not the gate!) in 3 hours, which I thought wasn’t too bad. From the junction to Elk Pass took me 23 minutes (I was trying for 20 but safety slowed me down).
I was out of water, as planned, but the trickle of cold water I planned on had tried up. All that remained were scummy buggy pools. So, I got 2 liters from a bigger scummy, buggy pool (ie. The Elk Pass Swamp) and doubled the dosage of poison that I added. I forget my times for Colvin, Blake, Colvin and they are inconsequential anyway. But the whole loop car-to car took 9 hours. I had given thought of going back over Sawteeth or by re-climbing N-top and Dial but decided I wanted to visit with friends and drink beer before turning in at the hostel.
At the hostel (T-Max and Topo’s – is there any other?) I also re-organized my gear for days 2 and 3. Jack and I had planned on setting up camp at Lake Arnold and I would hike while he did summit steward duties on Colden. As we were ascending the beloved L. Arnold trail his radio came to life and warned us to avoid high places due to a rapidly approaching thunderstorm that would bring hail and 40 mph wind. After considering this scenario we opted to set up at the Avalanche Camp area (we weren’t very high on the L. Arnold trail). We got set up to the sound of peals of thunder and the rain started just after we were all set. The big storm never hit us after all and now we went up with the benefit of much lighter packs.
We carefully inspected the entire Lake Arnold camping area for trash and signs of illegal camping and fires. I was not impressed with the site as far as camping goes. A decidedly low rent district it is. The best areas for a tent are quite compacted and the ground looks like it’s wet and muddy all the time. It was cold, cloudy and drizzling when we hiked up to the summit and it was fairly windy up there. It was perfect hypothermia weather and we wore mitts, hats, and rain gear. Jack had his summit steward work cut out for him in the shape of several 900lb. bags of rocks and instructions to build scree walls. I decided to do a round-trip to Lake Colden and told Jack I’d be back in 2h 30 minutes.
The descent to the lake in 1 hour was hairy and dicey. Had I attempted to do it one minute quicker I’d have broken at least one bone or impailed myself on a branch or a hiking pole. I encountered several groups from Quebec and one of them was looking for the trail in the shrubbery. This was where the ascending trail makes a hard left turn and ascends a rock face. The wrong way now has a herd path which looks like very much like it would be the correct route. At the lake I took on some water and removed my rain gear for a hot hike up. Mastergrasshopper and I did the same ascent in 55 minutes after first doing Algonquin but I knew there was no way that was happening. I managed to get to the summit in 1h05 including time for pictures after the ladder- the sky had broken up ans the views were crazy beautiful.
There was no sign of Jack on the summit but the rain started up again and it rained non-stop for about 8 hours. I caught up with the people I had seen on the other side and learned they were “together” as a guided group (Détour Nature). I hiked down with one very nice lady who explained that everyone goes at their own pace and a guide goes last as sweep. This doesn’t control for people missing junctions or going the wrong way at junctions but everyone is given a map and hopefully signs a bullet-proof waiver.
Back at camp the rain was coming down pretty hard for a while and then it poured and it kept pouring for hours on end. This required some thinking and organizing because when we got back I had to avoid hypothermia by changing out of my sopping wet hiking clothes. I put on other pants and a shirt, which I wore under my wet rain gear for moving around. These items grew humid and became wet. But, for bed-time I kept long underwear, socks, a l-sleeved shirt and my synthetic puffy totally dry at all costs. I think we were in our respective shelters by 8 and it rained so hard we had to shout to communicate back and forth and we were crammed together tightly.
The rain eventually petered out but in the morning, just as we were packing up it started up again. We both decided to hike out after Jack’s radio informed that rain and t-storms were predicted all day. This after the previous forecast put the POP at 20%. It rained off and on (mostly off) during the 2 hour hike out. I was glad I was parked at South Meadows because the jeep road is so easy to walk down. No mud, no water, just crunch, crunch, crunch on the gravel.
What I found out for Project Full Deck: hiking, setting up, cooking, eating, turning in and packing up in the rain can put a damper on one’s enthusiasm. Every little chore seems difficult and the mind seems to sink into a depressed state not wishing to issue complex and organized motor commands to one’s hands and feet. Ie. stuff sleeping bag, roll up mattress, get dressed, organize gear, make breakfast, eat it, sort out the day’s food, take down and pack up wet tarp etc. etc. I also found out that putting on soaking wet gear, while bad at first, is not so terrible. I do worry about how well the wet skin of one’s feet will hold up or whether chaffing of the inner thighs will become problematic. The pack weight tends to go upward in a big way when everything is wet. I will be replacing all the lines on my tarp with much smaller ones. The one’s I had were soaked and heavy. I really wonder what a full day’s wet bushwhack would be like followed by setting up a bushwhacking camp and getting going the next day. Hopefully this is something I will never find out.
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