Monday, July 25, 2011

Day 61 (7/17) Behind the 8 Ball

This morning needed to be an early start because we had 10 miles to Pinchot Pass, and we didn't want to get there too late in the afternoon. Well, I don't think that really registered in our heads, as I was the first one out at 8 with the rest leaving camp by 9. Not quite the way to stay a long day... I thought I was making his time through the morning, and I stopped and waited dir the ready of the crew shortly after I cruised what I thought was Woods Creek. I was aided in this mistake by the fact that the creek I crossed was a foot deep and 20 feet across. That had to be Woods, right? Wrong.

Hannah corrected me when he arrived and placed us two molders back of where I had thought. Ouch, that's never fun to realize. As we hiked further, I realized that Woods Creek was much larger than I would've imagined, and each time I saw it through the trees I  became more nervous about the crossing. You know its a bad sign when you can hear the sound of the rushing water well before you can see it, so I was definitely not looking forward to this one based on the thunderous noise. My only hope was that the creek would widen out for the crossing so it would be shallow and slow moving. The reality was far better than I could've ever imagined. Around a bend I saw a pair of steel cables anchored to the ground, and then I saw that they were holding up a wooden truss. Still it didn't click until I saw the cables and the walkway to the opposite truss structure. A bridge! I was jubilant, and I know that feeling was shared by the group. We all got photos on this, the most amazing backcountry bridge we had ever seen; it spanned 50+ ft over a raging river. Well, technically it is named a creek, but I have to say this id's the biggest, scariest creek I have ever seen.

We spent the next few miles walking upstream along this 'creek' and I got some of the most spectacular shots of the raging whitewater. In several places there were massive drifts of snow over the while creek bed, worth a tunnel underneath for the water. I'm really curious how that forms in the first place in winter... The whole time since we left the bridge we were climbing, and boy was that a climb. Over 7 miles we gained 3,500 ft, but it wasn't constant - rather we would have a flat section followed by a serious incline.

Two miles from the pass we lost the trail, as usual, under snow. Pullin' 'Em and I went one way looking for it, and the other three took a lower route. We found it again about a mile in, right before the major climb, only to lose it 500 ft later. For the climb we each picked our own path over the rocks and about, trying to find the easiest way up. It was all pretty straightforward until  near the end of the final snow field, we couldn't find a way off the snow and into the rocks. The snow level had dropped enough to leave a serious gap between the edge of the snow and the rocks we wanted to be on... A few days earlier this wouldn't have been an issue, but the melting forced us to detour back down and around the rocks to a section which was still even with the snow. At the top of pass we checked the time - 6:30 - way later than we should've been there. Everyone was wiped out, and we had been running on fumes for the last few miles. We decided it was the combination of two passes yesterday plus a long lead-in to the pass that made it so difficult. Pinky decided to rename this pass from Pinchot to Pinche (sp?), which is the equivalent of a four letter word in spanish. Having agreed on the new moniker for the pass, we headed down for dinner and sleep. We needed to get about 6 miles ti ashida a repeat of today's struggles, but we were all beat. At 1.8 miles there was the first good, snow-free campsites, and we gladly took them. I was too tired to bother with my tent, so I cowboy camped, which I regretted as soon as condensation started collecting on the outside of my sleeping bag. I was still too stubborn to fix it though, so that's exactly how I slept all night long.

Miles Today: 12
Trip Mileage: 809

Photo: Woods Creek bridge, best backcountry bridge I've ever seen

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