CDT Day 80: almost Lost Ranger Peak to Fishhook Lake – Really Really Ridiculously Cold Camp to Ultramarathon Camp
Miles hiked: 24.1
Total miles: 1438.2
There was a thick layer of ice on the inside of the tent, and a few large crystals forming in my water bottles when I inspected my surroundings this morning. I was happy to find that I was alive and actually quite warm despite the cold night. A good test for my gear, but it was hard to leave that warmth, so SpiceRack and I waited for sunrise to start thawing us out before making moves to get hiking.
Around 7:30am we were following fresh tracks up the ridge in blazing sun and a slight breeze. My sunny side was burning up, the shady side freezing cold. The sight up top made me glad we camped where we did last night. A wide plateau extended for nearly a mile ahead, a distant ridge extending beyond, all blanketed in white. Not only would we have missed this scene in the dark, but hiking this exposed section would have been miserably cold without the sun to bake us. No, things were working out just fine.
The snow was drifted to over 10 inches deep in many places. It would melt off soon, though. Even with tracks to follow, we moved relatively slow. I must admit it was a little frustrating at times, but looking around at the fine crystals of rime ice sparkling in the sun, it was easy to reset my mind and crack a new smile. This was pretty cool.
After about five miles in the snow, we dropped low enough to find bare ground. We took advantage of dry rock to yardsale our wet gear and take a break. The tent weighed a couple pounds less when we packed up again.
We descended on easy trail through soggy meadows to Buffalo Pass where we found an aid station for a 100 mile run that was in full swing. The quesadillas and pickles looked good, but we weren’t getting any of it. We did learn that we’d be hiking upstream of about 300 runners coming from Rabbit Ears Pass. Not really sure what to expect, we pushed south.
We whooped and gave it high fives to the passing runners. Gronk bumped out some classic rock and we made a tunnel with our poles, trying to lend some encouragement to these crazy folk who were almost 30 miles in already, but who would be running all through the cold night. Some were in good shape and cheerful, others not so much. It was inspiring and sparked a debate about what was harder, a 100 mile ultra or a 3,000 mile thru-hike. There’s no answer.
The flow of runners diminished to a trickle of humble hobblers on the wide, smooth trail as daylight faded. It got cold immediately after sunset, so I hiked fast in my rain jacket to stay warm, eventually pulling out my headlamp for the last few miles to Fishhook Lake.
At around 8:30pm, we found two jabronis squatting in our spot. Turns out, it was Crunchberry and Rooster. We learned that we unknowingly camped within shouting distance of them last night and that they were smart enough not to go up on that ridge too. Cool, good to see them again.
We pitched our tent nearby on lumpier than usual ground, tired and cold enough not to care. A burrito for dinner, then burrowing for warmth, thinking about all those runners out in the cold, working hard by headlamp all night. Thru-hiking is tough, but at least I get to sleep at night.