Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Over the Divide - Part 4

I woke with the sun, energized and ready to go. In my plaid flannel shirt, I split wood to replace the logs we used the night before, and fired up the oatmeal. Packed up, cabin swept, it was if we had never been there. 

Setting out along the trail, the early morning was as good as it gets; the fresh brisk air, the Tetons with halos rolling over their peaks, and the sun twinkling off the light snow making the world come alive!

Grand Teton Behind us!

Me soaking up the beauty!

This lake was a bit too cold for us!

It was then we tackle the ascent. 2.4 miles and 3000 ft straight up of switchbacks. Pushing ourselves we finally made it up and the world turned to white. 

The ascent

The world in white and blue
Catching our breath we took it all in, though only for a brief moment. Quickly crossing the saddle, we stopped at the edge and the fun began! The whole mountain slope was icy snow. Far below amidst the trees, the trail was visible, but from up top it was nowhere to be found. Perched on the divide, the wind howling its icy song, we were stuck.
Paintbrush divide: bracing myself against the wind

Sliding down was out of the question. The snow was an ice sheet and the slope was littered with jagged rocks. Peeking out here and there was the form of possibly a trail. Taking an initial leap of faith, we jumped down off the divide on to where we presumed the trail to be. Safely landed we attempted to switch back our way down. Somehow we started to make it. At points the snow was light enough to pound out footholes, at other times not so. Thoughts of the Path of Caradhras crept into our heads.”If we cannot pass over the Mountain, why not pass under it”. The fellowship may have had the luxury of turning back and going through Moria, but we did not!

Looking back after our initial leap!
In the cases where the snow was ice hard, Tim, with heavier boots, had to whack away and lay out the holes for us. At one point, I grasped on with my fingers to the footholes, before I would have started an undesired and uncontrolled slide down. Re-distributing my weight, I pulled myself back into a crouch and laughed to the mountains. Tim’s rage meter was off the charts, but at the same time he was in the zone! Focused, we painfully made our way down to the fluffier snow. Then, with alpine meadow underneath, we did our best imitation of kids sliding down the local hill after the first real snowfall of the year, by running, sliding on our butts, and howling with laughter and joy to the trees and the re-emerged trail!

Tim blazing the trail

The outline of the trail on the slope

Almost home free.

Our reward for braving the pass: A Female Ducky Grouse
Having braved the path of Caradhras, the remaining 6 or so miles felt like a piece of cake! Also, having past a ridiculously pretty young women in the company of a bearded hippy dude, made us consider that perhaps we ought to grow beards as well!

Later, Tim told me he had been quite scared up on the slope, where I had to admit that I wasn't scared at any point. However, the next days would bring some fear for me, where Tim would remain cool as a cucumber. At any rate, we came off Paintbrush Divide mountain men at last!

To the Divide – Part 3

Tim called it the hike of death. I just think of it as a hilarious, exhilarating, awesome and completely unexpected adventure. Here is part one of the tale.

 It started out well enough. First though, I needed to summon the spirit of the Rohirrim for our quest!

Summoning the Rohirrim

We hiked along Cascade canyon. With a picturesque river winding down the middle, tall spruce and pine along the valley floor, and high mountain ridges and meadows on either side, we were soaking up the beautiful surroundings. Stopping by a pool in the river, it was time for a bite of oatmeal.

Prepping oatmeal
Now I should let you know at this point that it was not raining, but our tent was wet. So was my sleeping bag and my pad. The reason was the night before it had poured, and well you know the drill. However, I'm thinking that we'll make camp with a few hours of daylight and be able to air out the tent, my bag was only somewhat damp, and the pad dries quick. That's of course when the rain started. We had just finished our food and were just continuing on when the sky let loose. Okay maybe it will let up... Nope! Instead it starts hailing. Disappointment starts to set in. I know that if it doesn't clear soon we'll arrive soaked, with our sleeping shit already wet, and probably freeze that night in the sub zero temperatures. Keeping mental track of how many hours it'll take to return to the car if necessary, we hike diligently onward. It's at this point, in a miserable soaked state, that I practically walked into a moose. The moose was also looking like it was in a miserable soaked state. Without even breaking my stride I quickly turn and walk back down the trail. This was not the time to go moose riding!

This was the right time to ride a moose!
Not a beast we were keen to tangle with, we cut off to the left of the path to out flank it. This is not before Tim attempted to grab a pic, aborting the idea as the moose started towards him looking pissed! Scrambling away we laughed it off, and continued on. The rain finally let up but we were soaked! Right through my coat, boots, rain pants and all.

Still not ready to give up, we continued onward to camp. Then like a holy beacon of light we spotted it. Well Tim saw it first, but I realized quickly what it meant. A cabin. 

Tucked away in the fork of a great canyon, and nestled amongst the towering conifers was shelter. Off the path we went. Popping inside we were greeted to a rustic cabin equipped with the most glorious thing of all, a wood stove, and in the attic, cots! There was no question... we'd take shelter in the cabin for the remainder of the evening and night, and hit the trail the next morning when the weather was supposed to be clear. Firing up the stove, and with hot chocolate on the go, we could not believe our luck! I even found a small guitar with the bottom three strings still on, and rocked out some reggae tunes as our belongings dried. The only thing missing was beer and babes, and sometimes in life you can't have it all! 

A wood stove fire and hot chocolate never felt so nice!

Tetons - Part 2

In a place that literally translates to Big Nipples, you know some fun, wild shit is going to go down! As it happens, in Grand Teton National Park, some fun crazy shit did go down.

The Grand Teton itself!
Driving all night, I pulled us up into the park 2 hours before dawn, not aware of what adventures would befall us as we back-country hiked and camped up mountain canyon, peak and ridge. We had five nights planned. Two nights to go up Open Canyon and down Death Canyon. Spend the night in the National Forest, then back on the trails for another night up Cascade Canyon, and then over Paintbrush Divide and down Paintbrush Canyon.

First though, we wanted wolves. After a two hour snooze we awoke with dawn and scrambled up Yule hill where we had a wide vista. Sitting on the ridge, we warmed to the sights and sounds of the place. Bison and Pronghorn roamed the hills, and of course those pesky wolves. 4 black and grey beasts made an appearance as they wandered by.

From the vista of Yule Hill with the Tetons rising behind in the distance.
 In beer break news, this is the funniest description for a beer ever! My laughter echoed off the hills and mountains for a day!

On to the Mountains though. With bear barrel and permits in hand, we set out up Open Canyon making camp at nightfall after a good 5 mile hike up 3000ft. The next day it was up and over Mount Hunt divide and into Death Canyon. We peaked at about 9700 ft and were feeling pretty good about ourselves. We even decided to take a swim. At something like 9000 ft, Lake Marion presented the option of a bath after many days on the road, but also a challenge to tackle the icy frigid waters. Stripping down I went for it. The first touch of the water on my chest sent me howling. Icy hell! I screamed, scrambled out and put on warm clothes as fast as possible! Tim then tackled the frigid lake while I filmed the madness! Mountain men we may become yet. 

It was bloody cold!
Up some more, and over and down Death Canyon we went. One more night in the wilderness and it was back to the car by noon the following day. Many miles of spectacular scenery, solitude, and fall colours was jiving well with me. I was also wondering if Cascade/Paintbrush could top it. I was about to find out.

Taking a snooze at 10 000ft
A Pika!

Posing fro the cam
The high mountain pass