Maroon Bells Wilderness - Day 5
Today we planned to climb another huge pass. This one was much less steep and we quickly covered a good distance. The route passed through forests and along a river. In the morning it again rained hard but not for long. Around noon we had to cross a river. This one didn't have a bridge. When I first started doing hiking trips, I would take my shoes off when wading rivers, but I soon switched to keeping them on. That reduced the risk of slipping or losing my shoes in the current, without needing to carry heavy water shoes. As my hiking shoes have a leather interior, they don't retain much water and I usually simply keep on walking after pouring the water out and switching to a dry pair of socks.
Diane and I walked through the river and put on dry socks on the other bank. Unfortunately, the weather then again switched to rain so we couldn't dry our wet socks. A bit later we needed to cross the same river again, which we did in the same way. Now we didn't have any dry socks, but the sun started to come out again. We continued walking uphill and had a beautiful view of the valley. We were starting to get above the tree line again and there were occasional patches of snow we had to cross.
Then the weather quickly started to look bad again. At first it was just a drizzle so we kept walking. Then we suddenly got heavy hail pounding down on us. We quickly put on our rain clothes. The hail gradually changed into sleet and there was an increasingly intense thunderstorm. We saw the lightning hit the mountains around us so decided to take shelter next to some bushes, hoping the storm would pass as quickly as the many other ones we had encountered. After 15 minutes it was still raining hard and we started to feel a bit cold. Our rain clothes worked well, but our clothes were somewhat wet from the initial drizzle and the river crossing. We were only an hour or so away from the summit but both agreed it would be too dangerous to go there, even though we could see several people at the top.
Diane wanted to stay put, hoping the rain would go away soon. However, I didn't want to wait until we were really cold before deciding to make camp, as that would take some time as well. When discussing what to do, I saw lightning strike twice at the part of the pass we were climbing to. That helped convince Diane to turn around. I remembered we passed a few campsites 15 minutes before, which were sheltered by high shrubs and some small trees. We quickly headed back and tried to pitch our tent without getting everything wet.
Eventually we made it into our warm and dry sleeping bags and decided to wait out the rain. The storm didn't seem to reduce in intensity and at some point, some water started to drip through my tent seams and onto my sleeping bag; that didn't happen during a later storm, so I guess it was because the tent was new and hadn't been wet before. We spent several hours sheltering and I was glad I had brought a light book. Diane is now a big fan of 19th century Russian literature. I sent a GPS message home to explain why we weren't moving, and obtained a weather forecast. Heavy rain was predicted for the entire next day.
Near the evening, the rain stopped and we considered hiking some more. However, it was still cold outside, all our clothes were damp, and we would likely end up at the top of the mountain around the time it would get dark. Therefore, we decided to just cook a warm meal and get some rest. I made pine needle tea to warm up and it was nice to see the valley covered in fog.
We were pretty high in the mountains and there was a clear sky, so the temperature dropped quickly at night. I was fine, but Diane was really cold even though she had the same kind of sleeping bag and a sleeping bag liner. She put on some of her spare clothes that were still dry but couldn't fall asleep. She stayed awake shivering almost the entire night.