February 11, 2006.
9.8 mi | 2700’ ele. gain | 6 hr.
I met my hiking crew at 8 am this morning and we started hiking in zero degree temperatures, just slightly warmer than yesterday.
Bob set a very quick pace and before long we reached the first trail junction. We started out in Yaktrax, but at the base of the slide we switched into crampons. The sun was very bright so I also put my goggles on. I forgot to bring a hat so I was stuck wearing a stuffy balaclava.
Ice axes at the ready, we started tearing up the slide. Thankfully there was enough snow and ice for the crampons to bite into. I stayed in the back of the group so that I had footprints to follow. I was by far the least experienced winter hiker in the pack. The steep, icy climb made me a little nervous but it sure was fun!
The view from the slide was incredible. The slide itself shone brightly in the sun. The mountains we could see stood looming and tall, every feature visible in the intense light. The sky was crisp and clear. When I could stand still comfortably, without fear of falling, I took a few photos. I could have stood there all day; it was amazing.
But we swiftly reached the top of the slide in what felt like record time. I remember it being much harder in the summer. Today it was practically a cake walk. It was tough on the thighs because I was constantly moving or standing tensed so that I didn’t fall over. I can’t imagine doing that type of climbing for hours like mountaineers must do on the big ones. It was brief but intense.
Bob continued to lead us along the bushwhack to regain the trail. He followed blue flagging for a while then made a beeline directly to the trail. We sat at the lookout and ate lunch, even though it was still early.
We walked over to South Hancock where two others were eating lunch. My crampons were tugging on my already loose boots so I decided to switch back to Yaktrax.
I forgot about those steep sections coming down from South Hancock! I did a bit of unintentional butt-sliding and inadvertently discovered the partial-squat butt slide which I immediately began doing on purpose. I squatted down on one leg with the other stretched out as a brake. On the really smooth, icy sections I careened down on the grounded foot, used my hands to guide me by lightly touching the “curbs” of snow on either side of the trail, and stopped myself with the outstretched foot by driving it into the snow.
It was actually pretty fun, although I’m sure if did a number on my Yaktrax.
At least I provided some entertainment for the rest of the group, who chose to keep their crampons on.
We chatted a little more on the way down and stopped for a few social breaks. Overall we were a quiet bunch but these were nice, funny, genuine people and all strong hikers. I really dig the hiking community, especially the hardcore bunch. We had a great time, were done by 2 pm and I could enjoy yet another pretty drive home in the daylight.