T H E    T R A I L

"Breakfast wood smoke on the breeze..." Ken stretching for the climb ahead at low camp, just immediately north of the trailhead parking lot by maybe 10 minutes.

There was officially a fire ban on, but we took our chances.  The risks to the environment were practically non-existent, considering how much moisture we experienced: intense dew, heavy rains, sleet, fog, you name it.

That's me in the background hiking up the gentle switchbacks.  Compared to Blanca's main trail, this was heavenly: lots of tree cover, slight grade, smooth soil underfoot.  

Not far from where this photo was taken, while descending from his solo journey, Ken had encountered a couple from Czechoslovakia.  The man was severely hypothermic, and his wife was dead: struck by lightning.  Ken had saved the life of the man by getting him warm and feeding him while the local Search and Rescue team came to meet them.  Needless to say, this part of the journey held a special resonance for him.

Utterly breath-taking valley that we passed along the way.  I'd love to take a woman to such a place one day, just to spend time in the silence and the movement of nature.

You can see that clouds are obscuring the top part of the hills; Willow Lake basin seems to be a meteorological funnel for cloud activity.  It was never electrical, but there was always some whispy stuff lurking about.

There had been a lot of rain, and this particular crossing was fairly impassable.  We took lunch here (which included some wild raspberries and gooseberries that were growing by the creek) and then plunged across, soaking ourselves.

Which was just as well, because thereupon immediately began the most extensive sleet storm I've ever hiked in.  It lasted about 30 minutes, while we ascended some fairly barren switchbacks to get to roughly the level of Willow Lake.

La voilą.  You can't actually camp within 300 yards of her, though.  When we ascended the next day, we got to hike around her and over the top of the waterfall you see. 

This was as much sun as we got when we arrived at high camp, and that lasted about five minutes.  The day never really afforded us the luxury of drying off.  This is Dan in the foreground against the impressive backdrop of cloud-enshrouded head wall.

High camp.  Don't let the sun deceive you; this was taken right before we came down two days later.  

Next: Double Peak Bagging