Day 70: Temple Pass & Lake

Today is our first real pass. We walk up the valley floor towards the pass. The ground is soggy with the snow melt and we cross several piles of snow but nothing that is too hard to cross. The valley is climbing towards the pass and by the time we get to the lake at the foot of our climb we should only have about another 800 feet of climbing to get over the pass.

We keep looking at the peaks in front of us and trying to judge how much snow we will have to cross and how steep it will be. As the valley curves around we don’t get to see our pass until we are almost at the bottom of it. At first glance it does not look too bad. We can see the trail and it looks like there are two pieces of snow we will have to cross. From the bottom it is hard to tell what it will be like so we just start climbing. We have picked an alternate route out that avoids the snow but I decide we should try the trail first and see if others have crossed the snow and follow in their footsteps.

The first snow bank turns out to be easy. The snow is not too hard and not too soft and we are quickly across it. The next snow bank is another story. The tracks I saw from the bottom turn out to be an animals. There are some other hiker tracks higher up the mountain but I decide to try where the trail crosses. At first the snow is good and I can make foot holds even if it is hard work. I spend about 30 minutes making foot holds for Yeti to follow me but only make it half way before the snow starts to turn to ice and I can no longer get a good foot hold with just my trail shoes. The middle section is now at about a 45 degree angle and very hard. If I slip there is no way I will stop sliding down the snow until I have traveled 200 yards and run into some very large boulders. It is time to turn around and look for a safer route. We next try the location where someone else had crossed but here in each foot step the snow is up past my knees and I think this route is not good as well ,so on to plan 3, the rocks.

We climb back down below the snow and cross the loose rocks and dirt on the slope. Each step causes a small land slide. We quickly make it past the snow and start the climb back up. We can see signs of where other people have also made the same decision we have to climb the rock ridge rather than the snow field and this seems somewhat encouraging. The hill turns out to be very challenging. It is very steep and is a land slide waiting to happen. I tell Yeti to wait off to the side until I have climbed up because I am afraid of falling rocks. The first couple of steps sees a two foot slab slide from under my foot and down the hill. It is like trying to climb a sand hill as every step launches another cascade of sliding dirt and rocks. I make it about 20 feet up and on to some firmer ground and can see the spine of rock continuing up the hill to the trail. Yeti starts her climb up the hill and can’t get her balance on the rock slide with her pack on. I tell her to leave her pack there and I will come down and get it for her. Without her pack it is still a struggle to get up but we both eventually make it to the firm ground and then continue up the ridge. We get to the top of the ridge only to find another snow field. What a disappointment. This one is not as steep and the snow is firm enough for us to walk across without any real problems. We are over the top of the ridge and feeling grateful to have made it but still anxious to see what the other side will bring before we get to the valley floor. The climb down has some snow but we can easily find bare ground to walk down even if it is very steep and muddy.

We get near the bottom of the climb feeling very relieved to have the pass over and sit down to have some breakfast and enjoy the view over Temple Lake. It seems like we fought very hard to get this view so we better take some time to enjoy it and rebuild our strength.

As we sit there looking over Temple Lake we marvel at the peaks that now surround us and now that the pass is over we are glad we took this route so we could see this.

For the rest of the day we hike down the valley floor on relatively easy trails. We pass Big Sandy Lake and follow a very well made trail. As we descend the mosquitoes start to increase and by late afternoon it is no longer possible for us to stand still without getting swarmed. We have our bug nets on to protect our heads and bug spray on any other exposed skin but they are still very annoying.

We setup camp after having hiked only about 12 miles for the day. It may sound like a short day but it took us 5.5 hours to cover the first 5 miles and get over the pass. The pass left us both feeling exhausted and stopping for the night was very welcome. As we setup camp we see a very large coyote jumping around in the grass near us hunting for food. It does not notice us at first but as soon as it does is off into the trees.