So... We Took a Wrong Turn
Saturday - Mt. Baden-Powell
So, as you know, we left Saturday morning with Tarzan and Zelda to tackle the snow on Mt. Baden-Powell. We have considered not telling the following story, however, given this is a blog about our adventures on the PCT, we can't really leave this out. So here we go. The important thing to remember is - we are alive.
Going up Baden-Powell was a challenge in and of itself. There are 40 switchbacks going up to the top (9,300 elevation), and after about 12 or so, we lost the trail altogether due to snow. So we started hiking straight up the snow. This was a bit hard and tiring, but there were enough steps ahead of us that we did okay. I found myself to be the queen of slipping (in part to the tread on my shoes), so there were a few moments of panic, but I went slow and made sure each step was sturdy before stepping. We got up to the top of Baden-Powell around 2:30, took a small break before starting to head back down. As Steve says, anyone familiar with the hike from hell at Hockett Meadow can appreciate this mountain - this is the same amount of uphill in 4 miles as Hockett Meadow is in 9 miles, and half of this was in snow!
The trail follows the ridge for quite a while, but footprints lead in many different directions. We were following Zelda and Tarzan, who started following footprints to the right - down the north face (that is, the snowy side) of a mountain. Pretty soon the footprints disappeared, but after a look at the map, it was decided the trail does go down to the right. So we continued on...
After several more feet down the snowy mountain, we decided the trail may not actually be going this way, but at this point we were too far down to turn around and go back - it was too steep and we were too tired. WAAAY down the mountain we could see the road (the closed Hwy 2, which we could have walked from the beginning), so that became our goal.
We kept going down the steep, snow-covered mountain. At this point Steve started
cutting steps for everyone else, which were helping. However, he hit an icy patch and slipped - sliding about 30-40 feet down the mountain before stopping himself with this hiking poles, which as you can see, caused the pole to bend. Luckily I didn't see this.
The rest of us get down to Steve, and we see off to the right there is dirt. At this point it is about 4 p.m. and we better get down quick before the snow turns icy. Tarzan leads us toward the dirt, and we keep traversing the mountain, making our own steps as we go (you might say we are "senior boy" hiking). As we get closer to the road, we can't tell which way will lead us safely down - will we come out onto a cliff and not be able to get down?
We come to a very narrow canyon that is covered with snow and we decide this is our best bet for getting out to the road. Zelda starts to walk down, but pretty quickly it becomes apparent that glissading is the way to go (sit on your butt and slide, controlling your speed with your feet). So we sit and glissade, and luckily the snow shoot leads out to the road. Zelda was so happy she kissed the pavement. We walked about 200 feet up the highway and camped on the side of the closed road on the pavement.
The casualties: Zelda was wearing shorts, so her glissading didn't go so well. She ended up with two skinned butt cheeks. They oozed for the rest of the trip to Agua Dulce (ourcurrent location), and she is now at the doctor's office. We are hoping they can help her. We lost 3 bottles of water out of the side pockets of our backpacks, and are now
the proud owners of a broken camera. Unfortunately it's "ultra-lightweight" design does not stand up well against sliding down a snowy mountain. We can still take
pictures, but we can't see about two-thirds of the screen due to a white square (as shown here).
As I told Steve when I got down the mountain, "well, I did come on this hike for an adventure." And an adventure it was - one I hope to never duplicate. In all honesty, I have never been more afraid for my life and while this tale can be retold in several paragraphs, the three hours spent clinging to the mountainside were far more exhausting than I can convey.
For your reference, following is the mountain we came down, as shown from the road. If you look closely, you can see where we glisaded down. This picture only shows about one-eighth of the mountain we climbed down.
As this post is now entirely too long, I will tell you about the following days in another post. It will not be nearly as exciting... thank God!