ways. Once we got to the south face, we all saw it: a wall of snow
where so many switchbacks should be. There were footsteps, but this
was a knee-shaker of a scary one. As Noll (a thruhiker from
Mississippi) put it, "it was dicey."
We donned our crampons (metal spikes we attach to the bottom of our
shoes to help grip the snow better), held on to our ice axes, and
ascended the icey stair. It was possibly the most physically
demanding half hour I had known till that point in life (until the
next day). Let me say here, that I've never been more worried for and
proud of Caterpillar than while we slogged up that sucker.
Obviously, we lived, and when coming down the other side we found a
chute where folks had glissaded. However, the snow waa still too hard
- Zelda tried it out and cut up her hand for the pleasure of being
first. I saw blood on the snow, yet again. Really, walking down was
pretty easy for me until we got lower than the snow and I slipped on a
rock and broke another pole.
For a while after that, I was in a funk because I use my poles in so
many ways and we still had days filled with snowy passes before I
could replace my month-old pole. Also, two poles would have been
handy as we descended the "golden staircase," a brutal set of steps
and switchbacks built into a granite mountain next to a waterfall. My
knees hated Black Diamond's shoddy construction that day.
After all that, we hiked about 10 more miles along Palisade creek and
the South fork of the King river to meet up with T & Z at a Mosquito
convention, where we made camp.
Today's picture is inexplicably dark, but adds a nice touch of
melodrama to the dicey wall of snow on Mather pass. You might be able
to make out the footprints coming up the mountain.