Today, we went over Pitamikan Pass, which was described as the most dangerous of the four passes on the trip. It is also our last pass before we go to East Glacier to nearo (hike small miles, usu <10mi) into a town and resupply, eat hot food, do laundry, call loved ones, etc. So we were quite determined come hell or high water. The approach to the pass was thick with snow, and we had microspikes on for ~2 miles during the climb up.
I was hiking behind Barrel Roll on a snowy patch when he unexpectedly rolled an ankle. He literally fell backwards and lay in the snow writhing in agony. He has an unfortunate tradition of rolling his ankle on thruhikes, so was somewhat expecting this, and saddened all the same. He took a few ibuprofen, and he gamely walked on. Unfortunately, I think this may plague him during the rest of the trip, but he always toughs it out.
He had a trekking pole strapped on his pack which nearly sliced my leg as he fell, but I managed to mostly jump back and was merely grazed. I was quite lucky. He did wipe out on one of my poles which is bent at quite an awkward angle. I'm hoping the kind folks at Leki can send me a replacement part.
The rest of the ascent was stunning, snaking between two glacial lakes which are still deep blue and studded with floating, rectangular icebergs. The top of the pass was beautiful with views of the two lakes, Mt. Morgan and the lake in the distant South. We rolled South, which was relatively clear, with the occasional sketchy snowfield. Nothing impassable, esp. compared with yesterday. But, if there's one thing the trail teaches out, it is hubris. We reached a snowfield so slick and soft from the afternoon melt, We did not think we could cross, even in microspikes.
Swiss Miss found a direct path down the hill, which involved a steep scramble down a rocky and grassy cliffside. I slide down on my rear for parts, and had my ice axes and pole ready for the rest. The descent was possibly the most stressful of the hike to date. Emotionally spent, we lunched at the base of the cliff, sunned our soaking tents, and then walked into Two Medicine.
The campground is the very lap of luxury, replete with bear boxes, flush toilets and established campsites. There are even picnic tables! I washed down by the river, like a river nymph, I like to think. However passersby probably mistook me for a homeless person, crouched in her underwear, standing on a rock by s bridge, sponging herself with a buff (a circular non-cotton bandanna). The water was glacially cold (no pun intended), and I couldn't swim for fear of my muscles locking and needing to be fished out.
Also ran into the ranger we had met 7 days ago looking for a permit. So nice to see him, and gave him the scoop on trail conditions and wildlife sightings.
Once we all convened, we rolled on to the local camp store (i.e., a small general store to serve campers). The feverish trail rumor was that the store had hot dogs! When we arrived, the hot dog machine had just been shut down, rollers no longer spinning. Even so, Emily and I managed to consume nearly 1,000 calories apiece from some combination of microwavable burritos, Sprite, boxed triangle chicken salad sandwiches (from "mechanically separated chicken parts"), and popcorn. I nearly blacked out at camp, so eating such a large meal was rejuvenating.
Also, forgot to mention, on the way to the campstore, ran into a gentleman with a pair of binoculars scanning the crest was had just descended on the way into Two Medicine. He let us use his binoculars, and he pointed out the first grizzlies of the trail, gamboling on a patch of grass high on the mountain. That is and was the ideal distance for grizzly encounters. Knock on wood.
Weather tomorrow has a 90% chance of precipitation starting at noon. Plan is to run the 10.5mi to East Glacier and hole up before the rain hits.
So, bed time.
Mileage: 15mi, Atlantic Creek to Two Medicine
Sent from iPhone