King Rat (gkr) wrote,
King Rat

Ascent (Saturday morning)

We started across the parking lot and gathered at the sign at the start of the Glacier Basin trail. At this point, Eddie decided to point out that it would be a good idea to use our ski poles for walking. First item that I needed that I did not have. Would have been nice if he had put that on the list of equipment we needed. Leslie didn't really want to use hers, and offered to let me use them for the climb. I declined (I hate borrowing other peoples' stuff).

We then began up the trail. The first 3/4 mile is mostly through a forested area. I was a little slower than everyone else, but that was mostly because I spent more effort balancing myself without poles. Eddie stopped to point out a tree well and it's danger. A tree well is an area around a tree where there is less snow, forming a depression. In two feet of snow, this is not dangerous. In six feet of snow, you do not want to slip and fall into one. Also dangerous was around fallen trees, which have some of the same effect.

The two miles of the trail had less trees on it. This part was almost completely snow covered, with a few bare spots. We were following along the White River, along the mountainside. I began to fall further and further behind. Only Sarah and William, our assistant instructor, were behind me. Without poles, I couldn't even begin to think about keeping up. With poles, it would have been extremely difficult for me. I was tired and I couldn't breathe. I also drank through all my fluids.

The group stopped several points along the way for Eddie to show us more hazards on snow covered trails. We passed through three avalanche areas. The trees were knocked down like twigs. In most spots, the Park Rangers had chainsawed through stuff blocking the trail, at least enough to get through. But in one, we had to heave ourselves over a fallen tree that sat about 4 or 5 feet off the ground. In another place, the edge of the White River covered the trail. At this point I borrowed one of Leslie's poles to balance myself as I walked along the new bank of the river, occasionally having to step into the water. Many in our party were wearing plastic climbing boots. I wore leather Vasque boots with Goretex. The plastic boots are absolutely waterproof. The only way water can get into them is through the top, or from your sweat. Goretex can fail over time. However, my boots were new, so my feet stayed dry and cozy.

The last 3/4 mile was across snow with little trees at all. In many places I could hear water running underneath. We could see little streamlets come off the mountain and disappear underneath the snow pack. But underneath the snow pack was the White River. This was no streamlet. But with 6 to 10 feet of snow above it, we weren't likely to fall through. If you haven't ever been in a snowfield in sunlight, I would highly suggest doing so at least once. It is a majestic site. The light is very much like I would imagine a near death experience would be like. Easy enough to go blind. However, we all had good sunglasses or glacier glasses.

During the summer, the trail does not travel over the place where the snow field is now. It climbs a hill and goes directly into the Glacier Basin campground. But traveling over the snow field is a more direct route for all the snowboarders and skiers, and we followed their path.

And then we turned a corner and were in what must be a beautiful meadow during the summer. At the moment, it was covered with perhaps 8 to 12 feet of snow. Eddie announced that this is where we would be making camp.

Next entry, Settlement (Saturday afternoon).


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