CDT Day 53: where’d the water go?

mile to 876.9 to 892.9: 16 miles

Total miles: 775.6

I poked my head out of my sleeping bag when I smelled the coffee at quarter to six. I righted myself, and quickly fixed myself a peanut butter bagel. While morning sickness is mostly behind me, to keep any nausea at bay I need to eat immediately after waking up. We managed to get out of camp an hour later, and were on our way uphill immediately. Sleeping above 12,000ft seemed to help us acclimate to the altitude, and we weren’t huffing and puffing as much as we switchbacked up a mountain. A lot of the peaks out here don’t have names, or if they do they aren’t on any of our maps. There are just so many prominent features, it would be difficult to name them all. So we hike from nameless peak to nameless peak, loosely following the Continental Divide.

We felt good after the climb, especially because it was the biggest climb we could expect all day. We took a break at a mountain stream, and then continued on down. The rest of the day was supposed to be small ups and downs, but we quickly realized that “small” for the San Juans means choppy straight ups and downs, tied together by slushy snow fields. After one particularly steep up, we happened upon Mouse and Shadow having lunch, so we joined them as lunch is always a good idea. We talked about the rest of the day, and had our sights set on a lake about 9 miles away to camp for the evening. We’d already made 10 miles, we figured we could do 9 more easily.

Unfortunately, we were mistaken. Whenever we find ourselves thinking the CDT will be easy, we should probably reconsider our expectations! The rest of the afternoon had us post-holing through wet snow, walking on muddy wet trails, and basically getting our feet wet at every turn. We stoped for a snack a couple hours after lunch and we were shocked to learn we’d barely gone two miles. I started to rethink getting to the lake, but was optimistic that things may improve.

We turned a corner and started following a ridge. We started thinking about getting some water, but there was none to be found. We’ve become so used to their being ample water, it seemed like a joke that here we were in the hot sun, surrounded by snow patches, with soaking wet feet, but no flowing water to be found anywhere. We ran into Mouse and Shadow again taking a break, and I told them I didn’t think that we were going to make it 5 more miles to the lake. They agreed, and we pressed on hoping some water would appear so that we could camp sooner than later. While melting snow was always an option, it takes a lot of time and fuel to melt snow to accumulate the amount of water we needed.

We came to a saddle with a small patch of snow with puddles at the edges, and we attempted to collect some of the water, but it was too shallow to collect. We were contemplating digging a hole to make collection easier, or melting snow, when Shadow and Mouse came down the trail. Mouse wasn’t feeling well, so they were going to camp here regardless. He used his ice axe to scrape away some of the snow to see if there was a puddle underneath, and he found one that refilled as we scooped clear water out of it. Both Garrett and I tried to make similar holes, but we couldn’t find any puddles- Shadow hit water gold!

We took turns scooping from the puddle, slowly accumulating all of the water we needed for the evening. Once we had finished collecting and filtering, we made camp and ate dinner. It ended up being a great spot, mostly thanks to Shadow and his divining ice axe!