I play a guessing game at passes. It works like this: since there are X miles until the pass, I wonder which saddle/outcropping/rockslide will count as Y pass. Pinchot got me good. Seven miles of twisting ever upwards, following rocky waterfalls and purple hemlock flowers confounded me. When the final climb appeared, I had failed to identify it for a couple hours, so winding was the trail. From a trail crew clearing a patch of snow, I'd heard that a pack train of mules and horses was headed for the pass, and, as I was sitting in a funk of exhaustion chatting with String Cheese and Far Out at the summit, the lead horse appeared. Great photos of the packers dipping over Pinchot.
Far Out and I plodded down the slushy slope. I postholed down to my right hip and heard a snowmelt stream rushing under me. He made a cautious move to help me, and I told him to keep back. It took me a minute to heft myself, pack-laden in a messy push-up, out of the freezing hole. I'm sure it was an excellent, clumsy spectacle. So much for ME showing Far Out how not to posthole. Further along, picking my way down another slush slope, I looked behind me to see Blue Butterfly queuing up behind Far Out to follow the snowy path. At the end of the slush, I stood and watched her fly lightly over the terrain, 67 years old, lithe with an ultralight pack, beaming smile, never slipping or even indenting the snowpack. Shaking my head and smiling, I insisted she pass me over this difficult piece.
Later in the day, after I'd fallen twice in creeks, I saw her again as I was cooking dinner. I had her pass the message on to Far Out that my wet shoes and I would not be moving any further along that day. She probably thinks I'm the biggest clutz ever.