9/30 Carathras the Cruel

by sedona maniak

Miles hiked: 13.43 (2452.82 to 2466.25)
Elevation: +4211/-2869
Number of times my hands went numb today: 6

Woke up to rain and low clouds hoping that the weather report from a few days before, predicting only scattered showers for today, was still accurate. Packed my very damp belongings and departed. Even for a slacker day, this wouldn't be an easy one. Piper Pass then straight down to a creek, then straight up to Surprise Mountain Gap, then back down again. 4200 up in 10 miles or so.

Washington is a giant puddle waiting for a huge toddler in Wellington boots to splash through. I am a hiker in trail runners and rain gear, though, and quickly became miserable as the rain increased and temperature dropped. Halfway up the second pass, rain became snow. My hands froze to my staff and trekking pole. Wind picked up. I slipped in the snotty clay and went sprawling in the mud, twisting knees and ankles. Had I not already decided to end the hike, today would have done it anyway. I was reminded of Tolkien's evil mountain, Carathras.
We plodded quickly down the second pass to get below the snow, ending our day at 3:30pm, setting up damp tents while shivering uncontrollably. Gods, but it is nice to be with someone else who can keep her wits about her in a potentially hazardous situation. From tent to tent, we called out welfare checks to each other until the dangers of hypothermia and frostbite had passed.
Around 6:30, I heard a familiar voice call out, "hey guys." Space Age, one of my favorite folks on the trail, was also frozen and drowned. We convinced him to stop before the weather could do any more harm. He camped with us and we added him into the welfare checks. Wonderful to see him again, even in these circumstances. What a crazy last night on this beast of a trail.