Friday, July 30, 2010

IPW Backpacking, Day 5

We woke up early (5:15) to a gorgeous sunrise. Finally, a day where the weather seemed back to normal for Colorado (clear and sunny except for a passing thunder storm in the afternoon).

We ascended the east ridge of Sawtooth (class 3) which was a really fun scramble. We met two other hikers who had camped out the night before to do this climb. They said they saw three moose as they hiked by our camp -- lucky them!!!

After talking with Sean and Liz for a while on the summit, Laurel and I headed south on the Divide to Algonquin peak. We stopped first at unnamed point 12,155...

... and then started up the LONG ridge to the summit of Algonquin. Great views from that summit, but we didn't stick around long since the clouds were gathering.

We backtracked to the east ridge of Algonquin towards the valley between it and the smaller "mountain" known as Coney Island. The descent was supposed to be class 2, but we ended up on some nasty choss -- Laurel slid down the scree and I found some mostly-stable boulders to scramble down.

We wanted to try to summit Coney Island, but once again the storms forced us back to camp. On the way back we saw a helicopter fly by as we were hiking around Coney Lake. It must have been heading up to RMNP.

Just as the tent came into sight, we saw a group of trail runners on the trail a few thousand feet away. We figured it was a Boulder Trail Runners group (it was). Looked like fun!

(Click picture for a fully zoomed in view)

We once again waited for the storms to pass and packed up camp. We hiked the Buchanan Pass Trail east to the Beaver Creek Trail. Where the two trails intersect is actually outside the designated wilderness area. No big deal, there are plenty of places that are not "wilderness" that we've hiked, but as soon as we rounded the corner we were on a wide 4WD road. And right at that moment, a Jeep happened to be repeatedly driving through the river. His son was in the front seat and his young daughter was in the back wrapped in some sort of bag wearing goggles. Very strange, guess it kept her dry. After 5 days of only seeing a few people, a few aircraft fly over, and nothing else but nature, this was strange.

Within maybe a quarter mile we were back in the wilderness, continuing south on the Beaver Creek Trail. We wanted to get as far south as we could to be in good position fro the morning. We passed one large creek and didn't think to stop to filter water. We continued on for an hour to a spot we thought would be great for the night, which is when we realized we were running low on water.

After examining the map, we hoped to find the source of Beaver Creek. We hiked for a bit, and found a creek barely big enough to get water. Downhill a ways, Laurel found a great campsite. It was flat -- this would be the first night we wouldn't be rolling to the left or sliding down towards our feet! The weather was cooperating too -- it appeared that we would be able to make dinner without rain.

But instead of rain, there were flies/fleas/gnats swarming around us. They especially liked flying into our eyes, ears, and hair. It was disgusting. I made a very small smoky fire to try to get rid of them. It helped, but it was still not fun constantly waving our arms and hats around to scare them away. We cleaned up after eating chicken and dumplings (and chocolate cheesecake for dessert!) and settled down for the night. We killed all the flies in the tent and laid down. Twenty minutes later the wind started, and didn't stop until 6:30am. Not just a little breeze, either. We were just above treeline in an open meadow and the wind kept gusting enough that our tent poles would bend. Neither of us got much sleep.

(Oh yeah, and that nice flat campsite? Well, it turns out it was level, but it was not flat. There were large clumps of grass sticking into the smalls of our backs all night.)

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