Friday, September 11, 2009

San Juans Peakbagging, Day 2.5

Just after we crossed Ruby–No Name Pass, the storm hit and we scurried down through a boulder field, looking for shelter from the graupel and wind. Eventually we found a hole that we could crawl into. As the storm eased, we emerged and saw a world gone white.

We picked up our packs and continued down steep grassy slopes toward No Name Creek. I had worn boots for this trip but Dave had chosen approach shoes, and now he slipped and fell repeatedly as we plunged into a wet, icy forest. At the foot of the pass, we pushed through a broad stand of head-high willows, soaking us to the skin. After climbing two high 13'ers and crossing two high passes—nearly 5,000 feet of vertical gain and more than 6,000 feet of loss that day—we were tired and ready to stop. Then, as we emerged on the faint trail on the north side of No Name Creek, Dave asked, "Hey, can you check my pack to see if the tent poles are still there?"

Nope. The sleeve of poles and pegs had been stripped from his pack during one of his tumbles or in the dense brush. Dave volunteered to march back through the willows to the last place we had stopped for a break, but it was hopeless. The poles were gone. (Since I had last fixed the poles to Dave's pack, I should blame myself, but I'm only human. Let's split the blame 50-50.) We had four nights ahead of us, a forecast promising a "monsoonal surge" from the remnants of Hurricane Jimena, and no tent.

Dave had read of an abandoned mining cabin a ways down No Name Creek—farther from Jagged Mountain, but perhaps offering a bit of shelter—and so we headed that way. The cabin's roof had gaping holes but was intact in one corner, and as we brewed hot drinks and stripped out of wet clothes, we rigged the tent as a tarp inside the ramshackle structure. It seemed better than nothing. Continuing our full plan—Jagged Mountain and then the high traverse to Chicago Basin for two more days of climbing—now seemed out of the question, given the gloomy forecast. But we could still climb Jagged in the morning, assuming we got any sleep that night.

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