We did not wake up early this morning by any means. Garbelly watched the sun rise over Lonesome Lake, quickly illuminating Pingora and the rest of the Cirque. Rolling back over to wait until 7:00 to wake up Critter, his sleeping pad ended up acting as an alarm clock. Since the camp spot was directly next to Liam and Kate's tent, everyone awoke from the plastic rustling.
We were ready around 7:30, but all took time to drink coffee and admire the view. Secretly, we were all stalling our climb up and over Texas Pass. It was not until forty minutes later that we got started hiking. Walking around Lonesome Lake, we heard climbers hundreds of feet above us on the side of Pingora. We would have killed to have climbing gear with us. However, thru hiking is not the best thing for a climber's body. Critter's climbering feet have certainly been going through an identity crisis with all this walking.
The climb up to Texas Pass was very steep. Not steep in a "fall off of a cliff" type of way, but more so in a "make your calves burn" type of way. We slowly trudged our way to the top. It had been surprisingly easier than we had made it out to be. As we climbed, the Cirque rose high behind us and seemed to be just an arm's length away. We were at the same elevation that the climbers we saw earlier were at. As we climbed towards the pass, a feeling of excitement took over us thinking about our view on the other side of the pass. Another feeling of sadness crossed our minds. We were leaving the most beautiful thing we had seen in almost two thousand miles.
Then we entered the corridor of Texas Pass. It was a narrow pass that felt like a hundred foot tall doorway to the next part of our hike. As we reached the middle, everything became completely quiet. None of us said a word. We just stood in the pass and listened to the lack of wind blowing through the trees or the sound of water rushing down the mountain. Even though we were over 12,000 feet, we felt comforted by the security of this pass. After taking it all in, we ate a quick snack and headed down the mountain.
On the other side, we basically had a controlled free fall down a slide of scree. We got our first views of a partially frozen Texas Lake and the valley below. A single iceberg wondered through the lake, appearing like a small sailboat to us from high above. As we got closer, we began a mile traverse across a snowfield that fed into the lake. There was not necessarily a steep slope on the snow, but one slip would have sent us sliding into a frigid lake with our packs still on our backs. We stepped quickly and carefully and made it across with only a few slips that raised our heart rates.
From here we walked down to Billy's Lake to eat lunch. Getting over the pass and down had taken the better part of our day, but this lake was too pretty to pass up a relaxing place to fish. The lake overlooked the opposite side of the Cirque and we were able to see large towers we had not previously seen. Here Liam admitted he was feeling very ill and did not know if he could do the big miles to the trailhead into Pinedale that we had planned on doing. We hated to break off from hiking with them, but it is definitely smart to listen to your body out here. Yes, anything is possible if you push hard enough. However, sometimes pushing too hard leads to more days off trail recovering than just dealing with it right away.
From leaving the lake, we spent the rest of our day fording creeks and dropping elevation. Dodging in and out of thunderstorms, we struggled to stay dry and safe from mosquitoes. The further we hiked, the more pools of stagnate water we passed, the worse the mosquitoes got. As it began to get darker, we could not take it anymore and decided to set up our tent. We were a mile short of our mileage goal for the day, but the mosquitoes were terrorizing us. Without stopping, we took out the tent and tyvek and walked in fast circles while setting up and slapping our legs. As soon as the mesh was up, Critter got in and quickly zipped the door shut. Garbelly continued running circles and staked down the tent before quickly getting inside. In the three seconds the door was unzipped, ten to twenty mosquitoes followed us inside. After killing them all we looked out at our packs to see them covered.
We still had to cook dinner and an oncoming storm meant we had to put up the rain fly on the tent... After a few dozen more mosquito bites, we fell asleep to the sound of buzzing and the sound of thunder overhead. We are not sure which was louder.
Garbelly & Critter