Mile 743 to 750
At sometime after midnight I poke out my head and see stars. It is a great sign. There is clearly snow on the ground, but clear skies mean sun, and sun means snow melt. One of my water bottles is frozen, but the one in my tent is not. I go back to sleep.
When I wake at six there are dark clouds moving in. I have three more exit trails that all lead to a road to Lone Pine. I scout high on a ridge above my tent to see what weather is headed my way. It is not good. I hike back to my camp. Water I pour into my pot is freezing to the sides. It would make great ice cream, but I am trying to make coffee. As I finish my ice coffee, Klutz and Mountain Goat arrive. They were camped about a half mile back. We agree to meet up at the last exit trail in about 7 miles to make a decision. They move on, to keep from freezing.
I pack up in cold and freezing snow. I follow their snowy footprints. By the time we reach Cottonwood it is snowing really hard and even worse where we are headed. If hikers were not able to get through a few days ago, now has got to be much worse. What we need is information. How long will this storm last? Has anyone gotten through? Can we purchase better gear and make it? There are no answers up here. It is decided. We head down the Cottonwood trail. It snows harder and harder as we walk. There is no second guessing.
We arrive at a campground looking like rats that crawled from the sewer. Before I can even use the pit toilet, three cars pull up. Two had committed to giving rides to other hikers who were down the road. The pickup took the three of us. I told them they were sent to us from heaven. Later that day we talked to a Danish thru-hiker who waited over 3 hours for a hitch. And that was the 2nd car she had seen. It is a long, steep windy road from close to the highest point in the US to the desert floor of Lone Pine. Our saviors explain that they have sold their home and replaced it with a travel home. They are visiting every national park in the country.
We check into a hotel, grab fast food, and do loads of laundry. At the outfitters people are returning rented crampons. They had tried for two days straight to make it to Whitney. Professional guides returned saying drifts were over 10 feet thick.
NOTE: We are also told that a body was being recovered on Forester Pass. It is believed to be a thru-hiker wearing shorts. Flash, who is ahead of us, is known for wearing shorts. I did not include this rumor in my blog at the time, for fear of upsetting my parents.
Clearly, we need a new plan.