Frances (“11092”) Lake to Elba Lake
We wake early to start our climb of the dreaded Snow-Tongue Pass, always described in the top three most difficult. The south facing side is deceptively easy, at least relatively. We trudge up rather quickly. At the top of the pass, the straight down chute can only be described as: “Shoot no!” Higher to the right is a slightly less insane chute, which can be described as: “Well shoot, we came this far.”
Because of the loose rock, only one hiker should go at a time, and I guess my time has come. I begin down what can only be described as a series of slightly controlled avalanches. Hand holds, trekking poles, foot holds, everything is tried, and occasionally some work. I move left into another chute, out of the direct fall line, giving Kevin a chance to try his luck in the first.
Things seem to be going fine, until I hear a huge crashing rock slide, and massive boulders scream by on their free fall journey to the bottom. I yell for Kevin, but he cannot hear me. I yell several times, and eventually the sound of the careening boulders dissipates, and I can hear Kevin. His attention is heightened, but he is fine. At the bottom we stare back, wondering how anyone climbs up this side.
The avalanches are now over, but the seemingly endless miles of talus boulder hopping has just begun. We get into a rhythm, bouncing slightly under control from boulder top to boulder top, hoping not to slip between, twist an ankle or crush a femur.
We continue to drop down towards Wahoo Lakes. Will this ever end?
We eventually break through and make a descent into, and a climb out of, Humphrey’s Basin. As open as it seems, we cannot see the lakes we are instructed to go between, because they are above us. Roper’s tip is not quite as helpful as it might have been. Once past Mesa Lake, Roper instructs us to climb a wedge to the northeast. Although the views are spectacular, it leaves us hanging, trying to figure out how high we have to climb to find a safe ledge back west to Puppet Pass. Having to come down in elevation to get to the pass is a little frustrating, but we make it alive, which is a clear plus.
The north side of Puppet Pass looks just a little too much like Snow-Tongue Pass. It is steep! There are black clouds all around us, so we are motivated to move on. As we descend, however, we realize what a difference stable talus can make. We do not experience the rock slides and avalanche rides from the previous pass.
We scramble down past Puppet Lake, and drop further to our targeted camp at Elba Lake. We are early, but if it is going to rain, we want our tents set up first.
While filtering water Kevin drops his bottle lid, which magically travels into a deep rock crevice. When he shows me the problem I say, “Well we aren’t getting that out.” Kevin replies, “Your dad would not give up so easily.” He is right. I go get his tent poles from camp, and after some prodding, manage to free the cap. Thanks Dad, for the motivation.
The clouds are blowing in and out, unsure of what they are going to do. But we know what we will do… sleep soundly.