Backpacking Travel

We Almost Died Today

By on July 3, 2016

We almost died today.

Not at the same time, but both individually. Jessi slid down the ice first. I slid later on in a different place. Today was the scariest day in a long time because we were completely overwhelmed and overcommitted to a route that was bad, then worse, then worked out. It might not have worked out. We’re not smart people. We let ourselves convince one another that it would be done, that ice wasn’t a big deal. Ice is a big deal.

I love Jessi.

I saw my life flash before my eyes as I tumbled down snow and then rock on the side of a mountain yesterday. I put my feet out front and staked my poles in the ground. Luckily I was sliding slowly enough to stop myself… Then the even scarier part was figuring how to get back up. I had fallen precisely where I saw a boulder tumble from above only moments before on the trail. I knew then that we should turn back but we were too committed and pushed ourselves forward. After all a lot of the trail had been green and gorgeous. Happy little marmots frolicked about the blue and yellow wild flowers. What could possibly go wrong…?

Nope it only got worse. I unsteadily pulled myself up the rockfall. Every small pebble moved under my boots. The boulders were above me and could tumble on top of me at any minute. Zach urged me to move and gave me a hand to hoist me up the last step as the rocks tumbled down beneath me. I was safe on hard dirt path once more. We could not turn back. That was so dangerous to cross and we held on hope that our shelter was just a short hike once we reached the other side of this small rocky section. We were so naïve. It just kept getting worse. We kept climbing higher into the snowy caps. And I was ever so hopeful still that it would be an even better view up top or that on just the other side we would descend. I was ever wrong still. The snow had been melting and the conditions worsened. The snow we were able to stomp under our crampons became slush, 2-3 ft deep slush. Near the top of a summit I suddenly found my Zach sliding. I yelled at him to stop himself. I could not bear to lose him. He did and climbed slowly back up the slush. It was so hard to go on after that. Every bit of snow or wet rock put fear into our step.

We finally reached a decision point. The signs pointed to our original cabin and to another one much closer in descent and time. The decision should have been clear for us. There was a wall of snow 6ft high. There was no way we were going to attempt that! We looked around it and saw what we thought was the path. Wrong, again. It got narrower and narrower as Zach moved further ahead. He was having trouble keeping his footing as it turned into a dangerous cliff. It was a happy little marmot trail turned deadly… We spied our original path which in fact lived beneath the wall of snow. We made our way back very carefully, one foot in front of the other. I don’t know where we would be without crampons and hiking poles. Zach attempted to trail around the snow wall. No luck. The other path was the only way to go.

Snow Wall

It was actually quite beautiful on this descent. There was furry grass and wildflowers with moss covered boulders. No treaturous sharp rocks and snow like before. We fearfully crossed one spot and then continued our descent. We pretended like all was well and Zach told me stories about skybears. We were finally having good conversation and enjoying ourselves.

Cross on mountain

It was a very beautiful path. Until we reached closer to the bottom near the lake. I was fearful that we may have to cross snow that hovered over the water and the only way was over it or going swimming in ice cold water. This luckily was not the case but unluckily we did have to cross more snow.

At this point we were over it. A shelter was but minutes away. Zach took the lead and found a way over. He slid down the last few feet and landed gracefully. I followed after and landed not so gracefully.

Rock Danger

I was fine and we marched on even closer. Closer to a place to rest and a hot meal…! We took off the crampons and picked up our pace. It is like that scene out of wizard of oz when Dorothy and her crew see the emerald city after waking up from a deep sleep in the poppy field. They get so excited and start running towards it. We woke up from a crazy dream and found ourself back in civilization. They spoke English when we arrived and were very friendly. We had soup pasta, hot tea and beer. Nothing could be better after this long day!!!

At least we applied our sunscreen…

Date: July 3, 2016 at 10:56:13 PM EDT
Location: 46.0987° N, 7.51363° E

Zach and Jessi
Atlanta, GA, USA

Hi we are Zach and Jessi. Some say we are a power couple but we are just a couple of young adults trying to get by exploring the world and creating art. We have dachshunds and draw on the sidewalk. We enjoy urban and backcountry backpacking. Follow our journey as we grow and learn from our travels.