9/8 Lake of the Clouds (4.8)

October 16, 2013 at 1:16 pm

We woke up to a steady rain at treeline.  It was light, but consistent, and the top of the mountain seemed to be pretty clouded over.  Disappointed but hopeful, we knew we had to at least make it as far as the Lake of the Clouds Hut, a quick 5 mile traverse across the exposed ridgeline.  We tried to convince ourselves that the weather had a chance of clearing and allowing us to continue, although the odds were against us.

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Still, we set out before the other thru hikers at Mizpah, determined to get an early enough start that we could change our minds.  As we hiked, the drizzle faded away and the winds picked up.  Soon we were being buffeted by 70 to 80 MPH winds and struggling for each step.  The rain manifested itself again as the big, fat drops that are an early indication of hail.  We raced to get to shelter but the hail that was promised came on full force from in front of us, stinging our exposed legs, arms, and face with red welts and blinding us.  After what felt like an eternity of pain, I broke down but Mark moved in front of me and pushed me to keep moving.  Just when I thought we couldn’t make it any further without shelter, we saw the Lake of the Cloud huts emerge from behind a cloud.  It was so beautiful.

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We ran in and stood, dripping wet and red as lobsters in the lobby while people went about their normal business, drinking tea and playing checkers at the tables.  It was a very surprising sight after our harrowing hike.  Having realized that there was no way we were going to continue along the eight plus miles of exposed ridge today, we fell on the mercy of the hut crew.  They allowed us to stay on the condition that we helped them winterize the hut for its upcoming seasonal shut down, and we gladly ate oatmeal while the rest of the Mizpah hikers (and a few extras) filed in.  Due to the extreme weather conditions everyone was allowed to stay and survive despite our lack of hundred dollar bills.  Unfortunately, this meant that there wasn’t quite enough food to go around for the hikers.  Using our stoves would have evidently upset the paying guests, so we elected to go hungry in deference to the benevolent tourists from out of state who were willing to tolerate hikers on their floor.  We huddled for warmth in the hut for the rest of the day and shivered ourselves to sleep while the unforgiving wind screamed outside and battered at the window panes, asking to come in.

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 Shelter from the storm