It is sometime in the early morning when I awaken. Peering outside, I see bright stars. The clouds have rolled back, and I figure it is safe to open up the rain fly. My shoes are still wet, but everything else stayed dry through the night of rain. I would later find out that it was not so with Brad and Grant, whose tent leaked with the incessant drip, drip, drip that soaked much of what was inside their tent. The morning is beautiful, though, with bright warm sunlight drying up the shoreline. Here, we dry out our gear.
For this longest hiking day, we have Yan’s oatmeal cookies, dried apricots and mangos, and hot drinks. This meal takes very little cleanup, and soon, we’re on our way.
The first part requires a ford at Cosley Lake’s outlet. This proves to be cold, but according to Yan, it’s easier than the crossing we did in Kauai to get to Secret Falls. From here, the trail covers flat terrain to end up at Elizabeth Lake. We make good time and have our first lunch here: beef summer sausage and smoked Gouda cheese on crackers along with mixed nuts. This lake is windy. It’s a clear day and the sun is out; I take off my wet socks and rinse off the mud. Both pairs drape over warm rocks to partly dry. In the distance, we watch the clouds roll across the jagged peaks. Just to the left, we spot Redgap Pass.
The rest of the way to the Pass is all uphill. Brad and Grant share their one pair of trekking poles. Soon after leaving treeline, we hike along fields of wildflowers. Higher up, small drainage creeks flow out of the mountainside and tumble into the valley below. We fill up at one of these streams. As we near the top, the winds pick up. The clouds scrape against the peaks around us. We feel like we’re soaring through the sky. At Redgap Pass, we take in the panoramic view of Many Glacier. My still-wet shoes feel even colder now. We choose not to linger here, as the cold winds are sapping body heat from all of us.
After having gone eight miles to this highest point, we have more than six miles to go. Quickly, we descend quite a ways before deciding to have our second lunch. I switch out my socks again. Today’s downhill is much more gradual than what we experienced yesterday, and before long, we level off onto the flat plains, where the vegetation is much drier. We must be in a rain shadow, since the storm seems to linger near the peaks, tethered to the ridge, never making it through to our side of the valley.
Our campsite turns out to be on the far side of Poia Lake, across the footbridge beyond its drainage. We are here much earlier than expected and set up everything so that the dampness can dry out. There is enough time for everyone to clean up this time. Even though the sun is out, the clouds along the western ridge line roll in and out, obscuring the warmth but allowing it to shine through occasionally.
Dinner starts with boiling hot Tom Kha soup with mushrooms and tofu, which is perfect for such a cold day of climbing, peak exposure, and bathing. Then, there are Pad Thai noodles with fresh carrots, crushed peanuts, and fresh lime. The second pot of soup warms all of us from the inside. For dessert, the two batches of dark chocolate cheesecake fit in one pan. Hot chocolate washes away the remaining chill.