|The Herman Saddle group|
It was quite a day! We had so many people that Al broke us into two groups, which would hike the Chain Lakes look in separate directions. Fortunately for me, I was in the Herman Saddle group, because as it turned out, we were the only ones that completed the loop.
We started our hike towards Herman Saddle, while the other group headed up the Wild Goose trail, a steep beginning to the hike that takes you to Artist Point, where you make a traverse to the beginning of the downward trek to Herman Saddle. There were nine people in our group, and ten in the other. Once we were out there, we have no cellphone coverage so we were on our own.
|Crossing another snow field on our way to the saddle (taken by Carol)|
We kept getting into more and more snow fields as we climbed towards the saddle, more than I have ever seen at this time of the year, and I was dubious about what it would be like on the other side, which gets even less sunlight. We kept on going upwards.
|Roger in glacier glasses, waiting for the rest of the group|
Since I was slowing down even more than usual, because of the snow, Roger and Doug, our strongest hikers, went on ahead to meet us at the top. When I got there and we assessed the situation, I was really dismayed to see the amount of snow that we would need to navigate.
|The view from Herman Saddle|
When we get to this spot, there is usually a bit of snow still hanging around, but this was so different: there is a trail somewhere under all that snow, leading to Iceberg Lake and our return trail. It was invisible, but some other hikers had already come up before us, so we decided we could follow their trail down. That's just what we did.
|Iceberg Lake, living up to its name|
This is what we found, when we finally reached Iceberg Lake. This was where we thought we might run into the other group, going the other direction, but there was no sign of them. When we were in this same place last year, on July 2, several of our Trailblazers took a swim. Not this year!
|Top: last year, bottom: today|
What a difference! And we still had several miles to cover before we reached Artist Point and safety. Once we began our trek towards Artist Point, we had several stretches of dry trail, which was so much easier to navigate than the snow.
|Unnamed lake south of Iceberg|
Chain Lakes has several lakes that were virtually free of ice, as you can see from the picture. And you can also see that our sky wasn't exactly welcoming as we headed up the final push towards Artist Point. Doug was in the lead, and I could see where we were headed by watching him. And finally we made it to the Ptarmigan Ridge junction, with only downhill ahead of us. I asked for a picture.
|Sylvia, Doug, me, Melanie, Roger, Carol, Bob, Steve|
(Larry took the picture)
By the time we got here, I knew that the other group must had turned around at some point instead of heading down and around. We took bets as to where they got to. Well, after this picture was taken, we had to traverse several sections of snow where you would definitely NOT want to lose your footing. I figured that if we had started in this direction, it would have been enough to decide to turn around.
|Bathroom at Artist Point, half covered in snow|
But we made it to safety, with nobody the worse for wear. We made a quick stop at the almost-buried bathroom and then headed for the Wild Goose trail. It looked daunting, so we decided to start our downward journey on the road. Some went the entire way by the road, and others headed over to the trail once the hardest part was over.
|Getting down to the road|
We learned that the other group had gone as far as the spot where the group photo was taken and decided to turn around and head back. If we had known what was ahead, we probably would have, too. But I'm glad we got to go on the entire loop, not all that long (7.5 miles total), but it was an adventure I'm glad is behind me. Another fine day in the wilderness, and we got to remember that it's always different from year to year!