Hot weather in the lowlands. An on-shore flow. Getting a little humid. Are those thunder clouds over my mountains? The very same mountains where I was hoping to escape this oppressive heat (75F!) and roll in some snow? Say it isn't so!
Or at least say I don't care.
In spite of some worriers trying to put the kibosh on the trip we made it to the trailhead in one piece with nary a cloud in the sky. Of course, after being lightninged out of here before we kept an eye on the sky as we climbed up to Lake Lillian.
Charming as always and still mostly frozen. Not frozen enough to walk across (probably), but frozen enough to skirt the edge of the rocks and traverse high into the gully. The gully was not at all friendly and instead of being full of nice kickable snow it was covered in ice. I had crampons, but Eric didn't and I didn't want him to feel too bad so I joined him in walking up through the brush.
The other side of the hill was predictably buried in snow and entirely foreign. The tarns we usually have to walk around were an easy stroll. The sometimes circuitous trail was replaced by point-to-point routes that got us to the saddle below Rampart Ridge quickly,
The plan was to glissade down to the Rampart Lakes below, tour around the lakes, and then climb back up to Rampart Ridge for the sunset. Sounded like a good plan. I'm always up for a great glissade.
Too bad this wasn't one.
Instead of zipping along like a Porsche on the Autobahn it was more like my 40 year old Jeep on the Middle Fork Road. (For those of you reading this in the future, the Middle Fork used to be a dirt road that was heavily potholed except for the three weeks after it was graded. Back in the day, we didn't have none of yer fancy pants pavement to get to our trails!)
Needless to say, it was bumpy. Painfully so and not worth a slide. Still, we continued down to the lakes and were rewarded with blue-ringed lakes just starting to melt out and none of the bugs or crowds usually inhabiting this marvelous area. The setting sun was just turning he snow above us pink when we started up the 300 foot slope to the summit.
Wait. Did I say 300 feet? I meant 700 feet. I'm lousy with elevation estimation. That's why I have maps and GPS. Even at 700 feet straight up, it wasn't that bad. The suncups that had destroyed our glissade made for pretty good steps heading up. And while I was hard pressed to not fall too far behind Eric on the dry trails below Lake Lillian I was able to rest step up the hill without too much trouble.
Not that Eric wasn't urging me on for the last 50 feet to ensure we caught the sunset. And I'm glad he did.
Spec-______-tacular! (If you get my meaning.)
It'd been blue skies for us the entire trip, but now the clouds were gathered on the horizon with just enough smoke from fires in Asia to give us a really killer sunset. And suddenly it wasn't just clouds on the horizon, but clouds blowing up the sheer cliffs of Rampart Ridge and spilling over into the valley.
When the colors faded we headed back down past the tarns and through the gully and around Lake Lillian. It was so late when we got back to the car that we didn't even hit the Pour House. No worries, though. It was well worth it.