Every Spring we eagerly anticipate the opening of an obscure forest road that provides access to one of my favorite lakes. Snow closes this road by November and if it is clear by July it's a good year. The earliest we've ever had access was in April 2015 after a historically snow-poor winter. In 2012 and 2014 we had to wait until July, but in 2016 we were lucky with a pair of trips in May and June. Look at any of these trips and you'll see melting lakes, deep snow, and blue skies. You can understand why we want to get up there as soon as possible.
The weather forecast for this trip was decent. But as you know the weather in the mountains can change quickly. The road was reportedly clear almost to the trailhead and it had been warm for the week so that shouldn't be a problem. What could go wrong?
Low clouds hung over the lowlands, but hope springs eternal. If you only go into the mountains when the weather is perfect you'll never go to the mountains. And the road? Yes, almost clear to the trailhead, but the snow that had only recently melted had pushed the alders down into the road making it a cringe-worthy scrape-fest. The tangle of trees extended well up the trail culminating in a dicey creek crossing. Once we got into the mature forest the route was in much better shape.
All this sounds like great fun, but the real joy began when we arrived at Lake Lillian. How many times have we been to Lillian over the years? A dozen? Two? Probably more. I feel I know it like my backyard. But not this time.
The low clouds we saw from the valley filled the lake basin. The fog was thick enough that visibility was greatly, greatly reduced. So much so that it was disorienting walking across the frozen lake. Treen faded away into the white and then reappeared when I called her back. We got to the other side, of course, but where were we on the other side? All the landmarks we use to find the gully we needed to climb (the "Gully of Doom" according to Henry) were hidden by the fog. Were we here or here or here? Was that the gully or just a cliff? WHERE ARE WE?
With no better option we picked a slope that looked right and headed up. Steep, steeper, steepest! Nope. That wasn't it. The question became whether we were to climber's left or right of the gully. We traversed to the left, but we chose poorly and found ourselves farther from the gully than before. BAH!
In the snow, the slopes looked so different than what I remembered. Not being able to see anything more than 50 feet away had me completely confused, but traipsing around in the hills has made me want to visit the area again in better conditions. On this day, though, we had to call it when the slope became too steep and the only real outcome was more wandering. I did get a great glissade, though.
Back down at the lake we walked along the shore and finally, finally found our gully. It had been right in front of us when we first crossed the lake, but just couldn't see it. Even with better visibility it looked foreign and strange. We might as well have never been there before. I can see how people can become turned around and really lost in bad conditions.
We didn't get our Ramparts Tour this time, but you can bet we'll be back to see the area before the snow is all gone. We just need slightly better weather.