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Mile 166.6 to Mile 175.4 (best campsite ever)
When we woke up this morning, Scout gave us the report on Apache by Stray ( a past AT thruhiker that was about a day ahead of us).... it wasn’t great... we all decided to hike the 1000 ft climb up to Spitler Creek trail junction and decide what to do there. We said goodbye to Ginger, who was heading down at Forbes, and marched on.
Right before reaching Spitler we encountered our first small snow covered narrow incline - Scout was a ways ahead of us and had already crossed. Andrea and I put on our spikes and made it across pretty quickly and decided to wait for Warp Drive, who was behind us to cross safely.
She came along about 15 minutes behind us and we could see she was struggling. By the time she reached us, she was really upset with her body. I haven’t mentioned this but Warp Drive has been hiking with a benign tumor/growth in one of her knees that prevents her from bending or extending her knee to any productive stride/gait. She literally is amazing to be doing this with such a handicap. She pushes herself beyond any of us... the realization that her knee was going to prohibit her going through on the dangerous snow/ice ahead really had her feeling down on herself. Andrea and I lifted her up a little and told her she needed to not be disappointed, but proud of what she could accomplish.
As we approached Spitler Peak trail junction (the last out before Apache), we got a text from Scout - he didn’t like the first snow patch either and had decided he was going down. I was glad Warp Drive would have someone else not pushing through. Andrea and I both felt we wanted to go forward and at least see conditions... and another hiker that had camped at Spitler, Danimal, asked if he could join our “team”.
The three of us took a moment to discuss what our team contract was - if one person wanted to bail, we all would bail, we would hike together and wait for each other at the beginning and end of any sketchy parts, we exchanged each other’s emergency contacts... I would go first, Andrea second and Danimal as the caboose.
A little nervous we began to cross mile 169... I chose to only wear my spikes and to forego my ice axe because I felt more balanced with my trekking poles, Andrea and Danimal decided to forego the trekking poles feeling more secure with an ice axe. I seriously don’t think Andrea and I took a single breath in this mile... focusing on three points of contact and sure footing with each step. Looking down the cliff was scary... just the realization of how easy it would be to just slip and one slip was a fall with nothing to stop your slide for hundreds of feet. We did stop at the memorial for Trevor and said a prayer for his family and a tribute to him. I swear The sounds of our huge exhales as we passed the “danger” area echoed through the mountains.
We weren’t through the snow... but we were through the fear section... relief was tangible.
Now to backup... I had texted Spirit the night before saying we planned to make it to the tent site at 180 tonight and he should meet us there to continue on and do a sunrise summit of San Jacinto. 14 miles would be an easy day...he sounded doubtful In our plans... which I thought was weird... yet here we were 4 miles in to the day and 5 hours of travel... and around the bend comes Spirit at 171... he knew we were never going to make 180 and had retraced his steps to meet us... because he was worried about us in the snow.
We were through the icy slope ... but the obstacles were just beginning... more snow... giant downed trees and a rock slide ... by the time we reached 174... eight miles in 10 hours... we were done - Andrea and I just wanted camp and warmth... Spirit had to push a forward... but my oh my... the tent site at 175.4 was incredible and I was so glad he pushed us there. It was a long day, but the most rewarding camp. And Andrea, who I named Nike during the day because of her just do it attitude .... and I looked at each other and agreed we felt badass. We only know about 8 hikers who have not skipped this section and here we were 42 year old women rocking it.