Is it Summer or Winter
Trip Start Feb 19, 2010
257Trip End Jan 31, 2012
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Had originally planned to do part of the crest trail walk but unfortunately the weather didnt want to cooperate. It snowed the first day I was on the trail and it snowed all night.
In the end decided to not do the walk I had gotten a permit for and instead spent 3 nights in the south cascade canyon camp area and 1 night in the lower painted conyon area with a small side trip up to hurrican pass.
In order to get to hurrican pass I had to plow through snow, ankle, knee and mid thigh deep to make my way up to the top of the pass. Also managed to loose the trail for 30minutes before I noticed it zig zagging up the nearbly mountain. In the end got to the top of the pass, put my pack down and wandered around a bit and upon seeing all the snow decided to change my walk plans.
First off didnt feel like being a snow plow on the trail especially if it was deep in lots of places (being lazy I guess) and secondly wasnt confident that I would loose the trail at some point along the way
In the end a quite enjoyable walk and I will say walking in the snow was interesting but also a bit disappointing that I couldnt see a larger part of the park.
Getting to the Park
Left it to late before I tried to book the flight to Jackson so couldnt fly. Appears that the cheap flights that delta have sometimes doubled in price depending on when I looked. Initially flights were cheap, then same flights doubled in price when I looked again a week later, then went cheaper again. Unfortunately I procrastinated to long about what date to leave and the price went up again before I bought it.
In the end had to catch the bus, 1day 6hr trip and of course greyhound screwed me over again. Greyhound used Salt Lake Express for the later part of the trip
Ended up having to wait til 12pm for the next bus. As a result missed the last shuttle out to the park ($10) and had to catch a cab ($45) to Jenny Lake. Given it was $!0 to camp there it still worked out cheaper than spending a night in a hotel in Jackson.
Had originally expected to arrive in Jenny Lake by 11am but ended up arriving after 5pm with everything shut. As a result had to spend the night in Jenny Lake campground for a night rather than in the park. Please forgive the bitch and moan about the whether or not I should have continued my original hike but I didnt like the idea of changing my plans due to snow.
Stuck my head outside the tent that night and it was the first time that I got to see the stars without the light polution from the moon. Lots of faint stars in the skies that clustered together to cause light patches in the sky. Not quite the same as the southern hemisphere where you see more of a river of stars (milky way arm) rather than randowm patches with lots of dim stars
Day 1 - Hike to Lower Cascade camp area
Visited the ranger center to get my permit and unfortunately/fortunately could not get a permit in northern cascade camp area. At this point had planned to go up casade rather than paint brush canyon and then follow the crest trail and exit out via granite and open canyon. Also ended up booking the yellowstone tour but unlike the time I first rang up was told that I wouldnt be able get picked up from Jenny Lake but could get picked up from Colter Bay. Not to bad. Only meant I had to be back at Jenny Lake by 3pm.
Started with a nice enough hike around the lake and then up towards the cascade canyon where I had a 2 hour walk up hill. As I neared the camp ground it first started to rain, followed by a bit of hail and then a little snow. New there was a thunderstorm that night and that some snow might fall though at this point it was mostly raining.
Had originally planned to camp near the top of the southern cascade camp area but due to the weather ended up camping at one of the first campsites I came across
After setting up the tent decided on a cold meal and to climb in the tent since I was wet and it was getting cold. Crawled into the sleeping bad and ended up having to put on an extra layer of clothes to keep warm. Before going to sleep the snow started coming down constantly and had to tap it off a couple of times.
Woke up during the night to find the top of the tent sitting on top of my sleeping bag. Unfortunatley it had kept snowing all night (not just a light sprinkle) and the weight of the snow had caused the two pegs pulling the front of the tent out to pop out of the ground. Ended up needing to tap all the snow off the tent and restack the pegs that had popped out.
Day 2 - Hike to Upper Cascade camp area
Winter wonderland?? Woke up to lots of snow covering the ground, trees and my bear canister. Appears to have been more than just a spinkle of snow I had originally hoped for at the start of the hike
Sort of now understand why people call snow powder. Each time I have previously seen snow its been after winter and after its melted and refrozen a number of times. This snows tends to be more of a grainy sand consistency compared to newly fallen snow which is more fine and like stepping on a pile of powder. Goes crunch and compresses a fair bit under the feet.
Didnt really feel like spending the whole day in the tent and so decided to hike for a couple of hours to the upper part of the camping area and spend the night there. Thankfully found that the trail had already been trodden by someone coming back down from further up the trail. Skies still grey but at least only had a little snow falling from the sky.
Must say that the snow made for a nice change of scenary but unfortunately it was also going to make it harder to follow the trail I had wanted to do. Havent hiked in this much snow before so if nothing else it did made for something different. Thankfully the trail I was following lead all the way up to a campsite at the top end of the camp area, as I had hoped
After setting camp decided to keep walking and see if I could get to the top of Hurricane Pass. Spent my time walking through snow that ranged from ankle to knee deep. Ocassionly sunk to mid thigh which made me suspicious of having lost the trail but in these cases managed to reaquired the trail quickly.
While I could follow the trail most of the way due to the dip in the snow caused by the dug out trail, plants lining but not on the trail and flat bits zig zagging up a hill I did in the end manage to loose the trail. Discovered later that the loss of the trail was caused by a snow drift and not being sure where the pass was. Couldnt see the surrounding mountains so after a short search for the path decided to give up for the day and headed back to camp.
Had a hot meal and crawled into the tent. Even colder tonight since Im at a higher altitude and I have the snaow all around me.
Day 3 - Hike to Hurrican Pass then back to Lower Cascade camp area
Next morning found that my water bottle had ice in it so it was definatelt below freezing the night before. At this point had to decided if I wanted to keep going, head back the way I came or just ignore what my permit said and head out another way. Nice sunny day so decided to once agin try to reach the top of hurricane pass but this time taking my pack with me.
Managed to identify a snow drift across the path in the clearer whether but could see anything that looked like a pass so when I lost the trail a little later couldnt find it again. Ended up heading in the wrong direction and decided that if I couldnt refind the path I may as well explore a little. Ended up finding lots of little lakes and a small bog. Also eventually managed to see a trail zig zagging up to the top of the nearby mountain though there was nothing there I would of identified as a pass (ie lower part of mountain compared to rest).
Headed back to trail and ended up slogging my way up to the top of the pass. Vey slow and tough going. definately took me over twice as long to cover the distance and ended up having to wade through mid thigh deep snow or trying to circumnavigate it on a number of occassions
At the top dropped my pack and decided to check out the views a bit and scope out the path ahead. Ended up deciding to head back since I didnt want to be a snow plow for the rest of the day (being lazy) and more importantly I new I had to go up one pass and down another as well as find the trails between them. wasnt confident I could do this without getting lost. In the end decided to head back to the lower campsite I had had the day before and to ignore my permit and head out over paintbrush pass and through paintbrush canyon.
Met the guys at the top of the pass before heading down found out they were just doing a day hike and not continuing any further. They also thanked me for being a snow plow but in my head I was thinking they could have thanked me more by having caught up and helped out.
After heading back down saw some people at the top of the pass and was wondering if they had come from where I wanted to head. Was sort of disappointed I hadnt run into them earler since I would have continued on if they had come from that direction
Ended up trudgeing back down along the path through the compressed snow, slush and melted water that was covering it. Certainly found less and less snow around as I got lower. Was wondering if it had been sunnier the day before whether enough snow would of melted for me to feel more confident about continuing.
In the end the people I had seen higher up passed me and I found that they had been day hikers from Teton campsite and I would of been able to follow there trail anyway. They also thanked me for breaking the trail for them because they werent sure how hard it would of been to find and break if I hadnt.
Also told me a story of a couple thwy had come across who had camped up top and who had ended up calling 911 for a helicopter rescue since when they woke up they had seen nothing but snow and had no ide where they were. While Im confident I could of headed in the right direction using my map and compass if I was in the sam esituation, not so confident I wouldnt end up having to bush bash due to me loosing the trail. Given the trail goes through a canyon this would be a pain since there a good chance od small cliffs to navigate which is a pain without a trail.
Day 4 - Hike to Lower Painted canyon camp area
Decided on an early start since I was no longer following my set permit and considering whether I should head all the way back to Jenny Lake campground or whether to stay in the back country
The side on which I went up was easy enough to follow but not sure if I could have follwed it down the other side if it hadnt already been trodden. While some parts were clear a lot of parts werent. Especially the start of the path down which was slightly uphill and had snow that was over mid thigh deep. Feeling a bit better about not continuing on. Not worth the risk of getting lost.
Made my way through the paintbrush canyon, past holly lake and down to the lower paintbrush canyon camp area. Nice views of the canyon and lakes on the way down. Took me a bit longer than I had expected to get this far (due to snow) and even though I had enough time to get out to Jenny Lake decided to not push it. Found a number of campsites that were empty and since I knew I wasnt stealing anyones site (the purpose of the permits since they are free is to control numbers) decided to camp in the back country rather than continue to the campground. Besides, knew I was close enough to the campground so that I wouldnt have any trouble hiking out the next day and catching the shuttle
Day 5 - Hike back to Jenny Lake and Bus to Colter Bay Campground
Another relatively early start. Saw lots of day hiker on the way out and at this altitude almost no snow. Pretty uneventful hike out though I did have some nice views of teh lakes I was passing by and the mountaind from the fasr side of Jenny Lake.
Ended up catching the shuttle to moose junction visitor center and visited the exhibitions there. Also did this to get a chance to view the mountains from a different angle. Had to wait a couple of hours but the caught the same suttle bus back past Jenny Lake and onto the colter bay campground since I needed to be at the gas station the next day for the yellowstone tour. Again the bus stopped a number of times along the way for 15min or so so I had a few different angle to view the mountains from.
Was also lucky that the driver dropped me off at my actual campsite and not his usual stop. Nice campsite. Even had a laundary with WIFI that I ended up using in order to clean my clothes before the next hike.