Having expected to feel the chill of our first night in the tent, we were both surprised to wake up warm (great plus for the tent and gear we had).
The day’s hike started with a long descent (from 7,800’ to 7,300’) to a river crossing, and then a steep UP, with blasted trails up to Hamilton Lake, and then yet more UP, steeper still, 2,200 feet of tough climb under a blazing sun.
Hamilton lake is a popular spot to either camp or to take a lunch break and have a swim. By the time we reached there, we realized we were so behind time, we kept on walking, quite envious of those enjoying the cool waters.
Scenes from Day 2
During this final climb, we passed and were passed by the same groups, all grumbling about the effort while enjoying the views.
With the heavy packs and at altitude we were lucky to make a mile/hour. Taking a picture was as much an excuse for a rest as an opportunity to capture yet another spectacular view.
This day was a TOUGH day. On the steepest part, I became so aware that my struggle to cope with the altitude, the heavy pack and the steep climb, that basically my fitness level was holding us back from the ‘goal’ of the day that I cried with frustration and felt totally overwhelmed. Kyle was awesome and encouraging, but boy! What had we done!!! To ourselves!!!
During the Climb from Hamilton lakes it became clear we would not make our intended destination by dark, so we negotiated a change of plan, and decided to stop at the top of the climb at Precipice Lake, about 3 miles short of the plan. (Luckily the plan for the following day had been for a short day, so it was easy to ‘steal’ time from that day)
Eventually reaching Precipice Lake and we were fed and tucked up in the tent for sunset
Precipice lake is stunning in its own right – a giant granite wall, beautifully reflected in the water. The lake is surrounded by granite boulders and suitable camp spots were difficult to find (as was any privacy). Patches of snow still hung on the cliff walls, and as expected the lake water was COLD. At just over 10,300 feet we were getting winded just setting up the tent.
At each nightly stop, Kyle would fetch and filter enough water for our evening meal, breakfast and the following day of hiking, while I prepared the cooking area and started dinner.
Overnight it was cold and very gusty. We noticed in the morning that other campers had even moved their tents in the night to better protect themselves from the wind, but we remained warm in the tent and sleeping bags, feeling snug and even throwing off covers at times.
If you recall we had planned to stop at Arroyo Junction this night. Later we heard that a loose pack mule kept all the campers there awake as it kept walking through with its bell clanging all night long – our exhaustion and early stop, turned out to be a lucky break.