Friday, May 24, 2019 – 9.20 miles
Happy Mt. Baden-Powell Day! Unfortunately rain was forecast for the afternoon, since there’s no perfect weather window in the Year of March in May, but I hoped to be up and over the summit by then. Quickly reaching the Vincent Gap trailhead, I began the ascent. For ~2.2 miles the trail was clear, then small patches of snow popped up, then by ~2.4 miles most of the trail was snow-covered and I put on my microspikes. Snow that was initially icy transitioned directly into slush at 9:30 AM. The footsteps were shallow throughout and I could see where people without spikes had been slipping.
Due to my flip SOBO, I had heard many descriptions of Baden-Powell and how the trail was straight up through the snow without switchbacks. I was pleased to find that enough of the snow had melted for most of the regular switchbacks to be followed, with makeshift switchbacks for the ~400 feet directly below the summit.
What I saw from the summit was gorgeous, but unfortunately low-hanging clouds had begun marring a beautiful pristine sky during the ascent, and they blocked my summit views first partially and then completely. That’s pretty much what I had expected with the feelings of someone who expects to one day be eaten by rats, but I was still disappointed.
I began the descent along the ridge. Again because of my SOBO flip, I had gotten the advice to forego the PCT here for a snow-free user trail that runs along the top of the ridge, but the recent snow had covered much of the trail at higher elevations. I took that route anyway since the snow was shallow and non-problematic. A few footprints showed where other hikers had gone the same way.
Generally, sticking to the path on top of the ridge was a good policy. To climb over the various peaks in the clouds and have no views from them was frustrating, but on those occasions when I did try to follow the PCT on the north side of the ridge, I would often reach a big snow drift with no tracks and have to climb back up the ridge anyway.
The snow was slushy with shallow and ill-formed footprints from people slipping. I felt comfortable with my microspikes but wouldn’t have done this hike without.
Starting on the ridge, rain made the conditions pretty miserable for awhile, particularly when I got off-trail and ended up in a sea of wet vegetation.
Not long before Little Jimmy Campground, where I had been planning to camp, the mist thinned and I saw a gorgeous campsite where I decided to stop instead. The rain ended while I was pitching my tent, and the sky cleared – very painstakingly due to a lack of wind – over the course of about four hours. I kept the doors of my tent rolled up to admire the beautiful sunset. Half of me wishes that I had camped up on the ridge since the weather should be better tomorrow, but it is what it is. At least I got to Mt. Baden-Powell finally!