8/7 – 8/8 We started in smaller groups but strangely enough ended up re-uniting after a bushwack around Lava Mountain until Tok, Lost & Found decided to stick to the Red Route (the official route) while the rest of us headed to Union Pass on the Purple Route (an alternate). On 8/9 Rock Steady, Heaps and us set off on the Rainbow Route to top all Rainbow Routes (cross-country routes we made up). It started off with sunrise that turned everything in its light a pale shade of pink. Then we startled two buck elk who posed majestically on the hillside before crashing off into the woods. Ascending the rocky meadow near Shale Mountain, we looked down on alpine lakes whose water was steely grey in the morning light. As the sun rose the lakes changed from a milky turquoise to a placid cornflower, and still we climbed. We crossed some permanent snowfields and were up on the Divide climbing up yellow-tinted rock when we decided to stop for lunch. Rock Steady decided to go on ahead. Our plan was to be down off the divide by the afternoon since we’d had some intense thunder and lightning storms the past few days, but we were making much slower progress than anticipated. Still, we found time to cross Continental Glacier and scramble up to Down’s Peak, a 13,260 foot rock pile perched on the Divide.
Thankfully, though, the weather held…. we heard a rumble of thunder and had some brief hail/snow flurries on our way down but the most threatening clouds seemed to just blow on past us. Nonetheless, we were making pathetic progress and using muscles normally dormant on a thru-hiker. But the scenery was getting more and more spectacular. In the distance we could see Gannett Peak, the highest mountain in Wyoming, and a dozen other granite towers and peaks. We enjoyed a small section of flat ground before traversing around Yukon peak, and glissading down to the glacial moraine between Baker & Iceberg Lakes. As we came around a bend we saw a huge serac – a massive cliff as if Sourdough Glacier had been sliced open – and Klondike peak above.
We thought the going would get easier now that we were off the Divide, but the size of the boulders just increased and at one point we were forced to backtrack when we hit an impassable cliff face. Still, elated and exhausted we arrived at a semi-suitable camp spot and disappeared into the safety of our sil-nylon just in time to hear the rain begin to pound our wind-blown shelter. What a day!