After a night of mostly rain in Death Canyon, we awoke to a break in the weather that allowed us to have breakfast and pack up the gear. I would have been tempted to stay another day/night in Death if it had just rained, even though our permits said to move out. It was an amazing spot, and Kelly and I were the only ones for what seemed like miles. No one else was in the Death Canyon camping zone!
A few minutes after we left the site with all our gear on our backs, Kelly suddenly stopped. We had scared a bear cub up a tree, less than 50 yards a way. It was really cute, and I wish I had a picture, but we were also worried as we didn’t see Mama bear. We stood very still and Kelly shook her bear bells, and after maybe 30-40 seconds, the mama appeared and ran up the hill. Baby bear came down the tree and followed. Shew!
We had to cross the same avalanche field and snow pack. What was odd is that we approached the avalanche field, we saw a pack and poles, but no one around! I yelled out, not wanting to scare anyone, and still nothing. As we passed the bag I noticed a sheath and thought either “machete” or some kind of saw. As we started to cross the field, it was apparent someone was out working trying to clear the field with a small hand saw! Eventually we met the ranger and spoke to him. His 1st question was “was anyone else up there last night,” to which we said “no.” 🙂
As we started down Death, it really started to rain and was really cold. It was a bit of a death march, in some ways. After an hour or two, I was getting really cold, but Kelly was marching along. I started thinking of the B&B’s hot tub. When we reached the fork in the trail at Phelp’s Lake, however, we did not turn back to the car. We headed up towards Open Canyon.
After a few minutes we stopped for a warm lunch of rice noodle soup and tea, and though I was shaking from cold and wet, it made me feel a lot better. And once we started up, I did warm up. I could tell Kelly was struggling, a bit. Turns out her feet were pretty much ice blocks. After a while we did come across three back packers — they were heading down and bailing — they had had a pretty aggressive plan of much higher peaks, and just didn’t have the gear.
When we found the site at Open Canyon, we set up, again just in time for a hail storm, though this one was much smaller than the night before. We did have a brief, 30 minute period of sun, where we hung up our wet clothes to dry, but alas, it got dark too soon.
The river coming down in Open Canyon: