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The O's for December... Ice and plenty of it.

                It was tough getting going in the morning. I had not hiked since my solo around Lincoln and Lafayette and all the stress and craziness of my life below 4K was causing me to stay curled up in bed under the covers and warm. I hit the snooze even and then I dragged myself, my gear, and Isis to the car. We were meeting Scott, whom I had not seen and hardly heard from since August in his hospital bed recovering from a total knee replacement. We were hiking together for the first time since Garfield back in August and I was feeling…. Nothing. I was not anxious, I was not mad any more, I was just… Tired. Tired and I wanted to hike. I was happy for the day and I guess my skepticism that it would come had over taken me and I was still in disbelief that it was going to happen today. None the less, it was hear and we met at the designated spot and it was a little awkward for me. I really didn't know what to say to him at first. The gear was loaded into Scott’s car and we drove to the trail head. Conversation was minimal and then again, no one really feels like talking that early in the morning. I was curious to see how the hike would go.
                At the trail head, the parking area was already filling up at 8am. Gear was organized and Isis and I got ourselves together and prepared for the day. We all headed out and that seemed to take the pressure off of us. The recent snows had covered the ice on the trail and as we came to the first water crossing, I found myself flat on my face and almost soaked. My thumb got jammed pretty good and I let out an embarrassing groan. First time hiking again and I fall flat on my face… I was not impressed with myself. My microspikes went on right after that. I felt better and more secure once they were on and I also noted that my feet were very warm in my new Merrell Whiteout snow boots. There was minimal depth on the lower trail and we both moved with relative ease. Isis was enjoying the snow to play in and continued to make me smile and laugh at her. We made the first mile and a half on the Greely Pond trail in no time. It was a nice warm up to the vertical gain that we faced.
                Heading up the Mt. Osceola trail, we began to slow our pace and take more care on the vertical sections. I was thankful that it leveled out every once and a while so that I could catch my breath and not have so much pressure on my legs. I was feeling good about the day and noticed blue skies above. Both Scott and I hoped that it would be that way at the summits. We wound our way through large rocks and Isis and I stopped for a photo op under a huge boulder. Snow was beginning to get deeper and as we went up, our pace continued to slow. The ice was very apparent on the trail as we dug in with our micro spikes. I was not feeling so sure on my feet. It seemed that the microspikes were just not cutting it for me anymore. The rocks and ice were getting tougher to get up combined with the vertical gain of the trail. I stood looking up the trail at nothing but ice at one point and I wondered how I was going to get up it. Scott suggested crampons (which I had in my pack) and I was more worried about Isis and how she would do it. I stopped dead on the trail and tried to sort through my feelings. What if I turned back? Could I restructure my winter season and still make it work? How can I live down turning back after driving for close to 2 hours? Then I remembered… It’s always worse than it looks. I got my crampons on and had some Gatorade which took away my shakes and got ready to ascend.

                Isis and I took it slow and Scott directed us from above (it felt good to have the support again). I probably would have turned back if I was solo and been miserable for it so, to make it past this particular icy up section was a great thing. I was pleased and very proud of Isis and myself. We moved through the switchbacks ahead of Scott who was taking things slow due to the terrain and his continued recovery from his knee replacement. The temp was dropping and Isis and I kept moving at a somewhat steady pace. We came to the snowfield and stopped to examine the best way up as well as the view of Greeley Pond.  We found the boot prints of someone ahead of us and followed them which turned out to be the right choice. We watch Scott make his way across and also see someone else approaching. This man happened to be the same guy (named Tuck) who stopped us coming off of Lafayette. We let him pass and then slowly continued up the steep sections. Energy was depleting and Isis and I made the push to the summit. The outlook was nothing but clouds and the wind was blowing. We walked through even deeper snow which reminded me a lot of Old Speck. Scott was out of sight but not too far behind and we knew that we would meet up at the summit. My mind was calm as we made our way over the terrain and I was thankful that the ups were not too much. Isis and I came to the summit cairn and she of course climbed it for her photo. Scott did catch up and we shared some time on the summit but quickly got moving as Isis was getting cold and we needed to keep moving.

                Heading down a little ways was a welcome change even though we would need to climb back up to get back to the car. Isis and I plowed through deep snow and drifts and I again noted that my feet were incredibly warm and dry in my new boots. We ran into a few soles here and there on the trail and continued on until we got to the chimney section. Isis and I stared at the ice covered Chimney and then took a look at the jagged rock of the Bypass. I thought that maybe we’d take the chimney up and the bypass down. Scott came up behind us and we discussed our routes. He led the way up the Bypass section and Isis and I followed. She found her own way and needed minimal help, I was so proud of her and of course let her know it. We jumped ahead of Scott at a certain point and continued our way up to the summit. The wind was howling a little more and the cloud cover was getting think. Not the greatest day on the summits but one we’ll take none the less. Isis and I walked out onto the ledge and claimed the summit for us. Tuck was still up there talking with another hiker and we chatted for a while. Scott soon followed and we ate and took pictures. Then we began to make our way back the way we came.

                Going back was probably easier since it was mostly down. Those downs were slow with Isis and the ice in general. Some sections were able to be butt sled so, that made it pass a little quicker. Both Scott and myself made it back down the Bypass and laughed at our triumph over the rocks. Arriving back at East Osceola, someone had placed a snowman on the cairn. We stopped for some more food and a rest before the really steep down section was reached. We worked together to get down the ice again and generally had a great time sliding on our butts in short sections. Back at the snow field, I stood at the top and then sat down. Isis and I get moving with her to my side and we had some great speed. I let out the biggest laugh and Woo Whoo I ever did because I just felt so free at that moment. Sliding down on my ass was the most freeing moment of the day. I felt light and as if nothing mattered. Nothing from the last few months, not my career troubles, and not even my home situation mattered. I was happy in this moment. I stood up and smiled as Scott did the same thing. The rest of the upper trail went very slowly as we navigated the tricky ice sections. With the sun heading down, we arrived back at the car with little trouble. Both of us seemed tired while Isis was raring to go.

                December and 2013 came to a close with Isis and I pleased with our accomplishments as well as finally kicking off our winter season. Today was a great test for all of us. I was unsure how Isis would handle the ice and she once again proved to be a great hiking pup. Scott had not done a double peak set until today and while he was feeling the hike, he seemed pleased that he too had accomplished a goal for the day. Me? I was glad that my skepticism was beat out and that this hike was a success. While we all have different goals, I continue to hope to complete my winter list as well as Isis’ multi season. We’ll see what 2014 holds and hopefully it will hold more hikes like this.

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