I take shelter from our delayed June rains & listen to fat drops of rain patter off the tin roof of the cookhouse. With Islander Chicken simmering on the stove, I take a moment to reflect on what has been a completely atypical weekend (for me!) A much needed break from the consulting world had me making the drive out here with one primary objective: a return to Binocular Ridge.
I was trying to recall, with the Boss’ help, when last I’d made the ascent and subsequent ridge walk. As near as we could both remember, it was 11 years ago (seriously?!). Back before we had volunteers like Beth, Ben, Anthony, Ellie, Susan, Rachel, Andy, George, Michelle, Tobias, Laura, and many others…back when the “hired hand” was none other than yours truly.
I remember the last trip but vaguely. I’d taken an energetic young couple up…either on their honeymoon or anniversary. Though mid-Summer, a biting Westerly wind had me don my kerchief in the style of “outlaw bandit” to keep my face warm during the traverse. I remember a comment in one of the guest books thanking “…the desperado…” for the hike.
Regardless, when Lady Christine and I broke the treeline yesterday, saw the Berland and Hoff ranges stretch out before us…I knew it had been too long. Leaving the faint sheep track we’d followed up from the dry creek bed behind, I was able to reaffirm Christine’s faith that I indeed knew where I was going when I spied and recovered a lost pen-launcher & bear banger that Mom had mentioned – just days ago – had gone missing last season.
As always, every 10m of elevation brought a new and greater view. We took refuge ‘neath a lone, hardy spruce standing as the last sentinel to catch our breath and wait out the first mild hailstorm. Looking around, we spied Purple Saxifrage, Mountain Avens, & Alpine Lousewort just coming into bloom along the faint sheep trails that would guide us the rest of the way to the top of the grassy knoll.
Cresting the ridgeline, we took note of the threatening clouds but began our ridgewalk northwards to the bald alpine meadow. Not long into our traverse, we encountered the last evidence of winter in the form of a huge cornice moulded from the wind & snow. Christine ventured beneath the overhang to touch the snow like a surfer catching a ‘tube.
We made the summit just as the weather darkened, time enough for a breath and a view before starting our descent. We slid/scurried/skidded our way down the scree slopes before picking our way down the avalanche chute. True to its name, there was a rather large slide this year, remapping the bottom portion of the chute – if not opening up the view from the creek bed. Guests & guides alike should have no trouble finding the start of the trail going up to the meadow now.
As we drifted back into camp, still slightly drunk off the breathtaking views and perhaps a little bit of oxygen deficiency, we both came to the realization that we would need a little more time out here than the mere 2 nights we had originally planned. So, a quick trip to town to do some laundry and clear our schedules and we are “off grid” for the rest of the week!