With our JMT thru-hike less than 3 months away, we decided it was time for us to get some elevation training. It had finally warmed up down in the valley, so we headed up to Mt. Charleston.
Trail Canyon or South Loop Trail, hmmm...both head towards Charleston Peak, which is currently buried under several feet of snow. I decided that if we could make it up the northern exposure of South Loop Trail to the saddle 4 miles and 3,000 feet up, the high elevation of the meadows would be OK because of its southern exposure.
Looking back on the section of trail we just passed, the heavy snowfall of this season left parts of the trail a complete obstacle course. Just a little ways ahead it got worse...
"Where the hell is the trail" I thought as I confidently lead us up the wrong way. After admitting temporary defeat, it was Juggy's turn to lead the way.
She found the trail, lost it, and was convinced it lead up this snow covered valley.
I muscled up the long slope ahead of Juggy until I started to sink into the snow a bit. Realizing it was still early in the day, I pushed my trekking pole down in the snow to see how deep it was because we would no doubt be postholing later in the afternoon. The snow was nearly 3 feet deep, so we decided to bail out and find a southern exposed route to get some miles under our feet (looking across the valley in the photo it seems very obvious now).
Leaving the deep snow behind, the first two hours were fun but not what we had signed up for. We headed across the valley to Trail Canyon, the site of our recent Postholing day. The snow was all but gone and we got some good steep miles in.
The turn-around point in our second hike of the day was the locally famed "Rain Tree", a three thousand year old Bristlecone Pine. After taking a break and getting to know a couple of nice hikers from the Boston area, we headed back to the trailhead and stopped by the lodge for an early dinner and a couple of beers. This could get to be a habit during the next few months of training up here!