Day 24 – I’m sailing away

We were woken up before 6 by anxious guests wanting coffee and discussing the deteriorating weather.  The wind was howling outside at a steady 60-70mph (96-112km/h) with gusts up to 85mph (136km/h).  No one has any business on the exposed ridges of the Whites in that kind of wind, so everyone was figuring out ways to bail down to below the tree line. As a result, nothing happened fast, breakfast was slow, people were slow getting out onto the trail, and we didn’t get to eat or do chores til 10ish.  We ended up sweeping out the bunkhouse and dining room as our “work for stay” which was nice and easy… And also delayed our leaving, which at this point seemed fine, as we had 2 miles of exposed ridge walking to do before we would drop down into cover.  The weather was supposed to improve in the evening but we decided we wanted to get going sooner.

As we were getting ready to brave the world, one of the cooks had gone outside and coming back in couldn’t close the door due to the howling wind. It took 3 of us to get the job done. Not a great sign. In the end we plunged out into the wind at 11ish, and immediately were in trouble, as the welter of trails exiting the hut were quite confusing, since the key sign had been knocked askew by the wind. Fortunately, someone inside at a window vigorously pointed us to the right trail. After that, it was 2 rough miles of getting knocked over sideways, sailing down the trail, and generally just fighting for every step. A few times we had to play “be a rock” to wait out the worst gusts. We eventually figured out a strategy where I broke the wind, and when I got buffeted hard enough to run into Megan, she would prop me up. Somewhere in there though, she got blown off the trail and banged her knee on a rock, which bothered her the rest of the day.

We clawed our way off the ridge and down into some stunty alpine trees that gave us enough cover to make it the rest of the way to the next Hut. We stopped in to recover and have lunch (and were offered more free leftovers from the night before’s dinner, which were great), before reluctantly heading back out. We also told a few northbounders that we really wouldn’t reccomend the trail up and ridge until the wind had died down… Oh, and I met a well known hiker personality, Starman, who helps thru hikers with GPS issues a lot on the Internet. I had actually met him in 2007 while prepping for my PCT thru hike but only briefly.

Anyways, we charged down the rest of the ridge and up the other side to a shelter quite late, squeezed into the shelter and are ready for a decent night’s sleep. Hopefully Megans knee bruise doesn’t cause her any longer-term ill.

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