Today's goal was a moderate 8 mile hike with an elevation gain of 3,800 feet. Everything started out well and even though I haven't hiked this high for months I did fine. The general consensus was that there wouldn't be too much snow up high so I wasn't concerned. The trail was dry for the first couple miles then I started to see little patches of snow - just enough to be pretty. After climbing about 1,000 feet the ground was pretty much covered with snow but the trail itself was clear, if wet.
Once I got to about 8,400 feet there was snow everywhere! Not so deep really, right around 4-6 inches but in some spots a foot or more. I was slipping and a sliding around even with good traction on my shoes. Who knew walking in soft snow is like walking in sand? I was getting pretty fatigued, with 3 miles to go, and another 1,200 feet of climb. If there was this much snow now what would it look like when I got to Little Round Valley, my planned stop for the night?
So this where fear comes in. BTW, I'm always afraid when I backpack by myself in a new area. This is a given. The big question for me is when do I modify my plans? Since I always experience some fear when does it reach another level? The problem is I don't always know which is which.
So there I was at about 2pm, standing in snow, already tired. Still 3 miles, deeper snow to come and I'm by myself. What to do? Push on against my fear? Retreat to a lower elevation where I will be dealing with less snow? What, if anything does this mean about my ability to do hard things? Is it failure to change plans? Or is it smart to recognize a potentially dangerous situation and act accordingly?
Whether for good reasons or not, I did turn around and slid my way down to the closest camping area, near Strawberry Junction. I found an almost snow free spot to pitch my tent, settled myself into dinner and have been reading in my tent since dusk. It's gonna be a cold one tonight, here at 8,000 feet.