Day 7 Saturday 27th, Chapman-Kamm Traverse.
Well that was the plan, anyhow. After a long car shuttle to leave some cars near the end-point at South Mineral Creek campground, we had a long walk down the rough jeep road from Ophir Pass to where the Chapman aid station will be. At least the slow shuttle allowed me to spend an hour sitting at 11,800ft while waiting!
From Chapman's we crossed the creek then began the long slow climb up through the dense pine forest. It was slow going with a group of 13 of varying fitness and acclimation. Plus Charlie gives an entertaining and educational narrative along the way. In fact one of his sobering monologues had many of the newbies questioning their motives with stories of how people met their demise out here (none during the actual race). And just to add to the credibility of these stories, after crossing the Grant-Swamp Pass at 12,900ft, Fred decided to take a tumble on a steep snow bank. He pulled up once he hit gravel but missed a nasty rock by only inches. The only casualty besides his ego was a few nasty grazes. Very lucky, very sobering.
The climb to the pass was really tough. It was soft snow and hands and knees type scrambling. My fingers were burning with cold through my wet gloves. Last year we had skated down here on loose scree in the other direction. There is a good chance this snow will all be gone and we will be crawling up the loose scree. This after 85 miles! The view at the top was ever spectacular with Island Lake being partially frozen creating a mosaic of turquoise and icy-blue patches. We could see for miles in all directions with snow capped peaks extending to the horizon.
Dropping down into the South Mineral Creek valley we followed a faint trail, winding between rocky outcrops and snowbanks before hitting the well formed Ice Lake Trail. This we only followed for a short distance before a vague trail led off to the right. We all looked in disbelief. Coming fast down that well worn trail you were almost guaranteed to miss this turn. In fact a couple of guys who had gone ahead did just that. In traditional Charlie style he put one flag at the corner and moved on. We looked at each other and asked if we could put a few more out. By the time we finished you would have to be blind to miss it with flags and tape strung all over the trees.
Feeling satisfied we continued down to the creek crossing. With all the rain the waterfall was roaring. The tangled web of logs looked intimidating but definitely doable. Thunder roared overhead as large drops of rain started falling. Charlie made the call and decided we would go back up to the main trail and down to the cars, missing the Kamm Traverse.
Back on open trail a few of us decided to run to the finish. Like school kids it became a bit of a race down the narrow switchbacks, jumping logs, streams, rocks and roots. By the time we reached the campground I was breathless.
After another long wait we drove back to Silverton. Today had been scheduled with the crossing of Mineral Creek where I had had fun a couple of days ago but the river had risen dangerously high so the swap was made.
Ophir Pass-South Mineral campground 10miles in 6:14, max elev 12,920ft
Postscript: developed a blinding headache soon after getting home. Possibly due to altitude, dehydration and a bit of sunstroke (discovered my neck was sunburnt despite a bandana) but was totally disabling. So Sunday, Day 8 became an enforced rest day.