Sat July 31:
More weird dreams…is this what happens when eating late? Or is something else going on here? Its mid morning before we stir, the rain has changed into fat snow flakes. A driving wind and zero degree temperatures make for unpleasant hiking conditions. It’s about two hours from the base camp, if we get wet, there is no way to dry out. The snow flakes eventually stop, melting as they hit the ground. We pack up and roll out by noon.
Its obvious that summer has peaked. Snow patches have disappeared, there is less ice on our water lake. The purple saxifrage which likes moist conditions however should not be under water! The easy creek crossing is now a deluge and we carefully tippy toe across, using overshoes to keep the water out. The wind is driving: not only am I wearing all (three) of the layers I have with me (except for down jacket), its time for the face balaclava, hat, two layers of gloves plus backpack – I’m just comfortable.
However, the miniature beauty of tundra unfolds at my feet and I can’t resist inspecting a yellow capitate lousewort. Dropping the pack, I take the photo. It’s a good opportunity for a pee break, and with pants around my ankles, I catch a sudden movement from the corner of my eye. I’m shocked to see a musk ox running full tilt towards me! Instantly grabbing my pants, I stand and yell for Alfred to have a look (he has decently gone ahead)…the flowing mane, thick matted boss and pointed horns fill my view…as suddenly as he showed up, the musk ox stops short, stares and then leisurely strolls off…stupefied by the close call, all I can think is where the heck did he come from so quickly? perhaps he was sleeping, woke to find his group gone and I was the closest furry looking thing…
Our trek almost over, we follow along the edge of the lake. Rain (or snow) clouds are racing to meet us from across the sea, we hustle faster and faster to the shelter of the hut, stopping only to compose a final picture of us, the two happy hikers together, on the runway. Wow! We dump our packs, rain coats, and brew our traditional welcome drink, an espresso.
For the rest of the afternoon, we shuffle through gear, unpacking and sorting mostly through food stuffs, garbage and make small repairs. The weather outside is frightful, a combination of snow – sleet – fog mixed with howling north-west winds. We are very thankful not to be on the trail! Try to make sat phone call and let Ron know all is well but signal is dropped and then on the next try, I get a message saying ‘that number is not in service’. Weather a factor for sure and will have to try later.
It’s a cabin evening as no change in weather. But we are snug and cozy and can easily wait out the storm here. It’s the worst weather we’ve had since arrival 17 days ago.