Why in the world would you want to drive all night and then start a slog into the wilderness on no sleep? Seems like a perfect legitimate question to me in hindsight, but it seemed like the right thing to do then, and I would do it again tomorrow without a second of thought!
Daniel floated the idea that he had a couple of days he could take off from work and wondered if we'd like to "do something in the mountains." My default answer is, and I hope always will be...YES! That does not mean that I would not say no to something positively crazy, and that is definitely a real possibility when Daniel approaches with an idea. In this case, he seemed like he just wanted to get out.
The first issue with which we had to deal, was a crazy snowpack in the mountain ranges we wanted to go to. The Rocky Mountains and the Wind River Ranges were both slammed/blessed with crazy snowpacks, ending in many cases years of extreme deficiencies. Ultimately, we chose an area near Leadville that seemed at least to offer the possibility of being able to hike in, combined with the surrounding area being loaded with cool opportunities. We ended up essentially doing none of them, and still had a great time.
Enter David. After driving through the night, we picked up David from Denver International after flying fro Chicago, the nearest flying option to Purdue University where he is a forestry Master's Degree student, After snagging him, we arrived at a rental shop to get snowshoes- a necessity for avoiding postholing through the snow on the trail we'd be heading in on. After some lunch, we off the trailhead about an hour out of Leadville.
The conditions were beautiful, powerful and difficult. We are not rookies at this, but loaded up our packs as if we were. Instead of selecting gear based on going into to one or two things, we brought it all...skis, snowshoes, fishing gear, camping gear, and food! Thank God we did not weigh our packs. Off we headed from the 10,000+ elevation trailhead at about two in the afternoon. A high mountain lake, supposedly according to our research six miles in was our goal.
The going was TOUGH! Avalanches had swept the trail in so many locations than we could count. The trail had melted down to bare earth in some locations, but the avalanche zones absolutely required "flotation," at least with our crazily heavy packs. The process of putting on and taking off and putting on...of our flotation added mucho time to our slog in.
We made it in about 5 miles when we found a gorgeous cathedral of mountains surrounded meadow that was just too tempting to not stop. We were dead tired and completely happy!