Today's Stats: Moving Time 5h 4m Distance 9.5 miles Ascent 3,589' Max Elevation 9,124' Shirley left us this morning. Shirley is one of the happy members of our hiking group and she's a pretty incredible lady. She has no problem talking but luckily she's got a wealth of stories that are interesting to back it up with. Shirley has done something like 20 Ryder Walker hiking trips and just keeps on coming back. She sets a pace on the trail that is hard to keep up with. I can only wish that I'm as healthy and fun when I'm retired and kicking back (if you can call what she does kicking back!)
Anyway, onto our hike. Today was awesome! Simply great. Best day of hiking I've ever had.
We started the day at 8:30am and stopped at a bakery in Sils Maria to get some lunch for the trail. No huts on todays hike. I didn't even see any water springs now that I think of it. We hiked out of town and up into the trees. We took a route that was relatively gradual for a few kilometers to get some altitude. It was a very nice way to get up. Not too tiring and gave us time to get our legs warmed up for the day and let breakfast get down. We only had 7 people in our group (including Annica and Julie, our guides). There was another hike that wouldn't go as high as we were that had a few people in it and several people decided to take today off and go to St. Moritz for the day. We are only a few minutes by bus from the famous resort town and people wanted to check it out. I think the note in the itinerary that today would be the hardest day of the trip also helped tip the scales for some.
We ascended fine out of the tree line running into a few groups of cows out eating grass. The cows in the Engadine region seem so happy. They just hang out on the mountain sides munching on grass in small groups. We hiked straight through several groups of them today.
The clouds were very low today and as soon as we got a couple thousand meters up we were looking down on them. They were also moving at a good clip. Looked like some bad weather was heading our way, but nothing too severe. There was no sign of thunder or lightning, just some precipitation. We stayed on the trail and got pretty darn cold. Everyone put on every layer they had, and even with that the wind was whipping us all into a pretty frigid state. Visibility was at times less than 50 feet. In my opinion, it was awesome! I know some may think that sounds awful, but I was loving it.
We headed along the trail to our destination which was a lake up the mountain. We spent about 30 minutes on some fairly exposed trail, but it wasn't too bad since the visibility was so terrible we didn't really see how big the drops were. That's looking on the bright side eh?
We finally reached the lake and everyone was very cold. We found some windbreak and planned to have a very quick bite of food and head down. It seemed that the option of summiting the peak was out of the question. Then all of a sudden the sun peaked out just a little bit. We extended our lunch stay to warm up some, still thinking that the peak was out of the question. However, the weather just got better and better.
Annica decided that if we wanted to give the peak a try we could, but if the weather got bad we would have to turn back. Three of the others decided not to try it and just went down with Julie. Annica, Tammy and I headed up to the Piz.
It was a great ascent. We got to play in the snow as we went up to the Piz. I was a little concerned at times mostly as I considered how we would get down this route. The route that we took was a scramble on boulders with many big steps up. There were several times where I was grabbing anything that felt scure and pulling myself up the rise. Tammy on the other hand did simply amazing. She bounded up the side of the peak like a mountain goat! We made it to the top and there was a small gathering there with 3 Belgians that had just made it to the top as well from the other side.
It was just great to stand on the peak and look around at all the mountains. What a sense of accomplishment and a fun time. We took a different route down that turned out to be pretty great for the descent. Part of the descent was this really mushy gravel, dirt mixture that was sort of like bug muddy sand. It was great for the descent since we could just slide in a controlled way down. We also ran into good snow banks still on the mountain and we were able to "ski" down them on our hiking boots. The descent was a blast. Lots of laughs from all.
After completing the summit we did the long and steep descent down to Maloja where we caught a bus back to Sils Maria.
What a day! Such fun, such a great time.
We have a fancy dinner tonight. The Hotel Edelweiss is having a "konzert diner". There will be a small orchestra playing music in between the courses. Pretty neat! Tomorrow looks like it is a pretty mild hike with some really great scenery and things to check out on our way to our final city of Soglio. Soglio is supposed to be great. Can't wait.