Waking up on Day 2, spirits were high. We were hydrated, rested, and fueled. We needed to hit about 17 miles in order to get out of the woods on time and for many of us this would be our biggest hike ever. The scenery all day was stunning and for the most part the weather cooperated.
We would first descend down the basin to Snow Mass Lake, stopping briefly to enjoy the view of Maroon Bells from a very different perspective (and far fewer people) than the traditional viewing location in Aspen. The climb over Buckskin Pass was brutally steep but the views were worth it and it felt good to sweat an effort out while not hung over.
From Buckskin Pass, the trail descends down into another basin and then up to a the stunning Geneva Lake. We took the opportunity to dip our feet in the ice cold water and eat before climbing our second pass of the day. At this point the fatigue was setting in and the prospects of only being half-done were beginning to weigh heavily. The backdrop of darkening skies added to the mood, which was beginning to take on silent and mild dread. Fortunately, the day's storms were nothing more than a brief downpour and we would not see any inclement weather for the remainder of the weekend.
By the summit of Trail Rider Pass, it was clear that we were all feeling various levels of fatigue. After descending down Trail Rider, we found ourselves in a lush valley of evergreens that followed a large stream. We had made the decision to take an alternative route to end the hike. To get to that pass included a steep 600 foot climb through a lush Coloradoan forest of evergreens and aspens. We could put it off for the final day, or slog on and finish it on day 2. We opted to get it done with.
That portion of the hike was truly epic. At this point, we had splintered into several groups. I found myself hiking alone through woods and flowered marsh racing a setting sun to a campground that would be selected ahead of me by Dave, Zach and Viking. The day's long hike - 17 miles - had done its toll on me. I was exhausted and my knee had developed some form of over-use injury that gave me concern for the final day. When I arrived at the campground, Viking and Zach had few positive things to say about the location. They were right; it was fairly exposed and not very flat. But for me and most others, simply having a place to stop and rest was a godsend. Beyond that, it was a gorgeous place to call home for a night.
The following are some of my favorite shots of the day. Below this grid are the entirety of the day's photos.
Below are all of the shots from the day.