The wind picked up all night, and it was annoying and cold by morning. I woke up at the crack of dawn, but it took a long time to get ready to go on account of the wind. It took the feeling out of my fingertips instantly if I removed my gloves and kept trying to undo my folds in the fabric things I was packing up. It was after 8am by the time I got out of camp.
By 9am, I had worked my way across the plateau and climbed up to the very ridge from which the goats had been watching me the night before. And as soon as I was up there, the wind struck me at triple force. There were only two places on the knife edge where rock barriers blocked the wind enough that I could stand still without freezing. I took a snack break at one of them.
It was worth it for the views though. I was glad to be a southbounder at that moment because most of the northbounders must have arrived at this incredible place when the Clear Creek Fire was still pouring smoke into the air, obstructing those incredible views.
Just as the knife edge was ending, I met my first hiker, who asked if there was a clear cut place to turn around. I crossed the side of Old Snowy and there were more hikers returning from the peak. They warned me that the snow bank the trail crossed was solid ice at the beginning and very slippery. They passed me on the way down and proceeded to take an alternate route around the frozen pond and snowbank. But I just followed the trail across it no problem and got ahead of them again, staying ahead until they left the trail.
There were dozens of other hikers out, and tents stuck in random places all over the hillside. I took lunch in a campsite hidden in a copse of trees to avoid a few passing hiker groups, but another couple was hiking right in front of me as I got back on trail. I passed them, but they caught up written I stopped for water at a creek crossing and I never caught them again.
Once I got over Cispus Pass, I stopped seeing hikers. The people I saw were elk hunters and one group of three on horseback.
I set up camp early evening at the Walupt Lake trailhead, and, other than the return of the horse group, the only company I had for the rest of the night was an elk bull making a hell of a racket in the woods no more than fifty yards away. Not just bellowing but stomping and crashing around too. Never saw him though.
Total distance: 15 miles