Slim’s River West Hike Part 2
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999 Days Around Africa: The Road Chose Me
We continue climbing for another hour and reach the summit just as the other hikers decide to leave. The view from the ridge is staggering, to the point it doesn’t even look real. The immense size of the glacier is impossible to comprehend, and the longer we stay the more surreal it looks. Mist starts to roll in, periodically obscuring the view – when it clears up it again looks strange and surreal.
We stay and explore the summit as long as we possibly can, though the wind is howling and we’re slowing getting colder and colder. We re-trace our steps back down the mountain, along Colombia Creek, then Canada Creek. It’s been overcast all day, so the creek doesn’t look to be flowing significantly higher or faster than this morning – it’s mostly just wider and has more braids. Earlier we stashed our river shoes behind a rock, so after locating them we cross, the water now feeling 10 degrees colder due to our exhaustion than it did this morning.
The light begins to fade as we cross the gravel fan and trudge into camp just as everyone else turns in for the night. A hot meal is exceptional and puts us right to sleep.
In the morning over breakfast we slowly realize that somehow we’ve messed up the timing for this hike and we have an entire day to spare – we planned four days when technically we could hike out today and be all done in three. After chatting to everyone else we decide to wander over to the pools at the toe of the glacier and spend the day relaxing in the sunshine, eating glacier ice and staying out at this camp for another night.
It turns out to be quite the walk over to the toe and back, though we don’t gain any elevation and the whole affair is very leisurely making it feel like a rest day. I don’t think glacier ice tastes different than the regular variety, but that doesn’t stop us eating chunk after chunk while exploring the various pools and moraines created by the receding glacier.
Next morning we pack camp and hike back out the original 22km trail. Sheep Creek is again not a problem to cross, and soon after we rock hop out way across a small stream, trying to keep our boots dry. We’re both concentrating on that task for a while, and are a little surprised when we look up to see a grizzly staring at us, standing exactly where we had been three minutes earlier.
It seems certain he’s been following us. For how long, we have no idea.
I raise my arms slowly and in a firm voice give a “Hey Bear” and “Woah Bear” which does the trick. He doesn’t run away, but seems content to wander off. It’s not entirely clear if he’s going to keep following us, so we manage to find some energy reserves and put down a fast pace back to the car and a waiting bag of chips we strategically left behind for our future exhausted selves.
The views Slims River West are second to none, and I honestly rate it as the best short hike I’ve ever done. Bang for your buck is extremely high.