Distance hiked today: 2.8 miles + 4.7 miles off trail = 7.5 miles / 12.1 km.
At 6am we packed away our wet camp and walked a mile down the trail in the snow. When we reached the exposed ridge again the wind was howling even stronger than before, now with hail, and we were still in the cloud so we couldn't see anything. We decided the sensible thing to do was to shelter until later in the day. It's too easy to become hypothermic out here. If you slip on the snowy trail and wreck an ankle you'd be screwed, and we were going to have trouble staying on trail.
So we walked the mile back to the tent site and sat in the cave until we got cold, then I set up my wet tent again so I could get in my sleeping bag - the warmest piece of gear I have.
At 11:30 I could see more of the sun shining through the cloud. We still had 3 miles to the next junction plus 5 miles down the exit trail which would take at least 4 hours to hike, so we needed to get going. We packed up again and headed out.
The ridge section was still crazy windy, but at least the cloud had broken slightly so we could see, the hail stopped and some of the snow had melted off the trail. We pushed on, and I had to stop walking during gusts to brace myself otherwise the wind would push me over completely. I was exhausted from lack of sleep and dehydration. Karl took the lead at a slower pace, just enough to keep moving while not breaking a sweat, which would make us cold. I was glad I hadn't attempted this part last night, the trail was steep and on the edge.
We took the Spitler trail to get down off the mountain, 10 miles earlier than we had planned to exit. I was glad to see pavement finally, and we got a ride into town from a trail angel. Our group had booked an AirBnB cabin, and I slept like a rock on the softest bed after a warm shower.
Total trail mileage: 168.6 miles / 271.3 km