Not especially desolate—never made it more than a few miles from the sled-strewn trailhead. For someone with more experience this would probably qualify as a bust, but as a novice I was still happy to be outside and learning. I now know the definition of postholing, for example, and what snow-pack at 32 percent of normal actually looks like: endless creek crossings, lots of bushwhacking, and ungainly tumbles into just-hidden pits of manzanita. Possibly this information could have been more efficiently gathered from the appropriate chapter of Freedom of the Hills (or, frankly, an additional five minutes’ consideration of the topo), but, uh … whatever. There are advantages to learning from experience.
And anyway—the slow going always makes the best parts better.