I took the opportunity to clean up trash with another volunteer and we went with a ranger Saturday morning. I did not acclimate, I have been only running recently, and I do not like spring melt conditions, so I did not bring my ice axe on purpose to keep myself out of trouble as I had no intention of a summit (switchbacks and chute were still too sketchy for my liking based on reports - I was super proud to see a couple people with helmets!!). I did, however, dress for cool weather but it was HOT... We took the old trail up to avoid walking in water so early in the hike - it's in okay condition, but I would not personally attempt it in the dark.
The trail is easy, if overly warm (this weekend saw no clouds), through to Lone Pine Lake, which was lovely and full. Any snow remaining is melting fast and can be edged around on rocks or walked across carefully (slippery from use). Some longer stretches still exist on the way to Outpost camp as well as some water coming over and down the trail, nothing that requires more than careful steps. I was pretty dang slow, but it made for a nice day and I am looking forward to going through pix (I brought the big guns this time: a7III with my fav Loxia 21m lens).
Past Outpost camp I ran into several areas of snow that hid the trail and a small ton of boot paths leading in all directions. I don't think you can really get lost unless you are heading back and fail to keep left back to Mirror Lake. On my way back I totally took a different way but was still somehow on the trail? Weird. (aside: our break above Mirror Lake with another group gave us some shaking of heads as we watched 3 people slide down that incredible 70 deg slope on the west side - yikes!)
The long boot path to Trail Camp is still starting pretty early (it crosses Lone Pine Creek south, then heads west over the Consultation Lake drainage) but... everyone including the rangers thinks that is getting sketchy. Plenty of people going that way, but you can hear water rushing beneath and the extreme melt is going to cause a collapse soon. You can stay on the trail a bit longer and cut left later when the trail is near the creek and the fall wouldn't be bad then cut over rocks and get back on the boot path... even there the snow is pitted and underneath is pretty empty despite looking solid on top. BUT this would have appealed to me a bit more because even though the rangers did a great job cutting a path on the short bit of trail that runs north/south just north of Consultation Lake (if you look at a map) that is a hell of a traverse for me (it's a steep slope) so I turned back (with, what, 1/3 mile left?). Most people were slipping back down the boot path, people going up were split. If you have steady legs (mine were wobbly) and no fear of heights or slipping it will be no problem for you: the snow is sticky and it's along the actual trail. I am just not into steep traverses w/o a helmet, personally, nor the path everyone was slipping on with the water underneath...
I told the crew I'd return to Outpost and pick up trash on the way that we'd seen plus at that camp, which I did. Other than an occasional breeze, it was really, really warm. People were trying for a summit at all hours of the day: midnight to about 3am headlamps went through camp, then about 6am+ some people that I just cannot imagine thought this all through, followed by backpackers taking their time then more people that are way out of their league and I hope weren't serious about asking me about conditions (crossing my fingers they just went to Lone Pine Lake). I took the regular trail out and the crossings are doable but no joke: fast water to my calf (I am tall) and the smaller one was pretty sketchy since it was thin and sloping. Otherwise, no issues: just lizards, birds (including grouse, a red one, a yellow one, etc.), and wildflowers (lots of shooting stars).
Trip highlight: taking photos both nights (I camped Friday night) of the sky with the Milky Way just in stunning form and meeting great people!
Trash found: mostly paper for pee wipes, a broken hiking pole, toothbrush & paste, and tons of tiny plastic from the corner of snacks. Oh, and one rusting can of "food." Overall, ya'll doing good! Just please pack out your wipes and watch it when you open snacks! The rangers were over nice and gave a 'thank you' note and some teeny gifts. I felt like I should have gloves and a trash bag with me on every hike! It's the least I can do.
Things I didn't need and regret bringing: tent stakes, rain jacket/outer layer, puffy mid layer winter down jacket, gloves, wet pants (over my hiking pants).
Things I didn't use but still glad I brought: an extra meal (I wasn't sure if I'd stay another night), micro spikes (I'd expected to come down from Trail Camp in the morning when the ice would have been hard), extra socks (I was trying SealSkins for the water crossings and was still wet but between my snow gaters and those it was more like barely wet vs drenched, so I puddled all day w/o a care!), and the tent cover (you never know...).
Things I wish I had brought: a summer-temp long sleeve layer instead of my insulated one (probably would have worn the down jacket in the mornings, then, and sweat way less during the day) and actually worn my sunscreen instead of it being lost in my bear box (my nose, cheeks, and fingers are burned).
Edit to add: I saw at least 3 people running it. o.O It takes all types! Never be afraid to stop if you are uncomfortable - it's about "you" not "them."
Fin! Questions? Ask!