PCT 2018: days 57-65, miles 789.9-903.3
Day 57: Hiked 7.8 | at 789.9
Leaving town is always hard for me. I crave more rest. Even on zeros and nearos, I still feel exhausted. I just want to lie down and do nothing. But time quickly slips by in town, and we are again climbing into the mountains.
We made it over Kearsarge Pass and headed towards Glen Pass. Nicholas suggested we do it in the evening since he heard it was easy. I said no. We had no idea if it would be safe with slushy snow, so we camped two miles prior.
An early evening at camp was a treat. We relaxed as the sun slid behind the Sierra, casting golden and rose light on the white caps. I woke up at night and captured the Range of Light at night. The sky glittered with stars; the mountains seemed smaller under the cosmos.
Day 58: Hiked 12.7 | at 802.6
The approach to Glen Pass was short and reasonable. However, at the top, we stared at a white north face. The traverse across the top wasn’t too bad. We stepped carefully into the foot holes and faced the real challenge on the other side, the descent. Steep foot holes zigzagged down the slope to rock patches and then the lower snowfields.
Nicholas glissaded to the bottom, happy to make the trip on his butt. I tried a shorter stretch and discovered that sliding on snow in shorts ensures the sting of snow burn.
Once we cleared most of the snow, we parked ourselves on warm rocks in front of a sapphire lake, lunchtime. Midway through cooking my instant potatoes, I meet a hiker by the name of Gargoyle. He told us how he was hiking with two others, but they had all camped separately the previous night. Soon the two others were introduced: Surge and Happy Feet. They all looked like Jesus’s disciples, bearded with longish hair. Later down the trail I would call them “The Disciples.”
Conversation and lunch turned into discussion of jumping into the alpine lake. Gargoyle went first, then Nicholas, then Surge and Happy Feet.
Lunch ended with Sierra snow cones. That’s right, snow cones. Surge and Happy Feet shared their syrup, and we savored our blue raspberry, alpine slushee.
The rainbows and butterflies disappeared by mile nine. My Guthooks app was not working, which meant I didn’t know how far it was to camp. I hate not knowing. I walked in misery as the trail turned in to never ending rock stairs. I grew more angry with each winded breath.
I arrived close to eight, with only an hour to set up my stuff, cook, and get in my tent. I just wanted to relax. Not lie down and sleep immediately upon entering camp. But that’s essentially what happened. Camp chores, then sleep.
Day 59: Hiked 12 | at 815.6
Pinchot Pass awaited us in the morning. I hiked ahead, and an hour later Nicholas caught up.
The snow fields were steep but doable. Segments of the trail became visible. We soon discovered The Disciples in front of an ice-covered lake. Gargoyle had already jumped in. Surge plunged as we walked towards the water. Nicholas jumped, of course, and lastly, Happy Feet.
We hiked to the base of Mather Pass so we could make a quick ascent the following morning. Comments on Guthooks indicated it was “fear inducing.” The hike to the base was certainly akin to a trek in Alaska, rocky tundra and vast snowfields among huge, snowy peaks. It was six o’clock and supposedly only .8 of a mile away. However, it was not an easy stroll into camp. We got lost on the tundra. We walked to a high point and saw little humans in the distance. “That way!” We bushwhacked across snowfields without hesitation. And that’s when it happened. My foot plummeted into the snow and my entire leg disappeared beneath the white. I had post-holed up to my crotch. This had happened to me before, but this time it was different. The snow engulfed my leg and then sealed it in an icy boot. I could not wiggle my foot or my leg. I was stuck, really stuck. I called for Nicholas. He laughed and said I could get myself out. But when he saw my panicked face, he came to my aid. As he headed towards me, he too post-holed; his entire leg swallowed by snow. We were a foot apart both crotch deep in snow. A ridiculous scene. Nicholas and I laughed nervously. He dug out my leg to release my foot from the snowy claws. But when I pulled my leg out, my foot came to the surface shoeless. When we finally recovered my sneaker, it was a shoe snow cone, a mountain of ice towering from the opening.
The Disciples were already set up when we arrived. The campsite looked like we were on an Alaska expedition, exploring the edge of the frozen world. We could feel the temperature drop and soon retired to our tent.
Day 60: Hiked 19.1 | at 834.7
The south side of Mather Pass was fairly clear of snow. This meant we were able to take the normal switchbacks up to the top. The final traverse across the cornice was snow covered and steep. I focused on each step and did not look down. We followed snow tracks on the north side.
Nicholas is obsessed with glissading and decided to climb up to a higher spot to attempt an epic glissade. The ice was hard, like glass shards. His epic slide turned into an epic fail. He started rolling on his side to bail. The ice cut his butt badly. A patch of skin was ripped raw, blood and puss oozed on his shorts.
It was a long day. 19 miles in the Sierra felt like a 23+ plus day in the desert. But we made it to camp by 7:40.
Day 61: Hiked 16 | at 850.7
Muir Pass has the longest snowy approach and descent of the High Sierra. Nicholas had said we should get up early and tackle the snow while it was hard, to try to get a four-five o’clock start. But I whined that it was too early after such a long day of hiking.
My whining would have serious consequences I would later find out. We got on trail by 6:40 and it wasn’t early enough. The snowfields started three miles prior to the pass’s summit. We lost the trail and scaled an icy slope to find tracks. Nicholas started post-holing as we traversed across snow with rushing water underneath. We could hear the water as well as see it.
Just as we were finding the trail, Union Jack, a large gingered man from England, started sliding down a slope, ice axe in hand. “THIS IS A BLOODY MESS!” He yelled. He was apparently lost too. “I’m bloody post-holing every step! I can’t take it; I’m camping on that bloody island!” He pointed to the one patch of dirt surrounded by snow and water and chucked his ice axe on the solid ground. “But it’s only 8 in the morning!”
We yelled. “I don’t care!” We continued on leaving Union Jack on the island.
The ascent felt like a never ending ice stair master. Imagine being stuck on a stair master for two hours, it’s brutal. But as I was sucking wind, I saw it. The Muir shelter peeked over the pass. Nicholas broke into a sprint. I trudged on, one labored breath at a time.
The break at the shelter was short. We had supposedly another five miles of snowfields to cross. The sun was softening the snow; time was critical.
While I was able skate across the top of the snow and only sometimes plummeting into a post-hole, Nicholas’s weight was collapsing the snow with each step. He was struggling. I could see his frustration bubbling. I had stopped to allow him to catch up, but he was post-holing up to his thighs and waist. He army crawled out and flung his pack to the ground, chucked his poles and sunglasses. He reached the rocks and declared, “I’m cowboy camping here. Take the tent and leave. I’m not continuing.” I retrieved his pack and poles while Nicholas grabbed his sunglasses; he proceeded to snap them into pieces. I gave him a rice crispy treat, which seemed to help as I talked him down from his snow insanity.
We managed to escape the snow, but we camped prior to Evolution Creek, our first real river ford.
Day 62: Hiked 20.3 | at 870.9
Evolution Creek was .3 miles away from our site. It was a deep crossing that could be up to our waists. Luckily Nicholas already has a strategy: carry his pack across and come back for mine while he made sure I didn’t get washed away.
What really sucked about this crossing was how cold the water was, and that it was 7 a.m. but something must be said about the Sierra. You always have wet feet. At least it’s hard to avoid the inevitable soggy socks by 9 in the morning. With the snow and the constant stream and creek crossings, our feet were in a constant state of cold wetness. Some of you might be thinking, but wait, what about logs and rocks? Certainly you can use those! False. Those are hard to find most of the time, and it’s faster to trudge ankle- to knee-deep through the icy water.
Selden Pass was considered easy and relatively snow-free. So we decided to go over at 4:30 in the afternoon. The snow was slushy but not dangerous. I was getting tired and grumpy because we had planned to complete 20 miles that day. But we still had a major ford to complete: Bear Creek, a swift moving crossing that is considered dangerous.
We crossed the swift water at 7:30 in the evening. And we still had another two miles to hike. I was cold and miserable. The sun was setting and the wetness clung to my body. I hiked faster to generate warmth, but my hands remained numb. Tears started to stream down my face when we finally arrived. 8 p.m. and no warm light to dry my little body. It was one of my low moments where only food and my sleeping bag could offer me solace.
Day 63: Hiked 12.5 (PCT + VVR side trail) | at 880.6
3:55 a.m. my alarm sounded. We had to hike 9.4 miles by 9:45 a.m. to catch the ferry to VVR, Vermillion Valley Resort. We had no more food and were expecting a package.
I was grumpy, really grumpy. We had hiked late the previous night and now we were hitting the trail at 4:30 a.m. I wanted to murder something.
But we made the ferry in time. Although, it wasn’t actually a ferry. It was a seven-person capacity skiff. Cozy.
VVR has ‘resort’ in its name, so naturally I assumed it would be a high-end establishment. However, we arrived at a 60s campground. Built in 1964 and had not changed a bit.
Nicholas and I racked up a tab in six hours and nearly fainted when we cashed out.
The skiff dropped us back on trail, with full bellies and hurting wallets.
Day 64: Hiked 15.3 | at 896.2
In a nutshell:
Lunch with The Disciples
Alpine jumping! This time I took the plunge!
Veganism conversation with Happy Feet
Day 65: Hiked 10.6 | at 903.3
We made it to Mammoth! Pizza in Mammoth was mission one, showers at the hostel was mission two.
Day 66-69: Hiked 0
Kim and CJ arrived with hugs and tears of joy. They had driven four hours from Reno to pick us up in Mammoth. We were headed to South Lake Tahoe!
The Airbnb has been our subject of choice on trail. We planned what type of food we wanted, how many times we’d go into the hot tub, and imagined the late hours of relaxation on comfy furniture. It’s only when you sit on rocks nonstop that you dream of furniture.
And it didn’t disappoint. Everything was glorious. CJ complained he’s gained weight because all we want to do is eat. The hiker hunger never ceases.
Nicholas really wanted to go to the Mobile’s Whoa Nellie Deli, a gourmet deli inside a gas station. We went there on our honeymoon and Nicholas has been craving their world famous fish tacos ever since. The catch was it was two and a half hours away. We all joked that this was a ridiculous expedition for food. The whole car ride I complained, CJ complained, even Kim was saying this was a crazy idea. When we arrived it was like we showed up to a rock concert. Cars everywhere, hippies, vanners, rock climbers, tourists crowded the station. The Mobile is also famous for having bands play every Thursday. It was a Thursday, so it was akin to Woodstock.
The food was good; the band was good. The drive was worth it.
CJ and Kim decided to rent a speed boat and take a spin on the lake. The water was choppy at first. We bounced over the waves; hair flew wildly; water splashed over the bow. Nicholas and I jumped in. The water was FREEZING. I gathered all the towels to form a terry cloth cocoon.
We had lunch after. I tried my first Wet Woody, a dangerously delicious drink that needs to make its way to New England.
We finished the day was pitch, more food and the hot tub.