Day 34, May 28
Start: Wallace creek, mile 179
End: near Kearsarge pass, off the pct
The sierras sure have a way of slowing you down. The nights are cold. Frost covers your gear as you wake up. It’s hard getting out of your warm cocoon of a sleeping bag to walk in the cold before sunrise. There’s snow everywhere, sapping your energy as you attempt to stay on the snow, not post holing through the hard outer shell. There are endless creek crossings. Not those that are warm and relaxing. These crossings are surging ice water from the freshly melted snow. Each one stings more than the last, and it’s a struggle keeping your balance on the boulders in the creek as your feet go completely numb in a matter of seconds. And the gains. Steep, Rocky, snow covered ascents up narrow passes through snow covered mountains.
The sierras in the spring are not a place where you can just turn miles quickly.
But who would want that out here anyways? It’s gorgeous. Each turn is more beautiful than the last. Endless lakes. Jagged peaks covered in snow. And a small trail working it’s way through the peaks and valleys on a grand tour of this amazing mountain range.
Today we got up and over forester pass. It is the first high pass in the sierras, and the highest point on the entire pct from Mexico to Canada at 13,200 feet. It was the last part of the trail completed on the John muir trail, and it’s obvious why. The pass is nothing more than a small notch between giant peaks. There’s no gradual slope up to it on the southern side. It’s pretty close to straight wall cliffs up to Forester. It’s a spectacular climb, especially with the snow.
Before forester we traversed bighorn plateau. It was my 3rd time at this place, yet I had never taken the time to truly appreciate it, as I was heading south the last two times, and was excited in anticipation of climbing Whitney. This time was different. I had climbed Whitney, and was heading north. This change in direction gave it a totally new perspective. The plateau is bare sand and gravel, with a small frozen lake. Every direction you look are rocks jutting out from the earth attempting to reach the sky. You’re surrounded by endless peaks. I sat and marveled with Coughee and traveler at the dead trees so oddly placed on the plateau. The 360 views were outstanding.
Soon after we were walking through the snow up forester. It felt easy compared to Whitney the day prior. We took some group photos, and soon after Sherpa and I were off scrambling to the east to reach and unnamed sub-summit between forester pass and junction peak. It was very airy, and the rock was stable and solid. It was an exhilarating climb! The views from the top were as good as it gets. The peaks out here are as rugged as you’ll find in the lower 48. No mountains I have been to can compare. It made me think about John Muir’s “a summer in the sierras”, and how I would love to spend a full summer out here. I could climb so many mountains, and explore the many valleys and lakes that I have dreamed of seeing. I talked to Monica about it when we were hiking, and I think I’ll spend a full summer out here at some point.
The north side of forester held a lot of snow. I’m talking 6 straight miles of traversing snow. Constantly post holing, slipping, sliding, glissading, and often falling on your butt. My shoes were icy sponges, heavily plodding on the snow. It was extremely cold, and became uncomfortable quickly. Had I been by myself, it would have been miserable. But instead, I was with many friends, and all were cheerful and doing everything they could to enjoy the experience. We talked mostly of food. Coughee wants a 6 egg omelet when we get to town. With everything the restaurant has. Every cheese, meat, vegetables, and fruits.
“Once they put everything they’ve got in it, I’ll give them the rest of my food. Throw her all in there. Swedish fish? Yep! Granola? I’ll eat it, get it in there!”
We laughed and continued talking food. And more food. And some talks of showering and doing laundry. Everyone laughed at me, as I don’t really like doing either while hiking. Turns out I haven’t showered or done my laundry since the saufleys, some 300+ miles back. It’s ok, I smell better than all these fools. A mix of dirt, earth, sweat, and sun fried skin. Probably many other uncomfortable odors as well. I can’t smell myself anymore though. I passed that threshold many many miles back 🙂
We hiked close to Kearsarge pass, where we will go up and hitch a ride into the town of Bishop tomorrow. It’s a long hitch, so I’ll have to give my condolences to whoever picks me up and transports my smelly dirty body 40 miles to town. Windows will be rolled down.