Vermillion Valley Resort, June 18

Day 58

Start – Mile 872, 6:00 am

End – Mile 879, 9:30 am

Miles – 7 (plus 1.5 off trail to get to VVR)

I may have been able to cobble together enough meals out of snacks to get to a place called Reds Meadow, which has bus service into Mammoth Lakes where there are full grocery stores, but that honestly sounded miserable so I committed to roll the dice and see if I could get my resupply done at VVR.

Getting to VVR either requires about 6 miles of off trail hiking along Lake Thomas Edison or you can take a ferry ride across the lake after a mile and a half side trail down to the beach. The ferry only runs twice a day and not wanting to get stuck doing extra non-PCT miles I opted to try to make the early ferry at 9:45 am, which required about 8 miles total from where I camped last night.

To get that done by about 9:30, I made sure to be up and hiking by 6, with only one moderate ridge to go over before dropping into a deep valley along Mono Creek. It was close but I made t with a little time to spare.

It’s pretty nice riding across one of these lakes on a boat after having trudge across lake openings and seeing so many lakes that I’ve walked next to but not really had the chance to enjoy any more than aesthetically.

The boat arrived at Vermillion Valley Resort around 10:15, and I quickly got an orientation from the staff and came to see that “resort” is used loosely in this context. It’s the type of camp that you would go fishing with your dad in the 1960s. The store is mainly stocked with whatever was left behind by hikers who never picked up their supply packages in previous years, but it was enough for me to resupply for a few days to get to Yosemite. Another hiker told me they found a food item for sale that was 23 years old, but I can’t confirm that.

I was pretty excited for a shower and a real meal, and luckily got in early enough to get a small breakfast from the kitchen. After that I paid for a seven minute shower which only lasted 1.5 minutes because the water pump for the entire resort died and they lost all of their water supply.

The lack of water closed the bathrooms and the kitchen, unfortunately. But the TV still worked so those of us here were able to watch some of the World Cup matches on Telemundo.

I also got to reconnect with a couple folks I know, including Cool Runnings, Driver, Photon, and Bandy Legs. So that part was fun but I had been looking forward to a full dinner for a couple days and as the realization that the kitchen wouldn’t be opening today set in, those of us camping for the night resigned ourselves to the fact that we were going to have to make do with whatever scraps the store had, and that meant tiny microwave burritos. Pretty underwhelming, but it was a change from my normal hiker food and I was able to get an almost complete rest day, so I can’t really complain.

I had been planning to go straight through to Yosemite, but now I may stop for a meal at a place called Reds Meadow which is also supposed to have a restaurant just to make up for the lack of a real meal here.

My disappointment was nothing like that of a couple other hikers I know, Jamba and Dayglow, who arrived around 7pm after hiking 26 miles to get to VVR mainly for the promise of a hot prepared meal. The look on Jamba’s face when I broke it to him that the restaurant wouldn’t be serving tonight was pretty crushing.

So instead of hanging around here tomorrow I’m going to take the early ferry back to the trail and start the last push to Yosemite. Should be there in about 5 days.

Selden Pass and Bear Creek, June 17

Day 57

Start – Mile 852, 7:15am

End – Mile 872, 6:00 pm

Miles – 20

I’ve been so tired lately that I decided to sleep in even though I went to bed early yesterday. So I didn’t get up until 6:15 and that delayed my hitting the trail until after 7.

Having camped along the San Joaquin River I was treated to the opportunity to walk along its shore for the first hour or so, which was gorgeous. It runs through a narrow canyon which gave me a lot of steep ridges from which to snap some photos. Luckily I got a bridge both times I had to cross this one.

I also came across a third bridge which was apparently over the Piute Creek. This is noteworthy only because I didn’t get my feet wet, and because it marked the northern border of Kings Canyon National Park. It’s strange to be leaving because it feels like I’ve been here for a while. I think I was only in Sequoia for 2 days, but if I’m not mistaken, it’s been about a week in Kings.

Leaving the park put me in the Sierra National Forest, where I’ll be until I get to Yosemite in a few days. The landscape shift is dramatic, and as pretty as this area is, they drew the line in the right place to mark off the Park.

After a bit of wandering through the forest I started up to today’s mountain pass, Selden. This one is noteworthy for being below 11,000 feet, and by reputation is the easiest of the major passes. But that’s a very relative statement, was it easier than Muir and it’s 5 miles of snow fields, sure. Did it still include a 3,000 foot climb, yep.

Anyway it didn’t have much snow on the trail and I did pass some lovely lakes in the way up to it. The view from Selden was actually better than some of the higher passes (I’m lookin at you, Pinchot).

After cresting the Pass it was still only 2pm, and the other landmark for the day was Bear Creek. This creek crossing is supposedly one of the hardest, harder than Evolution anyway. Since it was 16 miles from where I camped last night and everyone says to do creek crossings earlier in the day when the water is lower, I had planned to just hike to it and camp and then cross in the morning

But at 2 pm I was only 3 miles away so I decided I’d see what it looked like when I got there and whether I’d have enough time to dry my pants before camp since the heat finally broke and it was actually chilly today.

Got to the river around 4 and found that it looked much like Evolution only about half as far across, and maybe a bit deeper and faster. A group of four others were also there and so we all went across at the same time.

The water was of course frigid, but didn’t go much above my knee so the crossing was uneventful. After that it was just a couple more miles to find a campsite along the creek, although there was a surprise additional crossing of a creek that feeds into Bear Creek and that was almost as wide. So my feet were cold.

It’s going to be a cold night along the river. I should get to Vermillion Valley Resort tomorrow to get supplies, since I’m just about out of stove fuel. After a day there it’s a relatively short trip north to Yosemite.

Kings river. June 15

Day 55

Start – Mile 819, 6:45 am

End – Mile 836, 5:00 pm

Miles – 17

The next pass after Mather is Muir Pass. This one was told to me would be the hardest not because it’s steep, since it’s apparently the least steep major Pass, but because the snow lasts longer here because it’s not as steep.

The reports are that there will be solid snow from 2 miles before the Pass until 3 miles after. So this one is really recommended to be done in the morning because if you wait you’ll be slogging through loose snow in a process called “postholing” which describes how your feet and legs sink in. It’s an exhausting way to hike.

Since I was starting at the base of Mather and looking at 19 miles to get to Muir, I had no intention of going over today since I knew I’d arrive late in the day. My goal was just to get to the start of the snow field so that I could camp and get an early start crossing the path in the morning when the snow is more solid and easier to walk on.

Leaving my campsite near Mather I stopped down into a pretty dramatic river valley along Palisades Creek. The steepness of the valley makes for a pretty dramatic river flow so I enjoyed the morning walk.

At the bottom of the valley I met up with the middle fork of the Kings and followed it the rest of the day. So I had some of my best scenery yet following these rivers. No hard river fords either today.

After following the Kings uphill for about 8 miles I finally had to Ford it, which was fine because at that point it was pretty wide with slower flow and I was able to forge a meandering path across by rock hopping. After that I just plopped down my tent at the pint where the river begins by pouring out of a large alpine lake just below Muir Pass. So I get a pretty scenic camp site tonight.

The only issue I’m encountering right now is exhaustion. Doing these passes at this elevation is taking a lot out of me. My legs are tired and sore and I probably should have taken a full rest day back at Bishop. I feel like I’m right in the middle of some of the most beautiful sections of this trail but I am not really enjoying it because I’m so tired.

On a positive note I ended early today so I get a bit more rest tonight before summiting tomorrow, and then it should be two days before the next pass so I’ll get a break on climbing. The next couple days challenge will be some of the biggest river fords of the Sierra, so I’ve that to look forward to.

Camped again alongside Ikea, so maybe we’ll keep pacing each other for a while.

Muir Pass. June 16

Day 56

Start – Mile 836, 6:20 am

End – Mile 852, 6:00 pm

Miles – 16

Well, they weren’t lying about Muir Pass. It was the hardest so far, even starting only a couple miles from the summit. Almost immediately after starting up this morning, the trail was under snow. Unlike previous passes where it starts gradually in the south side and you can find your way around it, this was big snow drifts that required climbing.

So I put on my microspikes and went at it. The snow combined with the elevation made these two miles some of my slowest yet. I arrived at the Pass at 8:45, nearly two and a half hours to go about two miles. Ugh. I was walking two steps and then stopping to rest.

The good news was that by starting early the snow was more solid and stable to walk on, at least on the ascent. The Muir Pass is different from the others in that it’s not a small passthrough in a rock face, but a broad opening that drops in both directions to huge lakes.

After arriving at the top I checked out the Muir shelter and took some pics before starting on the long gradual descent. Here’s where I really hated the snow.

Even at 9 in the morning I did a good amount of post holing, which is exhausting. In snow fields you aren’t really following the trail, you’re following footsteps left by other hikers while keeping an eye on the general direction that the trail should be.

Across the long northern slope I was going for snow to slush, to loose rocks, to mud fields and then back again to snow. There’s so much melting snow in fact that much of the time you’re walking over streams and ponds that are running beneath the surface, so if your foot falls through at the wrong point or you take a wrong turn and end up at the end of a snow field with only a cold muddy field in front of you, you’re going to get wet, cold feet.

After 5 miles of this I was ready for dry ground. Particularly because I’ve been tripping more lately, especially on transitions from snow to loose rocks. Today right at the beginning of the descent I took a tumble and landed with one of my trekking poles under me, which gave it a nice bend toward the bottom. It still works though, so that’s good.

After making it through the snow and walking along the shore of frozen Wanda Lake (named for Muir’s daughter), I dropped down to the impressive sight of Evolution Lake and it green grassy shores.

In addition to rivers and creeks, sometimes you have to cross lake outflows, where the rivers begin. In the case of a lake and river the size of Evolution, that’s a pretty broad outflow, but the park was nice enough to put stepping rocks the entire way across. Unfortunately the water level was higher than the rocks. Ordinarily I’d swap out my shoes but after 5 hours in the snow and muck they were already pretty wet so just marched across and got them soaked.

I was so tired after the snow that I stopped on the shore of Evolution Lake for a 30 minute nap, which isn’t something I do often but probably should.

After that it was all down hill for the rest of the day, mainly walking along the wide Evolution Creek. There were a series of minor creek crossings but they all had rocks or logs to walk on. That is until the end of the day when I finally had to Ford Evolution.

Evolution creek is supposed to be one of the more dangerous river fords. It’s so big that you can’t hope to rock or log hop, and the current is very strong. Also in some years the water level is up to the average hikers chest.

In fact it’s so sketchy that there is an alternative that brings you across the creek about a mile earlier when it’s running through a broad meadow. I was asking all the southbound hikers how it was to get a sense of whether to take the alternative but everyone said it was manageable so I went for it.

All day I’d seen the creek and for the most part it’s full of rapids. When I finally got to the crossing I saw why they picked it because at this point the creek is running relatively slow, it’s broad and relatively shallow, and you can see your footings.

Knowing that it was going to be up to my thighs, I swapped out my shoes for my river shoes but didn’t bother rolling up my pant legs since there was no way to save them. After all the mud this morning they needed a rinse anyway.

After that I just picked s point on the opposite shore and waded across. Like all the creeks around here it’s incredibly cold, so you want to hurry but I was trying to move slow in order to keep my footing. It’s probably 30 yards across at the trail crossing and I made it without any problems.

After swapping my shoes back on and continuing down I saw what happens if you fall in and don’t recover quickly, within a few hundred yards the creek turns back into rapids and then quickly becomes a waterfall.

Impressive as you walk next to it, but pretty unsettling if you fell.

Getting across the creek was my last goal for the day, so after that I just hiked down into another canyon about a mile and camped next to the San Joaquin River. Luckily there’s a bridge to cross that one.

Tomorrow I’ll head for Selden Pass, which is supposedly the easiest pass, and prepare for bear creek, which is supposedly the hardest river crossing. Evolution was apparently just a warm up.

Pinchot & Mather, June 14

Day 54

Start – Mile 803, 6:15am

End – Mile 819, 6:15 pm

Miles – 16

Still low miles today but I crossed two passes so I feel somewhat accomplished anyway. Started out trying to finish off the ascent up to Pinchot Pass that I started yesterday. One of my guides says this one isn’t as steep but that’s crap because this felt just as hard as Glen Pass did yesterday.

Didn’t arrive at the Pass until 9:15, which means it took me three hours to go 4.5 miles, which is really slow. Pinchot also wasn’t as scenic as some of the others so it felt like the payoff wasn’t as good.

After the Pass though the trail dropped down into a valley where I encountered the Kings River for the first time. If you’ve been to Kings Canyon this is the major river that the Kings Highway goes alongside as you enter the canyon. Technically what I encountered is the South Fork of said river, which joins with the middle fork to create the full river.

Regardless it was huge. As big and ferocious as woods creek yesterday, and they gave us a suspension bridge for that one. No such luck this time. I actually made three attempts to gird the Kings, because the first two times my footing got unstable due to the deep strong current, so I aborted and turned around. Third time I made it though. Three times in the Kings made for some cold feet.

I knew I wanted to try to make it over both passes today, so after the Kings I was pushing to try to get there as fast as possible. Mather was supposed to have more snow in the north side so the later in the day the harder the descent would be.

Along the was I met an older guy from Vancouver named Ikea because his outfit makes him look like an ikea employee. We got to the base of Mather around the same time, which was about 3pm- pretty late but I wanted to get over so up I went.

Mather is supposed to be scary because, despite being overall a more gradual ascent, the last bit is a headwall that is incredibly steep. Fortunately there wasn’t any snow on the trail in the way up, so the steep headwall didn’t make a difference.

I arrived at the summit at 4:15, with Ikea shortly after. We weren’t the only ones making the late afternoon crossing as we found a group of about five at the top. So that gave me some folks to follow down the backside, which was good because the rumors of s challenging descent were accurate.

Most of the trail was covered in the backside which meant a lot of careful snow crossings and rock scrambles. Since we had to go down without knowing where the trail was, and since the snow was so soft and slippery, I actually took part in my first glidsades today. Basically that’s just a controlled slide down the slope. I used my trekking poles as brakes, and it added a bit of fun to the long, slow descent.

There is so much snow melting in the backside in fact that when we finally did find the trail again it was no longer a trail but a full glowing creek. Here’s where I made my biggest mistake of the day trying to walk along the rocks next up the trail/river and maintain a conversation with Ikea I misjudged a small rock and put my full weight on it before testing it only to have it slip right out from under me and I did a faceplant right into the water.

Luckily I didn’t hurt myself and didn’t ruin any of my equipment. So crossing the Kings river -no problem. Walking along a flooded trail with dry land to put my feet on – straight into the water.

My clothes were pretty much dry by the time I got to a campground a few miles later. Tomorrow I have to cross the middle fork of the Kings, and try to make it to Muir Pass.

Glen Pass, June 13

Day 53

Start – Bull Frog Lake Trail, Mile 788 7:15 am

End – Mile 803, 6:15pm

Miles – 15

Today I traveled 15 miles but I feel like I went 25. The effort to go over these passes is taking a lot out of me, so I’m moving real slow. Combine that with the river crossings and snow crossings and my legs feel like they’re in cement.

I got going around 7 to make it just a couple miles up to Glen Pass, which has a reputation for being one of the steepest and scariest passes, but the ascent for me was mostly snow and ice free, so the challenge was just the effort to make it up the steep switchbacks.

I crested the Pass at 9:00am and was presented with a view of a field of alpine lakes, including the big ones, the Rae Lakes. Similar to Forrester the descent had more snow and started with a long traverse along a snowy ridge, but it was solid so it didn’t pose any problems. On the way down the switchbacks were sometimes covered, so hikers have blazed trails around those sections. That means walking on loose rock and my only fall was not on the snow but on one of these alternate trails.

Once at the bottom I was just walking through a land of lakes and streams, and had to do several major fords today where there were no rock hopping or log walking options, just had to head straight across and fight the current and the cold.

After my feet spent the day wet when I did Forrester and were so nasty when I finally took my shoes off, I’ve decided to do river fords in my river shoes. This slows me down further because I have to stop to swap shoes, but it makes my feet much happier, especially since I get to ice them in the water while I go.

After a while of descending I saw the next ridge I am going over, which included a really pretty river running down it’s face. Turns out that’s Woods Creek, and it’s the only Creek where they built a suspension bridge in the valley where you cross it. One look at it explains why. The thing is massive and drops straight off the ridge so the flow is really strong.

As soon as I crossed the bridge I finally satisfied one of my to-do lost items for the trip: see a bear. I spotted him right as I stepped down from the end of the bridge. He was hanging out in a pond right near by and I fooled him so he jumped out and walked back a bit. I was about 20 feet away and he was about 5 feet tall.

He didn’t seem interested in me do I stood still and took some pictures. About that time another hiker walked off the bridge and I told him about the bear that had just walked off. While we talked the bear reappeared behind us at the base of the bridge and stood up to scratch his chest on one of the wooden beams.

I grabbed a couple more pictures before someone else started across the bridge and the noise spooked him so he walked off. His attitude was just like the deer I’ve seen in the park – mainly disinterest but they’ll keep they’re distance if you get too close.

So no wild bear attack story but I think I like this better. I just hung out with a bear within 20 feet for about 10 minutes.

After the bear encounter I headed up to start the ascent of Pinchot Pass. I’m camping about 5 miles from the top and will do that one in the morning and if possible, continue on and also do Mather Pass tomorrow.

Revenge of the Kearsage, June 12

Day 52

Start – Bishop (off trail)

End – bull frog lake/PCT junction, Mile 788

Today was supposed to be a rest day in bishop but I completely failed at that. The only chore I had left to do was to head to the supermarket to buy food, and I couldn’t think of anything else that I needed or wanted to do in town after that (aside from just not walk, of course).

I was also thinking about how hard the hikers going back up the Kearsage Pass made it look in the middle of the day, and considering that we are still in a heat wave around here, I didn’t want to do that.

So instead I decided to head back to the Onion Valley campground and stay there tonight so that I could do the hike back over the Pass early in the day before it got too hot.

Getting back to independence was easy enough as I just took the bus, but it only runs three times a day so my options were limited. Arrived at independence around 2:30 and got a snack at the gas station. For being the county seat of Inyo, there really is nothing here. Even the subway went out of business do the gas station is really the only place to kill some time.

After a bit I foraged a piece of cardboard for a hitching sign and tried my luck. Unfortunately there aren’t a ton of people going to an isolated campground on the edge of the Sierra on a Tuesday afternoon, so it took until 4 pm for me to catch a ride with a guy named Tom and his son Luke who were headed back up there after driving down to get water since there isn’t any available at the campground. So that was a lifesaver. They were spending the week at Onion Valley to celebrate Luke’s high school graduation.

Once we made it back up the hill I was looking for a campsite but didn’t really want to pay for one when I ran into three hikers I know, Cool Runnings, Photon, and Jellybones, who just got back from bishop too and were preparing to just go ahead and hike over to be set to do Glen Pass early the next morning.

The afternoon was pretty cool and I didn’t have anything else to go so I figured to hell with my rest day, I’ll get in some miles.

So at 5pm I hiked the Kearsage Pass again in reverse and at the end of the day rather than the beginning. It made for some different and interesting lighting and perspective changed, and actually wasn’t a bad hike.

The problem with my plan was where to camp on the other side. It was about 4 miles down from the Pass back to the trail, and I barely made it before dark. So my camp chores were done with a flashlight while trying not to disturb the other campers in the vicinity.

But it worked out. Got my town chores done and don’t feel like I’m just wasting time off trail. Tomorrow morning I’ll go over Glenn Pass in the morning and then see how close I can get up Pinchot Pass after that. These are supposed to be some of the most scenic so I’m looking forward to the next couple days.

Oh yeah and my new shoes seem to be doing the trick as far as minimizing foot pain I guess I just needed the shoes with two inches of foam under my feet from the beginning. It’s like walking in moon boots.

Bishop, June 11

Day 51

Start – Vidette Meadow, Mile 787 7:30 am

End – Bishop (off trail)

It’s been six days since I left Kennedy Meadows, so today’s plan was to hike out of the Sierra to resupply before pushing north toward Yosemite.

Got going around 7:30 for the short hike to the Bull Frog Lake trail in order to detour out of the Sierra via Kearsage Pass. The trail was only supposed to be 7.5 miles long, but it felt longer and was a harder uphill climb than the Forrester Pass trail. The area around Bull Frog and Kearsage Lakes was gorgeous though.

On the way up I met a climber who had done the trail a couple years ago. This was fortunate because the Kearsage Pass trail ends at the Onion Valley campground 17 miles from the nearest town on a road that doesn’t get much traffic, so this guy was willing to give me a ride at least as far at Independence.

As soon as you get over the Pass you’re out of Kings Canyon, but still in the Inyo National Forest.

At first I thought the hike down would be easier but it turned out to be a challenge and I’m not looking forward to the hike back up with a full pack of supplies, but this was the only way to go to get food.

After making it to Independence I made the decision to hitch all the way to Bishop because they have more food options and outfitters where I can get new shoes. I bought my current pair way back at Warner Springs, and they’ve never been comfortable. I think most of my foot problems come from the lack of cushioning in my shoes.

In Independence I met a couple other hikers and we decided to try to hitch together but the first guy to offer a ride could only take one, and me being the solo hiker I was able to take advantage. Bishop is about 40 miles from Independence so this was my longest hitch by far. The guy who drove me, Alan, has hiked the Sierra for decades so he gave me some advice and told me about his adventures.

Bishop is a larger town with a real western feel. The California high school rodeo championships are going on the week, so there’s a bunch of kids in rodeo vests walking around. I stayed the night at little motel called the TownHouse, which is no frills but all I need is a shower and a bed so that’s fine.

Tomorrow I’m going to hitch back to the onion valley campground and spend the night there so I can do the hike back over Kearsage Pass early the next morning. Once I’m back in I’ll go over Glen Pass.

It sounds like most of the passes are rapidly clearing of snow, so apparently Forrester will have been the biggest challenge to cross.

Forrester Pass. June 10

Day 50

Start – Crabtree Meadow, Mile 766 5:30 am

End – Vidette Meadow, Mile 787, 7:00 pm

Miles – 21

The Sierra section includes a series of high alpine passes through the mountains, the first of which, Forrester Pass, is also the highest elevation on the trail at 13,200 feet (Mt. Whitney is higher but not actually in the trail.)

Most of these passes are where you actually encounter snow, and in high snow years these can be really dangerous. Luckily this is not a high snow year. Regardless most advice is to go early when the ice is at its hardest from the cold overnight, and is the most stable to stand on.

Since I stayed at Crabtree Meadow instead of pushing on after summiting Whitney, I didn’t think I’d have a chance to make it over the Pass today since it was nearly 10 miles up the trail, with around 3000 feet of elevation gain.

Crabtree was really cold again last night, and despite wearing every article of clothing I have, it still woke me up. So I got going early with the intention of seeing how close I could get to the Pass in order to do it the following morning.

I had to cross a couple streams after entering Sequoia, but today was the day for my first serious river crossings – at least 5 of them. The first one I came to I was able to rock hop across with only minor wet feet. The second one however afforded no such opportunity so I swapped out my shoes for my sandals, rolled my pants up and headed across what was incredibly cold knee deep water.

The challenge with these is that the current is so strong it can still knock you over. I use my trekking poles for stability but it’s still sketchy. Also did I mention it’s super cold? After the desert though it’s kind of nice to have these puzzles to solve.

I made pretty good time and soon the landscape shifted from forest to a wide open Meadow and finally a spotty snow field at the base of the Pass. I arrived around noon which was later than I expected because the snow field was difficult to navigate. You’d lose the trail under a blanket of thick snow and have to either cross that or wander around until you found it again on the other side.

At that point though, other groups were still going up, and there wasn’t much snow on the trail (though plenty on the flat approach). So I joined a group of three other guys: Box, Snickers, and Salty and decided to go for it.

It was an incredibly steep climb up, and I put on my micro spikes and used my ice axe, but didn’t really need that one. I arrived at the Pass at 2pm and found that it is actually the border between Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

The landscape couldn’t have been more different either. While the ascent only had patchy snow, the Kings Canyon side was still largely an ice field. So we had to follow a path that had been kicked into the ridge by previous hikers.

The reason to go early is that when walking a path like this, if the ice is harder you don’t fall in. It isn’t really a risk of falling down the side (which plenty of folks had done for fun), it’s just that your feet sink and walking is a chore.

After making it across the face of the ridge I was able to get off the snow and walk on rocks- not the trail, but whatever rocks would keep me along side it while it was covered in snow. On the Kings side it was covered for miles. So I did a lot of rock scrambling.

As the snow melts it forms these beautiful alpine lakes which then form the headwaters of the Parks rivers. While Sequoia had plenty of rivers, Kings is overwhelming. Everywhere you turn in the high country is a small stream, Creek, or major river. Most of the trail itself is a stream along this part.

Needless to say between the snow and the water on the trail and the multiple river crossings, my feet were wet most of the day.

After coming down from the Pass, I ran into a guy named Jared who I initially met in Agua Dulce. He had just come over too and after getting down low enough that we were back in a forest (albeit one with water everywhere you turn), we camped at a place called Vidette Meadows along Bubb Creek.

Tomorrow I’m going to head out via the Kearsage Pass to get to Bishop in order to resupply before coming back in to tackle the next pass – Glenn.

Mt. Whitney. June 9th

Day 49

Up to the summit and back, no PCT miles. About 17 miles round trip though, and 3000 feet of elevation gain.

Crabtree Meadow was a cold place to camp. I think for the Sierra I’m going to have to sleep in every article of clothes that I brought in this trip. I woke up cold and tried to fight it to get some extra sleep but gave up around 4:30 and decided to just get going on my hike up to the summit. I got going right about 5am

Mayo had already left by then so I left most of my gear and just loaded some food, water, and layers of clothes for the hike up to the top. No sense in bringing all that weight if I’m just going to come back down.

With my headlamp on I set out on the trail. This is one of the most beautiful hikes I’ve ever done – from start to finish it is incredibly scenic. It started with a walk along a creek, the I passed two alpine lakes, Timberline Lake and Guitar Lake (it’s shaped like a guitar) before starting up the side of the ridge to Whitney.

Around Guitar Lake I ran into a girl named Bandy Legs who I recently met in Kennedy Meadows so I had a hiking partner for the beginning of the ascent. Very soon we encountered our first areas of snow covered trail, which were pretty easy to overcome since we were still in level ground.

Soon the trail started to climb and became a series of switchbacks up the ridge. Several of these had areas of snow coverage too so I got my introduction to how to deal with them. I was just using my trekking poles and didn’t bother with my ice axe or micro spikes since the snow patches were pretty small. Tomorrow I’ll get close to Forrester Pass and will need both, but today was just a taste.

We passed a bunch of folks I know coming down who had gone up for the Sunrise, and toward the top I ran into most of the trail family that I’ve been keeping up with, so I caught up to the even though they left Kennedy a day earlier. I guess those extra miles paid off.

I made it to the summit at 9:15, so it took more than four hours to go 8.5 miles, not a fast pace at all. The top of Whitney is breathtaking. You’re surrounded by these granite spires and long down in lakes, some of which are completely inaccessible and still frozen over. The wind was pretty brutal up there so I’m glad I brought all my clothes to I could add layers.

There is also a small shack for hikers at the top but it was full of snow. I spent about an hour on top and then headed back. By then most of the PCT hikers were gone and it was all day hikers coming up from Lone Pine. At 10:30 I asked one of them when he got started and he said that he left Lone Pine at midnight and was just approaching the summit. That’s brutal. I’m glad I approached from the West.

Got back to camp around 2:30pm. All the folks I know are pushing on an additional 8 miles to be positioned to go past Forrester Pass tomorrow morning but I’m too exhausted. So I decided to stay here and do that part in the morning.

Should still be able to get to Kearsage Pass in a couple days, it’s just trickier when you are trying to time your arrival at some of these passes to do them in the morning when the snow is less slushy. It’s not any more dangerous it just means a lot more effort to walk through the slushy footprints of a thousand other hikers.