Currently reading: The Help
As much as I love being out on trail, it’s always hard to leave town. Leave a warm bed, hot showers, and cooked food.
We got up at 6:00 and packed our backpacks with all our new gear. The bear canister is a pain in the ass for sure. It’s three extra pounds and takes up half the space in my pack. The bag is heavy heavy.
I stopped in the store downstairs and broke down to buy a pair of gaiters. They’re not red and sparkly but they do have a bit of a yellow brick road look to them. I’ll get a new pair of red ones in Sierra City around mile 1200.
We planned to hitch but after waiting for over an hour, a group of five hikers called up that guy who gave us a ride the other day. We made it back to the trailhead around 9:30.
Today’s hike was hard. Like really hard. Combining the heavy pack with uphill with major elevation, we made it seventeen miles, but it took us literally all day. We rolled into camp at 7pm.
The elevation is definitely challenging me, I am going even slower than normal and I’m breathing so much heavier. Tomorrow is Whitney, I hope I can handle that altitude.
Health: So tired. So sore.
Currently reading: The Help
Today was our longest day yet, both mileage and hours of hiking. I am knackered.
We left camp and had almost seven miles to hike to get to the place we would be camping after summiting Mt Whitney. It took us a while to get there because the elevation was making itself known, so once we set up camp and headed off for Whitney it was 11:45am. Whitney is about a 15 mile round trip and since we were leaving our big packs back at camp, we thought it’d be fairly quick. Oh how wrong we were.
The hike there was lovely, especially Guitar Lake, where many people chose to camp. That’s probably the smartest choice, future Whitney hikers. The hike itself wasn’t to difficult, lots of switchbacks and again, the altitude is ever present.
I had never been above 12,000ft something (previous record held when I summited Mt Fuji) so I had no idea what my body would do. Once we hit 13,000ft I paused I acknowledged that I had never been up this high through bated breaths. Suddenly, a chipmunk jumps out from behind a rock and starts running around like it’s nothing. Show off.
At 13,300, about two miles and 1,200ft from the summit, there is a junction between two trails. It was already 3:45pm and dark clouds were rolling in. We had planned to be already on the way down by this point and had no desire to get caught decending in the dark, or during a storm. Mt Whitney is the highest point in the continental USA, so getting caught in a lighting storm is problematic to say the least. We started to get really worried. Should we turn back? Is this safe? Our moms would be so concerned.
A couple came down and said it took then three hours from that point and they didn’t even make the summit. They weren’t thruhikers, so we weren’t sure whether to trust them.
“Let’s push for the top,” I decided. If we didn’t summit today I knew we come back and try again tomorrow and neither of us were to keen to make this climb again. Also, I wasn’t sure I had enough food for another day on trail.
As we started the final stretch we were met with some sketchy ice patches, lose rock, and sheer drops that could make your stomach turn. About 20 minutes from the top we met all the climbers on the way down. No one was left on the top we were told. Great, now were the only people on this dang mountain.
But was it worth it? Heck yes! We both made it to the top, sans altitude sickness. The clouds blew away and we had the summit totally to ourselves! The view truly is incredible and what a feeling to be on top of America! You could see the desert we crossed from one side and the Sierras we are heading into on the other. We snapped pictures and danced and screamed.
The hike down was much quicker and less scary. We got to watch the sunset as we descended and even ran into two other couples in their way up to watch the sunset. We got back to camp around 9:30pm, in the dark.
Health: I was sick today. I think I drank some bad water.
Currently reading: Alanna & 1 Timothy
Today was supposed to be an easy day. We slept in, we’ll I was awoken by some random woman humming at 6am nearby. I hate humming. Humming is up there with wind and lose rock as to the worst things on earth. Nobody ever says, “Oh, please keep up that lovely humming.” No, it awkward and annoying and I was about to kill that woman.
Anyway, we left around 8:30 in no rush. We wanted to get as close to Forester Pass as possible because you want to do the passes in the morning. It was gonna be a 12-13 miles day. Easy.
No. First off, we were utterly exhausted from Whitney. Secondly, it was just a hard hike today. Thirdly, I was sick. I think I drank some bad water cause it was coming out of me like a broken dam.
We also had a few rather big creek crossings. I know they’ll get bigger, but these were our biggest yet. Our feet were constantly wet and cold. I’m already kinda over the Sierra.
And then we got to this plateau that was something out of a movie. Ah, so this is that gorgeous Sierra that everyone was so excited about. I’ll insert a photo but it just doesn’t so it justice. I also so the biggest and fattest marmot ever.
We pushed on as close to Forester as we could but couldn’t find a camping spot so we had to backtrack a mile and a half. Our spots aren’t great but at least it’s something. The wind is back and we’re above 11,000ft. Cold night ahead.
Health: Good, good.
Currently reading: Alanna & A Whole New World & 1 Timothy
We awoke at five and left camp about six. The first few miles up to Forester Pass weren’t to bad. We got to the base of the mountain and all stopped to put on our micro spikes for the first time. Micro spikes slip on over your shoes and give you traction over icy patches. Looking up was intimidating to say the least. Who knew looking up at an enormous mountain could make you feel small?
Mother Hen and I lost the trail multiple times going up because the actual trail was under a few feet of snow. Everyone just kind of made their own trail for part of the way up. I enjoyed getting to do some scrambling, which is becoming my favourite form of hiking so far. The final icy patch was 1,000 ft up over a gorge and made you feel both terrified and badass.
The view from the top was amazing. No photos could do it justice. The icy blue lakes and the snow covered peaks surrounded us in all their glory. We had made it to the highest point on the PCT, 13,200ft. It’s all downhill from here.
Once we headed down the other side we came into contact with post-holing for the first time. Post-holing is when the snow is so soft that you fall through. It may be five inches or it may be your entire leg. It’s best to do the peeks and snowy bits in the morning while the snow is still hard rather than wait for the sun to soften up the snow. We headed down around 10am, so the sun was doing quick work.
At one point I fell and bent one of my trekking poles. Boo hiss. I was able to partially bend it back but it’s still wonky. Dang you Black Diamond trekking poles! I pulled out my ice axe after that for extra safety.
Once down and out of the snow we had some pretty big creek crossings. I know they’ll get bigger than this, but it was still a bit intimidating. We usually just ford them unless there is an easy and safe bridge. One bridge today was a slippery fallen tree over a pretty powerful waterfall and I just couldn’t get a good grip on it, so we just forded it. Our feet are always wet.
We’re going into Independence tomorrow but instead of pushing really far today we decided to pick a campsite that actually made us happy and not just for practicality. We camped at Bullfrog Lake and it has got to be the most gorgeous place I’ve maybe ever seen. This is why I’m out here. This is why nature is renewing and so important. We camped right at the shore and ate dinner as we watched the sunset, reminiscing on all that we’ve experienced on trail so far.
Miles: 8 into Independence
Health: Sunburned to a crisp
Currently reading: A Whole New World & 1 Timothy
We weren’t in a major rush this morning because it was just “going into town day,” so we left around 7:30. We had to hike to the top of Kersarge Pass and then a long almost four miles down to the Onion Valley campground.
Once we arrived we were met with a few friends who were just coming back to trail, Rocky & Opera. We were able to get a ride with a guy who had just camped overnight and we all piled into two cars to get down to Independence.
We got a room for the night, picked up our package, resupplied a bit, and showered. Glorious showers. I shall never take you for granted again!! The lady next door to our room was supporting her husband on his hike so she offered to take us to the trail the next morning and we got dinner together as well. The trail brings us all together!