Hi All! We’re still on trail, and so finding it almost impossible to find time to update our blog. Sorry ’bout that! Here’s the next section in the Sierra’s and we’ll hopefully catch up to where we are soon! Thanks for all your support and messages thus far. It has been a great adventure and we’re re still on track to finish!
We were in the desert in a heat wave with view of snowy mountains. It was so hot in Lone Pine, and we weren’t used to such heat so we spent a day and a half finding shade, eating ice creams and finding a stream to put our feet in. Despite the heat, it was a good break and we even managed to convince Niko to hike back over Kearsarge with us as he had a day off the next day. As we drove up to the trailhead, Niko’s car was overheating, we stopped in some shade to let the car cool down before carrying on up the steep hill. We parked and gathered our things together and set off up the hill. It felt a lot quicker going up and over the pass this time round, I think because last time we did it we had done Forester Pass that day so we did it at the end of a 20 mile day. We were also surprised how much snow had already melted in just 2 days! It looked like a different place. When at the top, we were greeted with a beautiful view of the cloud formations. Niko explained that they are called the Sierra wave, and are a rare cloud formation that occurs only in the Sierras. As it got later in the evening, the clouds went bright pink and red, which was a stunning sight. We made camp 2 miles before Glen Pass and shared a meal with Niko. We talked over all the passes we were about to do, and I realised how tough the next section would be. Tough but worth it for the stunning scenery.
In the morning we said goodbye to Niko, who we would hopefully see again up the trail, and set off to do Glen. We soon hit ice and donned our microspikes. Even early in the morning the thaw was feeding the streams with a lot of water, and often the path had water trickling down the steps. The path up Glen led us up and around in a slow corkscrew until we soon hit steep switchbacks. The corners of each switchback still had 2-3 feet of ice on them and so we unfortunately had to cut each corner until we could finally just go up the very vertical ice, kicking steps in each time to assist our ascent.
Before long we were on top and met up with Amoeba who was enjoying the views. We also met Easy, an older guy who was quite a bit slower than us. I gave him some basic tips on Ice Axe safety as the next section had a very steep slope, and he seemed un’easy’ and hadn’t really used the Ice Axe before.
After a while taking in the views, we traversed along following the path by the many people ahead of us, and then went straight down the side to join up the path. Both Kristin and Easy being very cautious on their feet. Once Easy potholed and came up and out with out his shoes! The ice was certainly getting more and more less stable as it got later in the morning.
We quickly descended along a path of ice and soon gravel and met up with Rae Lakes. A beautiful duo of lakes that leads the path between them. There is a narrow channel island between them, and the river crossing between them was fun with a couple of logs to hop between and along.
Just before we left Rae Lakes behind we enjoyed having Lunch on the grassy bank, lounging in the sun and drying our shoes and socks. The rest of the day took us gently down, following the valley along for the next 2-3 hours. What seemed to be what most of our days contained, we started heading up the next valley towards Pinchot Pass. It had already been a long day for us and we ended up finding a fairly nice flat spot about 3-4 miles shy of Pinchot.
That night we enjoyed camping right next to a powerful creek, we sat next to the creek and enjoyed watching the sun go down with our dinner.
The following morning we got up a bit later than normal and started heading up Pinchot Pass. Soon we started hitting some snow drifts and lost the trail for a bit. We quickly found it again after wondering through boggy terrain. The PCT is not hard to find, it’s in stark contrast to the environment and very well worn! The last 2 miles slowed us down a lot! We started trudging through slushy snow and we really didn’t enjoy it. The last 1/2 mile we started cutting corners over the snow and scrambling over exposed rocks when we ‘misplaced’ the trail. After a hot sweaty and tiring climb, we finally topped out to find Amoeba on top!
After Pinchot we followed the trail down past some snowed in lakes and eventually found our way down to the bottom of another valley. The PCT is pretty much summed up in this section as downhill after the pass to a valley and up hill afterwards to another pass. Generally our plan each day was to camp just before each pass. We hiked up the other side of the valley and camped just 2 miles before Mather Pass.
The morning of Mather Pass we set off relatively early. The trail took us almost to the bottom and then wound round a 3/4 of bowl shaped valley to take us to the switchbacks. At this point we met a new friend ‘Jukebox’ who was ahead of her friends. The switch backs were completely covered in very steep icy snow, so, as usual, we but on our micro spikes and walked straight up! Jukebox felt very uneasy with this, so we stayed around to help.
As we were going up Mather, we noticed the clouds were looking particularly dark at the bottom of the valley. Soon, about half way up the switchbacks the clouds looked awfully dark right next to us, with a suspiciously greyed out view. Just as we were climbing the last few steps, the storm that looked oh so far away, started snowing on us! It was quite a fantastical moment as we experienced our first snow storm!
We quickly walked up to the top and started our descent as the storm started to really come through. It was one of the more interesting experiences as we descended Mather pass on the other side. It was the first time Kristin got to experience really fresh snow, it was strangely very peaceful. But then the snow turned to rain and sleet as we went down, which was not as nice because we were getting soaked! It rained on and off the whole day and all we could do was to keep walking. After a long descent it started to flatten out, the rain had stopped for a while and I (Steve) made a campfire for lunch so we could warm up and dry some of our clothes.
That night we stayed at the bottom of the hill, it was very wet, but we survived! The next day it was all uphill for about 4000 feet and 10 miles to Muir Pass. Thankfully it cleared up a little and we got to walk alongside quaint, swollen with water, meadows. Once or twice we stopped to silently obsere some deer as they patiently observed us. I guess the deer deep in the Sierra’s haven’t been exposed to much hunting, and so aren’t as afraid of us.
As we approached the last 4 miles it started threatening to rain. Luckily for us, it didn’t! Instead we were high enough for it to start snowing! During the 4th last mile to Muir Pass, we were trudging through freshly laid snow, following the footprints that went before us. At one stage we had to cross a very icy and swollen river, that was cascading down some rocks. With some nimble footwork and using our trekking poles to swing us over, we soon crossed it with slightly wet feet.
Soon, however, we were greeted with the real stuff, and had to put on our micro spikes as we started up the last 3 miles. These were some of the toughest miles, as we were following both intuition and people before us to guide us up the path. A number of times, I spied footprints leading in different directions, but in trusting our topo maps we followed the right set and got past the more tricky sections.
With 1 mile to go, the sky again started to look really threatening, and it soon started snowing. Something we weren’t particularly prepared for, and luckily we narrowly avoided being in a white out. Thankfully the ‘path’ of footprints was fairly obvious and well trodden, and the terrain wasn’t particularly difficult to navigate. We just knuckled down and soon collapsed in the Muir Hut at the top of Muir Pass. We met a fellow hiker inside, by the name of ‘Clawhammer’ and settled in for a damp night in the hut with a lot of condensation. Drip, drip, drip, it was constantly raining inside the hut. Over the course of the afternoon, 4-5 other hikers arrived and joined us. It was quite cosy, and the condensation didn’t let up. One hiker slept outside, crazy! His tent had a layer of ice inside by morning.
The following morning it was beautiful, with hardly any clouds around, the sun was baking us dry. Everyone had their all of their stuff lying on the rocks outside as we dried out and warmed up.
The rest of the day down Muir and towards Muir Trail Ranch was great, we kept warm in the sun and everything was back to normal! We spent 2 more nights trekking through the valleys and over minor passes to get to our next minor resupply spot at VVR. This is a resort on the edge of Lake Edison which is about a 7 mile hike of the PCT. We had a hearty breakfast, filling up our belly’s for the first time in a week and resupplying in their quaint store.