Day 37 – Pacific Crest Trail (18 miles)
My alarm went off at 4am. I won’t get used to this!
I rolled over to get some water: it’s frozen.
I go to put my shoes on: they’re frozen.
Definitely a cold night.
After the battle to get dressed, I look up at Forester Pass. All that is left to conquer is its epic 1000ft (300m) cliff.
Ice axes out, we began the first half which was steep snow climb. The existing footprint direction did not make sense to me, so we created a new path. We headed straight up to the exposed trail, having to cut a couple of steps when the incline got steeper then I would have liked.
Reaching the rock, I started scrambling around to the right looking for the trail. I turned back to talk with Wolf and saw the trail only a couple of meters to the left of where we arrived.
It then became an easy walk on track to the ice shoot. It is a 40ft (13m) wide, slightly flatter then a vertical wall of ice we had to cross. Luckily the steps were already cut, which made for a quick crossing. As the movies always say “just don’t look down”. At the top, we were welcomed with the sun rising over the mountains ahead of us and the southern sky behind us was a soft pink. It is the highest point of the trail, and I could not think of a better time to be here.
Looking down the valley all we saw was snow.
Due to the freezing temps, we started down with little delay. Traversing, we followed a well made path until we hit a ridge. Instead of following the ridge we veered left and headed straight down the face. This cut of a lot of winding down the valley and is one of the true advantages of a huge snow year.
Halfway down clouds began to drop into the valley. I decided to traverse in order to capture the stunning view. After traversing, I headed down again. It was steeper here and my microspikes were maxed out and struggling for traction. I did slip once, but the ice axe stopped me instantly.
I got down and met up again with Wolf and High Risk. We were at treeline and followed Bubs Creek down the valley, winding our way between the trees.
After a couple of hours of this, we crossed a tributary to Bubs and started our climb up to Kersarge and our first Sierra resupply.
First was a steep 1000ft pitch. As the face was south, it had patches of soil. Unfortunately, due to the dense vegetation, we kept on having to cross the tributary to find walkable ground.
About halfway up we ran into a couple heading down the mountain. They were heading out of Kersarge and wanted to know what the snow was like. It took a while as confusion set in, but eventually we worked out what they were trying to do and we explained that they were going the wrong way. They were relying on a GPS alone.
Please, have a map with you – expecially in the snow – and don’t just blindly follow a line. It is important to visualise what the terrain is like to know if something is wrong.
At the top, we were met with full snow coverage again and plodded up. It was beautiful, frozen lakes and sharp granite peaks.
Arriving at the top ahead of Wolf, I decided to wait until he arrived. The wind was strong and I got cold again.
When he arrived, we started down the hill. It was odd being in snow but watching the desert growing larger.
The snow was very slushy and very slippery. To counteract this I glasaded down every incline and was basically skiing with runners on when the terrain was flat. I had a ball!
Arriving at the trail head we met a couple who gave us a lift into Independence, and from there we hitched to Lone Pine and a hotel.