Thursday, June 25, 2009

June 18th - Day 51

"Today was a rollercoaster of emotions. First thing off the bat, surprise and elation at actual sunshine! Chris woke my sleepy butt up at 7:30am - late for the trail - and we decided to let our neighbors head out first so they could break trail on Forester Pass. It was a long steady climb up into a basin with three walls of mountains all around us. Turns out, the Sierra are actually gorgeous when not choked with cloud cover! I also heard coyotes yip at each other, a magical sound. Anyway, we traipsed over snow fields following tracks of previous hikers towards one of these mountain walls. The switchbacks could barely be discerned amid all the snow. Slowly, steadily, with ice axes in hand, we climbed the highest point on the PCT - 13,200 feet. A real high in all senses of the word.

Then the descent began with more snow, following tracks and slip-sliding our way along a ridge. The sound of rock and snow slides were a little disconcerting and we were eager to get out of the snow. But it was endless and a frustrating slog. As the day warmed, we started post-holing up to our knees and thighs. Chris post-holed onto a rock and gouged his shin. He left sprinkles of blood for any hikers behind us. The stark and formidable mountains, the snow that just wouldn't let up or allow for an easy descent, and the constant threat of bad weather made Chris very uneasy. He said he had a real awakening to his mortality, feeling so vulnerable to the elements in a place where humans weren't meant to go.

But we did go! We made it to a sunny spot for lunch under some trees with some other hikers. I bandaged Chris' leg and we wrung out our socks that were thoroughly soaked from being knee-deep in sloppy snow. This was around 3pm and we'd only done 7 or 8 miles for the day - an indicator of how difficult the pass had been. But after lunch, we dipped into some of the most beautiful forest I've seen. Pine trees with grassy, flat spots amid scattered gray boulders, a roaring river on one side and towering granite walls all around. The sunlight finally showcased the craggy, snow-covered mountains in a way that I'd pictured the Sierra to be. We're camped on a sandy flat about two miles from Glen Pass. Only 16 miles for the day which means we have our work cut out for us to meet Clare on time. Fortunately, we have daylight on our side."


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