June 2, 2017: Hiked Miles 774.7 to 788.9 (14.3 total)
I hardly slept last night. I kept having dreams about hiking Forester Pass and then waking up and freaking myself out about it. When the alarm went off at 4:30, the last thing I wanted to do was get out of bed, put on freezing cold shoes, and hike a terrifying hill. But I got up anyways. I went outside to pee and was instantly awake. Probably because it was so cold. I couldn’t believe it was already a little light out too.
We ate breakfast in our tent, kept all our clothes on, and packed up. My shoes were still soaked, but they were pretty frozen, so with two layers of socks on, they just felt cold. We got out of camp around 5:45 and once we started hiking we instantly warmed up. The sun started to peak over the mountains and the beautiful sunrise made our early morning worth it.
The snow was so frozen that it made walking 100 times better than it has been. We were able to move quickly and actually stick to the ice with our spikes on instead of just sliding around. Everything was so pretty with the morning sun on it and everywhere you looked ice crystals covered the ground.
We made it to the base of Forester Pass around 7:00 and started climbing. There was no trail and only faint outlines of footsteps zigzaging up the mountain. This pass is supposedly the most terrifying pass on the PCT. Many people have turned around when they got there because they were so scared, and those were on years without snow. The slope is insanely steep and a fall would lead to serious injuries and most likely death. It was so amazing it almost made me forget about what was coming… almost.
We started switchbacking up, driving our ice axes in with every step and praying our spikes would hold us.
My calves started burning and I had to keep reminding myself to calm down so my legs wouldn’t start shaking. I tried so hard not to look down, but of course I did and it was the most terrifying thing I could imagine. A long icy slope that went on for what seemed like forever was all I could see. At one point we got to some uncovered rocks and thought we had hit the trail, only to realize it was about 100 feet to our left. So we went back down a little ways in our footprints and made our way to the actual trail. I have never felt so excited to be on dirt. We looked down the way we came and couldn’t believe what we just did. But we weren’t finished yet. We wound our way up the rocky, dirt path a little more to come to the famous fear-inducing snow path. It was a small section of the trail that was covered in snow and went right across a chute of ice even steaper than what we just climbed. This was the part I had been terrified about after seeing too many Instagram posts and YouTube videos of it. But surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. The path was much more cut-in to the bank than our earlier ascent and there were good size footholes to step in.
It was the best feeling in the world. That was possibly the scariest thing I have ever done and was such a relief and rush to have competed it. There were two other guys at the top and we all congratulated each other on accomplishing something so crazy. The two guys glissaded down and we spent some time enjoying the views, basking in our glory, and letting our legs rest.
We decided glissading down was a little too much daredevil for one day so we followed the snow footprints down instead. We were still on a decent slope so we had to be careful and still use our ice axes. We made it down to a rocky area where we could see the trail go in and out of the snow so we attempted to follow it. But we got too far past it and ended up at a cliff. We could see where the trail was below so we tried to rock hop down to it which proved to be very risky with heavy backpacks on. Eventually we ran out of rocks and were on too steep of a slope to walk on so we had no choice but to glisade down. Glissading is basically sliding down snow on your butt. And you use your ice ax and feet as rutters if you get going too fast. We had accidentally slid down little hills the past couple days, but nothing this steep or long. Colton went first and whooped and hollered the whole way down. I didn’t think twice, just sat down and went for it, and made it down in no time. Even with two layers of pants, your butt still burns from the cold, but it was a blast. We spent the next few miles glissading every chance we got.
We finally got to the bottom and found the first good dry spot we had seen all day, next to the creek. We layed out all our clothes, shoes, sleeping bags, and tent to dry out and took a well deserved lunch and basked in the sun. Relaxing had never felt so good.
Since we got up so early, we only had a couple miles to go after lunch to our campsite. But man, were they steep. And with the snow melting in the afternoon sun, we were post-holing every few feet. I’m so glad we didn’t have far to go. Eventually we made it to our campsite which of course was covered in snow. But it was flat and sunny so we set up anyways.
It was only 4:00 and it felt so nice to be done early, to be warm, and not rushed to hike before the sun set. Getting up early made all the difference in the world. We enjoyed lounging around in the sun, stretching our tired legs out and giving each other back massages and talking about how crazy and different our life is right now.
We made dinner while it was still light out and got in our tent before the sun even set. We’re going to try to keep getting up early because we can make so much more progress in frozen snow than slushy, and it’s so nice to finish the day early, to be warm, have time to dry our clothes and shoes out, and not feel rushed all day. We have another steep pass to climb tomorrow morning so we’re hoping the frozen snow will make it easier than our afternoon climb today.
The past few days have been nothing but challenging and it has made me work harder than I knew I could and overcome a lot of fears. I always feel so much better after I accomplish something that terrified me, even if it induces fear in me beforehand. I can’t wait to see what else I’m going to learn out here.