Day 50: I Hate Slush 

June 3, 2017: Hiked Miles 788.9 to 802.6 (13.7 total)

Coldest night on the trail last night. I know I’ve said that before, but last night was the coldest. Sleeping on snow doesn’t generate much warmth surprisingly. I was almost happy when Colton woke me up at 4:45 because sleeping was almost impossible.

We were hiking by 6:00 and instantly warmed up since we were hiking up a steep, snowy hill. The morning was beautiful once again and we are really starting to see all the benefits in getting up super early. 

We had another pass to cross over this morning, Glenn Pass. The only way to cross steep, snowy passes is in the early morning when the snow is still frozen so that you can use your ice ax and spikes to dig into the snow. Once the snow gets even a little sun on it, it starts getting slushy and you will just keep sliding down the hill. So we try to camp as close as possible to the pass to hit it first thing in the morning. 

We approached Glenn Pass and were surprised how steep and long it was. Everyone talks about Forester Pass so we expected it to be hard, but I hadn’t heard anything about this one. We started switchbacking up a faint path. There were a little better footprints than yesterday, but the slope had random rocky outcropings meaning a slip wouldn’t be just a long icy fall, but a possible landing in a pile of sharp rocks. But we knew what we had to do and did it. Colton started getting a little nervous at the top, but we talked to each other and I reminded him to take deep breaths and that we were doing great. It’s funny how yesterday I was the nervous one and he was able to reassure me and today the tables were turned. I think we make a pretty good team. 

We made it to the top and looked back down to what we had just climbed. It’s never a comforting view.

But the gorgeous 360 degree view from the top always makes it worth it. 

We saw our descent path below us and were surprised again at how steep it looked. After taking a break to catch our breath we started down a super sketchy downhill. Going downhill is sometimes more mentally challenging than going up because you have no choice but to look at what’s below you. And when you can’t even see the bottom because the slope is so steep, it’s not very reassuring. We had footsteps to follow but eventually they started heading straight down the mountain and I felt like every step was the scariest one. One slip and I would be sliding a long ways down. I just had to keep reassuring myself, you can do this, one step at a time, you’re in control, you got this. And finally I did make it. Such a great feeling.

The next couple hours we slid down a few slopes and skirted around some beautiful frozen lakes. 

Colton decided to take a path down a super steep slope at on point that was not hard enough to walk down. It was probably not soft enough to slide down either, but we didn’t have much of a choice. It took all of my strength to keep my ice ax in the snow next to me as I slid down to slow my fall. I got to the bottom and was out of breath from having to hang on so hard.

The snow got slushy very early on today and the way the snow melts in flatter areas is so hard to walk on. It’s basically huge foot-deep divets with every step that you just sink into.

It’s exhausting and very frustrating because no matter how hard you try,  you just slip nonstop. And the divets blend in with any footsteps so following any sort of path was next to impossible. It takes all your concentration to make sure you don’t step wrong and break an ankle.
We stumbled upon a random ranger station at one point. I don’t think anyone’s been there for awhile.

There were tons of creek and stream ice crossings today which are always scary. So many of the crossings look like the ice is just thick enough to hold you and you just pray that it does. 

We’re getting pretty good about knowing what looks sturdy enough and have lucked out that there is still so much snow right now that’s covering a lot of the creeks, but with all the snow run off that is going to occur as things keep heating up, I hate to see what these creeks are going to look like in a few weeks. 

After what felt like forever, we made it down to some actual dirt and even found the trail every so often. Of course the trail was basically a stream of icy snowmelt so it wasn’t the warmest of walking for our feet. Not that it mattered since they were soaked from the snow.

We made it to a beautiful campsite right on the side of the rushing creek we had been following all morning and stopped for lunch. First things first, dry everything out. Then chug icy cold mountain water and try not too eat all of our food. These last few days have been the hungriest I have been on the trail, where I feel like I can never eat enough to be full because I’ll run out of food and I can only eat enough to not feel starving. This will be our longest set of days between resupply points so far and definitely the hardest and most exhausting.  

After lunch we crossed a cool suspension bridge and a bunch more creeks.

We finally made it to where we planned to spend the night and were so excited to see some dry ground! The sun was warm, it was still early enough in the day, we had a non-snowy place to sleep and we were surrounded by beautiful mountains and a rushing creek with fresh water. First thing we do when we get to camp is always to air our wet gear out. 

Then we just sat in awe of our surroundings for awhile. 

I stretched a ton because after the past few days of intense climbing and snow walking, my legs were on fire all day today. They felt like they had doubled their weight overnight. I hope I can still walk tomorrow. 

We ate dinner early and recounted all our food to see what else we could snack on and still have enough for the next three days. There wasn’t much so we chugged water and ate a couple jolly ranchers instead. At least we can go to bed early and hopefully sleep away our hunger until our early morning breakfast tomorrow. 

The past few days out here have been so much more intense than I ever imagined. On a normal year I think the Sierras would be steep, but still manageable. With all the snow and water this year, they are just plain scary. We keep thinking back to all the people we met back in the desert who were struggling and I just can’t imagine how they are going to get through some of these climbs. Today was the first day on the trail we didn’t see another person and I’m starting to see why. I hope and pray that everyone who attempts the Sierras this year does so safety and with good gear and good common sense because this is nothing to mess around with.  

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6 thoughts on “Day 50: I Hate Slush 

    1. Pretty good. I’m sure crampons would work better but the spikes are nice because they’re so versatile and can go over rocks and dirt and can can still slide with them when it gets slushy

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  1. Everyone says the Glen Pass descent is the sketchiest of the sierra. Glad you made it down safely. BTW the divets in the snow are called Sun Cups. You can see why crossing on snow bridges is preferable to crossing raging creeks.

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