June 4, 2017: Hiked Miles 802.6 to 815.6 + 2 walking around looking for a campsite out of the snow (15.0 total)
We got to bed so early last night, I think we were both asleep before 9:00. And it was nice and warm since we weren’t sleeping on the snow so we actually felt good when we got up at 4:30.
We had a long, uphill climb just to get to the next pass we had to cross.
When we got to the base of the pass I looked up and couldn’t believe how steep it looked. My legs were already so sore from the past few days and this morning and the last thing I wanted to do was climb another steep, snowy mountain. But that seems to be the name of the game lately. An insanely scary game that should come with some extreme warning labels. But we didn’t have much of a choice so up we went.
The snow was already getting a little soft since the slope had a direct shot of the morning sun on it, but it didn’t end up being as steep as I imagined. We had good footprints to step in cut into the bank and they held pretty well. That is until we got to the top. Colton was ahead of me and right when he got to the top I saw him take a step back and stagger a little and I knew that wasn’t a good sign. When I got up there I could see why. We were standing on a little rocky peak and looking down at a sheer drop off of icy snow. And that’s when Colton told me that we had climbed the wrong pass and the one we were supposed to be on top of was 3/10 of a mile to our east. I was so tired at this point and frustrated and scared that I couldn’t help but start crying. We looked to our right and could see where we were supposed to be and the nice easy slope down from there. The ridge top between the two slopes looked like walking on the top of a rocky pinnacle, but we decided to try it. We got about 50 feet before we decided this wasn’t going to work because the rocky ridgetop was broken up by parts covered with snow which looked like they were ready to break off with one touch. We could see footsteps in the snow below us and realized we weren’t the first to make this mistake. I mean we had followed up someone else’s footprints. Not making that mistake again.
We slowly made our way down to the footprints and started our way across the top of the hill. At one point Colton found a place he decided it looked good to cross over the ridge and make our way down. It still looked insanely steep to me but if he thought it was good, I could trust him.
We started making our way down, Colton plunging his heels into the snow to make steps and using our ice axes to keep us steady. My microspikes are not as tight as I would like on my shoes since I bought them for different shoes that I ended up trading out for the ones I have now, so they kept moving around with all the pressure they were getting from the steep slope. It definitely made me nervous, but I kept slowly making my way down until I could let my breath out when the slope started to become more gradual. We got down to flatter ground and looked back up and couldn’t believe what we had just come down. So much excitement for the day… and it was only 9:00. Which meant lots more hiking!
We had a nice valley to make our way down and a decent path to follow for most of the way so we didn’t have to check our phones every few minutes to make sure we were close to the trail. We hiked down a few more miles where we hit the South Fork of the Kings River, the first major river crossing of the PCT. And boy was it flowing strong. We walked around to see if there was a snow bridge anywhere and we found a little one over to a long island that split the river in half. We decided to try it and made our way to the island hoping the other side had another snow bridge. But of course it didn’t. What it did have was a decent size log laying across the river that was about half submerged, but helped to slow the water down.
We decided our best bet was to slide down the snow bank a few feet to the water and then forge across, using the log as a barrier to hold us up against the current. We stripped down to our underwear and sandals and slid down the bank one at a time into the icy water that went up to my waist. The current was strong but we were able to make it across. I didn’t realize how cold I was until I got out and couldn’t help but start yelling out of pain. We found a spot in the sun to sit and thaw out and put our clothes back on.
We still had one more river crossing in a couple miles so we decided to make it across that before lunch in case it was a strong one too. Rivers and creeks are best to cross early in the day because they swell more throughout the day as more snow starts to melt. Our next river turned out to be much higher in elevation and luckily had a decent snow bridge we could use to cross.
The slopes going down to the river were basically straight snow banks that were already glaciering off so we couldn’t get water there for fear of the ice breaking and falling in. So we walked a little further til we found a spot that looked a little safer to try and get water from. We successfully got water without more than our feet falling in, although we did hear a nice crack in the snow we were standing on. We found a tiny spot of shade behind some trees in our snow valley and ate lunch and tried to stay out of the sun since we had been in it all day. We relaxed and took our time since we only had a couple more miles to do for the day.
We filled up with extra water after lunch not knowing if we would find any of the streams up ahead uncovered before our campsite. The snow was extra slushy by this point and our packs were loaded with water so the hike was not easy. Before we reached where we were planning to sleep we found a little rock outcroping that we decided we could sleep on instead of the snow. It wasn’t ideal but it was better than snow so we decided to drop our packs and go check out the campsite which was supposed to be close by and see if it was any better. Well somehow we had got farther off the trail than we thought so our little walk turned into about a two-mile roundabout. The campsite wasn’t great but we did find a perfect little spot up on some rocks that we decided we could clear enough rocks out of to make it work. And it was right at the base of the next pass we are sumitting in the morning. So back we went for our packs and then back up the hill to our new tentsite. I guess that’s what we get for thinking today was going to be a short day.
We layed everything out in the sun to dry and stretched and enjoyed not having freezing cold, icy shoes on.
While not as high as Forester Pass, it is known to be the most fear-inducing because of its steep headwall. And boy did it look steep. And of course covered in snow. We could see multiple paths up to the top and discussed which was best. We still haven’t decided.
Our tent dried out so we set up and ate dinner and I tried not to think about tomorrow. Which of course didn’t work.
We have a new routine at night since we are getting into camp so early and have extra time. After dinner I write my daily blog and Colton reads books on his phone. It’s really nice and makes me wonder why we ever wasted time watching tv at home when we could do something so much more productive and enjoyable.
Now Colton is hoping for a warm (aka not freezing) night which might actually happen now that the wind stopped, but we are camping at 11,500 feet surrounded by snow so that’s doubtful. And I’m hoping for a good night’s sleep and not to wake up all night worrying about our climb tomorrow.