Day 62: Slushy Steep Snowbanks are Not Fun

June 15, 2017: Hiked 6.1 miles on Goodale Pass trail and hiked PCT miles 886.0 to 896.1 (16.2 total)

Today was hard. We pretty much hiked uphill all day in the snow and then tried not to die coming down steep slushy slopes. All day. It was exhausting. Probably one of the hardest days on the trail both mentally and physically. 

We started off the freezing cold morning looking for a place to cross the creek we slept next to. The last thing I wanted to do was get wet at 6:00 in the morning in the icy mountains, so we hiked up the creek until we found a place that was good enough to cross. It was a little sketchy trying to cross over a couple icy logs, but we made it. Then we climbed up and up. The show started getting slushy early and there was no logical trail to follow so we wandered into and out of the trees and through meadows until we made it to the base of Goodale Pass. 

Luckily the climbing wasn’t as steep as previous passes, but it had a southeast aspect so the morning sun was already beating on it and making it slushy. Which makes climbing a nightmare. Every step you have to plant so hard to make a foothold and try not to slip. You have to engage all your muscles to get any traction and not slide down the hill. By the time we got to the top, I was beat. But the gorgeous view of the valley behind us and the one in front of us made it all worth it. 

And it was nice to finally be on top of a pass that didn’t have a sheer drop-off on the other side. 

We half slid on our feet and half glissaded down the other side. We laughed when we found deer footprints that went right along the snow-covered trail for a bit. When in doubt, follow deer tracks. They always know the best way down.

Eventually we made it back to the PCT. Not that it changed much. Still in the middle of nowhere in between a bunch of snowy mountains without a trail in sight. 

We wound our way down, passing a bunch of icy lakes and trying to slide down the mountain straight into a tree. The climb down was steep and slushy and there were treeholes everywhere that would not be fun to end up in if you lost your footing. I think the worst part was that there were so many trees that we couldn’t see where we were going to try to plan a good route. And following our GPS for the trail doesn’t help much on steep slopes because the trail usually switchbacks down, but the switchbacks right now are just snowy slopes. It took us forever to get down with a lot of times ending up on our butts or clinging to tree branches trying to stay upright. 

We got down to a creek at the bottom and peeled off all our extra, wet clothes.

It was hot and we were soaked. We shoved protein bars in our mouths to try and get some energy before our uphill climb. 

We started up in the snow and could see the trail for a few feet before it was covered by a six-foot snow birm we had to climb over. Clear trail, snow birm, over and over. We were sweating and gasping for air in no time. Eventually we got high enough that the snow birms got smaller and the sections of open trail got longer. It was such a relief to finally walk on the trail and be able to look out to the views surrounding us instead of concentrating on every foot placement.

It gave me a good idea of what the Sierras might look like on a normal year and I got a little jealous. I think I’ll have to come do this section again on a drier year to see how much of a difference there is. 

We finally made it to the top and hiked our way down to a mountaintop lake. Well it was frozen, but I suppose there’s water under there somewhere. We were exhausted so we found a tiny dirt spot in the trees and plopped down to shove a bunch of food in our faces, aka lunch. I felt like I ate forever and still couldn’t get full. The hiker hunger is a real struggle. We tried to relax, but the wind kept whipping up so we packed up and kept moving. We headed back down the other side of the mountain, once again a steep climb/slide down and gulped as much icy water as we could when we got down to this creek outlet of Purple Lake (it’s not purple).

Then we did what we do and started climbing another mountain. Steep up, steep down. You know how it goes. When we finally got down to flat ground I couldn’t be more thankful. We crossed a creek and were so excited to find some dry and flattish rocks on the other side to camp on. We attempted to dry our stuff out, (shoes were a fail this late in the evening) and ate and stretched and did all the normal evening chores. 

We’re planning on hiking into Mammoth tomorrow to resupply so we’re going to hopefully get up early to get there early and at least have a half day off to rest a little. But last we heard the road is closed from the campground we’re hiking into so we might add a long snowy road walk to the day and have a not so restful day. We will see!

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