Day 52: We made it over two passes today!
We left the Mount Williamson Motel at 6:30 in the morning. Strider, the owner, gave us a ride back to the Kearsarge Pass trailhead. The motel is very hiker friendly – great place to stay!
It took us a couple hours to get up over Kearsarge Pass. No wind this time!
A couple of miles later we were back on the PCT. We immediately began climbing toward Glen Pass. Definitely needed the ice axe and crampons for Glen Pass; it was steep both on the way up and on the way down.
We descended past the mostly frozen Rae Lakes. Walking around the lakes took forever – we kept losing the trail under snow. We hiked late into the day and made it all the way to the Woods Creek crossing. It was a long 18 miles, but we were motivated by good weather and by the fact that the Woods Creek camp has a bear box. (We couldn’t fit all our food into our two bear canisters.)
Day 53: Another day, another pass. After crossing Woods Creek on the suspension bridge, the trail begins climbing towards Pinchot Pass.
As soon as I started to warm up, we had to ford a large creek. The rocks were covered in ice, so we took our boots off and walked through the water. Cold!!!
Pinchot Pass has a long gradual approach, and didn’t seem particularly steep at the top. As we got to the other side, we could see storm clouds building up.
We descended to the low point between Pinchot Pass and Mather Pass and set up camp. At just over 10,000′ elevation there was still plenty of snow on the ground, but we found a place to pitch the tent.
Rob woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of two other hikers walking by with headlamps. I’m not sure if it was real or a dream. It seems unlikely that anyone would night hike this difficult section of trail, but we did see footprints on the trail the next morning…
Day 54: I awoke sometime in the early morning to the sound of snow hitting the tent. I lay awake envisioning several feet of new snow trapping us between Pinchot and Mather passes, but it was just a dusting.
We started our day with the South Fork Kings River crossing. We made it across on some icy rocks and a snow covered log. Mather Pass would prove to be our most difficult climb, but for some reason, crossing the stupid snow covered log was the scariest part of my day. My knees were shaking by the time I made it to the other side.
It snowed on us off and on all morning, but we made it up and over Mather Pass before noon. Everyone gets worked up about Forester Pass, but I found Mather to be steeper and generally more daunting. I was really happy to have this one behind us!
We walked past the Palisade Lakes and descended the Golden Staircase before setting up camp.
Day 55: We awoke with high hopes to climb up and over Muir Pass today. It was a beautiful morning, but shortly after second breakfast, the clouds rolled in again.
Soon it started to snow. And it snowed a lot. We continued walking.
Around noon, we briefly considered climbing the pass and spending the night in the stone hut at the top. After some discussion, we decided it was snowing too hard for such antics. We found shelter under a rock and spent the afternoon eating chocolate and listening to the sound of water dripping off the rock on to our tent. We also heard one distant boom – an avalanche perhaps.