Days 52 to 55 (Miles 788.5 to 833.6)

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!

Kearsarge Pass
Kearsarge Pass

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.

Near the top of Glen Pass.
Near the top of Glen Pass.
On the descent. The Rae Lakes are way below us.
On the descent. The Rae Lakes are way below us.

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.

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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!!!

The suspension bridge at Woods Creek.
The suspension bridge at Woods Creek.

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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.

Climbing Pinchot Pass
Climbing Pinchot Pass
At the top! Some of those switchbacks are snow free! This made me very happy.
At the top! Some of those switchbacks are snow free! This made me very happy.
Ominous clouds are approaching...
Ominous clouds are approaching…

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.

I really hate cold. I wasn't terribly excited to start my day with this.
I really hate cold. I wasn’t terribly excited to start my day with this.

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.

Crossing the icy log...
Crossing the icy log…

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!

Mather Pass is the v-shaped notch in the distance.
Mather Pass is the v-shaped notch in the distance.
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Almost there…

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At the top! We’re in a cloud. Let’s get the hell down!

We walked past the Palisade Lakes and descended the Golden Staircase before setting up camp.

One of the Palisade Lakes.
One of the Palisade Lakes.
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Rob photographing a frozen waterfall.
Great fire... until it started snowing, at which point we retreated to the tent.
Great fire… until it started snowing, at which point we retreated to the tent.

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.

The day started off so promising...
The day started off so promising…

Soon it started to snow. And it snowed a lot. We continued walking.

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Big fat snowflakes. Not a good sign when it starts snowing before noon.

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.

Camping under a rock!
Camping under a rock!

14 thoughts on “Days 52 to 55 (Miles 788.5 to 833.6)”

  1. Wow Christa, still smiling with your sense of humor in tact. Stay safe! Love the beautiful photos and descriptions of your adventure.

  2. Fabulous photos and fun narrative, I feel like I’m there hiking with you. Really inspired now to do some section hikes in that area. We have 100-degree weather coming this week to Sac, hopefully that translates into some fine weather for you as you approach Yosemite and Tahoe!

  3. Watching the weather reports last week, we were definitely thinking about you two. Glad to see that it didn’t slow you down too much!!

    1. I was thinking about all the weather you (and definitely Andy) had last year on the JMT. I think those crazy summer thunderstorms would be worse than what we dealt with!

  4. I don’t think it’s strange at all that the l9g crossing was more frightening. My legs would be shaking too, as a matter of fact they were after I crossed a “creek” while back packing this past weekend. The fear of falling into that raging river was far greater than anything I’ve experienced while climbing an icy slope with crampons. Those spikes make things real easy. Keep it up. You seem to be one of the few who aren’t skipping the Sierras.

    1. Yeah… that makes sense. The crampons really do make those snowy slopes feel pretty safe. We were considering skipping around the Sierra, but it seems that there is snow pretty much everywhere right now. So far, I’m glad we’ve stuck with it.

  5. Great weather reports! I was up at Cottonwood and Whitney the same time you were at Kearsage. Weather was crazy and it was sooooo cold. Good job. Love following you

    1. Thanks! It must have been so freezing at Cottonwood and Whitney!! I’m glad it’s starting to warm up this week.

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