Sierra, Part 3!?

June 29, 2010

I think we were technically out of the Sierra after Tuolumne, but I’m not sure, but it still definitely felt like it. We left Tuolumne after taking a ‘zero’ in the valley, which was more like running around like crazy amongst a million tourists, and we had nice hiking for some miles and then… SNOW! Again! We were trying to pull bigger miles as Crow Dog is heading off to a wedding soon. We did 25 long miles the first day and ended right before Benson Pass. We spent the night in the cold snow. The next day was crazy so it deserves a new paragraph.

We hiked up, down, and all around. We hiked through narrow canyons with snow down to the river. We forded rivers like pros and more times than necessary. We raced down waterfall chutes. I felt like we were in an action movie jumping up on snow banks and between trees. At one point we crossed a river on a tree that didn’t even make it to the other side so we kind of had to straddle it the whole time. It made for some good pictures. We ended the day by looking at a PCT marker on one side of a big river and a PCT marker on the other side of the river and laughing, not going to happen that night. We also met up with Bojangles who was leaving amazing prints for us, but they ended then.

The next day we had to ford the river. We walked up the river on the wrong side for awhile looking for a good place to ford. We attempted the ford twice. Then another river came into the river that was just as big. So we had to ford! Crow Dog suggested swimming, Lakewood suggested his neoair thermarest, which is like a raft. He blew it up and floated across at 6 am in the cold. I did not think it was a good idea, but what choice was there really? So I packed up and shrieked my way across the whole darned thing and got really cold. That day we took a kazillion breaks. We were exhausted. The day warmed up pretty good and we weren’t cold for long.

We ended up heading into Bridgeport for some extra food and half a day of rest. The next few days were not totally filled with snow and quite pleasant. Crow Dog took off to make some bigger miles and Lakewood kept me company as we navigated through the snow. It was overall good. We only got lost big time right before town, which was mostly due to the trees. Not a huge deal, just a loss of time and frustrating to be so close to town, but not able to get there quickly.

Now I’m taking a few days to relax and hang out with Justin in South Lake Tahoe before we tackle the next section, which will probably have more of this delightful white stuff. I’m excited to be out of it, hopefully soon!

And I finally have a trail name, which happened awhile ago but didn’t post about it. Since I shriek everytime I fall or posthole or am distressed I am named Beaker after the muppet that shrieks. So there is that.

Sierra, Part 2

June 24, 2010

Well, the Sierra. I went into the second part of the Sierra well rested after 2 days in Bishop and a better mental attitude about the snow, basically that we would be in it for the next 6 days.  I shopped real well and had great food to eat and was excited for the next days.  We also estimated our miles conservatively.  It was a splendid section because of all these things.  We did about a pass-a-day, which was expected.

The first pass, after Kearsarge, which was the pass we took out to get back to the trail was Glen.  It wasn’t bad.  There was a steep up, but not for very long.  I was with a big group and we all summitted together. 

The next day we did Pinchot, which was a long, gradual climb up, but also not so terrible. 

The next day was Mather!  Mather!  Mather wasn’t physically that difficult, but it was very mentally difficult for me.  It was all, all, all snow and in a big bowl.  On the left side of the bowl was avalanche run out, splendid!  We went around the right.  The right side was long and sprinkled with boulders.  My pack was still heavy with food and I felt a little off kilter as I bouldered across.  Crow Dog was severely patient and I made it to the top.  Lakewood played Sarah McLachlan at the pass while I layed on a rock and decompressed.  Then we glissaded down.  The phrase then we glissaded down can be added after any pass because that’s what we do.  After Mather and between the next pass, Muir, was a beautiful wooded section of TRAIL.  Dear sweet glorious trail that we haven’t seen in days!  We even cleaned up in a river, or I cleaned up in a river while Crow Dog swam and I guess Lakewood cleaned too. 

The next day we did Muir, which was also snowbound, but had a sweet hut at the top.  Muir marked the end of the 4 big passes over 11000 feet or something like that.  We have still continued to do passes, but they are littler. 

The snow has definitely taken a lot of energy to get through, but I was pretty happy with that section.  It was beautiful.  Most of the lakes were frozen, but it was so still and serene.  Anyway.

The other difficult part was the river crossings.  They have been interesting and quite cold.  Sometimes the cold has moved me to tears, especially in the early morning hours when my feet are already cold and wet.  We have seen some amazingly powerful water though, which has been so aweinspiring.  I can’t even put into words how crazy powerful the water has been and how pheonomenal it is to see so much rushing water. 

Things I’ve learned in the Sierra:

To get frozen shoes unfrozen in the morning, pour water on them!  It is darned cold though.

Walking can be emotional.

The Sierra are delightful and I must come back when they are unfrozen!

Sorry if this is rambling.  Dinner is here.  Thanks for all your support.  I will have more of an idea of where I will be later for those of you who have asked about packages, when the hiking becomes more predictable.  Thank you for all your encouragement!

Sierra, Part 1

June 10, 2010

We left Kennedy Meadows for the first part of the Sierra a week ago now.  The first day out I got lost when the trail crossed over a creek a bunch of times.  I missed a crossing or something.  I ended up eventually navigating it with the Mayor, but not before I was wandering around for about an hour or so wondering where I was.  It created some anxiety.  We pulled a real big day out of Kennedy Meadows, about 26 miles.  The next day we hit snow for the first time.  It was tough and we got lost.  We got to a completely frozen Chicken Spring Lake.  There were some spots underneath trees where it was decent to camp so we didn’t have to camp on snow. 

The next day was a good one.  We went through some snow, some not snow.  We had one burlyish river crossing, but overall it was a good day.  We had Lakewood’s GPS to get through some of the stickier parts of snow.  We made it to Whitney base camp, Crabtree Meadows.  We didn’t want to go up further because it was late in the afternoon and the snow made for some great postholes.

Mt WHITNEY!

Mt Whitney was tough, it claimed my blood, sweat, and tears.  It was a very overwhelming experience.  Lakewood, Crow Dog and I started out real early in the morning, around 4:30AM.  The sunrise hit around the first lake, Timberline maybe?  The sunrise was very beautiful and the surrounding area so magestic it was heartbreaking.  We continued up past Guitar Lake and then began the switchbacks.  Or what was supposed to be switchbacks, but ended up being more of a bunch of snow and a free for all getting up the side of Whitney.  It involved total body rock climbing, scary traverses across snow and a rock got my knee.  It was hard!  Then we made it to the ridge and the rest was a decent hike up, but left me scared about coming down.  At the top of Whitney it was very scenic, but I was really overwhelmed with the entire hike up.  It was really satisfying to have made it though.  14,500 feet didn’t feel that bad on the lungs though.  The hike down was scary too, we stuck to the rocks most of the way and involved more than a little coaxing to get me to hop down.  It didn’t take too much time and wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  We made it back to camp, I was beat.  We packed up ate, and carried on to get back on the PCT.  End Whitney, long, tired, good day.  We hiked to Wright Creek, but it was too high to ford at the time so we would have to do it in the morning…

Forrester Pass Day

The very next day after Whitney we hit the highest point on the PCT.  Crow Dog and I got up early and hit the trail by 5AM but first had to cross the still very high river.  I don’t really mind river crossings so far, I think they are highly exhilerating instead of completely terrifying.  We made it across quickly, Crow Dog blocking the current of the largest rapid.  I like to think that the golden trout are keeping me very safe in my crossings.  I ran on as the feeling in the feet and legs after fording a river of snowmelt at 5AM is quite cold and freezing.  Crow Dog hung back and I realized 20 minutes later when they caught up that Lakewood had fallen in.  His GPS and one pole were lost in the river and he was left cold, wet, and in the snow.  We carried on in the snow and somehow ended up in the wrong place.  It was early, my legs were tired from Whitney, but I was still in relatively good spirits I think.  We ended up in this completely flat area filled with snow and read the map to realize we were on the wrong side of a mountain and could keep going and go up a pass to get to about where we wanted to go.  We decided to go that route.  We made it up that pass quickly and glissaded down.  Glissading down packed snow early in the morning hurts!  I sang Bob Dylan on the way down as I got a severe wedgie and felt violated by snow.  From the pass though we got a supreme view of Diamond Mesa, those on the real PCT wouldn’t have seen that, so that was kind of cool.  We saw where we needed to be and continued towards it, way easier thought than done.  The snow conditions were terrible.  We postholed and postholed and postholed to the point where it was so frustrating.  We finally made it to the trail and the base of the climb to Forrester, which is basically a named avalanche chute.  We climbed up the right and then completed a few switchbacks on trail!  The first time on the PCT for the day!  Yes!  Then we had to traverse the chute.  Scary, scary, scary!  I had to conjure everything in me to get across that thing, it was so scary I could only concentrate on the steps in front.  I got some good, harrowing pictures of other people.  Then Forrester! 

Then getting down Forrester…  That was pretty fun for the most part, tiring, but fun.  We glissaded a bunch, rock climbed only a little and could generally see where we needed to end up.  After a short break, Crow Dog, Lakewood and I carried onwards.  Somehow we found the trail off and on.  The base was wet, wet, wet.  Everything was flooded and crazy.  My feet have pretty much been wet for 4 days at this point.  We camped in a beautiful campground at the base of Vinette Mountain near the Kearsarge Pinnacles, so so so breathtaking.  I have been really bad about taking pictures and obviously even worse at posting, but I will get better!  And refer to others in my group who are taking pictures. 

Yesterday we hiked out to Bishop, which also involved going over a pass.  I kind of crumbled yesterday, there was more snow, I have been exhausted, my shins are wrecked.  Lakewood pulled me out of a posthole that I was really angry at fallling into.  We finally made it to the trailhead though, got a ride to Independence and then another to Bishop and now we are kicking it here.  It is a little surreal.  The Sierra have been tough, but so spectacular.  I’m going to head into the next part with less garlic (I have been sweating garlic), less potatoes, and several thousand more calories for everyday hopefully, lots of rest, and good positive thoughts. 

Thanks for the comments.  Thanks for the package Aunt Cathy.  Thanks for the good thoughts.  Catch you all on the flip side of snow hopefully.

Also, there are some pictures of the trip going up on facebook from other people if you are interested in seeing my larger than average sunglasses and now my crazy snow burned face.

Well the team pushes on.  We are now in Kennedy Meadows taking a day before we push onwards into the snow.  It has been hot in this last part so it is hard to think that soon we will be in snow.  I’m excited though.  We made it through this last section, 136 miles, in 6 days.  We pulled some long days.  I am glad we are taking a break here in KM before the rest.  The hiking has been pretty good, fairly uneventful.  We met a really nice gentleman in Tehachapi who gave us rides to and from the trail who worked at Edwards Airforce base, NASA.  He talked about meeting Neil Armstrong and hanging out with him. 

The Tehachapi windfarms were very windy, which was to be expected.

We decided one day after we had done 22 miles by 2:30pm to hitch into Lake Isabella.  An RV that was towing a chariot pulled over and took us five hikers into Kernville.  They were coming back from Mule Days.  We ate a fabulous dinner at B&B BBQ in Kernville, which had extremely nice owners.  We got 2 hitches out of Kernville.  One was a firefighter, who was quiet but nice.  The next was a girl in a Saturn, who fit us 5 hikers and 5 packs in somehow.  It was kind of frightening.  There were 4 of us in the back and 2 packs as well.  It was a squishy hitch, but pretty fun.  Now we are relaxing, but there are things to be done!  We are going to break the Sierra up a bit and attempt Whitney.  We shall see how it all goes.  A bunch of people have already set out so it should be decent.