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Monat: Juni 2019

When Snow turns into Water

When Snow turns into Water

I can now say I have hiked over 1000 miles on the PCT.

Here is a 1000 mile selfie.

I started this stretch with the same group I hiked the last section with. Hobbs, Roadrunner, Crusher and Schoolbus.We decided since we would hit the Yosemite National Park, that we would like to spent some time in Yosemite Valley.

After hiking for 40 miles, we stopped in Toloumne Meadows, which as of now is a pretty dead place. Once the road opens, it will be flooded by tourists and they put up a grocery store just for all those tourists every year. Other than that store there is one ski hut, which is not yet locked, therefore we decided that the ski hut would be a perfect place to spent the night before heading down into the valley.

Usually that would be an easy hitch. But since the road is closed it is a 12 mile roadwalk and 8 miles of steep trail and an overall elevation drop of 6000 feet. Hiking on trail is definitely a lot different from road walking. All my joints were hurting and some of us even got blisters again. When I finally made it down into the valley, way after everyone else, I was shocked by the temperature change and the amount of people.

Coming off the trail into a super touristy place, leads to all those tourists staring at you. Especially if it is like 90 degrees outside and you carry an ice axe on your backpack. Everyone in my group experienced the same. People were really nice to us though and wanted to know all about what we are up to. All I could think off was that I had to hike up those 20 miles that I just had hiked down.

After doing some sightseeing of the most common places, we were heading back up again. Hiking the trail section was fine, but knowing the road walk was coming up, just annoyed all of us. So we got to the road and we kinda started spreading out, I was obviously in the back as I am always the slowest. Roadrunner decided to stay in Yosemite for longer. And the other three were probably at least half a mile to a mile ahead. Then I hear a car. Knowing the road is closed it could just be one of the employees of the national park and as we knew they aren’t supposed to pick up hickers. As of now it may only be a few of us in a week, but pretty soon that road will be flooded by hikers. But anyways I thought it was worth giving it a shot, so I stuck my thumb out and the pick up drives past me full speed. But then I see his brake lights go off and he comes back, I couldn’t believe it. So he picked me up and also stopped and picked up the others. He saved our feet and multiple hours of road walking. We spent another night in the ski hut.The next morning we were back to hiking the PCT. The stretch into the next town was 74 miles long and Yosemite is known for its river crossings. But we still hoped we could push through in 4 days. I am on a time limit and I need to get in more miles. In a high snow year the river crossings are extremely dangerous, especially in the early thaw season. But everyone told us how dangerous the Sierra would be and the last sections weren’t even that bad, they were tough and technical, but not dangerous if you weren’t stupid about it. So how could this be different? It is literally just water.

I was so wrong! And I also have to admit that this last section brought me to my knees multiple times. This was the most dangerous. The worst part for me is that I had to realize I could have not done it by myself. My group is the reason I can write this blog entry right now. I may not have found myself in some of the situations I faced, because if it would have just been me I would have turned around or pressed my emergency rescue button. But I was supported by three amazing people. The first crossings weren’t bad at all. Then we hit the first crossing we were warned about in the Valley. It was split into two sections. I A framed the first section with Schoolbus, meaning you hold onto each others shoulders, allowing for a more secure crossing. The second section took as quite some scouting. Me and Crusher tried A framing it but had to turn around since the current was even too strong for that. Hobbs found a log to cross on. That was way too sketchy, at least that’s what I thought, there was no way I could even climb that log, not even considering I would have to cross a rapid river on it. So Crusher and Schoolbus found a crossing further upstream. Crusher had already pushed through and made it look super easy, as he did with every single crossing. But I simply don’t have his physical abilities. Since it looked so easy, Schoolbus and me figured I could do it by myself and he could take a video of me. Hobbs was further downstream on the other side, ready to take pictures and Crusher was running around somewhere. I took four steps into the river and holy shit, this was not easy. The river was up to my waist and this was the strongest current I ever felt. I couldn’t use my trekking pole as an anchor point anymore cause I simply couldn’t push it into the ground, I could barely hold onto it. And I realized I was slowly loosing grip. 200 feet downstream was a huge rapid and this is what all of the river downstream looked like. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t move backwards and I couldn’t move forward. I looked at Hobbs with pure fear in my eyes and then I just started screaming for help. I just didn’t know what to do, it would only take a few more pushes of the river and I wouldn’t be able to stand the force anymore. Hobbs immediately had put down is camera, but was quite far downstream. Schoolbus pushed into the river and within seconds Crusher jumped into the river from the other side. Both of them grabbed me and we made it across as a group of three. I couldn’t stop shaking. This was more than I could handle. Schoolbus had left his pack on the other side when he came to rescue me. The current was too strong even for him to cross back over. So he had to climb the log Hobbs had found earlier. Looking back this all seems pretty unreal, I can’t even stress enough how lucky I was to hike this stretch with those people. One mile further up the trail we hit the next stream, it was late in the afternoon and after what we all just had been through we decided we would cross this stream as a group, no one would go in by themself. Hobbs and Crusher were on the upstream side, since they are the strongest. Hobbs took two steps and the water was thigh high and he could barely stand, eventhough he was supported by the three of us. We turned around. There was no point in attempting that crossing the same day. All of the guys started heading up and downstream, but nothing looked too promising. The water level would be lower in the morning, so we just had to be smart about it and quit hiking for the day. The next couple of days we were doing it over and over again.

Sometimes in chest deep water, sometimes in super strong currents and sometimes over snowbridges. One snowbridge collapsed right underneath me and I fell into a freaking cold river. But at least the current was not too strong. One of the mornings we crossed a river that was super wide at 6 o’clock. By the time we made it to the other side all of our feet were in so much pain that it took us a couple of minutes to be able to continue hiking, the water was just way too cold.

We made it to Sonora Pass on our fifth day out and hitched into town to resupply. The next morning we were already heading out again, ready to push through the next section. Finally the trail is getting less snowy and therefore we can put down our miles a little faster again. There is still a lot of snow, but we also are at lower elevation and the terrain is less technical.I sent some of my snow gear out, so I wouldn’t have to carry it anymore. Including my ice axe. We only hit a few more sketchy snow traverses and we were so used to it by now that nothing could really happen. Once again that’s what I thought… We were crossing a steep traverse and all off the sudden I loose grip underneath my feet I start sliding down the slope and within seconds I pick up so much speed and all I could think about was that soon I will be hitting rocks at the bottom and that would simply be it. I let go off one of my hiking poles. Luckily I had practiced how to self arrest with an ice axe, and I did what I learned with my hiking pole. It took a little longer but I finally started slowing down. I put so much force on that hiking pole that it even bend. I was so happy that self arrest worked out and once again I was sitting in the Sierra, shaking and trying to figure our what had just happened and how lucky I was. I am now at mile 1091 in South Lake Tahoe and I hope that I can finally push back to my old mileage.

I have officially completed the Sierra section in one of the highest snow years in a long time. And I do have to admit I am proud to say I pushed through, yet I am also scared that I will run out of time to finish the trail because of my stubbornness. On the other hand I am hoping that excactly this stubbornness will help me to make it happen.

Back in the Sierra

Back in the Sierra

Finally back on trail! After waiting out one storm after another in late May, we started our next attempt to head back into the Sierra for a 120 mile stretch. The overall highest stretch with the major passes of the Pacific Creat Trail.

Personally this was my third attempt to get over Kearsage Pass. The night before heading up me and my group went to the Trailhead so we could get an early start. My group consisted of Justin, whom I hiked the first stretch of the Sierra with. His trailname is Schoolbus and the others I hiked with are Roadrunner, Hobbs and Crusher. All of those are obviously their trailnames. My trailname is Shredder. The reason for that is cause I shred all of my gear into pieces. I don’t even know how, but usually after every stretch at least one piece of gear is wrecked.

Before we started our hike we all once again occupied one of the pit toilets to sleep in. This time I had one all to myself, at least that’s what I thought… A mouse also considered the pit toilet to be its home. After about an hour of chasing it out again and again, I gave up. The mouse had won. I set up my tent outside and tried to get at least a little bit of sleep in.

The next morning we hiked up Kearsage and the sun was shining, I could barely believe it. We made it to the top in nice sunny weather. Completely different from my previous attempts. Since everything was going so well, we decided to push on to the next pass. Hiking up Glen Pass, the weather changed and we were caught in a little bit of thunder and some snow. The thunder kinda scared me. I dont enjoy hiking in it. Furthermore I was super exhausted. Two passes in one day was pretty rough on my body.

The next day we pushed further along the trail until a light storm hit in the afternoon and we decided to stop hiking for the day. The day after we hit our third pass. Pinchot Pass, definitely one of the nicer passes. Still quite some elevation, but nothing super sketchy.

The following day we hit Mather Pass, known to be a pretty sketchy and technical pass. So we had to hit it as early as possible, so that the snow conditions would still be good. Luckily a group of six was even earlier than us and punched a nice pass through the snow for us. Turning it into a nice ascent for us. I did get scared once a slight avalanche started coming our way. Which was clearly an indicator that we should have hit the pass even earlier. Or that I should have moved faster, since everyone else already made it to the top.

So having conquered the toughest pass what else could happen? The last one of the high passes was left for the next day. It was a 10 mile uphill hike and honestly it was a nightmare. We postholed most of it and it took forever to get to the top. The sun was burning, but at least no one could complain that it was too cold. After that ascent we hiked for 6 more miles and got rewared with an amazing sunset. We all weren’t exactly in a great mood after that day and the sunset just turned everything around and we were happy again.

The next day there was no pass, so I figured it would be an easy day. I kinda just forgot about the river crossings that were coming up. Evaluation Creek and Bear Creek are known to be the most dangerous river crossings on the PCT. Sadly some people already died in those crossings. Feeling the current especially of Bear Creek I could definitely see how that happens. I was hiking with four strong guys and I am also definitely a rather big girl. But there were a couple of steps were I had to take all my strength to not get swept away and the river will be a lot higher in a few weeks from now. So that slowed us down quite a bit. After the crossings we needed to dry out our stuff. That is usually also a great time for a nap and lunch.

The stretch through the valley consisted mainly of slushly snow and usually small rivers that had turned into real river crossings for us due to the insane amount of snow. One of the rivers I tried crossing over via a fallen tree. And then it happened I leaned over too far and my foot got stook. I started falling towards the side. Luckily Crusher was standing close and was able to grab my legs so I had enough grip to just fall backwards onto another fallen tree, rather than falling into a stream a couple feet below me.

Throughout the day I would step on snow just to fall through and hit a rock or a fallen tree. It was annoying and everytime we actually see a trail it was pretty much a river. Towards the end of the day we had to push through another uphill and all of the sudden I realized my ankle was hurting. I knew I twisted and rolled it multiple times that day, but I couldn’t remember a certain incident were it was that bad. Getting to the top of the uphill Roadrunner, Hobbs and Crusher were already waiting. Roadrunner asked how my ankle was doing. And that was the moment it happened. I just started crying in front of all of them. My ankle sucked. It freaking hurt every step I took. The next town was 30 miles away. And I had to continue walking. How bad would it be? Would I be able to continue hiking? How would it feel the next morning? Did I have any other option then continuing to the next town? No. So I told myself to stop being whiny, I drowned some pain meds and told myself most of it is mental since it was a tough day and we had already hiked quite a bit. Everyone realized I felt like shit and all of the boys decided to take some of my gear so I would have less weight to carry. I was so thankful. Schoolbus stayed behind and hiked the last miles with me eventhough I was going as slow as I had never been before.

The next morning I woke up and I looked at my ankle. It was bruised and swollen. But nothing too bad. And well since my boots were constantly wet and cold anyways my ankle would be constantly cooled. I felt ready to hike. After a couple of minutes, I couldn’t even feel my feet anymore. So that was the convenient part of hiking in snow. If I couldn’t feel my feet I couldn’t feel the pain. After two miles we hit a river crossing that usually isn’t too bad. But seeing everyone cross I started to feel a little bit anxious. This looked worse than Bear creek, the current was stronger and higher. The water actually reached up to my thighs. I felt like this would be all I could handle for the day. But about half an hour later I found myself crossing a river right next to a waterfall. And then since the switchbacks up the hill were covered in snow we went straight up the slope. I could feel my ankle again, cause it hurt and this wasn’t hiking, this was climbing. Great… This is what the day continued to be like, so it was one of the most challenging days out there eventhough we didn’t hike a major pass. Throughout the day my mood started to improve though and I could enjoy the challenge again.

On the final two days we hiked one more pass and today we made our way into Mammoth Lakes.

After nine days out in the Sierra, wearing constantly wet or frozen boots and or clothes, getting up at four o’clock every morning while it was still dark and freezing, walking on a bruised ankle, I can only say I would definitely do it all again. I can’t put into words all the emotions I went through in those nine days and one blog post wouldn’t be enough to even try to describe it. This stretch of the PCT proved to me again how amazing nature his, how capable a human body can be and how amazing it is to hike with a nice group of people. This is actually the first time I hiked with a bigger group for a longer period of time. And I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.