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.