Solo hiked most of the day.. the weather was cool and overcast which made the climb so much easier! Spectacular scenery.. arrived at mile 588 by 6pm and set up camp with Motzart.. Thirsty.. and ‘Tom & Tom’!
PCT DAY 34.. May 9th Mile 611 6600 feet 23 miles!
Solo hiked most of the day though I passed.. and was passed at various intervals by those around me! We all tend to keep a lookout for others we know are close.. and this tight knit community out here certainly know how to look after each other.. with offers of food or water should one be running short!
PCT DAY 35.. May 10th Mile 638 6300 feet 27 miles (48 kilometers)!
A HUGE day as far as the miles went.. 27 miles is just over 48 kilometers.. and that’s up and down mountains on an extremely uneven path! (No easy feet!! Haha!!) Still tomorrow will now be an easy traipse into town once we reach Walkers Pass!
Hydrated and thoroughly enjoyed my delicious Shepherds Pie this evening.. and I must say.. Ms Debbie McArthur.. I think of you every time I enjoy one of our dehydrated meals.. and the time and effort we put in to vacuum packing them all in your little kitchen! Once again.. thank you! It makes the hike feel and taste like home!
PCT DAY 36.. May 11th Mile 652 5200 feet 14 miles (Walker Pass)
Hiked the usual ups and downs.. but unusually and very pleasantly arrived at the end of this short day at Walker Pass to the dear ‘Trail Angels’ Hannah and Carley who had set up under a tarp in the campground near Walkers.. complete with sodas.. beer.. doughnuts.. chocolate.. chips and fruit!
To arrive at such a place after battling the mountains.. heat and sand is the equivalent to arriving in paradise! Once again sincere thanks to all these kind people for their selfless dedication to the PCT and its numerous hikers! Thank you Hannah and Carley.. you have the BEST trail angel setup yet!
As I jumped into trail angels.. Hannah and Carleys’ four wheel drive and headed out onto the flat desert sands..leaving behind the comforts of civilization at Ridgecrest.. I peered ahead towards the cloud covered mountains in the distance.. the very same mountains I would today be climbing.. and marveled at the fact that here on the desert floor it could be almost 40C and yet the mountain tops would soon be layered in ice!
I set off from Walker Pass to cover as many miles as the day would allow with the ever present goal of reaching the next viable water source.. a creek or spring between mountain ranges.. before nightfall.. and before I ran dry?! This is every hikers nightmare and consequently we plan our days around the next water!
Howling winds battered and threatened to throw me off the narrow trail ledges as I traversed from one mountain top to the next.. cautious of my tread on the glass like shale and avoiding any ‘blowdowns’! (Trees that have succumbed to these hurricane force winds and are tossed like twigs.. blocking an already tricky trail!)
Finally arriving at Spanish Needle Creek and tentsite.. a flat piece of ground in a windless crevasse high in the mountains.. I set up camp.. had a hasty meal of freeze dried stroganoff.. replenished my water and dove into the warmth of my sleeping bag.. the wind can howl.. and the temperature plummet.. but as for me.. I’m off to sleep!
Another successful day’s hike with views to kill.. what an adventure.. every corner holds a different future.. what will tomorrow bring??!
PCT DAY 38.. May 13th Mile 693.5 5800 feet 23.5 miles
A still.. and beautifully clear.. sunny morning!
Thats where it ended though.. as the first 2.5 miles.. a climb of 2000 feet took me more that 3 hours!! Literally hundreds of trees had been blown down overnight on this south facing aspect.. blocking the trail and shattering into a thousand pieces as their death mark!
This made for a particularly difficult climb as I almost invariably had to go off trail.. either scaling or descending the mountainside.. to avoid the sharp.. needle like branches that could tear skin or even impale someone or something.. unfortunate or careless enough to wrongly tread!
Fortunately once up and over the pass.. the trail cleared and the remainder of the day was a repeat of the ups and downs of daily hiking! Today was the highest trail yet.. at over 8000 feet!
At one point.. as I sat to rehydrate I heard two mountain lions vying for territory.. fortunately for me their quarrel was on the opposing mountain and though I was unable to see them.. I heard and recorded the encounter which was later to be verified by the ranger in Kennedy Meadows! These lions live throughout the desert mountains in west coast America and though rarely seen.. they are generally active amongst the smaller prey! What a privilege to have even heard these elusive creatures!
Camping tonight at Manter Creek with 5 other hikers.. having crossed 23.5 miles of this stunning land I now find myself at mile 693.5 with just 10 miles to go before I reach Kennedy Meadows and the official end to this long.. seemingly endless.. but awesomely inspirational desert section!
PCT DAY 39.. May 14th Mile 703 6000 feet.. 10 miles
Today I started the short hike from Manter Creek to Sherman Pass Road.. just 10 miles of hiking and then a mile up Sherman Pass Road to finish the desert section of the PCT at Kennedy Meadows!
Finally after 39 days we.. (my fellow hikers and I) have covered a total of 703 miles (1265 kilometers) of desert sands.. shale mountains.. searing heat and freezing nights.. we’ve avoided the perils of rattle snakes.. line and diamond back snakes.. scorpions.. poodle dog bush and the ever present dangers of heat stroke and dehydration! One poor guy I know.. Bob.. (though I’ve heard it’s happened to many others!) actually passed out through a combination of the latter two which put an abrupt end to his hike.. I hope he is now recovering at home?!
As I once again wrap myself in the safety.. security and warmth of my tent and sleeping bag here at Kennedy Meadows Campground.. surrounded by the somewhat unfamiliar sounds of other hikers preparing for sleep.. and as the sun descends below the towering snow covered peaks.. I reminisce passed days.. and contemplate the even greater challenges.. in the days ahead!
Tomorrow will be what we call a ‘zero’.. a day in which we rest and recuperate.. take a shower and do laundry.. check our resupply and prepare for the very different needs in the weeks ahead.. all above the snow line which is presently at 9000 feet! I’ll be clearing 9000 feet the day after tomorrow and will remain there.. in the snow and ice.. for the foreseeable future!
Crampons and ice axe.. snow gaiters and extra layered clothing are but some of life’s necessities to survive the tough and inhospitable terrain of the Sierra! All in a year that has seen more snow and ice than in the past 50 years! The challenges ahead will be immense! Fortitude.. patience and a level head will at the end of the day.. be required in order to ensure a successful outcome!
Sleep is beckoning.. time to recharge.. Goodnight!
PCT DAY 40.. May 15th Kennedy Meadows ‘zero’ day..
Today has been spent trading stories around the pot bellied stove in the middle of the General Store! All trying desperately to keep warm ahead of the hike out tomorrow.. and trying to anticipate the trials and challenges ahead..
In the evening as the snow abated and the store closed we moved outside and continued strategizing around the campfire whilst roasting marshmallows! Finally as I retire to bed and slip my phone and charger along with my Sawyer water filter into the sleeping bag with me to prevent freezing overnight.. I hear that a group of hikers with a mountaineering instructor have had to turn back in the Sierra just a few miles from where we are as the persistent snow conditions prevented their passage?! Lets hope the conditions improve??
PCT DAY 41.. May 16th Mile 719.2 8300 feet 17 miles
Started out from Kennedy Meadows at 9am.. once I had dried the ice off my tent! I’m now traveling into the Sierra with two others on the course with Ned Tibbets.. a wonderful couple called Grizz and Lovely Heart!
We climbed our way through the lower hills and into the mountains that will now be our home for the next 6 weeks! Instantly there was an abundance of water in the form of creeks and rivers.. and everything is just so much greener!
We now have the added weight of cold weather clothes.. crampons.. extra food and the ‘bear canister’ for the food.. which is compulsory by law from here on into the Sierra! We do not however have to carry so much water.. so the weight kind of balances out!
PCT DAY 42.. May 17th Mile 731 9000 feet 12 miles
Today we were rewarded by the stunning Sierra.. veiled in all its finery! Oh what a change from the desert.. just days behind us..
Awoke at 5 to sub zero temperatures (VERY difficult to get out of a warm bed and dressed?!) and were on the trail by 6.. climbed up to 10500 feet at a crawl.. navigation being made very difficult due to the hidden trail deep beneath this years unusual snowfall!
We eventually made our way to a flowing creek and tent site at mile 731.. slightly below the snow line.. at least in this area.. and set up camp at 3pm.. dried out the tent and sleeping bag from the night before and cooked up a Macaroni Cheese.. YUM! (Just not enough of it as could have eaten 4 or 5 of them!!) we are burning around 6000 calories a day.. and consuming only around 2500 to 3000! It is virtually impossible to carry and consume the amount of food we should be eating?!! (No need to pay for any fancy diet or weight reduction plan here.. just walk the PCT!!)
Settling down for the night in my cozy little home.. as will be up again at 5 for a repeat of today! I just hope this AMAZING weather holds! Goodnight!
PCT DAY 43.. May 18th Mile 744.5 10400 feet 13.5 miles
Today we climbed a thousand snow hills.. trying each time to relocate the buried trail beneath! I think we took a hundred wrong turns.. but eventually found our way back.. spotting a few meters of the trail emerging from under one snow bank.. only to disappear quickly beneath the next!! It was a little like playing cat and mouse.. though the routine will be repeated daily until we reach the end of this ice covered range in just under 6 weeks..
The views however were spectacular.. and more than compensated for the freezing morning wake up.. the ever disappearing trail and the slog up mountain tracks covered with solid ice in the morning.. and slippery slush by afternoon! Mountains of granite covered with snow and firs.. the constant sounds of trickling water and numerous birds each trying to outdo the other in song! These mountains are a paradise in this immense wilderness!
Camping again with Grizz and Lovely Heart up on top of the world at 10400 feet! Tomorrow we wake up again at 5.. and hike the remaining 6 miles to Chicken Spring Lake where we will meet up with Ned from ‘Mountain Education and our other course mates.. to begin the Advanced Snow Course for 6 days.. This will be done whilst on the PCT and includes snow survival.. avalanche awareness.. snow navigation and self arresting with an ice axe or whippet! The course begins on the 20th May (day after tomorrow) and finishes at Kearsarge Pass on the 25th May.
Wrapped up warm in my sleeping bag wearing my thermals and fleece.. time to sleep.. and dream of tomorrow!
PCT DAY 44.. May 19th Mile 751 11200 feet 6.5 miles..
Today was another day of spectacular scenery but equally difficult hiking.. totally in the snow and ice through to the frozen expanse of Chicken Spring Lake!
First night tonight to sleep on snow.. so hope the sleeping bag and ‘thermarest’ sleeping pad (at just over a centimeter thick) are enough to ward off the freeze beneath me??! Also wearing three layers of clothes?? Let’s see!!
Tomorrow the course starts with Ned and his company ‘Mountain Education’.. all whilst we are hiking the PCT.. albeit at a slower pace! Four in total on the course.. myself.. Grizz and Lovely Heart as well as a geologist called Rock Doc!
May 20th.. so wishing my dear brother Rob a very VERY Happy Birthday for today! Unfortunately I’ve had no service this far into the mountainous wilderness for the last several days but I am thinking of you all! Have an amazing day where ever you are!!
Woke after a very restless night freezing my butt off in the snow! At around 2am this morning I added another layer of clothing to ward off the shivers.. and think it helped as I slept fitfully till morning! From now on I’ll be sleeping with my thermal underwear.. socks and two fleeces! The only thing I have left to add is my rain jacket.. but hope it doesn’t come to that??
Spent the morning learning self arresting techniques on a nearby slope (should one fall down some icy mountain face) and then took off for one of the most spectacular days of hiking yet! Snow throughout so hard going but 360 degrees of incredible scenery! Passed through meadows under snow.. forests of trees and always a creek.. stream or river either above or below the snowline.. crossed multiple snow bridges and dug our heals in on near vértice descents to the valleys below! Breathtaking!!
Camped out at Rock Creek Meadow at 6pm.. listening to the gurgle of the creek nearby.. with the surrounding firs and towering peaks! Managed to find a dry piece of ground for my tent so no need for a repeat of last nights frozen conditions in the snow!! I KNOW I’ll have a good sleep tonight!
PCT DAY 46.. May 21st Mile 766.2 10300 feet 6 miles
Left our campsite in the trees at 8am and climbed through to Guyot Pass.. slow going once again as all in the snow! Beautiful views.. and one of the first today of Mt Whitney.. the highest mountain in the US of A!
Hoping the weather holds as it is just gorgeous at the moment.. lots of sunshine.. blue skies.. and of course lots of suncream as we move during the day!
PCT DAY 47.. May 22nd Mile 775 11000 feet 9 miles..
What a day! Our first river crossing before the sun came up.. and another later in the day! FREEZING.. doesn’t explain how one feels sliding off a snow bank into the fast flowing torrent of white water.. feeling ones way along the rocky bottom.. and all whilst trying desperately to make it to the opposite snow bank before everything turns numb.. and without losing balance and ending it all?!! This was all done striped down to our underwear.. in sandals.. in order to keep our hiking clothes high and dry for a quick change on the opposing bank! What an experience!!
We did find a gorgeous piece of real estate etched into the cliff.. on top of the world for lunch with 360 degrees of snowy mountains and deep forested valleys! These views make it all worth the numbing pain.. sore feet and aching muscles endured every day on the trail!
Camping tonight on the snow at 11000 feet just 5 miles from the highest section of the trail.. tomorrow we clime to over 13000 feet and traverse the snow flute of Forester Pass! Definitely a highlight on the PCT.. but extremely dangerous!
Off to sleep as tomorrow’s ascent will require a level head.. some good balance and co ordination!! With the coyotes singing their song on distant peaks I bid you all Goodnight.. enjoy the warmth of your cozy homes and comfortable beds.. it’s well below freezing up here!!
PCT DAY 48.. May 23rd Mile 784.3 10500 feet 9 miles!
Today in many ways has been both the best.. most spectacular day.. as well as one of the worst.. most frustrating days?!
We climbed the switch backs up to Forester Pass in the morning as the sun came up.. after waking up at 4.30am.. so the snow was icy and easy to navigate with the use of crampons.. The views were once again spectacular and so was the trail.. climbing high into the saddle of the range and crossing the snow flute known as Forester Pass.. one of the best known points on the PCT! Plenty of spectacular pictures to follow! LOVED IT!
We then rested a while and made the descent on the far side of Forester.. unfortunately the snow had turned to soup and we had to ‘posthole’ our way across and down thousands of feet over 5 or 6 miles?!! (Postholing is when you take a step and sink in up to your knees or hips in the snow!! Everything gets soaked.. feet turn numb.. and the going is extremely slow and very difficult!) The energy required to continue in these conditions is enormous.. we therefore decided to stop and set up camp at Bubbs Creek.. to try to dry everything out before continuing on tomorrow!
The one fun thing we did coming down from Forester however and whenever possible.. was ‘glissading’.. sitting on our butts and shooting down the mountainside whenever steep enough! Much faster than postholing.. but also tends to leave one very wet!!
All in all the day was FANTASTIC.. and full of great memories.. Now just relaxing in the tent while the sun shines outside.. waiting for all my clothes to dry! Tomorrow we climb out of the Sierra through Kearsarge Pass and will spend the evening in Independence.. picking up some packages.. having a shower and doing laundry.. YAHOO!!
Ohhhh.. the luxury of feeling CLEAN!! Today I had a shower.. yes!! To be clean is something we all just take for granted.. we often wash our hands.. and generally once a day we cleanse the daily dust and dirt from our bodies..
This unfortunately is not the case whilst partaking of the PCT.. In the desert water is scarce.. and used only for drinking and rehydrating the food we eat.. and in the snowy Sierra where water is plentiful.. the sub zero temperatures invariably make bathing impossible.. let alone finding the time in both environments to cleanse whilst trekking all day and attending to the essential needs of filtering water.. setting up camp.. cooking.. drying already damp and filthy clothes and shoes.. and finally near hiker midnight (usually around 7 or 8pm) falling into a slumber.. and sleeping till early birdsong at around 4 or 5am!
Ohhhhh.. tô feel clean is a luxury all hikers revel in and dream of! My hands are clean.. my feet are clean.. my hair is clean.. and for tonight at least.. I can fall asleep without scratching.. as I feel the mites of dirt and sweat reveling in the playground that is my body!
Goodnight all.. I know that this night I will sleep well and not fitfully.. and tomorrow I will wake when I choose and not have to get up in the frozen realm of snow.. with the ice thick on my tent! For one night at least I can sleep in paradise!