Firstly.. before I begin.. Thank you.. THANK YOU ALL.. sincerely for your wonderfully kind and supportive messages!
I read them all when I’m able and in wifi contact.. and it truly gives me the strength and determination to get back out there and continue!
Though I may not reply due to constraints such as time and connectivity.. I love re reading your comments.. so please keep them coming!
PCT DAY 50.. May 25th Zero day in the town of Independence..
My list of food items..
1) From my resupply box sent from Victoria.. Canada (thanks Deb!)
..2 packets of instant potato
..3 cans tuna
..10 packets flavored Quaker Oats
..10 muesli bars
..10 assorted chocolate bars
2) From an additional box VERY kindly sent from two AMAZING friends Paul and Marci in Victoria.. and a total surprise!!
..1 packet plantain chips
..1 packet vegetable chips
..3 packets of miso soup
..1 packet hummus
..1 Mountain House dinner desert
..1 banana berry shake mix
(..1 pair wool socks!)
THANK YOU BOTH!
3) From the Supermarket in Lone Pine.
..4 packets Idaho Potato mix
..4 packets of Ramen Instant Noodles
..6 packets Mountain House high calorie assorted dinners
..2 large blocks of cheddar cheese
..1 packet (10 pieces) tortilla bread
..2 plastic Nutella jars
..20 assorted chocolate bars (i.e. Snickers.. Mars.. etc)
..30 packets of Gatorade powder (various flavors) for water!
PCT DAY 51.. May 26th Independence to the Onion Valley Trail Head at the base of Kearsarge Pass!
Today finished what was left of our resupply and strategic planning for the next important phase of our hike! Planning a 10 day hike over various peaks and passes between mountains through to the town of Mammoth.. leaving tomorrow morning at 4am.. so up at 3!!
Back in the comfortable surroundings and familiarity of my tent!
An early start tomorrow as we have a HUGE climb through almost 12000 feet.. back through Kearsarge Pass to the PCT at Glen Pass! All our packs are SUPER heavy with the resupply and 10 days worth of food so we’re all feeling a little apprehensive about lugging everything over icy snow to the top of Kearsarge.. an early start with crampons and ice axe are necessary!! Let’s see how it goes.. but GREAT to be back on the trail! Canada.. here we come!
(Added note; Today we were joined by Ghost.. who will travel with us for the next 10 days through to Mammoth! He is researching for a book on John Muir.. one of the early pioneers and an avid traveller in these parts! Welcome Ghost!)
PCT DAY 52.. May 27th Back to the trail! 7 miles
This morning we got up at 3am for the huge climb back through Kearsarge Pass to rejoin the PCT!
Unfortunately due to a combination of the uphill plough and our enormous pack weight (we are planning 10 days to the next resupply at Mammoth.. and my pack is bursting at just over 22 kilograms!) we only covered 7 miles before exhaustion set in!
PCT DAY 53.. May 28th Mile 799.9 8500 feet 12 miles
Up at 3am and on our way by 4 to beat the postholing later in the day.. My first good nights sleep on the snow due to the luxury of my new Thermarest blow up mattress!
Traversed the mountains from Bullfrog Lake into Glen Pass.. another nail biting 12000 foot pass.. with both an extremely steep ascent and descent.. in the ice and snow! We felt like we were on top of the world once again.. before heading down to the ice covered Rae Lakes on the other side..
Continued down the valley following South Fork Woods Creek which is still mostly covered by snow.. and set up camp in the deserted campground at the confluence of Woods Creek and South Fork Woods Creek which is presently a raging torrent! Luckily tomorrow morning we have a suspension/swing bridge to cross.. as the creek itself would be impossible! Bed at 8pm and up at 4am to leave by 5!
PCT DAY 54.. May 29th Mile 808 11100 feet 8 miles..
This morning we crossed the suspension/swing bridge and therefore managed to keep our feet dry.. subsequently though.. we had to cross numerous tributaries and wet feet prevailed for most of the remainder of the day!!
Today was a gradual climb back up to 12000 feet over 7 miles to Pinchot Pass.. and as the day progressed the heat built.. and the snow became another hell hole of slush and extreme postholing! The late morning and afternoon therefore became a severe drain on our energy reserves and by mid day at the top of Pinchot Pass.. we were all but spent!
We therefore decided to posthole down the northern face and camped in the snow just a mile from Pinchot.. beside a frozen Marjorie Lake.. we chopped a hole in the ice with an ice axe to collect water.. re energized and recuperated.. as well as dried out wet clothing and shoes during the late afternoon before retiring as the sun disappeared over the adjoining mountain.. to sleep at 7pm..
Gorgeous scenery and the serene stillness that can only be found deep in the snowy mountains.. but another frustrating and draining day.. with the snow like soup.. and the constant postholing! Hoping tomorrow ‘might’ be a little better??!
PCT DAY 55.. May 30th Mile 816 11500 feet 8 miles..
Well.. once again we are camped on a mountainside.. in fact we had to level the snow to get enough room to set up tent! About a mile away is the sheer side of Mather Pass which was too slushy to safely traverse today.. so we will await the morning and see what the conditions are like then?! As the temperatures are lower overnight.. it should have turned icy and be a lot firmer??
Today we descended from the frozen Marjorie Lake down to Kings Canyon and managed to find a snow bridge still in tact over the raging torrent beneath.. this enabled us to cross.. though I believe within the next day or two most.. if not all of these bridges will have collapsed into the white water below!
We then climbed through devastated forests.. huge pine trees lying on their sides and ripped from the ground by some catastrophic avalanche perhaps just days ago.. up to the approach to our next Pass through the mountains.. Mather Pass!
For those unaware.. a ‘pass’ through the mountains is the lowest point one can travel from one range of mountains to the next! However even though it is the lowest point it is often above 12000 feet.. with extremely sheer.. perilous drops.. especially in this years heavy snowfall!
So far we have traversed 4 passes on the PCT.. Forester.. Glen.. Pinchot and tomorrow Mather (though we did cross Kearsarge twice to get into.. and out of Independence for resupply!)
The snow today once again became a postholing nightmare by 9.30am.. and though we are getting used to the frustration and extraordinary energy expenditure.. the grueling task of covering only 6 to 10 miles a day can be soul destroying! I don’t think a day has gone by since Independence when I haven’t just wanted to throw my pack off some ravine to the valley floor far below??! (Better keep it though!!)
PCT DAY 56.. May 31st Mile 825 8700 feet 9 miles
I do NOT want to leave the fire side!! The warmth and flames are both mesmerizing as well as comforting.. The valley is surrounded by steep rock mountains.. and though we are on dry ground with scattered chunks of unmelted snow.. the surrounding slopes are covered in both low cloud and ice!
I do however have to leave this comfort as water is needed.. so I hurriedly walk the gamut of broken fir and snow patches to the white water of Palisades Creek.. crouching near a still pool dunking my water bottle beneath the surface.. instantly feeling the freeze numbing my hand! Full.. I quickly withdraw and head back to the fireside.. to the boots and socks drying on the surrounding hot stones.. to the laughter and conversation of my fellow hikers.. 4 in all!
The cloud is lowering to surround us in a fog as the light dies from the day.. soon it will be time to head to the next best place of comfort and warmth.. my sleeping bag.. dry inside my dripping tent.. (today it rained constantly all afternoon soaking us all) and sleep the night.. dreaming of what tomorrow will bring?? The sun is forecast to return.. so our tents.. clothing and packs can be baked dry.. and we will continue in comfort!
Today the weather literally chased us down the mountain from Mather Pass all the way to the valley floor 8 miles below! Mather was a challenge both mentally and physically with a near vertical climb to over 12000 feet on a combination of ice and slush!
Smashing steps into the ice.. we progressed just 1 mile in 2 hours!! It was both extremely hard and extremely dangerous.. however the adrenaline of fear and the exhilaration at reaching the top was euphoric!! I signed up for the PCT to ‘hike’.. this morning was at the very least.. advanced mountaineering! I guess we saw the year in all its extremes.. and we lived to climb another pass.. and tell another story!!
PCT DAY 57.. June 1st Mile 834 9800 feet 9 miles
Commenced hiking just before first light at 5 this morning and managed to make good time on ‘mostly’ dry trail until we started the climb up to Muir Pass!
The snow conditions then repeated the last few days as the clear blue skies and sunny weather took the temperature up to as much as 95 Fahrenheit.. that’s just over 30 Celsius (recorded!) and once again turned the snow to a slushy soup!
Both our enthusiasm and our energy levels evaporated and by 1 in the afternoon we were asleep in our tents.. half way up the mountain to Muir Pass! The rest of the climb will come tomorrow morning when we wake up at 3.. to catch the morning ice!
PCT DAY 58.. June 2nd Mile 848 9600 feet 14 miles
WOW!! I’ve just observed that here we are at 9600 feet camping in the forest with Evolution Creek (actually more like a huge river?!) running beside us.. and yesterday we were at 9800 feet (just 200 feet higher) camping on a wind blown.. snow covered bluff half way up the Pass to Muir Hut.. what a HUGE difference a day makes!
Today’s snow was SO much better than yesterday’s as it was generally closer to freezing for most of the day.. though once again the afternoon became very warm.. so the snow started to slush out a bit.. luckily by then we were mostly on dry trail..
We crossed the last of the ‘big five’.. when we topped out at 12100 feet and passed Muir Hut.. built in the 1930’s as a refuge for travelers and hikers caught up in inclement weather! We have now done Forester.. Glen.. Pinchot.. Mather and Muir Passes!!
For the rest of the day it was mostly downhill.. which has been fabulous and explains the 14 miles covered! Off to sleep with the sound of a hundred waterfalls flowing into Evolution Creek (RIVER!) the very same ‘creek’ we must ford tomorrow morning?!!
(Added Note; Towards the end of our hiking day today.. Lovely Heart and myself were so very exhausted that we both got a contagious case of the giggles?!!
No one else thought us funny at all.. but we were both just crying with laughter.. and each continually set the other off at the slightest remark or expression! Go figure?!!)
PCT DAY 59.. June 3rd Mile 858 7800 feet 10 miles..
Today we came down out of the snow covered mountains into the wilderness of the untamed Evolution Creek.. who’s power and majesty dictated our path throughout the day!
We left camp at 5am scaling the remaining snow hills down to a meadow where the torrent of Evolution Creek ran smooth.. and there we stripped down to our underwear.. secured all items in a waterproof bag inside our packs.. and then plunged into the frigid waters from one snowbank to the next.. We followed the path of least resistance and depth.. though the water reached my chest! It took me just over a minute to cross the river.. and throughout my main worry was of numbness and being unable to function as my body slowly froze?!
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Once on the other side.. I had to again jump in as the two girls.. Lovely Heart and Rock Doc.. (come their turn) started uncontrollably floating down the river.. the depth too much!! Each gasping for breath.. could say nothing.. but the desperation and panic in their eyes revealed the terrifying extent of such a crossing.. I dragged them to the shore and pushed them up to where their feet found the ground.. and they emerged dripping and shaking from the frozen waters of a creek I will never forget!!
Once dried and warm.. we continued down river to dry ground and followed the trail into untouched forests and such a ‘complete’ wilderness that we even came upon 2 deer who casually observed us pass without even a hint of fear.. totally unaware of the possible threat we posed! They had never before seen a human being.. incredible!!
Found a spot to camp in this magical forest.. before we again return to the blinding whiteness of the snow covered mountains.. We have had our reprieve.. however short.. and it has boosted morale in us all!
!!!!! News Alert !!!!!
Just heard that VVR (Vermilion Valley Resort) 23 miles hence.. and our next resupply package.. to see us through the following 4 days to Mammoth.. is unable to open as the staff and management can not get into the resort.. due to the snow?!!
There is another tiny place 6 miles on from VVR down a washed out.. dirt road that is staffed but not open.. so we have decided the only real option is to continue now towards VVR.. and if things don’t change we will just have to beg at the door of this other place?!! Let’s see!
(Added Note; We were joined late in the evening at our campsite by Sel.. a Mexican girl who is solo hiking.. and was thrilled to see us all! She will join us for the next few days!)
PCT DAY 60.. June 4th 7200 feet 12 miles (off the trail on an alternate route)
Well.. BIG changes this morning! We heard back on one of the ‘Garmen GPS’ devices that a few miles back on the trail.. followed by a 4 to 5 mile offshoot.. there is a place called Muir Trail Ranch (MTR) This ‘ranch’ has a guy managing who might be able to assist us with some food!
We retraced our steps back along the trail and off to MTR! Luke.. (the only person on the ranch who lives in a genuine old log cabin!) very kindly let us recharge our devices from his generator and choose some food items left there from hikers in years past.. to tide us over! (All a bit stale and old.. but at least it’s food!) We are the very first PCT hikers he has seen this year.. which confirms we are well ahead of the ‘pack’ to come.. and explains why we haven’t seen anyone!
Whilst there he also confirmed to us that both Bear Creek and Moño Creek.. a little further along on the PCT.. are overflowing and presently impossible to navigate! Our alternate would be to head down another trail to Florence Lake (thought of you all day today Floss!!) then via a dirt road to Vermilion Valley Resort (VVR.. that is currently closed) then back up to the PCT via another trail.. thus missing both of the dangerously overflowing rivers?! In all a diversion of about 50 to 60 kilometers!)
SO.. a total change of plan.. but we now have sufficient food to see us through to Mammoth Lakes (without our resupply packages which have NOT arrived at VVR!) AND we are experiencing some spectacular scenery along the way.. huge waterfalls.. flooded meadows (along with the infuriating clouds of mosquitoes!!) lakes and rivers! Tonight camping at the deserted campground at Florence Lake.. on dry ground.. looking out towards the snow covered mountains and valleys we came through earlier today!
Tomorrow we follow the one and only snowbound road out of here.. to the still closed VVR as we climb back into the mountains.. apparently there is over 10 feet of snow still covering the only access road??! Again.. let’s see?
What an INCREDIBLE journey this is.. but one that needs constant observation.. and one that can change from gorgeous hiking.. to dangerous mountaineering in not much more than an instant!
Once again.. Goodnight all!
PCT DAY 61.. June 5th 7600 feet 13 miles (at Vermilion Valley Resort/ VVR)
This morning we left our campground at Florence Lake and walked a very deserted.. run down road with the usual detritus of winter blowdowns and overflowing creeks.. blocking the road! There will have to be a lot done by the clean up and repair crews before tourists can start coming through.. which I believe will be in a week or two!
We covered 13 miles on dry road.. firstly 7 miles to a place called Mono Creek Store (which is closed!) and then up the hill for 6 miles.. on a mostly dirt road through to VVR!
No one here except the 4 of us.. Ghost and Sel joined us after having crossed the overflowing Bear Creek.. the reason for which we hiked the alternate! They were shattered and exhausted by their ordeal.. having to belay by rope across a thunderous creek.. when they arrived here about 4 hours after us.. so we definitely made the right decision taking the alternate!
Tonight camping at the deserted VVR by Edison Lake and tomorrow back into the mountains above the snow line tô cross Goodale Pass and no doubt more creek crossings on our way to Mammoth..
Tomorrow evening we will also rejoin the PCT after our 3 day alternate route!
PCT DAY 62.. June 6th Mile 888.4 9400 feet 13.6 miles
Beautiful day but FREEZING.. (well below 0 Celcius!) so am wrapped up in my sleeping bag at 5.30pm.. trying to get warm.. with all my layers of clothing on as I write this! What a day!!
Firstly saw a few BIG sets of bear prints in the snow whilst passing over a meadow called ‘Bear Meadow’.. and then shortly after saw our very first bear!! He/she was rather a long way away and not sure that it had seen us.. but slowly meandered off into the pine trees at the edge of the meadow.. never to be seen again! What a blast.. we’ve been wanting to see our first bear for a few days now.. so ticked that box!!
Really REALLY looking forward to getting to Mammoth in a few days as we’ve been out here now for close to 2 weeks and are all feeling a little over it.. and certainly over the snow.. postholing.. and freezing temperatures!
Camped in a snow covered valley by a fast running creek.. looking forward to getting warm!! Goodnight..
PCT DAY 63.. June 7th Mile 896 10100 feet 8 miles!!
TODAY WAS HARD!! It was REALLY hard.. the snow conditions.. the trail conditions.. AND it was nearly all up!
We started at 6am with the slight hope that today we might make it into Mammoth for a zero day tomorrow?!! IT DIDN’T HAPPEN! Firstly the trail was almost completely covered in snow from the start of the day to 4pm when we packed it in due to slushy conditions.. and exhaustion! Navigation was extremely difficult and the snow banks on top of the ‘dry trail’ meant we invariably had to climb 8 to 10 feet almost vertically.. every few yards.. using both ice axe and crampons to avoid slipping down some rock face.. to a valley hundreds or sometimes thousands of feet below! So as well as physically exhausting.. it was also extremely mentally exhausting!
Often the ‘dry trail’ would climb and traverse some mountainside with sheer drops.. only to be covered by enormous snow banks.. sometimes obliterating the trail for literally miles! We had to carefully negotiate these snow banks using all resources just to stay in approximately the right position and ensure we didn’t take a slide?!
I found the day totally exhausting as I was a little worried for the safety of the others as well as myself.. and truth be told.. I was very disappointed not to have reached Mammoth due to the extreme conditions! I NEED a break.. and for the moment I am both over the Sierra and all its freezing.. icy.. snowy conditions.. and the filthy clothes.. tent.. boots (continually wet and cold!) and not having bathed for over 2 weeks!!!!
I need Mammoth.. I need a comfortable bed.. I need a shower (make that 2 or 3!) and I need to wash my clothes at least twice (they look filthy and they stink!) and I’d love just to have some normal food!
The town of Mammoth tomorrow! We are only 6 miles from the PCT turn off.. and then 3 miles from there down a trail to a lake where hopefully some good soul will pick us up and take us into town!! TOMORROW!!
(Added note; ‘Dry trail’ means the summer trail that has been published as the PCT routing! At this time of the year.. and especially in this unusually wet and snowy year.. ‘dry trail’ is almost NEVER dry but rather flowing with streams of water.. submerged in a swamp.. or unrecognizable beneath 10 to 20 feet of snow!
‘Dry trail’ is therefore only a term used to describe the official PCT.. unfortunately it is something we rarely see up here in the Sierra!
PCT DAY 64.. June 8th Mile 903 8400 feet (7 miles of PCT plus 4 miles through Mammoth Pass.. 11 miles total for the day!)
MAMMOTH LAKES! We have finally arrived once again in civilization.. YAHOO! Today we came down out of the mountains.. the high Sierra.. and can now relax.. shower.. wash two weeks of sweat and toil from our clothes.. sleep under clean sheets.. and eat all the food we have so craved over the last 14 days in the frozen wilderness!
Today we returned to a bustling town.. our senses in overload after having seen not a single hiker.. not a single person.. on this section of remote trail for the last two weeks! The only tracks in the snow being that of deer.. marmots.. coyotes and bear!
This has been by far the most challenging and most dangerous section of the PCT! In fact the emergency services have been inundated and overloaded airlifting injured PCT hikers to safety! We ARE crazy I know.. but through all the hardship.. we have stuck together.. the 4 of us a tightly knit team.. keeping a close watch on each other! How familiar and trusting one becomes towards the team and its members.. when our very lives depend on each other! Thanks you all Grizz.. Lovely Heart and Rock Doc! We could not have done this alone.. but we conquered it as a team!