Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Day 46-Forester Pass

Wallace Creek campsite mile 770 to Bullfrog Pond Junction mile 790

Last night while writing I stopped to warm up my hands and ended up falling asleep at 7:30.  I woke an hour later and just turned off my phone and went back to sleep.  I was awake for an hour at 4 and it was so nice to not worry about missing sleep or getting up early.  I think I earned a late start day after yesterday.

We had a sunshine breakfast party-the sun wasn't on any of our campsites, but it was shinning strong on the meadow.  It made for a great place to stand around and eat. The bear canister is really starting to feel light.  I packed a good sized food bag for the day so I won't have to get in and out of the canister much.

I was last out of camp today even though I was first up this morning. About a mile past camp after a short uphill climb there was the coolest campsite with a magnificent view.  It would have been an awesome place to camp-except it would have been freezing (my water bottles froze last night anyway).

Besides not being able to breath very well the hiking seemed very ordinary to me this morning, but I guess with my first high mountain pass ahead of me and the highest point on the trail meadows aren't as interesting.  I am getting tired of not being able to breath.  I can't take a drink from my water reservoir's hose without feeling like I've just tried to hold my breath while hiking. It's making me feel really unfit and it's hard having everyone pass me and not being able to keep up. I've just been telling myself I am fit, and things will get better.

The few miles before the climb up Forester was dotted with high alpine lakes.  The water was was clear and inviting-even with snow on the banks and ice on the surface of some of the lakes. I didn't go for a swim, but a couple of guys did.  They spent a long while warming up in the sun.

At the base of Forester my group stopped for a break (I was the last one there) to eat and prepare for the conditions at the top of the pass.  Opus, who has done this section, warned us that the pass funnels wind. I put my rain jacket, mittens, and hat within easy reach-I've learned a few things since Whitney.  I put on more sun screen and was ready to climb the .8 to the highest point on the PCT.

About every third switchback I stopped to breath under the pretense of checking out the view.  The climb was very gentle, or would have been at 6,000 feet instead of 12,000 and climbing.  The view was worth stopping to stare at; although the smoke from the past few days was clinging to the far ridges.

It was also cool to look up and see Opus, Graywolf, and Heesoo higher up on the pass.  When I reached the snow patch Heesoo was wearing his spikes, ice ax in hand, climbing up the snow shoot.  Looking at him Spiderman style on the snow made me nervous, but he came back down without going too high.  The snow didn't even touch the trail so I went on pass and strolled to the top.

There was hardly a breeze.  It was sunny and warm at the top.  I told the others I'd stay put for a few days.  Forester's really made up for the botched Whitney climb.  We all posed for pictures and took a few group photos.  I had a quick snack while Opus, Graywolf, and Heesoo started down.  Portrait and I started down soon after.

Highest point on the PCT
We had watched the others navigate the few snow fields and pretty much followed in their footsteps.  I was grateful to be able to go down with no real obstacles :  I had gotten a head ache at the top and wanted thicker air to breath.  The breathing got better as I passed more alpine lakes on the way down, but the head ache was stubborn.  My ears kept popping on the way down.

The walk to the valley was beautiful and we walked past the lakes as a group-a nice treat.   The trail followed little steams that gathered other streams and cascaded down to the valley as waterfalls.  Close to the bottom we stopped in the sun next to a stream for a snack break.

The trail kept going down and I was feeling better and better.  A few miles after our last break we stopped again at a campsite for another break.  I was seriously considering stopping for the night-the trail climbed back up to 10,000 feet.  I thought I'd like camping lower. The group probably would have stayed with me if I had made my case for stopping, but to stay lower meant two extra miles into town the next day so I hiked on.

The trail went up fast.  Within moments of starting the climb I was gasping.  It felt much harder than climbing Forester.  At every switchback I hoped the climb for the day would end, and finally it did.  We had dinner two miles after our last break-and somehow (wonderful hiker hunger) we were all hungry.  We ate, then moved on about five more minutes-we thought we had further to go or we would have stayed where we ate.
The four of us just barely fit at the trail junction.  We plan to leave tomorrow at 7 to hike the 7 off trail miles to Independence.


  1. Hi Castle-

    You are moving fast. Hope you take some time to smell the roses; there is nothing wrong with taking an on trail zero (provided you have the food to support it). A few thru hikers regret pushing the miles and missing spending time in an especially compelling location.



  2. That's awesome!! I was there last year but turned around and went back out through Onion Valley. Major difference between last June and this June. Reports state the Bighorn Plateau snow level was around 20 inches at the end of April 2012. Last year at the same time in April it was reported at 110 inches. That's why passing through on June 7th paints a much different picture this year. Can't wait to get up there again!! Happy trails!!