Saturday, June 09, 2012

Day 49- Pinchot Pass

Mile 802 to mile 819

This morning I woke up with the foot end of my tent collapsed.  I lifted up the fabric to find my trekking pole that was supposed to be holding up that end of my tent. Oddly it was a good four feet away from my tent. I know I was camped on a slope, but I don't think I kicked the pole away in the night.  I changed and packed what I could in my sad little tent and got up. It took my a minute to see that most of the handle of my trekking pole had been chewed off-including the strap.  The others came to look and speculate on what ate my trekking pole.  It was a very sad day for my trekking pole.  It felt gross all day-it was awhile before I took off my mitten because I didn't want to touch it.  I think in Mammoth I'll wrap what's left of the handle in fabric tape-no more mixing up my left and right pole.

It didn't seem like my morning-I wasn't feeling it.  I was hungry so soon after breakfast as I followed the trail up to Pinchot Pass.  Even after snacking I still felt low on energy.  While climbing I was actually thinking I can't wait to get out of the Sierra's.  I'm having a hard time enjoying them while feeling so run down and out of breath.  I was thinking the altitude was only getting to me in the low 10,000's, but I think even the mid 9,000's is too high for me.  I went to bed tired and woke still tired and I'm guessing altitude is playing a part.
And then I was on top of Pinchot Pass with the sun warm on my face, a snack in hand, and a view for miles and I forgot about how tired I've been.  To describe the view will make it sound just like the other passes, and they do have a lot in common.  I remember hearing people take about the sameness of the desert, but the Sierra's have a sameness to me.  Granted they have a magnificent beauty to them that was lacking in the desert.

The trail went gently down from the pass with hardly any snow to navigate and no need for snow aides.  I think there was more talk about this being the Golden Year-an idea that feels like a jinx to me.  We also talked about how we haven't seen any other PCT thru-hikers in over a day.  We may be the only ones left-it's hard to tell right now.

It feels like the stream crossings are getting bigger.  The two big ones are coming up in a day or so, and so far I don't feel like I've gotten any ford practice.  Besides dipping my feet in the water at lunch I haven't gotten my feet wet on any Sierra stream crossing yet.  Our lunch spot by the river was nice. It was hard to imagine such a wonderful spot a few short weeks ago when we were in the desert.

During lunch we realized we were setting ourselves up for a hard day tomorrow.  We are going to hit one of the harder passes at the end of the day tomorrow and that's when the snow, and there will most likely be snow, will be at its softest and hardest to walk through.  There wasn't much we could do about the timing.
Shortly after lunch the trail started the long climb up to Mather's Pass.  We stopped for a snack break, and Portrait checked his GPS and told us we still had two miles to the top, but the pass seemed like it was right there.  Of course the GPS was right:  the trail swung away around some lakes than switchbacked slowly up the ridge line.  I wish I was hiking this section without the extra gear (and lack of oxygen) and then it would feel so easy.  And I'd like just once to be the first one to the top, but that's not going to happen, and I'm mostly okay with that.

Snack was had on the top and we talked about the next few days and what mileage would be best.  It's hard because its all speculations and maybes.  But we did shorten the mileage for today and we could see our camping area from the pass.

There was very little snow on the north side-I think we cut a few switchbacks and walked through a couple patches of snow.  The guide calls the descent a knee jarring one, but I didn't find it that bad.  It helped that the day was nearing its end.  Opus remembered some camping from his JMT hike last summer.  At first it felt like he might have remembered wrong when we got to the treed area.  I imagine it's not easy having three people rely on you memories, but his turned out to be spot on.

We are camped among some trees with a creek within hearing distance, a lake down in the valley below, and granite monsters surrounding us.  It's about as peaceful a place as I could hope for.  We arrived early, around 5:30, had dinner in the sun (my dinner was totally first rate:  gnocchi with spinach, bacon bits, olive oil, and pesto sauce), then went to our separate areas to journal and sleep.  I'm cowboy camped with my belongings close by in case anything wants to use my stuff as a chew toy again.  It should be a lovely night followed by a downhill (!) and more views.

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