April in the Sierras
Dear Sierras, you were 300 of the most challenging, frustrating, and incredible miles I have encountered yet. You forced me up snowy and icy passes–making much more familiar with my ice ax than I would have liked. You plunged me into icy rivers and knee deep post holes. You froze my shoes every night. Yet every night as I crawled into my tent, cold and exhausted, I knew that I wouldn’t trade a single mile for the world.
The High Points
On April 17th, excited, nervous, and encumbered by a bear cannister, I took my first steps in the Sierras. During the first week in the Sierras, I summited Mt Whitney (my first 14-er!) and got over Forester Pass, the high point on the PCT. It must be all downhill from here, right?
The ascent of Mt Whitney was mostly snow free, with only a few patches requiring an ice ax. I foolishly assumed that since the high point was snow free, the rest of the passes must surely also be snow free. The next day, all of those assumptions went out the window while going over Forester Pass. After discovering the joy of sun cups on the snow fields between Mt Whitney and Forester, we made it up and over the snow chute only to discover that the back side of Forester was more snow covered than the ascent and that we had timed our descent perfectly with an incoming cloud. With no discernable path to follow, and limited visibility, we made a very slow descent with our ice ax in one hand, and an open Guthooks app in the other.
The Sierras Are In Charge
After mistakenly going over Glen Pass in the evening (10/10 do not recommended post holing down a pass in the dark with no trail to follow), my group decided we would only attempt passes in the morning from then on. Despite learning to get over passes before the sun warmed to snow, I was struck by how much our schedule was dictated by the Sierras. There were days when, after clearing the pass in the morning, I assumed the rest of the day would be smooth sailing, only to find myself trudging through miles of slushy snow in the evening. Unlike the desert when I determined my daily mileage and speed by how I was feeling that day, hiking in the Sierras often necessitated a certain mileage in order to time going over a pass the next day. It was a truly humbling experience to realize that I couldn’t out plan the mountains, I just had to accept that they were in charge and enjoy the ride.
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