The One Where Winter Is Coming
“When the snow falls and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives” GOT
I have my experience with snow, coming from Germany and traveling in various countries around the world, that get covered in a great white blanket every so often, has definitely taught me a thing or two about snow! But the Sierras are a whole new level! When I got to Kennedy Meadows I did my research on what the snow situation was in the High Sierras! And for me it was pretty clear from the start that I don’t have the money to get any extra equipment that was needed!
With crampons come boots, there was talk about snowshoes and the other necessary items like an ice axe and a bear canister! I also had no time to wait a few weeks for the snow to start melting. So I teamed up with my trail family and we decided to flip ahead and come back to do the High Sierras at the end of our hike.
We weren’t a 100% sure where to skip to! No one had been up this far north yet to tell us what the trail conditions would be! So we went on a little research adventure!
We had to leave DaddyLlama behind because he was going home for his daughters graduation (Congratulations again! If you are reading this! The trail Family is proud of you!). And after we ate tons and tons of food (town days are the best) we got the ESTA from Lone Pine to Reno and then the Greyhound to Truckee, where we spend almost 2 hours at the Tourist Information Center going through Webcams, and Internet sites and called up everyone available, to talk about snow conditions. We called the Outfitters, who was closed but who gave us the number of the owner, who wasn’t available either but left us with the voicemail message to call someone in the local bar, who also wasn’t available but left us with a name and number of a guy to call, who again wasn’t available at a time but with who we left a voice message and who called us back…..*or something like that, but it was a small town charme kind of phone directory* !
After talking to the Backcountry office and several people we knew one thing; There is snow up ahead!
No one really knew what was going on up there but we knew that there wasn’t any snow below 4000 feet! Unfortunately, no section of the trail went this low….. so we just decided to give it a try! We stayed in town for one night, ate some more food and decided to hit the trail the next morning!
After our Amazing Trail Angel Jason dropped us off at the trail head with some great advice on how to navigate around the frozen lake, we walked off into the world of ice and snow!
It’s one thing playing and hiking in snow, but a whole other having your pack on, scaling up and descending steep mountains.
We were already ahead of the PCT2019 bubble and flipping ahead of the Sierras put us in a very Interesting spot!
We Were the first! No other footprints to follow, no people to ask for advice and no idea what the snow had in store for us, we left the comforts and safety of a laundromat behind and started embracing the daily routine of starting and finishing the day with wet socks and shoes!
We soon realized that our idea of walking every single mile on the PCT, taking every switchback and following guthooks to the books would not be an option!
“This is not the time to be a PCT purist!” Oreo
The trail was still covered with 4-20 feet of snow at times and that made it impossible to find the trail! So we decided to change the Plan and backcountry it! We would check Guthooks and our GPS, find a reference point, walk towards it and check again after 5-10 minutes to see how far off the trail we were! And we would do that over and over and over and over again until we would be done for the day! Streams and Rivers were covered in snow, campsites not visible and switchbacks too steep to take!
We would get to a mountain knowing that taking the switchbacks was impossible, find the least steep section and just go straight up and over, fully AT style!
We would also do the same for the way down! Switchbacks are usually great but if you dump 10 feet of snow on the poor little dirt path, it turns into a steep wall of snow, which is very hard to traverse! So we would find the least steep section and just had to “Send it!” As Sunshine so nicely puts it!
We climbed up steep Mountain sides and ran, skied or glissaded down the other side. We fell, slipped, tripped, face planked, had to self arrest and flamingoed (a new version of postholing ). We laughed, I cried, we talked and walked in silence for hours! We pushed through days we didn’t want to hike and did 12hour days almost every day to reach our goal! We bushwhacked, crosses rivers, cleared the path of spiderwebs ( you are welcome ), has a snowball fight and ruined our twister board riding it down a hill for fun! – Note: Twister is not a 4-Season Game
We hit 1200, then 1300 and then the Halfway Mark (which was under feet of snow, left for the imagination) and celebrated every day that we finished another day in the snow.
I on a personal note have definitely learned a whole lot out here and pushed myself out of my comfort zone more than once. I had to face my fear on numerous occasions but learned to be patient and conquer it! Pain and discomfort is only temporary and you always get rewarded with incredible views at the top! So keep climbing your mountain…. it will be all worth it! You will be so proud!
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