PCT CA SECTION H PART 1
CRABTREE MEADOWS – TUOLUMNE MEADOWS
MILE 766 – 942.5
Day 49 – 0 miles
15.5 miles to Mount Whitney.
Today was the day, Mount Whitney! I’d been psyching myself out over it since starting the trail, and more so after my vertigo episode.
I woke up around 5, it was freezing cold outside and I reluctantly starting making a small breakfast. My fingers and toes already numb. I got going around 6, and hit Guitar Lake at 7. I had to filter some water and my hands became numb again.
I started the ascent, at this point, I was the highest I’d ever been and I was a bit hyper aware of how I was feeling. The wind picked up and was relentless for the rest of the day. My face and legs became numb as I watched the sun slowly creep over the mountains, it would be hitting me soon and I’d get my much needed respite from the wind, even if it only provided a little warmth.
I kept climbing, the landscape sprawled below as I hit 13,000’. I passed a sign advising about the extreme lightning danger, I wondered what the hell I was doing but pushed on, driven by some unknown force, I felt like a I had a tether to my chest and something was pulling me up.
I saw the hut and immediately burst into tears, this is something I’ve only ever dreamed of and now I’m here. I took a moment to soak in how surreal it all was. I signed the register and took a photo with the sign. I called my mom and my friend, Dave. I also called my grandma and asked her “take a guess where I am”. She told me she was going to take a big guess and said Mount Whitney.
It must have been obvious in my voice how big of a deal this was to me because she said she could hear it.
All day, I was asked by people on the ascent where I was from. After telling them Paradise, I got the normal “oh! The one that burned? I’m so sorry” response…. I think sometimes people are taken aback by it. Everyone asked how it was, and I honestly said I’m thankful for it because I don’t think I ever would have felt strong enough to take a chance as big as this otherwise.
I found a lot of self worth and confidence today.
When I got back to camp I was just exhausted. Mostly wind burnt and although the elevation didn’t bother me at the time, I could tell it had taken a toll on my body. I ate a full double serving of Backpackers Pantry Pad Thai and immediately crawled into the tent.
My body was tired, but my soul had been rejuvenated in ways that I don’t think I fully understand yet. The view from the top was great, but the journey is what really did it for me.
Day 50 – 12.3 miles
Fatigue! That is the word I would use to describe today in a nutshell.
I honestly slept pretty good, the helicopter landing near our camp right when I was falling asleep didn’t seem to disrupt my tiredness and I fell asleep shortly after it leaving.
I woke up and it was cold, really cold. I couldn’t feel my fingers within minutes of taking them out of my quilt and I shivered through the whole morning. Maybe we won’t wake up so early and wait for the sun to come out in the future, it’s not like we’re doing big mile days through here anyway.
I was spent, like really spent. Mount Whitney didn’t seem all that hard at the time but the toll it took on my body was noticeable. I was less than motivated.
I hobbled through the first few miles of the day, dragging my feet and having to stop to tape what I think may be a mild shin splint. I felt like I had 20 lb weights on both my feet.
The rest of the day pretty much went like that. The scenery was beautiful though and going so slow, I had a lot of time to admire it. The incessant wind whipped at my already windburnt and chapped face from yesterday, I’ve just been putting chapstick on my nose at this point.
Tonight we’re camped at the base of Forester Pass, it’s very exciting looking up and watching people climb it. I’m pretty excited for it tomorrow even if tomorrow kicks my ass too.
I’ve never had my ass kicked in a more beautiful place.
Day 51 – 9.9 miles
+1.5 miles down to town
Today was better, we woke up to the wind still howling but getting up when there’s sunlight to warm you is much better. We enjoyed a warm breakfast and waited for the sun to ride to start our ascent of Forester Pass.
The altitude was definitely dragging me down today, maybe camping at 12,500’ wasn’t the best idea, oh well! The climb up Forester was pretty easy, the descent was a little dicey with the snow but we managed just fine. My shin splint was bothering me again, but it’s just going to hurt until I can rest it.
The views after Forester were incredible! Unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. There was one point where we were walking on this ridgeline and the views to the left were these emerald green lakes and jagged granite peaks, to the right was a huge meadow gashed into the landscape surrounded by soft trees and domes.
Today was amazing. I was still feeling the fatigue, Whitney did a number on me, but I know rest is just around the corner.
We decided to camp at Kearsarge Lake, but we took an off trail route to make sure we had the place to ourselves. I love the Sierra but sometimes finding solitude can be hard, but we will always make the effort to find it.
We’re going to Independence tomorrow and I’m eager to give my body the food and rest that it’s desperately needing. Today kicked my ass less, and even though I’m exited to go to town, I’m more excited to get back out and see what else is going on out here.
Day 52 – 0 miles
Town day! We had an easy 6 miles up and over Kearsarge Pass to finish up this stretch. The climb up Kearsarge wasn’t that bad, but holy smokes was I still tired! Maybe the elevation is kinda kicking my ass.
We got to the trailhead around 11am, and found none other than Faith and his trail fam. His dad had given them all a ride from Bishop and offered us a ride to Independence. It was super cool to meet Faith’s dad, and I told him that his son is one resilient young man. That guy really amazes me with his go-getter attitude.
We got to Independence and immediately went to the taco truck. Holy crap, I’ll bet eating there again tomorrow! It was great. We then stocked up on gas station snacks and got some sandwiches/salads for dinner.
For not having a lot, Independence is actually really cool. Someone forgot to log out of their Netflix at the hotel, and we found Stranger Things so we’re planning to binge watch that mostly. It’s nice to relax, although I’m very excited to get back out there. I looked up too much info about AMS and HAPE though so now I’m scared I’m probably going to die (seriously though, I was feeling so tired!).
I’ll probably be fine. I noticed that the gas station sold avocados so I’m probs gonna get one to make some chicken and avocado wraps. I’m so hungry all the time now.
Day 53 – 0 miles
Zero day. We spent the better part of the day watching Stranger Things and relaxing. I’m feeling much more refreshed and ready for this next section.
Even if it kicks my ass again, I’m going to enjoy the moments I get.
Day 54 – 0 miles
Well, today was alright. We woke up ready to hit the trail and the wind was insane! Checked the weather and it was looking just awful, we decided to take an extra 2 days in Bishop to wait out the wind, we just didn’t feel comfortable going out into something that we knew would just be miserable and honestly, sounded really unsafe. I don’t feel comfortable going over two passes in 70mph winds, that just sounds plain stupid and dangerous to me.
Some old guy at the bus stop made me feel just terrible. He basically told me that I was weak for not going into unfavorable conditions and told me that “it’s just part of it!” then proceeded to tell me about all the YouTube stats he watches that are so badass and can do it, so why can’t I?
Here’s the thing, I didn’t fucking ask. Also, mind ya business old man, you have two backpacks and you aren’t even hiking the PCT, so why even give me advice? Did I mention that I didn’t ask??
There are a lot of good people out there. But there are also some real assholes.
Speaking of the good people, we got to Bishop, did some much needed gear adjustments and ran into Bliss and Roast! It was great to catch up with them. And once in the hotel, realized Yuno, Celia and Pantie Pirate were in the room next to us! It was so great to see everyone again! These kinda people make up for the assholes tenfold.
Before that, we had been killing a bunch of time walking around Bishop because we figured it would be more interesting than walking around Independence where there isn’t anything at all (but the taco truck, the taco truck was perfect).
After getting breakfast, we were walking back to the Main Street to hit up some gear shops, and my heart sank. As we were walking by the police station, and all of a sudden a sound pierced my ear. It was an emergency siren and it bellowed through the whole town.
The sky was black with clouds, wind picking up…. I’m going to live through something fucking crazy again. This is how I felt once I realized how bad the Camp Fire was, and I realized the worst was actually literally happening.
I was going to live through something like that again. This is it. Sometimes you just wake up one day and have a day, and something just absolutely insane happens. You’re blindsided by it and you never imagined this happening, and it’s happening, right now, right here, and life is not going to be the same. I know things can happen, and they do, and they will continue to, that’s life, that’s why it scares me.
I asked a local shop worker, she told me it was just an emergency and “see the ambulance go by”…. Honestly, we didn’t hear this again for the rest of the day and lots of first responders of all kinds went by lights and sirens throughout the day.
I’m not sure what all that was about still, but I think I watched too much Stranger Things and freaked myself out (and maybe a touch of natural disaster PTSD).
Day 55 – 0 miles
I have some serious self doubt issues.
If I sit idle for too long, I start to doubt pretty much everything I’m doing. I made the mistake of making Gaia routes all the way to Canada just to realize that we won’t make it before October 1st. I also scrutinized the amount of money I’ve spent on trail so far.
It’s hard. I don’t want to spend this much time in town but after my vertigo I’m honestly fucking terrified of overdoing it again. I have to start letting these self doubts go. I don’t really know how to. I have a lot of personal problems I guess. I’m sure I’ll work through them, just some days they make things feel impossible.
We barely made it to the post office, on the way back we ran into Search and Rescue, we plotted to find a ride back out together and we think Brian is gonna save the day again!
I’m ready to get back out, and I’m going to work on letting my self doubts go.
Day 56 – 5.8 miles
+9 miles up Kearsardge Pass.
Today was hard! We did two passes, Kearsarge and Glen and boy howdy was I tired by the time we got to the lakes. The elevation really makes everything like 10 times harder than usual.
The day started at 5:30am. Our friend Search and Rescue was meeting us at 7am on the corner near the used gear store to also catch a ride with none other than our savior, Brian.
We got a ride, said goodbye to Brian (this will probably be the last time we see him since we plan to take the bus to Bishop next resupply) and we were off.
Kearsarge was just as much of a slog as I had anticipated it to be, and my altitude cough was just as persistent as always. But it was ok, I told myself that today I’m not having a pity party about my body hating the altitude, I think I’m still out here kickin it so I must be doing alright!
On the descent down Kearsarge Pass towards the PCT junction we ran into Kat and Syd! We were so happy to see them! We hadn’t seen Kat for like 500 miles and we hadn’t seen Syd since Wrightwood so it was very unexpected.
We knew we had two passes today. Glen Pass stood between us and Rae Lakes which I had been trying to go to for the past two years but it never worked out…. and this time I was fuckin going!
On the climb, we met a family who was hiking together. I love seeing families do stuff like this together, I think it’s a great experience to share with someone and the memories are priceless. Their son who couldn’t be more than 12 or so was with them and this kid was badass. He had climbed Whitney and also did the High Sierra Trail. He was really funny too. At the top we all shared some poop stories before making the semi snowy climb back down.
The descent was slow and tedious. There wasn’t a lot of snow but the snow that did remain was a bit tricky in spots, and boy, was it steep. An hour later we had made the 1 1/2 miles down to the first of the Rae Lakes.
Rae Lakes was everything I had hoped for. The painted lady was just gorgeous and I finally got to see Fin Dome – I’m just a sucker for granite domes.
Our camp has a great view of it, granite is a power rock.
I bought some down booties to try to help my feet stay warm tonight and so far I really like them. It’s supposed to be around 20 tonight and I just detest the cold so I’m really hoping I stay warm enough!
I’m glad to be back out here again. Today was hard but so rewarding. I even caught two Brook trout in the evening with Angler and they were the prettiest I have ever seen.
I think a lot of my self doubt comes from being a sickly child. Most of my life I’ve had limitations on my physical capabilities, and even though I don’t anymore, when I perceive my body to be weak or defective, I immediately spiral into self doubt about if I actually am capable.
Of course I am! I wouldn’t be here if I weren’t.
Day 57 – 14.3 miles
Wow! Today was amazing and hard! Today was definitely the best scenery we’ve had this entire trip, but also, the climb to Pinchot Pass was brutal.
We woke up at Lower Rae Lake to ice inside our tent. All the condensation throughout the night had frozen solid to the walls. Our waters were also frozen. Thankfully, some hot coco and coffee was just the thing we needed to get the day off to the right start.
The first half of the day was pretty mild, it was mostly downhill and water was plentiful. The scenery was nice, we went from walking though granite boulder fields to meadows to chilly woods. We made it to the suspension bridge for lunch where we hung out with Slaps for a while and fished.
We got going, we knew that after the suspension bridge we had a really long climb up Pinchot Pass…. And it was an absolute slog. 7.7 miles and around 3800’. We climbed and climbed – the landscape around us evolved into something different, something I had never seen before.
Jagged grey, red and black peaks pierced the sky. Some crooked like fingers, some softer almost like domes, some blunt and bursting from the land around them. It was incredible.
On a break, we ran into our friends Good News and Spice Rack. They had entered in the day of the storm so we wanted all the details. During the conversation, Search and Rescue came up, he had quit they heard. Not true we said! Brian dropped us all off at Onion Valley just yesterday, he didn’t quit! Ironically, just ten minutes after this discussion, we see Search and Rescue…. Heading southbound towards us.
We all looked at each other, “I can’t watch him quit” I thought to myself and braced for the worst. He told us he was heading back, Mather Pass was too much for his anxiety and it wasn’t worth it to him. So he’s going to skip the rest of the Sierra and pick up in Tahoe instead! He’s not quitting! I thought it was very admirable for him to know his limits and make a decision and own it. And to not quit just because something scares you. I really learned something from Search and Rescue today.
After a few grueling hours of listening to classic rock and dragging my altitude battered body up Pinchot Pass – we got to the top. Smoke on the Water was interrupted by me ripping my headphones out to admire the view. Just breathtaking! We immediately sat down and started snacking, watching the marmots as we did so. I love those marmots, they’re so cute. We saw an entire family of them today and it was great. We also saw a family of grouse, cute lil nature chickens.
It was a long and slightly painful descent down to Majorie Lake. My body was tired, but I didn’t allow anything to kick my ass mentally today, physically I got my ass kicked a bit but it’s another pass down, and I know even when it sucks I’ll sure miss it when it’s gone.
Day 58 – 14.8 miles
Today was awesome! We woke up at Majorie Lake with no condensation at all and were both plenty warm through the night. We started the day off with a nice gradual descent that went across quite a few creeks.
My goal for today was to keep my feet dry. After about the 5th creek crossing, it was time to start the climb up Mather Pass. Mather has been quite the topic amongst fear mongerers (both on FarOut and in real life).
We were hoping it wouldn’t be a terrible slog like Pinchot was yesterday and we thankfully got our wish. It was nice and easy, I didn’t even get my ass kicked by the altitude for once. About halfway up we stopped to take a lunch break, and Pantie Pirate had the same idea. It was funny because we were just talking about how we were wondering where he and his group were.
We finished lunch and went strait for the pass. Mather Pass was definitely not as bad as everyone made it out to be. I actually thought it was pretty mellow compared to some of the other passes (Glen, Forester, I’m lookin at you). We got to the top quicker than anticipated and didn’t even stop to take a break cause I honestly wasn’t that tired.
We started the descent, before making it even 100 feet down we met a man who told us how terrible it is. And how terrible Bishop Pass is too and how we should really try to stretch our food out to VVR…. It’s funny how people really think that 1) I want their unsolicited advise and 2) that they know everything and are the expert. I let the man know that we’re gonna be ok and that it’s all ok (my nice way of saying “chill the fuck out and leave us alone”).
It wasn’t terrible. There were a few snow patches but I honestly just scrambled around them. I didn’t need my microspikes and I only used one trekking pole. Pleased with how unexpectedly easy it was, Angler and I decided to glissade down just for fun, who knows if we’ll be able to glissade again with how fast the snow is melting. It was way fun, even though I got ice burn on my butt and actually got kinda scraped up. I definitely got blood stains on my sungloves from touching it but that’s ok, makes me look hella legit.
Palisade Lakes were amazing, there was a point where we were walking on these granite slabs and there was a sharp drop off to the lakes. It was just incredible. Just as I think the scenery can’t get any better it does, I’m excited to wake up every morning because I know we’ll see something cool.
The Golden Staircase was anything but. The trail down to Palisade Creek was one gigantic scree staircase with some stairs up to my thigh. Me knees and feet were screaming by the time I got to the bottom, but thankfully Angler found the best campsite right near Palisade Creek.
I love falling asleep to the sound of the creek.
Day 59 – 7.6 miles
+3.4 miles down the Bishop Pass trail
If there were a day that should have sucked it was today.
We woke up to cloudy skies, I was moderately concerned about thunderstorms. We had a conversation yesterday with a JMT hiker who said he got a text that advised there was a 40% chance of thunderstorms forecasted for today. Apparently it’s 100% chance now because before we could even make breakfast, it was raining.
That’s alright though, I just hopped back into the tent and ate my breakfast there.
We packed up quick, but not quite quick enough as the rain picked up. Today was just gonna be one of those days, it be like that sometimes. We put our rain jackets on and started the day.
We had an easy day planned to get us started up Bishop Pass – where we had a plan to resupply in Bishop. Despite the rain, we stuck to the original goal.
All morning the weather fluctuated between a drizzle, steady rain, or no rain at all. Most of the morning unfortunately being the first two. And when it wasn’t raining the mosquitos were out in full force.
We periodically stopped under trees, seeking their shelter from the weather and taking photos of the clouds swirling around the peaks. It was really beautiful today and I also thought that it was cool to see it like this.
As the morning turned to afternoon, the rain only got worse. We were starting to really get soaked. We started the climb to Bishop Pass and the wet bushes assured that everything from waist down had no chance of staying dry.
As we climbed, the rain turned to snow. Our jackets starting to soak through, we trudged on. My fingers and toes numb. If we can just get to camp, we can set up the tent and just stay there.
We finally made it to camp, pitched the tent and I immediately took a b-line to the lake to filter water, I don’t want to leave the tent for anything once I get inside!
….funny though, as I filtered my second liter, the clouds broke. The storm was over. Over the next hour all the clouds dissipated and the sun shone strong and warm. We set all of our wet gear out to dry.
I decided to relax and eat a bunch of food. Angler went down to the lake to fish.
It’s funny to think about when we did the Tahoe Rim Trail and I would cry when it would rain a little for like 2 hours. Today we literally hiked in the rain all day, even in the snow, and I didn’t even feel like almost crying. It’s cool to see progress like that.
TO BE CONTINUED…
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