Through the Sierra in light and darkness
Day 95: Zero in Bishop
We were a bit hangover and only got up at half past seven. We put on some sickening loaner clothes that made us look like drag queens without makeup. We went to the laundromat and drank some coffee while waiting for the laundry. Then we went to have a breakfast at the diner. It was super hot outside, what a contrast to the day before!
We felt really dead and came to a conclusion that we could zero in Bishop that day. We would have to hitchike to Independence and from there to Onion Valley Campground, and then hike over the Kearsage Pass. So we were happy to instead go to have a milkshake, check out the gear stores and buy some sallad ingredients in a supermarket. After that we watched an old rock climbing documentary and Big Lebowski at the hostel. It was so heavenly.
Day 96: 10 miles. Bishop to Tentsite at mile 1868
It is difficult to sleep well in a hostel when there are people farting and snoring all around you. We got up at 06.30 anyway and had some breakfast in the kitchen. We made a hitchiking sign and went to hitchike by the road. While waiting we even went to the second bakery of the town.
Nobody was stopping and we were amazed as Bishop is famously hiker friendly. Finally a car stopped – it was a police car! A police came out and said it is forbidden to hitchike there but told us where we could hitchike instead. I was happy she didn’t give us a fine!
We got a ride in no time at the right hitchiking spot and a man drove us all the way high up to the Onion Lake campground. There were surprisingly many other cars and we talked with a couple of day hikers.
It was a long climb to Kearsage Pass at 12 000 feet and we had 6 days worth of food in our bear canisters. It was really tough climbing and it took us many hours. The views were super pretty and you could see several turquoise lakes between the mountains. We got extremely tired close to the top and were laughing hysterically. It felt way more hard than Bishop Pass two days before.
Since it took so long to get up we decided to only hike a couple of miles from the junction to Kearsage Pass. We would have the climb to the highest point of the whole PCT, Forester Pass at 13 000 feet or just above 4000 m, ahead of us the next day and we camped just seven miles before the pass. At the campsite Nine Beers noticed she had left her InReach to Kearsage Pass. We messaged it and some people from my Garmin hoping somebody could bring it to her at some point.
Day 97: 19.7 miles. Tentsite at 1868 to tentsite at 0.6 miles at Mt. Whitney trail.
My alarm didn’t work once again and I woke up to Nine Beers yelling outside of my tent at 05.10. We started walking before six and had our usual breakfast by the sunrise.
The climb to the highest point of the PCT was tough and beautiful. It took us hours and we were really exhausted. Nine Beers got really sleepy again and I felt like I was carrying a 150 pounds backpack. At last we arrived to the end of a switchback in a sunny but windy weather and could take our Forester Pass selfies. Then it was a steep descent and I was happy I was not NoBo climbing that hill up in snow.
We found shelter from the wind behind some rocks and ate lunch there. It was crazy beautiful the whole day and the landscape was changing from treeless mountains to open meadows and forestry mountains.
There was a fast section downhill but then we had to climb again. We washed our feet in the coldest water ever and made it just before sunrise to the tentplace that is one of the last ones before the ascent to Mount Whitney. Somebody messaged my Garmin that they had found Nine Beer’s Garmin so her family didn’t have to call search and resque.
Day 98: 17 off-trail miles. Tentsite at Mt Whitney trail to Mount Whitney and back.
We managed to wake up at 05.30 and start our hike up to the highest moubtain of the contiguous USA. We left our tents with sleeping bags and the bear canisters at the campsite so we didn’t have to have such a heavy load to carry.
It was cold and dark and we had a breakfast watching the sunrise. The views were epic but the wind was epic too. Our toes were freezing and my nose was running. I was afraid I’d have a nosebleed again. I was feeling really low on energy already at 11 000 feet and was not sure if I’d make it to the top at 14 500 feet.
The climb was rocky and steep and endlessly long. At some point the path was covered with ice. We climbed up many switchbacks and had to stop all the time. When I was feeling low Nine Beers said I should probably eat something and that helped a bit. Over 4000 feet elevation gain in 6 miles was tough.
Finally we came to the trail junction where Whitney Portal trail and PCT/JMT meet. From there it was even steeper with long fall down to the valley and the path was partly covered on ice and snow. There were many dayhikers passing the path. Nowhere there were good points to go to toilet and it smelled like pee here and there. We even had to go to some bizarre places to pee since the climb took hours and we had to drink loads to stay hydrated.
We met with two SoBos that were coming down from the trail. They had started the hike at 2 a.m. which must have been crazy cold.
Finally we reached the top around noon and had some pictures standing at the top of the mountain. We were the highest people in the country at that moment (if you don’t take Alaska into consideration). Just before our pose there was a couple that got engaged at the point, we had a lunch with them in the shelter cottage on the top.
We came down and it also felt endlessly long. On the way I saw a familiar looking guy and it was the Swedish ultralight hiking guru Jörgen Johansson. It was absurd as I had spent a good time preparing for my hike with his book on ultralight backpacking. We talked a while with him about his latest excursion around the Sierra. He was going to summit the Whitney for the first time although he had spent a good amount of time in the Sierra Nevada during the years.
We came to the camp before dark and had a dinner and our emergency whiskies/Jägermeisters. Boy were we tired after this day, but amazed that we had now survived the highest peaks of the hike.
Day 99: 17 miles. From the tentsite at Mt Whitney Trail to Chicken Spring Lake
We let ourselves to sleep until 06.30 and started hiking at the daylight. It was brutally cold and again our toes were frozen. At nine it started getting lighter, also the uphills made the hike warmer.
The landscape got different, more like desert with different trees and open meadows. We were strolling until a creek where we had lunch and washed our clothes. Then it was a lot of slow uphill again.
We were going to have just dinner by the Chicken Lake but it was so brutally cold and windy up on the mountain that we decided to camp by the lake. It was really chilly and we were up at 11 000 feet for the last time. I noticed that I had lost my headlamp and we had to decide to get up later the next day because of that.
Day 100: 20 miles. Chicken Spring Lake to Death Canyon Creek
Nine Beers had nothing against getting up only at 6 as she hates early mornings. We would finish this section half a day later than planned since we could only hike during the light hours. I was surprised by how bright the moon was and I managed to pack up my stuff in the dark. I even found an extra tentstake on the ground, and I was missing one!
We started hiking as the sun was getting up and saw the most epic sunrise, that the mobile didn’t manage to catch.
It was a very nice trail, although a bit sandy. There was only one watersource so we had lunch by it even if it was only 11 a.m.
We had internet at some point and as I was running out of food I was googling whether we could get any food in Kennedy Meadows. Unfortunately the Grumpy Bears seemed to be closed on Tuesday when we would be there.
I left when Nine Beers stayed to take advantage of the internet and since my Farout app is working quite slowly on my phone I got lost. The trail had been destroted by some landslades and when trying to make a shortcut I lost the trail completely.
Farout arrow was constantly pointing at a wrong direction and I was getting more far away from the trail. I had no headlamp and it would get dark after six. There were no watersources either and my mobile battery was low. I panicked and thought I’d have to set up the tent in the middle of the forest and then to die of thirst. As Nine Beers had no Garmin I could not message her either to inform why I wouldn’t show up at the camp.
Finally I could locate the direction with the help of my gps watch and headed south. I had to bushwack and climb some rocks and blowdowns. I realized I could follow a dried creek and ran like crazy. Finally I reached the creek we were supposed to camp by but there was no water. I was so happy to finally see Nine Beers. We managed to squeeze a bit water from a slightly drizzling stream but it took forever.
We had dinner in the dark and I drank the rest of my emergency whiskey.
Day 101: 22 miles. Death Canyon Creek to tentsite at mile 1944.
It was the coldest night so far. I was sleeping in fetus position in my 0 F quilt and still freezing. We got up at 05.45 and walked in the dark to the stream to filter water. There was only a small drizzle and the water was ice cold but we had a 10 miles watercarry so we needed the water. My water bottle had frozen so I had to get off the ice from the mouth of the bottle before I could filter in new water.
We stopped for a breakfast and were freezing. It didn’t get warmer until 10 a.m.
The days hike passed some nice forests and interesting looking rocks. The path got sandy and going down it started to look like a desert. After descending several thousand feet we were suddenly in a desert that had sand, cactai, blooming flowers and lizzards. It was obvious we were no longer at Sierra Nevada.
My food was running out and Nine Beers didn’t have too much either. We were fantasizing about different foods we’d eat when we got home or to Kennedy Meadows.
We managed to hike 22 miles despite the low energy. The campsite was in a valley that looked nothing like the previous days campsites and we could hike in t-shirts and shorts all the way to the camp.
Day 102: 6 miles. Tentsite at mile 1944 to Kennedy Meadows South.
We started the hike at 06.30 as usual and it wasn’t as cold as it had been the days before. The path was going down between sandy hills and following a river. Finally we saw a buildning and then crossed an exposed sand field to Kennedy Meadows South – the official end of the Sierra and the start of the desert section that will finish our SoBo hike.
We were happy to come to the Kennedy Meadows that has only two hundred inhabitants. Most of them seem to be hanging at the porche of the general store drinking beer in their cowboy hats. There was no crowd to applaud us when we arrived (a KM tradition) but dogs that came to bark to us.
In no time we were drinking beer at the porche without cowboy hats. I ate a whole package of Pringles before the grill opened and I got my veggie burger. I ate also a whole basket of fried potatoes and drank a root beer. I was feeling sick after.
We called Yogi that has a tiny store 2 miles away and she picked up us to resupply there. I did my most expensive resupply ever as I wanted to have a lot of snacks enough for 7 days and bought also a water filter and a new fancy headlamp. Finally we got some more food at the general store and sent away our bear canisters, yay!
It was warm and I could hang out in the hammock drinking beer for a while. We washed our laundry twice as the first machine made them more dirty. Then we hanged them to dry and had an outdoor shower. We had the whole campsite for ourselves – something the NoBos will probably not experience. Before the store closed the guy at the store gave us free beers. According to some comments at Farout the people in the KM are rude but we had the nicest experience.
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Would have loved the actual dates too. That really helps me in comparing trail conditions between different accounts.
Of course I wouldn’t comment if this wasn’t a great post.