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Martin "Lei Low" Rolph
City: Cameron Park
Begins: Apr 12, 2008
Entry Visits: 1,443
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An Exhausting But Spectacular Day (Forester Pass)
I'm exhausted and awed. It was a really long day. And one of the most spectacular hiking days ever. I knew it was going to be a long day to get as far as planned (hoped?), so I set my alarm for 4:30AM (it's light enough to hike at 5AM). I never heard the alarm... I still woke up fairly early and was on the trail by 6AM.
From Rock Creek, there's a nasty bit of up then down to get over to Crabtree Meadows and the base of Mt. Whitney. There was lots of snow on all of the north-facing slopes, and the snow was very firm early in the morning. The views were great from the start: high peaks in all directions and some very nice meadows with streams. I stopped for a snack and to take off some layers at Crabtree Meadows. I'm not climbing Whitney on this trip (because I've already climbed it), but I looked up fondly at its western shoulder, which was just visible among all the high spires.
The up-and-down theme (with hard snow) continued as I pushed north. My two-day streak of not seeing anyone was broken at about 11:30AM when I passed a section-hiker, who was also headed north. I had my first taste of PCT stream-fording at Wallace Creek. It's not too bad to just leave the shoes on and keep hiking. There were repeat performances at Wright Creek and Tyndall Creek. None of the crossings were more than knee-high.
I stopped for a long lunch break at Tyndall Creek and pondered the next bit - Forester Pass! At 13,180 feet, it is the highest point on the PCT. It was 9.5 miles to get over the top and back down to reasonable camping. Since the weather was pretty good, I decided to go for it and started climbing at 2:15PM. The trail makes a long, steady climbing traverse from Tyndall Creek up to the base of the pass. Snow quickly became an issue. There were large patches that covered the trail for long stretches. Eventually, I gave up on trail-finding and picked a reasonable line through the snow and rocks towards the pass. As I was climbing, I could see the top half of the switchbacks were clear of snow (yesssss!). It was a long grind with lots of panting and some steep, soft snow and a bit of steep scree, but I made the pass at 5PM. Whoo hoo!! [High five, Lei Low! Way to go, dude. You rock! - Bb] Looking down the other side was a bit intimidating, however. STEEP snow and more snow as far as I could see. I decided to put on my crampons. Two cute pikas showed up to watch. They were really brave, coming to within 2 feet of me as they were chasing each other around.
I probably could have skipped the crampons because the snow was very soft, even in the afternoon shade. It was tedious picking my way down the snow and then through a steep rock band. But after 45 minutes, I was on gentler terrain. The evening light and remnants of afternoon cumulus made for a spectacular stage. Unfortunately, at this point, the snow was soft enough to start postholing anywhere from knee- to hip-deep. About every 10th step involved a plunge to the knees. Major ruzzlebricken pieflop! [see May 16th entry for translation] After what seemed like hours of this, and not seeing a hint of trail, I found the Center Basin Creek, followed shortly by a bit of trail and a camping area with a steel bear box. In the summer, this site would be packed, but I'm the only one here tonight listening to the roaring Bubbs Creek.
I made it to camp at 7:30PM and had just enough daylight to make dinner and set up camp. And put my warmies on. It was a good day, but I'm exhausted.
Martin "Lei Low"
Tales From The Crest
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail that runs from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. The PCT traverses 24 national forests, 37 wilderness areas and 7 national parks. The PCT passes through 6 out of 7 of North Americas ecozones. Learn more: www.pcta.org
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