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Begins: Apr 25, 2010
Date: Sat, Jul 3rd, 2010
Trip Distance: 233.8
Entry Visits: 1,666
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Pacific Crest Trail Map
"No fun, my babe, no fun
No fun, my babe, no fun
No fun to hang around
Feeling that same old way
No fun to hang around
Freaked out for another day" ~ The Stooges
I was sitting at the picnic table outside the Tuolumne store this
afternoon with a couple of bottles of Mammoth, killing time with some
like-minded trail bums. I'd called off my attempt at Yosemite this
morning half a mile in with a recurrent back injury that twinged again
as I was packing up. So long, Turbo, Tahoma, Shin, I'll do it tomorrow
and brave the Independence Day chaos. Luckily for me, Running Wolf is
a physical therapist; he lays me down on the picnic table, bends me
and contorts me, and now I can stand upright again, almost. And the
beer I justify as a natural muscle relaxant.
My muscles are incredibly relaxed when Chance turns up. I haven't seen
him since Hiker Town, way down in that lovely desert where everything
seemed clear-cut. I ask him his feelings about the Sierra and he
declares that it was "fun".
Which just goes to show you how polarising this last section has been.
I've felt a lot of things this last couple of weeks but fun, if it was
there, kept its head down low. Anyway, every day, as I've mentioned,
brought another assault on a pass of 11,000-ft or higher, and they're
starting to blur together into one white, mushy mess. Here's an
attempt to summarise my impressions before they go the way of my pre-
Sierra innocence and joy.
Forester Pass (13,200'). Previously described. Horrible for this snow
virgin. Awful, awful, awful. An agonizingly long and cold approach,
after a spell of being lost and dejected. Saved by Epic, who
apparently enjoys fear and dislocation. Rescue helicopter overhead,
looking for Half-Ounce and his fluid-filled lungs. An insane climb up
raw, steep snow, rock scramble, that nasty traverse of the snow chute.
The stark and terrible majesty of the mountains beyond - then the
heart-chilling traverse on the far side, the ad-libbing in deep snow
on the ridges, the endless slog down into the trees, the cold, cold
night. Let's never go there again, Mountaingoat. Deal.
Kearsarge Pass (10,700'). I was exhausted from Forester the day before
and Whitney the day before that. I was also nursing and am still
nursing what I believe to be a fractured rib from my I'll-fated
glissade attempt. But this one wasn't too bad, and I was fuelled by a
lust for town food down in Lone Pine. Not too scary going down. Just
tiresome as hell. But Bullfrog Lake: sweet.
Glen Pass (12,000'). Three nights in Lone Pine and a new pack. I left
Peanut Eater's camp with Fidget and her non-hiker friend Ann, joining
her for a week of fun, Sierra style. Bad idea. Climbing up that sunny
morning, I am met with the sight of a naked man in dark sunglasses
hiking my way with a crude "modesty shield" failing to completely
protect his dangling...modesty.
"Mr Mountaingoat! Hi!"
"Er...hi... Do I know you?"
"It's Green Tortuga!" he removes the shades. "Happy Hike Naked Day!"
"Tortuga, hey! Didn't recognize you. You look...different."
We chew the fat and I shake his hand, the second time on an American
trail I've shaken hands with a naked man. But that's another story.
Glen Pass takes forever to climb but it's not TOO scary coming down -
for me anyway. I do have to dig one of Fidget's shoes out of the ice
after a bad posthole, however. It hails that evening as we camp by Rae
Lake. In the morning Fidget informs me that Ann didn't enjoy the icy
traverse and the posthole party coming down. She's bailing out. God, I
envy her. Meanwhile Tahoma and Shin arrive. Shin's lost his fuel
bottle in a glissade. We give him some fuel and I join their team
while poor Fidget is left to backtrack with her friend to safer, saner
Pinchot Pass (12,150'). Hated everything about it. Long, long and
highly tedious approach. Sketchy climb. Sloppy descent. If I ever
express a desire to go there again, please kill me.
Mather Pass (12,100'). The worst day of my recent life, even including
various horror days with certain ex-girlfriends. Beautiful weather,
all the better to die in. One slip on that terrifying and LONG
traverse and it would be all over. Oh, and I should mention that it
was my birthday - what better way to spend it than in raw, gruelling
I cross soooooo slowly, trying in vain to distract myself, burying my
antique ice axe to the hilt on the upper slope with each step,
balancing with my trekking pole in my right hand, my left arm aching
with the exertion of pulling that infernal axe out to make the next
step... The sweet but false security of an island of rocks halfway
across... Tahoma calling out, "Mountaingoat, are you ok?" and my
little mouse squeak of a "Y...e...ssss!" in reply. Tahoma shouting,
"I'm going to help Mountaingoat!", stashing his pack on rocks and
striding back across to shepherd me on, even offering to take my pack,
which I decline, the only shred of dignity I retain all day. Following
him across as he tells me to LEAN OUTWARD... We discuss our families
as we go and we both know it's just a diversion, but a welcome one.
Reaching that terrible cornice on the edge of the top, and safety at
last. Shin sticking his head back and exclaiming to the sky,
"KOWAKATTA!" ("THAT WAS SCARY!"). I couldn't agree more.
I find out later that Tahoma has climbed Everest, Rainier and all the
Seven Summits. I was in the best of hands and was very grateful for
Muir Pass (11,950'). Rumoured to be a long slog with lots of false
summits, so we camp high between the snowdrifts. I score a great
cowboy spot among the rocks; a lone marmot barks at me for an hour
till I urinate on as many rocks as I can manage and shut him up. Team
Zero comes through; I ask Ten Spot his opinion of Mather.
"F___ING HATED IT! I was scared sh__less!"
The New Zealanders appear and squeeze in nearby. I get up at 4:45 and
we three get an early start up Muir. The snow is hard and we arrive
surprisingly soon at the beautiful old stone hut on top. I share a
victory cigarette with Shin; we're all in great spirits and even the
ling slog down doesn't completely wipe them out.
Selden Pass (10,900'). Not too bad. Shin got up there first and
shouted us on. Marmots and chipmunks circled us demanding tribute.
That's all I want to remember.
Silver Pass (10,900'). One of the better ones. Shang-hi came with us
after VVR. A fast descent to the trees. Almost pleasurable.
Island Pass (10,200'). I got lost. I will hate it forever.
Donahue Pass (11,050'). Great. Hard snow and a clear trail of
footprints all the way. Did it with Hurricane and came down with Turbo.
Almost finished with the passes now and I'm glad to end them on a
high. Even the anticipated hordes of car campers tomorrow won't be
able to completely taint the memory...
And that's all the Goat wrote
~ And that's all the Goat wrote