Today I started and finished a long journey from Yosemite to San Francisco. It took a bus, a train, a couple subways and a shuttle to get me to my final destination but I made it. This is the beginning of a two week break from the PCT that I am taking in order to attend a wedding and hike the Enchantments back in Washington. But first I will take a shower and attempt to get the first layer of dirt off my body before my dad arrives.
ROAD TRIP DAY!
Due to the fact that P is leaving we took a road trip to South Lake Tahoe in order to pick up his resupply box from the post office. It took us about three hours to drive there and it would take AH and I about three weeks or more weeks to hike there (if we went without any breaks). While we were there we stopped at a surprisingly popular burger place called “Izzy’s Burger Spa”. They had a veggie burger so I was also able to take part in the activity of eating. We started our drive back to Bishop and then ultimately to the Onion Valley Trail head where we would spend the night before heading back over Kearsarge to get back onto the PCT. I did not feel well on that ride home. One reason might have been the enormous bag of chex mix I had eaten prior to arriving in South Lake Tahoe and then topped off with that burger…. Bleh. AH did not feel too well either and we were not looking forward to what tomorrow had to offer us.
Today started out with some sad news. P has decided to go home due to a digestive bug he has been trying to get rid of for the past few weeks that he has not been able to shake. AH and I were bummed to see him go but completely understood because we have seen him lose a bunch of weight over the course of our journey together. After we got over this news we all went to Denny’s and ate our little hearts outs. After that AH and I wandered around downtown Bishop and looked around the various outdoor gear shops they had. I got some new snow gators and water filter. I used some serious self restraint and stopped myself from adding yet another buff to my collection.
We stopped by the ranger station to find out if they knew anything about the conditions between Kearsarge and our next stop of Vermillion Valley Resort (VVR). The rangers did not know much but were very supportive and not the negative Nancys we have been encountering. They heard that we had already made it over Forester and Kearsarge (not to mention Whitney) from Kennedy Meadows and they acknowledged our ability to handle the snowy conditions.
After dropping off our new acquisitions we went to the grocery store again and purchased some extra food for our next leg in the Sierras. Naturally I got way too much and had trouble fitting everything into my pack. Again.
The movie theater in Bishop had just started playing Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales and Wonder Woman. I was dead set on seeing Pirates but AH and P could not decide between the two so we saw both. Back to back. Pirates was hands down way better in my opinion. I was so happy when it ended. Oh my. So good. In between the showings we walked to the McD’s that was down the street and AH got 2-4 burgers I do not remember exactly. After the movies we were all pretty tired so we went back to the motel and got ready for bed.
We woke up early again so that we could potentially get into town earlier than our originally planned 11 o’clock. Getting up early ended up being unnecessary because we got over Kearsarge Pass really quickly and ended up at the trail head before 8 am. We hung out there for two hours until one of the motel owners actually picked up his phone and agreed to pick us up. While we waited we met a few people who were passing through.
Once we got to Independence and after we picked up our resupply boxes, we quickly decided that there was nothing there and started trying to hitch to Bishop for our recovery days. We had zero luck for a really long time until a group of fellow hikers pulled over and let us cram into their rav4. Apparently, 6 people and one doggo are able to fit. Not necessarily comfortably but we fit. Oh, plus 5 backpacking packs. Needless to say the 40 miles drive from Independence to Bishop was not the most legal thing. After my arm fell asleep multiple times from laying awkwardly across the three backs-seater’s laps we finally got to the motel we had arranged accommodations at. I got my own room and P and AH shared another one. BUT our rooms were conjoined! I found that very amusing.
I hung out a little bit after laying out all my gear to air out while waiting for laundry to be done so I could take a shower. I found out that Legs was in town taking a few zeros and he came over to hang out and ultimately get food with us.
After our feeding, we went to the grocery store to get more food. And yet again I over did it with the food…. The good news was that I was able to share my vegan ice cream with a fellow vegan hiker, Lake, as well as Legs.
Today we woke up and got going around 5 like normal. As we were getting ready to head out we saw two hikers we had met a few times heading up to Whitney. We did not need crampons this morning because the snow was hard and the route we took was pretty flat. We ran into Free Bird and Raven as they were getting ready to get on the trail for the morning. The going was pretty slow today. P and I definitely feel the effects of yesterday’s excursion. It started to get pretty cloudy and even started to snow/rain a little and we saw a bit of lightning. We were a little nervous about pitching our tents so high up but really everywhere we went would be high up so no where was really safer than another spot. We ended up setting up camp close to a lake that was a ways off trail due to our short cut not being so short. We planned to wake up early so that we could get over Forester Pass before the snow got soft. I do not mind getting up early as long as I am not sleeping directly on top of snow. If I am next to the snow but on rocks or dirt it makes a world of a difference.
I am beginning to wonder if my constant stuffy nose is because of all the soy products that I am consuming… I’m talking to you Clif Bars.
We got up early to make up for lost time from yesterday’s long cuts and it was not too bad. It was pretty cold but not the coldest we have experienced thus far.
We made it up Forester Pass, the highest point ON the PCT, before it was even 7! Woohoo! On average it is all downhill from here (ha ha ha).
It was cloudy all day which was a nice change from the constant beating sun we had been experiencing so far. Later in the day the clouds decided to drop some rain on us which then turned into snow as we gained elevation.
Due to my lack of foresight earlier in this leg of our journey, my food is running extra low and I can feel the effects of the calorie deficit. I was feeling sluggish for the second half of the day and getting to our designated camp spot felt like an impossible mission even though we made it there by 4. I set up my tent in the snow while it was snowing. Dreading the coming night’s conditions. I got in my tent and removed all my wet clothes and started boiling water to re-hydrate my dinner. I made extra so that I could have some warm water to drink as well. While I was eating dinner the sun seemed to come out. It even stayed out long enough to dry my rain fly which was just wonderful. We have 5.2 miles to hike until we are on a road. So close to more food. So close.
P pointed out that we all smell like some weird combination of poodle dog bush aka marijuana and fermenting sweat because of the fact that we have been at altitude our bodies re burning our muscle for us. Thanks body. That is not what you should be doing. Burn the freaking fat. Not the muscle. Jeez. I need the muscle to get to town to get you more food. Sigh.
220. 220 AM. 220 we woke up so we would be ready to start hiking at 3. There was not much moonlight so we were able to see the stars extremely clearly. We hiked by headlamp light for the first few hours. It is amazing what tunnel vision can do to someone’s attention and it was able to shed away most of my fear of falling off a cliff because I couldn’t see how far down it was. That and the fact that I had crampons on. Trusty trusty crampons.
Getting to the top of Mt. Whitney was a little different from what I was expecting. Once we got to the switchbacks that lead you up most of the trail was uncovered by snow. There were some traverses that were quite questionable so instead we did some other questionable things and just scrambled up the side to the next exposed switch back. Climbing up was probably not any safer due to the fact that each step we took sent at least a few rocks tumbling down behind you. Luckily we did not have most of our gear so our packs were extremely light which made it even easier.
We got to the top around 9 AM and it was the greatest feeling. Getting to summit the tallest mountain in the lower 48 states is pretty cool, especially when it is your first significant mountain you have gotten to the top of with your own two feet.
At the top I actually had cell reception which I used immediately to call my parents to let them know I was alive. Even though I send them my coordinates each night I guess a phone call is required to prove that I am the one sending the pings.
After eating a but of lunch and taking a group picture we started our way back down to our tents. At this point (usually anytime after 9) the snow had softened so crampons were not necessary but I kept them on anyways.
The sun and the reflection of it on the snow had all of us sweating. Just adding to our combined stench. I am not surprised we have not seen any bears yet. No sane creature would get within a mile of this awful smell.
Though I am not physically tired after our side trip to Whitney, I am exhausted for some reason. Tomorrow we are hiking to the base of Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT (but still a good 1,000 feet shorter than Whitney). Yay altitude.