PCT Day 157, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 76

September 16
Mile 820.5 to mile 802.6, 17.9 PCT miles, no off-trail miles
PCT miles: 1637.8
Running total: 1773.5
It was again too cold to wake up before the sun, so we didn’t. 😉 When I did finally have the courage to crawl out of my sleeping bag and unzip the tent, I was blown away by the scenery. It had been SO dark when we arrived to camp the night before that we had no idea where we were!

The problem?? A bunch of other people also found this amazing spot and were scattered around this mostly exposed field AND we were right next to the trail, so finding a decent place to pee was a challenge. Since it was still windy & stupid cold, I decided to wait to pee until we started moving. First, though, we needed to eat breakfast and break down camp.

Matt and I have made a habit of not eating in our tent when we are in bear country, so breakfast and dinner are “enjoyed” out in the elements. The dinner process is easy: when we arrive to camp we quickly set up our tent, and then while Matt sets up the stove and gets the water boiling, I set up my sleeping pad and bag. Once I’m done and the water is boiled, we switch places and I guard our food as it cooks while Matt sets up his sleeping stuff. We then eat and hurry back into our tent, where we defrost and bundle up for bed. Breakfast is a bit trickier: I prefer to pack and have everything ready to go before I eat, while Matt enjoys eating first and then warming up in the tent before taking it down. We are still trying to figure out which system is more time efficient- TBD.
This morning I opted to pack before breakfast, while Matt chose to eat first. We ate breakfast huddled next to a small bush that offered slight wind protection.

The bear can marks our breakfast spot

While I waited outside for Matthew to pack, a handful of hikers passed- some complained to me about how bitter cold and miserable the day was, while others commented on the ominous cloud coverage rolling in. Yep, and yep- both legit concerns I shared.

Matt and I were hiking by 0830 and holy shit was it cold and windy as we walked along Palisade Lake. We had to force ourselves to take pictures!

I saw a bunch of what appeared to be frozen bees…is that a thing?!
We left the lake and continued climbing up what is referred to as “the golden staircase”- a series of granite steps leading up steep switchbacks. {Apparently when the sun hits them just right the stairs have a golden hue…)
The wind made the hiking difficult and very, very unenjoyable. For a little icing on the cake, it even started to snow briefly BUT long enough for me to get pelted in the eye with a snowball snowflake. This was the first day neither Matt nor I stopped to take a layer off. ALSO, I still had to pee.

At one point I checked my phone- we still had 3.7 miles to go to the top of the pass….what?!?!?? Fuck. I was moving slower than I thought. I took a deep breath, gave myself a pep talk, and carried on.
I watched Matt climb up the switchbacks above me- he makes it look so easy! {In the desert I used to love watching Matthew climb the switchbacks- he was so fast & strong, and he had this little happy pep in his step as he glided up the mountains- now, he still kicks my butt and makes the climbs look easy, but he no longer has that bounce- it makes me a little sad, but then I wonder- is he really missing that pep? Or do I just perceive it that way, knowing how much he has endured?}

As I watched Matt near the top of what was apparently a false summit, I decided to recheck my progress- I had 0.4 miles to go??! What?! I checked and rechecked, then rechecked again- yes! Only 0.4 miles to go! That WASN’T a false summit! Apparently my phone had been frozen when I checked earlier and that 3.7 miles to go was completely bogus! (Fun fact: we only had 2 miles to go from our campsite to the pass in the first place, so I have NO idea why I believed my phone!)
I passed a few JMTers as I climbed.

As I neared the pass I heard Matt talking to a familiar voice. I stopped in my tracks, unable to see who Matt was talking to but concentrating hard on the voice. When I confirmed in my head who it was I cried out, “Joe Dirt?!!??!” and started to speed walk up the trail. One of the JMTers had caught up to me by that point & when he saw me start to run off excitedly he asked me tiredly, “are we at the top?” And I responded, “no, better! It’s Joe Dirt!” …he was probably like, wtf?!

Matt and I talked to Joe Dirt for quite a while. Joe Dirt was with Matt on Day 45 & we last saw him briefly the next day as we were returning from the hospital and he was leaving to return to the trail. We checked in with each other throughout the past few months, but actually seeing him was awesome- it was like having closure in some weird way, BUT it definitely wasn’t goodbye: Joe Dirt lives in Mammoth and works as a bartender- no doubt Matthew and I will be seeing him on one of our weekend ski trips!! We said our happy “see ya laters” & went our separate ways- Joe Dirt continuing north, as Matt and I carried on south.
Steps after leaving Joe Dirt, Matt and I found ourselves at the top of Mather Pass, at 11109 feet. It started to snow again as we snapped pictures, but thankfully no aggressive snowball snowflakes attacked.

Just after 11am we started our 7.4 mile descent. The initial descent was fairly steep and rocky, leading to an exposed, rocky valley. {Note: I still hadn’t peed, and there was still nowhere to go!! Normally I wouldn’t think twice about just stepping off-trail to go, but there were SO many people out and about today!!}

FINALLY, just before noon, we came across a lone tree standing maybe 20 feet off-trail. I ran behind it to pee, but JUST as I started to go, a ridiculously huge gust of wind blew, sending my stream of pee ALLLL over my right foot- like, yes, normally I spray my shoes when I squat, but this was a full-on, first-pee-of-the-day shower on my foot. My shoes, my socks, and my toes were SOAKED!! I yelled, “are you fuckin kidding me?!?!” and Matthew shared a good laugh with Mother Nature. My foot was soaked for a good portion of the early afternoon.

Maybe an hour and a half later we came across a lovely little forest, so I decided to go and dig a cat-hole. JUST as I pulled my pants down, it started to snow like, really, really hard- it seemed like almost instantly I had a collection of snow in my underwear! The fuck?! Ugh. {But, I’d take the snow in my underwear over being soaked with rain or bitten by mosquitos any day!!! Perspective, man!!}
Before carrying on down-trail we were passed by Gourmet and Scratch, two hikers we had hung out with briefly back in Washington! It was fun to catch up- they had just 100 miles left to complete their PCT hike! They had bribed themselves to keep going with a trip to Vegas after they finish- glad we aren’t the only ones who needed to treat ourselves to get us to keep walking!
Matt and I made it the 955 feet down Mather, where we decided to stop for lunch to fuel up for our next climb. Before starting the Sierra we had agreed to only hike one pass a day, but we had decided that it would be ok to tackle both Mather and the next pass, Pinchot, in one day: coming SoBo, the climb up to Pinchot was only 2,050 feet in 4 miles, which we felt was doable.

Our pre-lunch river crossing

I started the climb around 2:45. Early into the climb I passed two NoBO hikers who asked if I was headed up and over the pass that day- when I said I was, they were shocked and said, “really? You’re a badass!”…erm…no?

I was in my typical after-lunch funk, taking my time, feeling like shit, and melting in the sun. I eventually had to de-layer for the first time all day!! Matt, Kenny, and Chuckwalla all eventually passed me.

I ended up finding all three boys at Marjorie Lake. Kenny and Chuckwalla were crazees and went for a swim while Matthew spent some time at the lakeside simply enjoying the view.

Since I’m a sloth and we had 950 feet to climb in 1.5 miles, I decided to continue walking. When Matthew caught up to me he grabbed my shoulders, looked me in the eyes, and said, “that was the most beautiful lake on the entire PCT!” He might be right.

The wind had been blowing since Marjorie Lake, but as we climbed higher the gusts got CRAZY- like, blow-you-off-of-a-mountain crazy! Thankfully the wind was blowing into us, which although made the climb a bit more challenging, at least it wasn’t blowing us off the mountain.
The pass had a false summit, which was a very mean trick! Grrr! Matt made it to the real top first and hid behind a rock to escape the wind while he waited for me. I ended up hiking the last few switchbacks with Kenny and Chuckwalla, arriving to the pass around 5pm. We all took a short break at the top before heading down. (Fun fact: Chuckwalla’s underwear, wet from the lake and placed in his pack to dry, had froze!)

On our way down we passed a couple going up the pass- I thought, “THEY are badasses, but they look like they can handle what they are getting into!” {Fun fact: we met this couple a few days later. They said that they could NOT handle what they got themselves into! Glad they were safe.}

As we carried on, the constant wind became UNBEARABLE. Our fingers and faces were freezing- even putting on our gloves and wool hats didn’t help! The scenery was gorgeous but the early evening was quite miserable, hence the lack of photos.
As we lost elevation, I had hoped that the wind would calm down, but it never did. We lost over 2,300 feet, but the wind kept howling!! When we arrived to our planned tent-site we were very relieved to find that it was semi-protected from the wind- we could hear the constant wind but only felt the occasional big gusts. Matt set up the tent while I bushwacked my way down to a creek for water. When I returned we did our normal dinner routine and went to bed.

Oh, funnest fact! Things that have fallen in horse shit in the past few days: my phone and my glove. Things that I’m still using as if they haven’t fallen in horse shit in the past few days: my phone and my glove.
Happiness is: seeing Joe Dirt & seeing something as beautiful as Marjorie Lake

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