PCT Day 162, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 81

September 21
Mile 782.5 to mile 765.2, 17.3 PCT miles, no off-trail miles
PCT miles: 1675.2
Running total: 1828.5
We were SUPER slow getting started today. By the time we ate, packed up, and started moving, it was nearly 845!! We had hoped to knock out 23 miles today, but with such a late start I wasn’t so sure that that was going to happen. (Spoiler alert: it didn’t.)
This morning we had 1,896 feet to climb in 3 miles to reach the highest point of the PCT, Forester Pass. In June, this was an incredibly dangerous pass to conquer due to the snow levels and really gnarly ice chutes- just seeing photos of people at the pass made me dizzy and anxious! {Despite being the highest pass, it was reported that it was neither the most difficult nor the sketchiest. Mather Pass was said to be the hardest & scariest in the snow, but sans snow I struggled most with Glen Pass!}
Though we had no snow (thank God!!) the trail was quite frosty this morning.

While the sun was shining down on other parts of the mountain & even on the trail up ahead of us, we were stuck in the shade for a good portion of the climb- it was so. frickin. cold. I was so relieved when I hit the sun! It wasn’t long before the combination of the toasty rays and the huffing and puffing warmed us up enough that we had to de-layer. I’m always surprised that in just seconds we can go from being completely frozen numb, feeling as if we will never be warm again, to being absolutely roasting, suffocating in our layers, and feeling as if we might overheat in any second if we don’t get some clothes off STAT! But such is life in the mountains, I guess!

I had made it a goal to reach the pass by 1030, and I made it up a few minutes early!

Matt and I took a mini-break on the top, chatting with a weekender from Carlsbad, a PCTer from Tennessee named Gravity, and a few other PCT and JMTers- I believe there were 8 of us total. {Matt and I had to laugh- a few of the JMTers were talking about washing their clothes in the rivers- one girl said her underwear froze, while the other shamefully admitted that she had taken a break from “trail laundry” ’til the temps warmed up…I don’t think I know ONE PCTer who did “laundry” while on-trail!! And an ultra-gross fun fact(/I may not have any friends after admitting this!) BUT my extra pair of hiking underwear had developed holes a while back, so I ditched ’em, leaving me with one pair to hike in and one pair to sleep in…except recently it has been too cold to change in and out of my shorts, so I have been wearing the SAME underwear and shorts non-stop, 24/7, for however many days between towns…that’s, like, a long time…}

Around 1115 I left to head down and Matthew followed close behind.

Comparison photo I found on the PCTA website. Forester 2011 vs 2012
For a good time, google Forester Pass Ice Chutes…

Looking back at the pass (middle of the picture)

The way down was quite rocky!

On my down, per usual, I started to feel off- I needed food and a break asap. I’m SO over the afternoon slump, which seems to be 10X worse at this high elevation! I long for days spent lower than 10,000feet…soon, girl.

The rocky trail continued until we eventually dropped down into a neat forest, where decided to stop for lunch.

After lunch we had a short climb that terminated in a wide open plain with some awesome views!

Mount Whitney!!! (Second peak from the left!)

The trail then dropped back down into the trees again…

In total, not including Forester, we had 4 fairly short but sometimes steep climbs today. For fear of arriving to camp after dark, we decided to cut our day a few miles short and camp at the top of the 4th little climb of the day.

Just before starting that last climb, we came to Whitney Creek. There we found what seemed to be a somewhat sketchy rock hop across (some of the rocks were wet and a few were totally submerged in water), so we decided to try and find another route. We found a decent looking log and Matt crossed first, slowly but surely. I followed, but about half way across I freaked out. What the hellllll?!?? I LOVE log crossings!!! I usually sashay across them quickly and confidently- what was going on?!? (It probably didn’t help that moments before stepping on the log I tripped on literally nothing and almost face planted hardcore…)

Ughhh. Too nervous to move forward, I slowly backed up, using all of the thin, fragile branches I could grab for support. I had been convinced that I was going to fall, so I was a bit worked up by the time I hit land. I frantically searched for another way to cross, and found a wider, thicker log nearby. As I slowly and carefully shuffled along, it became apparent that although wider, this log was smoother, more slippery, and definitely scarier!! Fucckk. With all hope nearly lost, I gingerly lowered my ass to the log, expecting to fall at any second. Once successfully seated, I took a moment to calm my nerves, forced Matt to take my picture, then scooted myself across that damn creek…guys, I don’t know who that version of me was, but I definitely did NOT like her!!

When we made it back to the trail, we ran into a SoBo hiker named Bluejay, who happened to be hiking with Gravity, the man we had met earlier on Forester. Both Gravity & Bluejay had hiked the AT in recent years and were out kicking butt again! Gravity was a flipper like us, but Bluejay was a straight-up SoBoer. {Fun fact, we realized a few days later that we had actually met Bluejay back @ the Big Lake Youth Camp in Oregon! Gravity was apparently there too, but we never met him.} I spent some time chatting with Bluejay while Matthew filled up his water and then we started that last climb to our tent-site.
I felt amazing on this climb!! If the sun wasn’t threatening to disappear soon, and with it any hope for warmth, I would have suggested continuing on, but alas…

We made it to our site, set up camp, ate dinner, and were snuggled into our sleeping bags by 7:45 for the second night in a row!!

Happiness is: tackling Forester Pass! It isn’t all downhill from here, but it sure as hell isn’t up as high! Cheers!!

One thought on “PCT Day 162, Double Flip and a Flop with a Hop, Day 81

  1. So glad you didn’t have to make it across those ice chutes! Looking at the first comparison photos, I didn’t realize how HUGE that place was – then I saw the shots from Google with people struggling across it!! You’ve captured insanely beautiful photos in these last couple of posts, Ali. The frost is, I think, my favorite.


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