Date: June 30, 2017
Miles: 17.2 miles (27.7km), from mile 811.3 over Mather Pass to mile 828.5.
Health: Very tired and exhausted, but happy.
I woke up to my alarm but I'm still too tired to wake up. My legs still feel sore. I snooze my alarm few times until I hear Topo getting ready to move.
The night had been cold and the morning was cold as well. I tried to stay in my sleeping bag for as long as I could. Due to my slowness Topo and DG had to wait for me to get ready. It wasn't long but I hate having people wait for me on trail.
We headed out towards the Kings River crossing. The trail was still covered in snow and we had to find our own way through and over the big snow banks. We soon arrived at the Kings River.
The PCT crosses the Kings River twice. This is not an issue during a regular snow year, or at summer when the water is low, but now the river was a raging and overflowing monster. Needless to say we didn't want to cross it. And definitely not twice.
There's a way you can avoid crossing the river by staying on the east side and bushwhacking about 2 miles (3.2km) upstream. You have to cross small tributaries along the way, but not the main river. This sounded good to us.
We hopped over or used snow bridges to cross about six or seven tributaries and got back on the PCT with dry feet. We celebrated by having a second breakfast.
So far, the going had been quite easy compared to what it had been the previous days. But after the easy part, we entered a vast snowfield full of sun cups. And the sun cups would continue all the way up to the approach to the Mather Pass.
Mather Pass is one of the steepest passes we have to go over on the PCT. As it's considered formidable climb in the summer, and we had to climb it up in snow, we were quite terrified of what it would be like.
About a mile before the pass we run into two southbound JMT hikers who inform us that the pass is quite easy, with well made steps, and a path all the way to the top. They also inform us that after the pass we would be happy to find 12 miles of snowless trail. We didn't believe them on this one but secretly hoped it would be true. Hiking even a mile on a snowless trail sounded so good at this point.
We shared with them the strategy of not crossing the Kings River and headed on. Approaching the pass had been relatively easy, unlike yesterday. Soon we were looking up on the pass and could see Taylor and the Swiss climbing halfway up.
We started the climb and I was feeling really good. There was a well traveled path in the snow for most of the way up. Few spots were a bit sketchy and I hated the rock hopping in the middle. The microspikes feel really uncertain on solid rock faces.
I was so happy about my ice axe and microspikes as it was a really long slide down if you would slip. DG had lost his microspikes yesterday when he fell into the river, so he was having a tougher time climbing. At one point he got himself on a slippery rock face and started to slowly slide down with no way of stopping himself. He yelled for help and as I was the closest, I stuck my hiking pole into the snow and ran back to help him. We got DG back on the snow and after a small breather continued the climb.
We had a small celebration at the top, took few photos and then had a small snack. As we still had ways to go, and the sun was melting the snow fast, we headed on soon.
Moving in the slushy snow was hard, even when going downhill. I soon pulled ahead as Topo and DG struggle in the snow more than I do. It took me about an hour and a half to get down to the lakes in the valley. I was running low on water and energy so when I found a nice, dry pile of rocks, I decided to take a break and wait for the others.
Topo arrived soon after me and DG little bit later. I wanted to eat my salted peanuts but I couldn't find them anywhere. Damn. I forgot them at the top of the pass. Some chipmunk is going to have a field day up there. Also, that's a big calorie loss when I'm already pushing food rations to the limit. I was not happy about that mistake.
Soon it was time to move again. The snow was getting softer and softer as the sun melted it more. It was getting difficult to walk and snowbridges were getting really sketchy to cross.
We wiggled our way around the lakes and got back to the river. The volume of water running through it was just unbelievable. We could barely hear each other over the roaring water.
We met one more group of JMT hikers and spoke with them for a while. Soon after that we got to a rocky hill that overlooked the entire valley down below. The view was absolutely breathtaking. We were so happy to see this view. There was no snow down in the valley. This must be what the first JMT hikers were talking about.
After more than enough photos, were started descending down to the valley. I've never been so happy to see switchbacks in my life. We had reached the famous Golden Staircase that would take us down to the beautiful Evolution Valley. There was no snow and we could finally walk on a real trail. Everyone was on such a good mood.
There was water everywhere though and at times we were walking in a shin deep river in the switchbacks. But we didn't care. Our shoes were already so wet from all the snow that there was no point of caring.
Once we got to the valley floor the trail continued mostly dry and I was so happy to walk on dry land again. Only hindrance were all the fallen trees. They were everywhere. We'd walk few hundred feet and there was another tree to climb over. We kept jumping and climbing over the countless trees and crossing all the creeks along the way. While hard, this was still better than being on the snow.
By now everyone was getting really tired. We had been on the move for almost 10 hours and our legs were getting sore. We spotted a good campsite four miles away and started pushing towards that. We walked across beautiful meadows and hopped over crystal clear streams.
Finally we reached our campsite and quickly set everything up. We gathered some dry wood and made a campfire to dry our wet shoes and socks. It was great eating our dinner by the warm fire after a long day. I cold soaked bacon flavored Idahoan potatoes and salami.
While we were eating, a young deer walked into our camp. She spend a long time just hanging around, not seeming to care about us at all. She went away for awhile but then returned. She was our evening entertainment. Much better than TV in my opinion.
We ate and dried out our gear and as the clock hit hiker midnight we all went to sleep. I'm so tired I fall asleep immediately. Today marks two months on trail for me. What a wonderful day it was. Here's to three more months!