Date: June 25, 2017
Miles: 2.9 miles (4.7km) + 7.6 miles over Kearsarge Pass (non-PCT miles), from mile 786 to 788.9.
Health: Tired from the long day yesterday.
I woke up late in the morning, still tired from the all the snow and climbing yesterday. KB and Fyre had left earlier and I left with the others from the camp. Down at the valley the trail was a bit easier to hike but we still needed to climb over snowbanks.
After a while we hit a junction and the trail turned up. We climbed for about an hour and then reached the first junction to Kearsarge Pass. Kearsarge Pass isn't part of the PCT but most people climb it to get to resupply to either Independence or Bishop. I was running low on food and needed to get to Bishop where everyone else was also going.
The first junction takes the lowest path to the pass, the Bullfrog Trail. As we had heard it was covered in snow and party soggy due to the overflowing lake, we were taking the second trail that goes above the lake. So we climbed some more and reached the second junction.
From here the trail was already under snow almost constantly and way finding became harder. As the others were struggling with snow or finding the path, I went ahead alone. I thought that I would wait for them at the next junction as I needed to take care of some hole digging business.
As I finally found the next junction I couldn't actually reach it as it was under water. I could see the trail sign poking from the water, which was kind of funny. I waited for a while but as I saw or heard no one coming, I moved along as I didn't want the snow to melt too much. I still had a long way to go on snow.
Soon the trail reaches the area where I could see the lake below. Finding the way, or actually even walking here was extremely difficult. I was constantly losing the direction, or slipping, or having to go around different obstacles. Being on a steep slope didn't help either. I was tired and frustrated. I was standing on a ton of melting snow, being burned by the hot sun, trying to navigate an obstacle course, while climbing a mountain. I was moving so slow.
Even though the Kearsarge Pass trail was only 7.6 miles long, looking at my progress so far, it would take me all day to get over and down to the other side.
Just as I was having a mini meltdown I heard a familiar voice, Pony? I saw her behind some of the trees taking a break. She was with Neal and Cooper. I asked to join them for the break as I was exhausted.
After a small break we all headed out. It was so much easier to navigate with more people. Soon we found the trail again and we met few people coming back who told us it's going to get sketchy.
The trail was on a narrow path along the mountain wall and at times completely blocked by snow. We had to cross these steep fields slowly with microspikes and ice axes as our help. After few fields it looked like we were done with those and put away our snow gear.
We go around a corner and hit another snow field again. As we're getting on it Pony asks if she should take out her ice axe again for this one. We tell her that that's why she's being carrying it and she takes it out.
Cooper and I go over first and Pony's third. I take photos of her as she's in the middle of the snowfield. Just as I take on photo and lower my camera I see her slip. She's right above the rock field below, on the worst spot to slip. I grinch as she starts to slide down the steep snow face. But as soon as her stomach hits the snow she's in self arrest position and stops her slide like a pro. We all watch in with our mouths open. That was close.
She's now stopped but we still need to get her out of there. Pony gets herself up, traverses down to the rocks safely and me and Cooper help her back on the trail. Pony's a little shaken up but safe and unharmed. Boy was it good that she took out her ice axe for this crossing!
Pony handles the situation like a boss and after a round of hugs we continue.
Soon we start seeing the switchbacks up above but can't seem to find a way to get there. We have no option other than to climb straight up on loose rock. Once we reach the switchbacks we just walk the rest of the way up and we're at the pass. Couple of high fives are thrown and then we stop for a break and lunch.
The views from the pass are great but it looks like we still have a long way down. After eating we start traversing down on the snow. Me and Cooper hit a big glissade and notice that Neal and Pony are some way behind. We push on as there's no way finding needed on this, we're just going downwards.
We hit so many glissades that my shorts are completely soaked. While this is all fun, it's really hard moving around in all the snow. My legs are still tired from all the climbing and going down isn't any easier.
Pony and Neal catch up to us and we glissade down together. Cooper and I push ahead again and soon reach a lake on the level where the snow finally stops. We stop in the sun by the lake to dry our completely soaked shoes and socks and wait for the others.
Others soon arrive and we climb the rest of the way down. There's still a lot of water on the trail but not as much snow.
And then we see the trailhead and parking down below us. The hitch down from here is going to be a hard one. The road has been closed due to flooding from all the snowmelt, and there's no reason for anyone to climb all the way up here. As we climb down we watch as some of the few cars parked below leave, hoping there would still be some left once we reach them.
Once we finally reach the trailhead we need to road walk down a bit over the closed, flooded road to where all the cars are parked. There's no one there so we try to find shade and sit and wait for someone to show up. We have no reception so we can't even call anyone.
After about an hour of waiting we see a minibus driving up and only a driver inside. This is sure our ride down. We send Pony, the only girl in our group, to investigate. We can't hear them but from the body language we can tell it's not going well. She comes back and the minibus turns and parks a little down from us. No luck.
As we're about to lose hope another car comes up and it's an trail angel Pony knows. He's here to give rides for hikers down the mountain to the town of Independence. We're happy to just get down from the mountain as getting a hitch from Independence to Bishop is much easier.
We drive down the long winding mountain road and watch as the thermometer rises as we get lower and lower. We soon hit over 100 degrees (40c). Ugh.
We get dropped of at the center of Independence, to the place were Subway used to be. Now there's a sandwich shop there but that too is closed. Independence looks like an extremely small town and doing resupply here would not be easy. We buy ice cream and sodas from the small grocery store and then start hitching again.
The sun is so hot that you can't stand too long in it. Pony and I hitch but Neal and Cooper stay behind for some reason. We get a ride but Pony needs to stay with the boys. I hop on and we agree to call when we're all in Bishop.
After an hour long drive I get to Bishop and try to call Pony. My phone isn't working. What? I can't send any messages, call, or access internet. What's going on? I'm alone in a new town that I know nothing about and I can't contact anyone or research anything.
My only option is to start walking along the Main Street and hope for the best. I don't have to hope for long. I meet a fellow hiker that I've met many times before and she tells me that the Hiker Hostel isn't far away, and that there's wifi there.
I make my way to the Hiker Hostel and find Dandelion, Fyre, KB, and Fire Ant there. And many others. I get the wifi password and start to investigate. I find out that AT&T has closed my plan due to an 25cent unpaid bill, on the same day that they've automatically charged the monthly $60 fee from my account. Why didn't they charge the 25cents at the same time? And where has that 25cents come from?
I get a message to Pony through wifi and she informs me the address of our hotel. It's a little of from the main street but it's cheap.
After I'm certain I have all the info on my phone, I head to the hotel and call AT&T. I need to pay a $10 extra amount as that's the minimum amount they can charge from my account. Great. But no I have my phone operating again.
After doing the usual laundry shower routine we head out for some Mexican food. I talk with Blis and as he's in town as well and we haven't seen for awhile.
We join other hikers in the restaurant and I end up ordering an 2.5 pound (1.2kg) burrito. I'm almost able to finish it all in one go. Hiker hunger.
Blis joins us as well and after the restaurant me and Blis go for a beer. It's good seeing him again. He's heading out tomorrow but we make plans for me to hopefully catch up to them on trail. As it's already well past hiker midnight we head to sleep.