Saturday, June 14, 2014

Forester Pass - (6/12)

Mile 774.2 to mile 788.8 (plus 0.5 miles towards Kersarge Pass)
15.1 miles

Today was an amazing day. We had unbelievable sights and a very tall hiking accomplishment. It was easily one of the best days on the trail so far. 

We woke up early this morning because there is snow on the North side of Forester Pass and we needed to get through it before the warm sun softened it up. It was a cold morning which we are learning means that we move a bit slower. That meant that we didn't hit the trail as soon as we had hoped. 

A mile from where we camped was the full flowing Tyndell Creek that we needed to cross. It was a fast flowing river and wide. We walked up and down the banks trying to find a good place to cross without getting wet, even getting half way across at some points and then having to turn back. There was no good place to cross. We finally had to suck it up and just tromp through the river with our shoes on. Oh my gosh it was cold. Painfully cold. There is nothing like crossing a frigid cold river on a cold morning to wake ya up. We crossed safely and then quickly found a place to sit so we could ring out our shoes and socks.

With squishy shoes we headed across the barren landscape towards Forester Pass which we could see off in the distance. We soon realized that it wouldn't matter that we had wet shoes on as it would be nearly impossible to keep them dry out here. The ground was overly saturated with water, like walking through a marsh. Little streams, creeks, and tributaries streaked across the landscape connecting the many puddles, ponds, and lakes. Waterfalls created from the snow melt high above replenished the pools of water below.

We slowly made our way towards Forester Pass, a small notch at the top of a vertical rock wall. I know I haves used the word 'wall' to describe steep mountains in the past but this truly is a wall. Forester Pass is the highest point on the PCT at 13,200 feet and would easily surpass the highest Mandie and I have ever been at 11,503. 

As we got higher and closer to Forester our path would take us across several snow fields. We walked across them with light steps so we wouldn't posthole. One of the larger snow fields had a river flowing under it which we could see through a large hole in the snow. It was around this time that I had these thoughts that I was way out of my league here. What was I doing here in this extreme place? I sat in front of a computer for most of the day not too long ago. It is a trip and a huge contrast that is hard to wrap my head around sometimes. 

It was now time to climb up this wall. The snow field had made it impossible to stay on the trail so we first had to find the trail again. We did some rock hopping until we saw a cairn indicating where the trail was. Now back on the trail we followed it switchbacking up this rock wall. The switchbacks were well graded which made the climb that much easier. It was the elevation that was making the hike so difficult. 

We eventually crossed the snow chute that could be seen from the bottom and then completed the last few switchbacks to reach the top. It was an incredible feeling to have reached the top and to be there. We watched a bunch of PCT videos before starting this trip and Forester Pass was always a highlight or focal point. To actual be there was a wonderful, surreal, and emotional feeling. 

We sat on Forester Pass and had a snack while watching a couple of JMT hikers come up the South side. There was a lot of snow on the South side and it had taken us longer than anticipated to get over the pass. The snow was starting to melt and get slushy. That meant that the likelihood of us postholing was growing. I took a few steps across the steep snow covered embankment and immediately slipped. I have been carrying Microspikes since Kennedy Meadows and it was time to put them on for the first time. It wasn't necessary, Mandie didn't use hers, but I had them so I might as well use them. They helped but I still slipped and slided a bit. I also postholed twice; dropping down into the snow up to my groin. 

The rest of the day was pretty much spent hiking down to the valley floor, a beautiful 7 mile journey. Granite mountains were on either side of us and Bubbs Creek flowed down the middle. It was easy walking and having an abundance of oxygen was certainly nice.

After crossing the valley floor we started climbing again towards Glen Pass, the next pass we would have to make it through. It would have to wait though. Next on the agenda was a side trail, over Kersarge Pass, that would take us into town to resupply.

We arrived at the trail junction and started looking for a place to camp. The only decent spot was already occupied by a couple of PCT hikers, Magic Stick and Laugh Track. We chatted with them for a while, asking them about Kersarge Pass before continuing on. Ten minutes later we came to a wide flat spot that looked good enough to pitch a tent on and water was close. Something that I have learned on this trip is, before setting up camp, take a few minutes to explore the area. There is almost always a better spot near by. With that in mind, I walked around a blind spot on the trail and found paradise. 

Around the corner was this amazingly beautiful glacial lake surrounded by green grass and tall trees. It was tucked away with small foothills on three sides, which meant little to no wind. The water was so crystal clear; I could easily see the bottom. I have never seen a clearer body of water. It was the perfect area, postcard picture perfect. We spent a little time walking around the lake looking for a good place to camp. Eventually, we found a nice secluded place and set up camp. The rest of the evening was spent doing little chores like drying out shoes and socks and filtering water for the next day. 

Tomorrow we will finish walking out Kersarge Pass and figure out how to get to Bishop from Independence. 

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Up Forester Pass
Way high in the morning sky
Kissing the heavens