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Posts Tagged ‘High Sierras’

We hit the trees and had a small obstacle course of blowdowns to navigate when I found a water bottle that I somehow identified as one belonging to one of the three JMTers who went north: Nice, Steady, or Katz.  I threw it onto my pack and we found them at the bottom of the valley to return it.

Once again, we climbed.  This time, the grade was decent for the first few miles and we passed through incredibly still, peaceful meadows filled with deer that knew no humans could hurt them.  They stayed in the middle of the trail or right next to it until we were almost on top of them.  We also found wild onions and picked some to add to dinner.

Finding a campsite was pretty easy; hiding from the mosquitos was another story.  Snax and Zoner passed us who had hiked the PCT in 2010 and 2008 respectively and were out for the JMT going north for a section.

We managed to get up and moving at a good time for once and began our way up Muir Pass, another long, drawn out climb strangely similar to Pinchot, but not as shitty.  There was only one really annoyingly steep section of short, rocky switchbacks next to a waterfall and the rest of the climb consisted of figuring out which lake we were at because there were so many.  Lake Helen right before the top is actually one of the highest on the PCT at 11,617 ft above sea level.

The top of Muir Pass had a rock hut on top made in the 1930s by the Sierra Club in memory of John Muir.  The more I hiked in the Sierras, the crazier I think he was to explore that much then, without trails and with loaves of bread and tea for food.

We took an extended break up there with the hut, enjoying the sweeping views into Evolution Valley on the other side with these things we hadn’t seen in a long time: clouds!  They made our pictures just that much better.

When we finally left, we stopped a few miles later at Lake Wanda where we got cooked in the sun and soaked our feet in the cold water.  I also watched Inspector Gadget cannonball in and then run screaming out of the icy, snow melt lake.

We meandered down Evolution Valley which, in my opinion, was one of the most beautiful that we passed through, despite the mosquitos.  Muir Pass was our last almost 12,000 ft pass we had to do, which was somewhat of a relief, but we still had miles to go before we slept.

Camping down in a meadow, we battled some intense mosquitos that actually were up and biting at 5am.  I actually hiked with the damn mosquito headnet on for quite some time.

Evolution Creek crossing is usually an intense ford that PCT hikers worry about every year, but when we hit it, it was only knee-deep and a breeze to wade across.  Lucky us!  The mosquitos were terrible there though!  Deet time.

The trail followed the creek down where it would change drastically from mellow, meandering through meadows, to raging waterfalls down steep, slick rocks.  It plunged into another creek that we crossed on a bridge and continued down to the Muir Trail Ranch side trail where we found Griffin hiking sobo through that section and he gave us some intel.

“It’s great!  I see all the PCTers because I’m hiking the opposite direction and I see all the JMTers because I out hike them!  They only go like 12 miles a day or something and 50 pound packs are the lightweight ones!” He joked.

After lunch with him, we headed up Selden Pass, supposedly the easiest Sierra Pass.  The hard part was the almost 2,000 feet of switchbacks coming out of the valley, then the rest went in steps: it would go flat around a lake, go up a step to another lake and so on until the top.  We cooked at the top of the switchbacks where Dead Animal used the deep creek to find the hole in his Neoair he got the night before.  We suspect either a small critter or a fight between the Neoair and his bear canister in his pack.  I took the opportunity to wash my shorts, hang them on my pack and hike up in my underwear.

We hit the pass that evening, did the quite naked ritual, then headed down to camp somewhere.  Unfortunately, the spot we found had a lot of moisture and our sleeping bags were all wet.  We waited until the sun came and dried us off, then set out down trail cruising downhill until we had to cross Bear Creek, another ford that usually consists of horror stories of chest high water with packs on shoulders.  It only came up mid-calf.  The next two feeder streams had complicated rock hops, so I plunged straight through those too since my feet were wet anyway.
Once we hit the bottom of the valley, we of course had to climb again.  This time, it was not to a pass, just up and over a large ridge in the way with 1200 ft of steep switchbacks and 2000 ft of steep switchbacks going down, which made my knees sore.  The amount of JMTers coming up astounded me, almost all of their packs went higher than their head and some were hunched over under the weight of them.

We hit the VVR ferry side trail and I had to pull Dead Animal away from its temptations.  A hiker friendly resort, but they start you a tab and the cheapest anyone gets out for is $70 and horror stories have reached over $400, even with the first beer and night tenting free.  We skipped it and began climbing to Silver Pass.  Its main challenge was one rocky jump off 600 ft in half a mile with a waterfall ford in the middle, which for us was a careful rock hop.

Camping a mile and about 500 ft of climbing to go, we spent another moist night where we waited for the sun to dry everything off.  We hit the pass, then descended past large alpine lakes until a few large bumps we had to go up and over.

Once we started descending toward Purple Lake, we began hitting the blowdowns.  The Sierras had 140 something mph sustained northerly winds in November and December knocking down thousands of trees that kept the Reds Meadow Rd closed until June 29th this year.  Luckily, they weren’t too bad because so many trail crews were out and diligently clearing the trail.  There were also a few annoying ones back a few miles around Tully Hole, but completely manageable.

After one more bump, we pretty much descended for 10ish miles down to Reds Meadow where trail crews had done amazing work.  We passed mile 900 and realized we had 3G for the first time in a week, so we sat on our phones for a wee bit and managed to finish the section in 7 days instead of the 8 that we planned.

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