Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 28: Forester Pass

Karolina and I woke up to a crisp, clear morning. It was cold out, and we expected that camping at about 12,500 feet above sea level, but it was admittedly not as cold as I thought it would be. I expected below-freezing temperatures that would make getting out of my sleeping bag difficult, but none of our water bottles froze and I'm not entirely sure it even dropped below freezing. If it did, it wasn't by much!

Camped just a mile or two before Forester Pass, it didn't take us long to reach the top at 13,180 feet above sea level--a new all-time high for Karolina and the high point of the trail so far. It also marked the high point of the entire Pacific Crest Trail.

Once again, I couldn't help but marvel at the difference between the scene laid out below me today and the day I crossed over this pass during my PCT thru-hike when the terrain was covered with snow for miles in all directions. The lake we had camped next to had been frozen over then, and following the trail would have been an exercise in futility given all the snow that covered it. We just charged straight down the mountainside then, but it seemed impossible given the large boulders everywhere. How deep had the snow been back then? It didn't seem deep enough to have covered this rock field so evenly.

The good news for us, however, was that there was absolutely no smoke or haze visible on the horizon. Well, no more than a regular day, at least. It's never completely 100% clear, but it seemed like we could see a hundred miles in every direction.

And then I did something out of curiosity.... I pulled out my phone and checked if I got cell phone reception. A couple of hikers heading in the opposite direction reported getting a weak signal from here. We had no reason to think they would lie about such a thing, but it seemed incredulous that there would be a signal out here. We were surrounded by towering peaks in every direction and it looked like a pure wilderness as far as the eye could see. Where the heck could a cell phone tower possibly be hidden? I wanted to see if it was true.

And sure enough, my phone reported an extremely weak, one-bar signal. How 'bout that. I still have no idea where that signal could have possibly originated.

After that, the trail descended rapidly down the other side before mostly leveling out for much of the day. Just past Tyndall Creek, we ran into Laura from Belgium heading in the other direction. Laura, in case you've forgotten, was Karolina's roommate at the hostel in Lone Pine. We knew we would cross paths with her at some point and had figured that we'd likely camp together near Wright Creek. Laura forgot that, however, and thought we were meeting at Tyndall Creek. She had hiked too far! We chatted for a few minutes and eventually parted our separate ways. None of us intended to backtrack to a location we had already passed!

Along the Bighorn Plateau, we met a fellow going in the opposite direction who pointed to a mountain on the horizon saying that that was Mount Whitney. I didn't recognize it from this direction, but I had no reason to doubt him either. Mount Whitney. The promised land. The end of the trail. The highest point of the contiguous United States. It was a good feeling.

We decided to blow past the Wright Creek campsite and camp closer to the junction with the High Sierra Trail (another trail I'd like to thru-hike... someday!) The campsite here was busy with lots of people and a large group of people with horses had set up camp as well, we decided to push on a bit more to a less-crowded place for camping and make tomorrow's hike a bit shorter.

And.... nothing else really happened. It was generally another pretty dull day of hiking. Absolutely beautiful, jaw-dropping scenery, but not really any stories to report. So enjoy the photos! =)

Karolina gets in the mood for hiking just before leaving camp in the morning.

I play in a patch of snow near the top of Forester Pass. Just to be clear.... I'm not ON the trail here. We had to go off-trail to play in the snow.

Forester Pass... we're almost there!
And we made it! Forester Pass! Woo-who!
Looking down the other side of Forester Pass.
Covered in snow and ice, this section of trail can be a bit scary. *nodding* Not so bad today, though!

The marmot was posing for us!
Looking back towards Forester Pass--which is the low gap near the center of the photo.

Tyndall Creek

Bighorn Plateau

Could the rumors be true? Is that Mount Whitney ahead? By golly, I think it is!

Kind of looks a bit like the face of a frog or something, doesn't it?


Unknown said...


I am a hiker who planned om the JMT this year, but decided against it because of the snow situation.
You mention your hike of this year in March 17 that Forrester Pass was free of snow. Is this date wrong or was the situation truly without snow. I am confused. But, Thank you for posting and sharing the beautiful photographs.
Keep hiking, stay well and safe!


Ryan said...

My blog posts are far out of date. We hiked the trail LAST year--in August. I don't think Forester Pass will ever be snow free by March 17th!

But I wouldn't let snow stop you from doing the trail. It's a slog (I did it with PLENTY of snow when I thru-hiked the PCT in 2010), but it's doable. Just be prepared for it!