Day 60: PCT mountain passes

Thurs. 6/20/13
19.2 miles (Miles 811.3 – 830.5)
Kings River (south fork) – Kings River (middle fork)

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Muir wilderness...

In the desert, our days were determined by where the water was. Here in the Sierras there is water everywhere, so that’s certainly not a concern. However, there are high mountain passes that take a little control of our daily mileages. This is especially true during normal to high snow years because it’s easiest to cross the snow early in the morning when it’s still a little crusty. If you hit it later in the day you end up postholing, which means you can sink in the snow up your hip with no warning – just because the sunshine has softened up throughout the day. We don’t have high snow (hardly any at all, in fact), but there’s been small patches that we’ve crossed, and it was easier to navigate when it was early.

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Path through the snow

We like to hit the passes early, but our main reason for that is because we are fresh. We just had a good chunk of sleep and rest, and are filled up with breakfast with caffeinated delicious coffee. Bring on the climb, baby!

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Break time on Mathet Pass

Mt. Whitney was the highest elevation we’ll hit, and it was the first really big climb we had… a warm-up of sorts? My goodness – I suppose that makes all the other passes seem not as intimidating?

Anyway, since Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet), these are the passes we’ve climbed:
▶ Forester pass – 13,200 feet – PCT mile 779.5
▶ Kearsarge pass, twice (2.8 miles off PCT) – 11,791 feet
▶ Glen pass – 11,946 feet – PCT mile 791.1
▶ Pinchot pass – 12,140 feet – PCT mile 807.1
▶ Mather pass – 12,096 feet – PCT mile 816.8

We have three more coming up, starting tomorrow morning:
▶ Muir pass – 11,973 feet – PCT mile 838.6
▶ Selden pass – 10,910 feet – PCT mile 865.6
▶ Silver pass – 10,748 feet – PCT mile 884.9

Climbing Mather pass today wasn’t too tough of a climb, but going down the other side was. There were so many giant rock steps, and they are really hard on the knees, ankles and feet. I rolled my ankles three times today stepping down off of those darned steps! Thankfully the ankles bounced right back into hiking rhythm without a problem… but it’s always scary when it happens!

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I found mud! I love mud!

Those stone steps are tough, but the places they brought us to made it all worth the trouble. We saw unspeakably beautiful mountains off in the distance, waterfalls, lots of friendly deer, curious marmots, giant boulders, rivers, deciduous trees (our first in as looong time!), more conifers, lush forest trails, and flowers galore!

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Sunshiney forest

We hiked a good Sierra day, too – 19 miles including a pass, river crossings, those stinkin’ stone steps, and a million places that tempt us to stop for a break because they’re so perfect… it’s a good life. :)

We did take a great lunch at Lower Palisade Lake. I feel like I’m being teased out here – all the pretty lakes and crystal-clear rivers, and it’s been too cold to swim! Well, Tears and I both gave in today. We jumped in on our lunch break. It wad freezing cold water, but it was refreshing!

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Swimmin hole!

We are camped next to a rushing river to lull us to sleep tonight. Mr. Green, Shotput and Pepper Flake have joined us here, and they were really fun company. While we all sat around having our dinners, three deer kept creeping in close to check us out. I think they might try to eat my socks that are hung on a tree outside the tent…

I’m totally pooped, so time for sleepy!


Tonight I love campfires. I wish I had more energy at night… and some marshmallows.

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Friendly deer

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So many cute tiny flowers out here... these are one of both my and Tears' favorites.

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