Day 64: (19 miles)
mile 814.5 – 833.5
Up super early and into completely frozen boots. The approach to Mather’s Pass looks fairly straightforward. We can actually see the trail and switchbacks. The snow is hard packed and frozen so the risk of post holing is nil. The only problem is the snow that is covering parts of the switchbacks is so hard and steep that even our micro spikes aren’t useful. Time once again for another scramble up the scree covered pass to the switchbacks free of snow.
All this is done with frozen feet and rock falling underneath our feet. I think the next major hike we do should be somewhere flat, like Nebraska or something. Paul leads. I follow doing my best to focus on keeping my feet moving and not to look down and/or worry about falling. Finally we make it to the snow free trail and to the top of the pass (12,096 ft) unscathed. Is there snow covering the other side? Silly question.
Low snow year my ass. We should have paid better attention to when Ned Tibbets, a high sierra mountaineering instructor, said that the snow levels over 10,000 ft were “normal”, and that was before the late snow storm we waited out at Kennedy Meadows. In “normal” years it’s not recommended to enter the Sierras before June 15…Ooops! Down the backside we goose step in the snow (digging our heels into snow) down to the trail which runs along side a lake and into a canyon with steep and powerful waterfalls that roar louder than an airport runway.
Today we make lots of miles as steep descents with awkwardly spaced steps and narrow switchbacks turn into soft valley floor. We meet up with Borealis (Borealis is a “rock star” as he was the first hiker up to Whitney after the late May snow storm. He cut the steps up to Whitney…said the snow was thigh deep and the last mile took 4 hours) and Russell (when we first saw Russell he was literally running down the Kearsage trail sans backpack because he was hungry for “town food”. Russell was/is a Marine and is raising funds for the Wounded Warrior Project by walking several long trails…his website is http://www.woundedwarriorwalk.com ) and determine that we have the same end mark (mile 833) to set up for Muir Pass in the morning. Borealis and Russell are way faster than us so we tell them we’ll see them at camp. Russell says he’ll have a “roaring fire” for us when we get there. Good kid. Happy guy. We finally make it to camp. Russell has a fire, and we all share conversation and trail adventures as we absentmindedly eat our varied trail food concoctions.