Well last night was far from warm and dry. No sooner than we ducked into our tents, a steady patter of rain began to fall that lasted most of the night. By morning light it had stopped, and a good portion of the snow that originally surrounded us had retreated. We put on our still damp clothes, slipped into our cold wet shoes, packed up our wet tents, had a hot coffee and breakfast and we were on our way…uphill of course.
As we started out, a PCT hiker passed us moving quickly (I miss those days…of moving quickly). It is the first person we’ve seen so far on the trail, and considering the conditions, we aren’t suprised. He did however lay down a nice track for us to follow in the snow, of which we confirmed via the blazes carved into the trees periodically.
We, however, are paying for our seemingly late start this morning, as the snow was already “soft” much earlier than expected. Even yesterday it “held” till at least noon. By 10am, the snow melt had created a river in the well worn trough of a trail, and where snow had accumulated, we were often falling through the snow unexpectedly in areas (of shade) that still should have been pretty solid.
But for all its trouble, the views and the experience with friends and family is more than worth it.
I have to say, the girls are remarkable troopers for being “novices”. Not a complaint, not a whimper. Smiles on their faces, even when hip deep in snow…not by “choice”. Our poor son, who is tall, thick and “strong like bull”, spent a good portion of his time pulling one leg or both out the snow. His girlfriend has given him the trail name, “Sink”.
When we got to Thousand Island lake (9840 ft, PCT mile 922.92), we stopped for lunch and a “yard sale” in order to dry out our sopping wet gear. As we sit, we ponder the trail ahead, our goal now is to get up and over Island Pass and immediately find a place to camp…at a little lower elevation before attempting the climb up and over Donahue pass and down to Toulomne Meadows.
Dry, warm and “energized”, we set off into the frosted paradise.
At 3pm, a tenth of a mile from Island Pass (10205 ft), we are regularly waist deep and literally swimming in snow.
At this point I cannot feel my feet. They are frozen and I’m sure I’m working on a case of frost nip, if not frostbite if we continue much further. The brightly shining sun is a blessing and a curse, as it has softened the snow too much for us to safely continue.
Even with a nearly clear path (as in where to go) we only made 4 miles today before we called it quits and retreated to a relatively “dry” island in a sea of snow, to thaw and dry out before trying it again the next morning, at a seriously EARLY hour. I can say with absolute conviction, that I will NOT gain a single pound on this trip eating all the crap I have in my bear canister as I am sure I burnt more than a couple thousand calories walking through, swimming, and digging my legs out of the equivalent of wet cement.
Part of our reason for calling it for the day, beside being practically exhausted was that we could not be confident that there would even be a patch of dry Terra firma in which to set up our “3-season” tents, if/when we descend from Island Pass. At this point we had viable options. Had we more energy (and at least two more hours of guaranteed daylight), as well as hearty “4-season” tents, snowshoes and shovels we would have continued. (Snowshoes would be worth their weight in gold at this point. We would be at the base of Donahue by now. The microspikes give you traction, but snowshoes would have given us loft…and traction.). Thus common sense gave way to ego and that other little voice that always says to us, “Let’s just go 2 more miles.”