Destination: Mile 774ish
We are in a true Sierra experience. Sadly, we did not summit Mt. Whitney today, but we did not really try. Last night during dinner, Pat Burglar came down and said, "Mt. Whitney - One, Pat - Zero." He then proceeded to tell us how difficult an ascent it is with the snow. Shortly after he retired to his tent, Missing Link and Johnny Law came and told us how it was hard but doable. The entirety of the trail surrounds polar opposites like this. It is difficult to ever know what something is like, and as such you are generally forced to just ignore everything you have heard, and just see for yourself.
So, that is what we did. We woke up this morning and started walking towards Mt. Whitney. Scrambling across a hillside, and over snow patches, we lost valuable time just trying to find our way to the trail. Once found, we climbed about 500 feet, before running into Uncle Tom. He had camped further up, and had given Whitney a try. After listening to his account, we concluded that it was best not to bother trying. We turned around and headed back to camp.
On the way back, we saw four deer grazing in the meadow. They were not spooked to heavily by us. They kept there distance, but they also continued dining on fine alpine grass. After passing them by, we reached our campsite, where we casually packed our gear, and dried our wet clothing in the sun. Around noon we returned to our hike.
The hike was steep at first, on a south facing dry slope. Yet once we reached the ridge and dropped to the other side, we were faced with our usual north facing snow covered slope. We plodded through, constantly checking the GPS to ensure we were traveling in the right direction. Eventually we just decided to go straight down the hill. At the bottom, we reconnected with the trail at Wallace Creek.
We made an easy crossing of Wallace Creek, and stopped on the other side to eat second lunch, and wring out our wet socks. While resting there, Justin and Melissa walked up. They went up Mt. Whitney at 2am. We continued on, hiking with them just ahead of us, as we climbed another dry south facing slope.
Halfway up, we re-connected with Uncle Tom, who was waiting by Wright Creek, the next ford. He had spent an hour walking up and down the creek, looking for a good crossing point. The best was where the trail hit the creek. Justin went across and dropped his pack. He then helped the rest of us cross. Uncle Tom nearly lost control and fell in, but Justin helped him regain footing. Psycho got across with little folly, almost falling when his trekking pole collapsed. Justin carried Apricots pack across, and walked downstream from her as she forded Wright Creek. She fell, but Justin was there to grab her and pick her up.
Finally we were all safely across the creek, and ready for whatever laid ahead. We continued our climb up toward Bighorn Plateau. From there, we had our most expansive unprecedented view of the Sierra Range. All around us we were seeing massive snow capped peaks, and a vast barren field of snow.
We walked across the snow field, post holing every few steps up to our knees or more. It was incredibly difficult, and we are questioning what we have gotten ourselves into. Justin and Melissa guided us down the hill to our camp at 11,000 feet.
Tomorrow we ford Tyndall Creek (which the guidebook describes as formidable). After the ford, we climb up Forester Pass, the highest point on the PCT. It should be a difficult day tomorrow, and we are both very uneasy about what lays ahead.
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