Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Island Pass + Donahue Pass

Day 169-September 29th
Destination: Lyell Creek
Miles: 10 (plus 7 alternate trail miles)
Cumulative Miles: 2501.5

We slept in an extra forty minutes this morning. Sleeping at higher elevations is always less restful. When we hit the trail, we were excited about the lakes we would be walking past. The alternate route was supposed to be far more scenic, and one mile shorter than the PCT.

What we failed to notice was that there were several significant climbs between the aptly named gem like lakes. Ruby Lake and Garnet Lake were both magnificent, though not red. The trail had fairly significant climbs between the lakes, and another decent climb before reaching the PCT again at Thousand Island Lake. This lake quite possibly could have a thousand islands in it, but we never counted. We were fairly tired, wondering how it took us four hours to go only seven miles.

After lunch at Thousand Island Lake, we made our climb toward Island Pass. Island Pass, at 10,207 feet didn't feel like a pass, but rather just another high plain that we walked across. The ascent from Thousand Island Lake, and the drop down afterwards were both fairly minimal. We had larger climbs and drops over unnamed saddles on the alternate route we took. Both times we hit high points this morning on the alternate route, we were above 10,000 feet.

Just past Island Pass was Donahue Pass, which stood at 11,064 feet. The ascent to this pass was long and exposed. The entire hillside was covered in enormous granite slabs, often serving as stepping stones for our trail. Once we reached the top and started our descent, we passed the last place we'll be above 11,000 feet on our trek.

The north side offered a descent worthy of being the most difficult. At first we lost the trail, following a dry river bed thinking it was the trail. A few minutes down the river bed we realized that there were rock cairns to our left. We cut over to the rocks to try to follow the trail. Psycho looked back at Apricots and said, "Finding the trail is easy, just look for the stack of rocks in the stack of rocks."

Eventually the trail became more easy to follow, but not easier to walk upon. The trail was incredibly steep and rocky. At times it felt like we were walking across a very old, poorly laid, cobblestone road which cut down the hill at nearly 45 degrees the entire time. Apricots slipped and nearly hyper-extended her knee, and Psycho trudged on at a pace which would make a turtle look fast.

When we reached the bottom of the descent, we were both beat. We stopped at the first flat site and set up camp, two miles shy of our goal.

Woohoo!!! 2500 Miles

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1 comment:

  1. Woohoo indeed. Good going and great hanging tough. The lakes sound grand and 11000+ elevation slows the pace. Love the pics you have all seem to blend right in....part of nature......journey on with blessings of safety.