Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Pinchot Pass

Day 162-September 22nd
Destination: 2.5 Miles south of Mather Pass
Miles: 14.5
Cumulative Miles: 2364

We woke up to clouds this morning. This made us a little uneasy, as we were afraid we brought the Washington rain with us down to the Sierras. Fortunately the clouds burned off within an hour of us starting our long arduous climb up Pinchot Pass. Our ascent took us from roughly 8600 feet all the way up to 12,093 feet at the pass.

We were cold for most of the climb, and remained awestruck at the ability of other thru-hikers to make this climb in the snow. Perhaps the snow made for more level terrain to walk across, thereby making it easier. However, the non-existance of a trail to follow would require time consuming navigation. Furthermore, walking on snow is also very fatiguing. By the time we reached the top, we had covered seven miles in five hours, making our hopes of going over Mather Pass look less realistic.

Our slow moving, and acclimatization to these higher elevations has required us to add an extra day to this leg. We have nearly enough food for that extra leg, but are light on snacks to power us between meals. As such, we were very thankful when we met two hikers who are a day ahead of schedule. They were able to give us a small portion of their food making it easier for us while lightening their packs.

After passing over Pinchot Pass, we dropped down a few miles to a small creek where we had lunch. The clear blue sky started filling with clouds, making our ascent up Mather Pass look daunting. Just after lunch it started snowing for a little bit. We were not sure how long the snow would last, so we had to stop to cover our packs and put on rain gear.

By the time we started our climb to Mather Pass the snow had stopped. It started to warm just enough that we shed our jackets. All the time lost over the long slow climb up Pinchot Pass and the short snow flurry set us up with a tight window for making it over Mather Pass.

Rather than potentially running out of daylight on the steep northern descent, we chose to stop shy of our desired camp. This puts us even further behind schedule. The days are very short here in the Sierras, and the miles are quite difficult. It looks like we have our work cut out for us for the next five days.

While sitting at one of the best campsites we've had, we prepared our dinner. On a neighboring mountain a massive rock slide occurred. We saw a boulder which was easily a couple tons lead the crashing rumble down the mountain.

We're camped just above 11,000 feet and the sky has pretty much cleared up. We expect a very cold night. Hopefully our water bottles don't freeze overnight.

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