Miles: 778.9 to 789.4
Mileage: 10.5 (plus, 7.5 up and over Kearsarge Pass to Independence, California)
Neither of us slept well thinking about the pass all night. Would it go? Would we have to turn around?
Plus, it was cold. We set up our tent on snow and really pushed our lightweight summer backpacking gear to its max. Our sleeping pads are really only meant to insulate until zero Celsius. At 6 a.m., the temperature in the tent read -3.4 degrees Celsius.
The tent was iced in frost and anything left exposed in the tent overnight was too.
But the motivation to make the pass prevailed. We packed up and started the ascent.
The trail up the steep face was impressive. The trail makers spent a lot of money on dynamite to blast a ledge into the wall for hikers to walk on. They built retaining walls of stacked rocks to hold the ledge in place.
After about 45 minutes of switchbacks, I was under the cornice. It looked so small once you got up close. I followed the tracks of previous hikers and post holed to the opposite side. Then I turned around and waited while Richard made the same traverse.
It’s important in situations like these to make sure no two climbers get too close to each other. The combined weight can make fragile snow ledges break. The day before we watched multiple pairs of hikers cross under the cornice and climb the snow field with less than three feet between them. That’s a risk they didn’t know not to take, I presume.
We followed the same procedure on the snow field, which, by the way, is a lot less steep than it looks from 500 feet down.
In no time we were on top of the pass! 13,200 feet.
The trail on the north side was buried in snow, but the many hikers before us cut “a” trail into the snow. We followed their lead and started to make our way down hill. The whole descent was 4,000 feet over ten miles.
It was a beautiful day again. It seems all our mornings in the Sierras start off beautiful. And it’s only a matter of waiting for the snow or rain or ice to show up at some point.
We reached the bottom of the descent just after noon.
Our ascent wasn’t long as we were only taking the PCT for another two miles. From there we took off east over Kearsarge Pass and down to Independence, California.
The hiking wasn’t hard but it did start to rain after we gained the crest…of course.
On the hike down we met a man named Matt, an art director from Los Angeles out for a weekend of day trips. He graciously offered to give us a ride down the steep, 13-mile road to town. It’s so lovely the people you meet on trails. They’re some of the best, if you ask me.
Matt took us to a local hotel and we found our way to the seated position. Next came pack explosions to manage our wet gear, followed by tacos and ice cream. Then showers and bed.
A note on our trail exit: Richard and I have some real world issues to deal with over the next ten days so we will be on and off the trail for that time. We still plan on hiking, but they’ll be day hikes a little further north. After we’ve managed our front country lives to the point where we can leave them behind again for a bit, we’ll head back into the Sierras.