We wait for snow

Miles: 774.2 to 778.9

Mileage: 4.7

Day: 38

And still up next, Forester Pass.

Half awake in the middle of the night, I tried to scooch my head toward the end of the tent. I tend to slip down my sleeping pad as I switch positions. The only problem was, I couldn’t. The end of the tent was right there already. 

I woke up a little more. Huh? I thought. I opened my eyes and took in the scene. There was snow over the whole tent. Man! More snow! I sat up and tried to push some of the snow off. That’s when the tent fell in. 

And Richard woke up. He wanted to know why I was leaning on him. 

Both awake, Richard held up the tent pole and I put on another layer as quickly as I could. I went out into the snow to fix the tent and remove some of the built up layers on each wall. I reinforced the tent stacks with rocks and got back inside also as quickly as I could. 

Geez. More snow. There was a limit to what our summer gear could manage in the wintry high Sierras and I think we were finding it. 

The tent held for the rest of the night and by morning we were reluctant to get up and deal with the new snow. 

Wet tent and sleeping bags were eventually packed away and we headed north to Forester Pass, the highest and most technical of the passes in the Sierras. 

We got there after a beautiful, if wet, snow walk. The sky was blue, the wind was absent, the snow sparkled. 


Blue bird skies and beautiful snow.
The trail took us right to the foot of a rock wall. Near the center top was a small notch: Forester Pass. When Richard pointed to that notch as what he thought was the pass, my reaction was “no way! That looks crazy.” 

He was right. 

And just as we approached, a group of three hikers were on the brink of turning around rather than going over the formidable pass. 


Forester Pass is at the top of the snow shoot at the center of the photo. And it looks a lot less steep in this photo than it really is.
After much discussion, Richard and I decided neither to go over the pass nor retreat. We would wait and watch and make our final decision in the morning when the snow was still firm from the night’s cold and the towering cornice (that we would have to walk under) was more likely to hold.

All day we sat and stared at the pass. Each hiker who tried to go over the pass made it, although some slid a lot on the snow field you had to climb up for the final 10 feet of ascension. 

Despite their successes, we waited. The cornice made Richard nervous: what if it gave with one of us under it? The snow field climb made me nervous: what if we lost our footing right at the top? It was over 500 feet down. 

We took the time to make a decision we were comfortable with. 

And we faced many hungry marmots to do it. Apparently there are very few sources of salt in the high Sierras, so they spent a lot of time eating the dirt my urine had soaked into. 


Snow camping really tested the boundaries of the tent and our sleeping pads. They’re really only designed for use down to about freezing. It was colder than that.
We went to bed early and tried not to be too nervous about hiking the pass.

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