It was a perfect morning. My alpine camp caught the early sun and I even took my down jacket off before I hit the trail at 0640. Also, my MSR Hubba tent has a feature where you can put up just the rainfly without the tent. Sort of like a tarp tent. Lots of ventilation and keeps the dew/frost off. My driest night in a long time.
Everything was frozen and the ground sparkled in the sun. Little rivulets of water on the trail had frozen into those thin sheets of ice that are irresistible to step on. I could see there were two people ahead of me.
That V notch in the center, that’s the pass.
There was supposed to be water right before the big climb but it was covered by a snow field. I headed up with half a liter.
God, it was a beautiful day! Bluebird skies, no wind, and about 50 degrees.
I took it slow but the actual face is only about 500 feet. When I got to the infamous chute, where you look down to your death, I put on my micro-spikes, but really, it was nothing. I didn’t feel in danger at all. The sketchiest part was just past that where I had to scale this snow drift to get over to the trail, but the snow was just the right softness that it was fine. I got to the summit around 0930.
I had a bit of cell service, I texted my Dad and he called me! Really strange to be getting a phone call right then, right there. But kind of cool too.
The north side of the pass was much snowier. A giant snow bowl. You could see where others had glissaded down, but it wasn’t that steep and I had my micro-spikes on so I thought I’d just walk down. Then I post-holed to my knee. The snow was very mushy and soft. Then I post-holed to my waist. Then I thought, “This may not work out.” I tried to glissade on my butt, but the snow was too soft. I got my Tyvek groundsheet out (careful not to let my pack go sliding away) and that worked if I stayed in the packed down groove of those before me. The sun was beating down and it was almost hot. I’m glad I wasn’t any later. I wished I had some water.
I think it was about two hours going down the snow, trying to follow the footprints but not posthole. Some of the holes where people before me had broken through were deep and blue like a crevasse in a glacier or something. Don’t step in there! And there were sections where I had to basically cross-country over giant, jumbled, steep scree. Slow going and dangerous.
I stopped at the first water, tanked up, had a snack, and felt much better. From there it was down down down Bubbs Creek. I had my first sketchy stream crossing on a wet log. Took a half-hour lunch break, mostly to dry my gear in the sun, then started walking again.
Pretty soon I was hiking up again, steeply. But I just took it slow. The trail here is not “cruiser”. Got to keep your eyes on the trail and lots of knee-high stairs, which are bad up or down.
I thought I might camp at Bullfrog Lake, but when I got near, there was a sign prohibiting camping. Besides, it was only 1530. So, I tanked up with enough water to camp, so I could stop anytime, if I needed to. But I looked up at Kearsarge Pass and thought, “I can be up there by five.” Which I pretty much did.
But there sure wasn’t anywhere to camp there! And it was only five. I was more foot-hurt and exhausted than I’ve been yet, but what are you going to do? I kept walking.
I admit, I really wanted to get to town. I need to get to Bishop, which is not that easy from Kearsarge Pass. I had a million scenarios that might get me there, but I figured the sooner I got to the road, the sooner I would get to town. Keep walking. I figured I could get to the trailhead by 1930.
I was so hurting. Really limping in, leaning heavily on my trekking poles. And then, about 100 yards from the trailhead, what’s this? A day hiker heading back to his car??? I couldn’t let him get away, and I put on some speed from some hidden reserve.
Super nice guy! Yes, he was going to town and would give me a ride! He took me to the place he was staying in Independence, the Mt. Williamson Motel, and I got a room there. Super hiker-friendly and a nice room. I hobbled across the street for some beer before taking a shower and just couldn’t believe how awesome this day was. The gods are smiling on me tonight!
(Post-trail Edit: Today I hiked 28.5 miles, climbed 4200 feet and descended 6200 feet. In the last 4 days: 80 miles, 15800 feet up, 14800 feet down)