Started: 07:15 @ MM 179.4 – Idyllwild (Elevation 5,350ft)
Finished: 18:30 @ MM 190.5 – Fuller Ridge Campsite (Elevation 7,748ft)
Water: Drank 3L … Probably not enough.
Food: Oatmeal, Ritz & BabyBell Cheese, Coconut Bar, Pasta & Tuna, Gummie Lifesavers.
Health: 0 Blisters. Frostbite!
Firstly, I feel that I need to put a few things in perspective. I was born in a country that doesn’t really “do” snow. We don’t get snow very often in the UK but when we do it generally sends the whole population into a tailspin. Us Brits are pretty much hard wired to come completely unglued at the slightest hint of snow. Furthermore, I now live in a sub-tropical climate where the temperature almost never drops below zero. In short, I do not cope well with the cold and I am borderline allergic to snow!
Next, today’s mileage … 11 trail milesmay not seem like much, but let’s not forget the 6 miles of almost vertical ascent to get back on to the PCT! I reluctantly left the snug of the cabin floor just after 7am. It was well below freezing and as icy as the Arctic as we trudged uphill to the Humber Park trail head. I was wearing just about every item of clothing in my possession. By the time we reached Humber Park (800ft elevation gain in just over 3 miles) I was over heating. I removed a few layers and readied my walking poles. Next, Devils Slide Trail … This marked the start of a 2,491ft ascent in just 4.6 miles. Oh, and did I mention the white stuff! The scenery was undoubtedly spectacular but the climb was a bitch. The giant pine trees would regularly shrug their limbs and icy shards would rain down on me, some of them big and painful when they hit my head. The snow and ice kept accumulating under my shoe and upsetting my foot strike. My pack felt heavy and uncomfortable. I battled to find an appropriate level of layers and comfortable temperature. I trudged on, alone and despondent for the first time on the trail. As the climb wore on I struggled to deal with the elevation and my pace slowed to a crawl. I had to keep moving. I needed to get up, over and as far down the otherside as I could. I really didn’t want to be stuck at elevation where the night would be ridiculously cold and the wind would chill me even more. I felt alone and wondered where all my hiking friends were. When the climb finally ended and the descent began, things started getting really tricky. There was a lot more snow on the northern side of the range and some very sketchy snow traverses. I struggled along, slipping and sliding my way down. To make matters worse, there were loads of massive blow downs (huge trees blocking the trail) that my little legs couldn’t handle and so I had to make additional dangerous excursions off trail. It was an exhausting and stressful experience! I was still shambling along as the sun started to disappear and the temperature began to plummet. I hurried as much as I could. Finally, I made it to the campground at 7,748ft. It was not as far down as I would have liked but it would have to do. I took some comfort from the fact that others had found it hard going as well and I wasn’t the last to arrive in camp. About 30 mins after me Chance appeared and I was overjoyed to see my hiking buddy who I thought was way ahead of me. I hurriedly set up camp, cooked dinner and immediately retreated into my tent. Once again, I had every item of clothing on and finally I warmed up and drifted off to sleep. Thankfully the day was over, the worst was behind me … Surely tomorrow would be a better day!