Started: 07:40 @ MM 716.5 Monache Meadow (Elevation 7,832ft)
Finished: 14:30 @ MM 730.8 Death Canyon Creek (Elevation 8,948ft)
Elevation Gain/Loss: +2,832/-1,716ft
Food: Oatmeal, Kind Bar, Trail Mix, Jerky, Dates, Couscous & Tuna, Apple Cinammon Crisp
Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 2, Days since laundry 3
It was a cold night! I wasn’t sure if the temperature was purely a function of the elevation or perhaps it was also cold and damp because of the proximity to the river. I’d heard that cold air sinks into the valleys up in the mountains, or maybe I was just making that stuff up. Either way, I knew I was going to have to address this situation before I got into the “Serious Sierras”!Spreadsheet and Turbo were already long gone by the time I emerged from my tent, but I wasn’t bothered. With just 15 miles to hike and all day to do it in, there was absolutely no need to rush. I enjoyed a most leisurely oatmeal and coffee while waiting for the sun to climb higher and warm things up a bit more. Today was basically one of those up and over affairs. A 7 mile, 2,500ft climb followed by a slightly smaller descent. I figured I could get the climb done in one hit, have brunch at the top and then amble down to camp in the afternoon. It was a fantastic plan.
The morning climb was perfect. Both the gradient and temperature were super comfortable. Dotted along the trail were the most spectacular potential camping spots. They were all well protected by the giant boulders and many offered awesome views out over the snow capped peaks to the north. Around every corner it seemed that there was a spot were I immediately wanted to stop and set up camp. This truly was a backpackers paradise!
By 11 o’clock I had reached the top of the climb. I found myself a big comfortable rock with a view, chewed on my jerky and watched the mini-bears rushing around in search of food. Mini-bear is an all encompassing term used to describe any harmless but potentially quite annoying mountain creature. This would mostly include marmots, but also chipmunks and raccoons. All of these little guys will have your food away in flash but also they are renowned for chewing through the straps on backpacks and the insides of shoes. Basically, they are attracted to the salt from our sweat. Personally, I loved them, particularly the marmots. They are super cute, funny and I want one as a pet. Sadly I couldn’t even catch a photo of one, let alone domesticate it!
After a good hour chilling in the sun, I set off for the 7 mile downhill. On the northern slopes I got my first taste of what was to come …. Snow! Thankfully, there were just small patches and again, the gradient and the trail were perfect and the views were sensational. This was, without a doubt, some of the very finest hiking I had ever done. A few miles before my planned camp I caught Spreadsheet and Turbo. Spreadsheet was twitchy about finishing the day so early. He wanted to push on and do a few more miles. I couldn’t see the sense in it. A few more miles would mean climbing in the hottest part of the day to a dry camp. Turbo saw my logic and eventually Spreadsheet conceded to taking it easy!
It made such a great change to reach camp early and have time to relax and enjoy the “camping” aspect of the journey. We were soon joined by Deluxe, Craftsman and Grizz. Unfortunately we were also joined by clouds of blood thirsty mozzies! Thankfully, Craftsman had a solution … Fire! The camp had a really well established fire pit amongst the boulders. Craftsman went off to chop a tree down with his bare hands. Once the fire was going the smoke did a great job of keeping the mozzies at bay … and I’d learnt a new wilderness skill.
For the next 6 hours we cooked, ate, talked and laughed around the fire. It was the most convivial of evenings and I was starting to really understand what all this thru-hiking fuss was about. This certainly was the life! … Who would have guessed that really slow walking could be so much fun.