Started: 08:00 @ MM 766.3 Crabtree Meadow (Elevation 10,321ft)
Finished: 14:00 @ MM 774.5 Tyndall Creek (Elevation 10,875ft)
Elevation Gain/Loss: +1,907/-1,349ft
Food: Oatmeal, Tortilla w/cheese and salami, Tortilla w/almond butter and dates, Granola Bar, Gummi Bears, Chicken w/rice and beans.
Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 3, Days since laundry 4
Today was a very easy 8 mile day. We planned to hike as far as Tyndall Creek, the most popular staging point for the dreaded Forrester Pass. Timing is key to a successful ascent and descent of Forrester. If we attempted the pass too late in the day, the steep snow covered slopes would start to melt and instead of being able to walk relatively “safely” on the hard ice surface, we would find ourselves postholing. For those not familiar with the term, basically it is used to describe the situation where you sink down into deep snow. It can be very dangerous as the terrain beneath the snow is an unknown. There might be rocks, boulders or even a river, all of which can lead to twisted ankles, knees and broken bones. Postholing is also slow going, frustrating and very exhausting. It can take ages to lever yourself out of one hole, only to plunge straight back into another one. To avoid the whole nasty business we planned to leave from Tyndall Creek at 5am!
First we had to get there and although we didn’t have much elevation gain to tackle, we did have the small matter of three major creek crossings. Although Forrester was a persistent nagging anxiety, the stress of navigating these swollen torrents of water kept pulling my mind back to the here and now. It was a peculiar blessing.
First order of business was a slippery skinny log crossing over Whitney Creek. I edged across that and was then on my way to the next obstacle, Wallace Creek. The fast moving rapids are difficult to read. Fortunately for me Butterfly is something of an expert and was happy to give me a few pointers. It’s all about picking a safe line through hopefully shallow, smooth and not too swift flowing water. The surface movement tells you a lot more than you might think about what is going on underneath. Also, I had to remember to always unclip my backpack, always face the direction of the flow, shuffle one foot across to the other and NEVER cross my legs! There was a lot to think about and contend with. Nevertheless, I seemed to be making safe and steady progress.
The trail continued surprise and the terrain changed from glorious pine forests to desolate gravel passes. At one point we ascended into Bighorn Plateau where things were otherworldly. The 360 degree views were breathtaking and I failed to do it justice with my camera.
The final challenge of the day was Tyndall Creek which was also the most challenging. Once again I gingerly edge across and reached the other side with a pounding heart and a buzz of adrenalin. We dried out in the sun and made an early camp. Tomorrow would be a big day. Tomorrow we would be up before the sun and climbing across snow fields to the highest point in the PCT. I was pretty confident that I wouldn’t sleep too well. Forrester was my biggest fear, the elevation, the ice, the snow chute and of course the great unknown … the other side!