PCT Day 62 – Please … No Muir Snow!

Started: 07:00 @ MM 832.7 Big Pete Meadow (Elevation 9,250ft)

Finished: 17:00 @ MM 846.0 Evolution Creek Camp (Elevation 9,942ft)

Miles: 13.4

Elevation Gain/Loss: +3,095/-2,401ft

Food: Oatmeal, Cliff Bar, Snickers, Tortilla w/cheese and salami, Gummi Bears, Instant Potato w/ Jerky

Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 6, Days since laundry 6

We made an early start, it was going to be a long day. I’d heard a lot of whispers on the trail grapevine about oceans of snow on Muir Pass. Although I was fast coming to the conclusion that the trail rumour mill was not to be trusted, I was still a little circumspect. Myself, Butterfly and Spreadsheet discussed what lie ahead over coffee and oatmeal. Turbo nibbled on some string cheese and salami. I don’t usually pay too much attention to what others do and don’t do … (HYOH and all that jazz) … but I couldn’t help thinking she wasn’t eating enough!

Spreadsheet (R) and Butterfly (L) … Discussing the adventures ahead!
There is a lot written and said about Hiker Hunger. It’s definitely a thing and it’s about this stage in the game when the calorific deficit really starts to show. The Sierras are particularly tricky because at these high elevations you often feel less inclined to eat at exactly the time you need to be eating for England. My main problem was the weight … Not my weight … The foods’ weight! Food was heavy and I hated carrying the weight. Lightweight freeze dried food is the way forward, but it’s ferociously expensive. Anyway, however you cook it up, Turbo was barely eating enough to keep a chipmunk alive !!
Mile upon mile of energy sapping snow!
We set off at a slow pace with Turbo leading the way. I’m not the world’s fastest hiker, but even by my standards this was a crawl. We stayed in our group formation until we hit the snow and then it was pretty much each man (and woman) for themselves. Muir Pass was not a technically difficult climb, no terrifying icy traverses, just mile upon mile of incredibly energy sapping, steep snow fields. My SpiderMan shoes were doing a great job but the thin air was making every step feel so hard. I would count 10 steps and then rest and recover my breath … I thought of my poor Dad the whole climb. He has COPD and feels like this all the time!
The John Muir Hut … I was so happy to see this hut!!
After 4 miles and 6 hours of climbing, mostly on the snow, I finally saw the famous Muir Hut at the top of the pass. I have never in my life been so happy to see a small stone building. There was a stiff icy wind at the top of this very exposed pass and the hut was a much needed refuge from the elements. Spreadsheet was already inside, I joined him and we discussed the arduous ascent as we set about the contents of our bear cans. I floated my theory regarding Turbo not eating enough … just at that moment she arrived with Butterfly and confirmed my suspicions!
Hollywood … so happy to finally reach this little stone hut!

Turbo announced that she felt unwell and really hungry. She was “bonking” badly! After some minor histrionics she ate and we set off for the downhill slog. Again, nothing technically challenging, just miles and miles of snow and none of it steep enough to glissade down. The snow stretched on for about 4 miles. About a quarter of the way down we had to cross an icy creek. There were three sketchy looking rocks that persons more competent than myself would probably have opted for. Spreadsheet and I took a longer but safer looking route over the frigid water. Turbo and Butterfly were lagging behind. A few moments later I heard a worrying “oh no” from Spreadsheet. I looked back and spotted Butterfly running across the snow towards the creek. Turbo, usually a great rockhopper but clearly not firing on all cylinders, had chosen the sketchy rocks, lost her balance and fallen into the creek!!

Definitely not the best place for a swim!
A bit of family drama followed, as Butterfly fished his daughter out and them proceeded to yell at her when all the poor girl really needed was a hug and a “yeah, yeah … everything will be okay”. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that Turbo is just 16! After a little intervention, we got her into dry clothes and walking again. The snow line was still miles away and we needed to get down below 10,000ft as soon as possible to get a fire going. Drying Turbo’s and Butterfly’s clothes was a real priority!!
Drying out and sharing hardships around the fire.
It took us about 4 hours to get off of the mountain! Finally, after miles of trudging through snow and then swamps, we reached a camp just below 10,000ft. We gathered wood and got a good fire going. It quickly became apparent that we weren’t the only ones who’d had a challenging day on Muir. Pretty soon the camp was full. Some old faces that I hadn’t seen in weeks came shambling in. It was wonderful to see Bacon, Curious George, Shorts, Dragon and Neon again. It was even more wonderful to share our common hardships and realise that we weren’t alone in our struggles. Strange! …. I feel sure I’ve experienced this somewhere before!

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