Started: 09:15 @ MM 920.0 Ridge Camp (Elevation 9,677ft)
Finished: 18:15 @ MM 933.9 Lyell Meadow Camp (Elevation 8,992ft)
Elevation Gain/Loss: +2,588/-3,273ft
Food: Oatmeal, Apple Pie, Tortilla w/cheese & salami, Crackers, Kind Bar, Belvita, Instant Potato & Salmon, Gummi Lifesavers
Health & Hygiene: 0 Blisters, Days since last shower 2, Days since laundry 3
I enjoyed a lovely sleep! It was warm and flat and thankfully totally bear free. I didn’t wake until gone 7am. This is very, very late by PCT thru-hiker standards. I felt a pang of guilt and a twinge of shame. I eventually left camp at gone 9 o’clock, not a time that is conducive of big miles. I’m fast coming to the conclusion that I’m not a particularly good thru-hiker.
Today I had to tackle Donahue, the last of the snowy passes. Southbound JMT hikers were reporting snow but nothing too dramatic and hopefully no terrifying icy traverses. Given the gentlemanly hour of my departure, slushy postholing seemed more likely to be the main cause for concern. Either way, before I reached Donahue, I had to get over Island Pass.
Island Pass turned out to be not much of a pass at all. In fact I passed it by without even realising that I’d passed a pass! The views over 1,000 Island Lake were jaw drop amazing. However, all that water needed to go somewhere and somewhat unsurprisingly, the rivers, creeks and crossings were equally jaw dropping. I was grateful of Butterfly’s teachings and confidently put my new skills to work.
By the time I’d dealt with Island Pass and was at the bottom, looking up at Donahue, it was almost noon. I decided to rest and eat, not because I was particularly hungry, but mostly because I was pissed off with how overloaded my pack felt. Food is so heavy and there seems to be a bizarre inverse correlation between cost and weight. Sadly my budget no longer stretched to the luxury of lightweight freeze dried meals!
The ascent was tough and I felt really slow and pathetic as I virtually crawled up past 10,000ft. Much to my delight there was a mini-bear at the top to greet me. I hung out with the marmot for a bit and then I officially crossed into the Yosemite Wilderness and started heading down into Lyell Canyon. The snow on the north side of the pass was bordering on dramatic, but I bravely pushed on through more than a mile of soft, slushy snow and then I postholed through a boulder field for another mile … Oh, such joy!
When I was eventually clear of the snow, the trail dropped sharply down to the valley floor and a lush meadow that was very characteristic of Yosemite. I had planned to camp just before Toulomne Meadows but I discovered a 4 mile “no camping” restriction around the whole area. I was forced to find a camp along the valley. I had no problem finding a flat spot to pitch my tent, however I was having a problem finding someone to share this flat spot with. There was simply nobody around. Where had everyone gone?
I resigned myself to spending the night alone and then whiled away the rest of the evening by bravely trying to reassure myself that Black Bears weren’t that dangerous. The bears in and around Yosemite Wilderness are well known for their cunning and, having become habituated to humans as a source of food, they are a genuine threat to any thru-hiker. All alone, eating my instant mash potato and packet salmon, I felt irrationally vulnerable and very on edge. I promptly came to the conclusion that the blissful ignorance of sleep and the muffled silence of earplugs would be my only salvation. It was going to be a long and lonely night!