September 11 (~10:15 – ~19:20)
Kearsarge Pass Trail – after Bubbs Creek (6.0 mi / Total: 783.1 mi) (+7.3 bonus miles from Onion Valley Trailhead)
Total PCT miles: 2572.0
Weather: Warm, but cold in the shade.
I’m running around this morning – there’s a 7:45 bus back to Independence, and I have a coffee, two breakfast burritos and a muffin to pick up from Looney Bean first. First day back on trail treats. While I wait for the coffee I get a message from Crunchmaster, asking if I’m in Bishop – he just saw me walking around. What? I haven’t seen him since Washington, but I know I’ve been several days behind on Crunchmaster and Smiles throughout the Sierras, and they just finished the PCT a week ago or so at Kearsarge Pass, after pulling some crazy 72 miles in one big push within 24 hours. Anyways, Crunchmaster was up in the Desolation Wilderness after that, and is now going back down to the desert for some other mad push, and he’s going to be on the same bus headed south. What a crazy coincidence. Once I have all my goodies I rush back to the hostel, quickly pack my bag and make my way to the bus where I see Crunchmaster again. It’s so good to see a familiar face!
An hour later I’m caught up on anything Crunchmaster and I’m standing next to an empty road in Independence ready to hitch back to the trail when a local offers to take me up, as he doesn’t have anything else to do anyways. Soon enough I’m back on trail and ready to face those endless switchbacks back to Kearsarge Pass, and subsequently back to the PCT. But once I’m there I have a little freak out. I can’t find my wet wipes, and if there’s anything I really can’t do without, it’s wet wipes. I already realised in Bishop I couldn’t find them, and wondered if I accidentally put them in the hostel’s bin at night when they closed the common area. I was going to check and get new ones in Independence but completely forgot.
So I find myself next to the trail in a craze taking everything out of my pack, double checking every stuff sack, and to my huge relief, find them stuffed in the bottom of my pack – I must’ve thrown in there when I went back to the dorm. I can breathe again. This is the downside to staying in shared accommodation – it’s easy to misplace things.
Feeling significantly less despaired I begin to make my way up the switchbacks, until I get some phone signal and get side-tracked for a second time. I position myself next to the trail. I never managed to actually schedule the blogs I worked on in town, so I spend at least an hour on a couple, before I rejoin the busy trail to get up to Kearsarge.
Along the way I also run into the couple I briefly met on Mather Pass, and they tell me they decided to their trip short. They had planned to hike 185 miles or so, but were running behind on days, and the other couple they’d started out with quit some time ago. They’d done 120 now, and were calling it a day, finishing at Kearsarge Pass. While they congratulate me on almost having finished the PCT, I also want to tell them they did great, they were on trail for 8 days, and they hiked a long way – but the words don’t come out, I can’t phrase what I want to say. I walk away feeling like a jerk.
Once I get going again I’m back at the pass a lot faster than expected. I’m surprised, I thought it would be a hugely annoying and long way back up, but it’s just a steady climb and then I’m there. Unfortunately though, a big group of Asian hikers is crowding the pass and taking endless videos and selfies. All I can do is put down my pack and wait until they’re done – and regret I didn’t take a picture on the way out instead. By the time they leave two JMT hikers arrive from the other side, but we have a nice chat and they give me all the space to set up my tripod and awkwardly take a pass picture.
After pushing through the pretty views of the remaining stretch, I’m back on the PCT by 4. My aim is to get as close to Forrester Pass as possible, the highest point along the entire PCT at 13,200 ft, which is just over 4000 m. I’ve never been this high before, and I’m looking forward to getting up there tomorrow. But first I have a bit more descend from Glen Pass before I can begin the climb.
The way down turns out to have some gorgeous views of all the mountains around, and I can only guess which one will eventually lead me to Forrester Pass. I meet another ranger on the way, who informs me that my permit is technically not valid at all, as I’m in the Sierras late, and headed in the wrong direction. No other ranger has mentioned anything about this before, and I’ve never heard any hiker talking about changing their permit mid trail, so I’ve never even though of calling the PCTA – but I guess I technically should have. As I’m on my last stretch she lets me off, but it does make me worry a little. What if I run into a ranger who decides to make this into a problem?
When I get down into the forest I pass a lot of tents, and I wonder how busy the pass will be in the morning. I push on a little further. I like to get above or around treeline, and I’m surprised to find no one camped at higher elevation considering how crowded it was lower down. I guess most people prefer the protection of the trees. I find a spot within a cluster of trees, shielding me from the cold wind and affording some great views onto what I think is Forrester Pass. I must be camped at around 11,000 ft. It’s nice to be up this high.
Before I go to sleep and hide my bear can in the trees, I try my hand at night photography again. I looked up some settings and play around a little. At first the shots look like daytime pictures despite the fact that it’s the middle of the night. It’s not the effect I’m after, but I’m impressed this camera could even accomplish something like that. After some more fumbling around I get a better evening shot, although I still can’t get that typical black-sky-milky-way shot, but then perhaps it’s the sky that doesn’t allow me that shot tonight – perhaps tonight the sky just isn’t bright enough.