Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Forester Pass

Forester Pass was the first major pass in the Sierras part of the PCT. Our trip up was by turns eventful, stunning, stressful and incredible.

We camped a few miles shy of the pass (~3mi), and made our way up early in the morning. The trail was relatively clear until the foot of the steep climb switchbacked up the South side.

Side note: We did see a pair of marmots chasing each other through the rapidly clearly ridge nearby. Cynics and people who decry anthropomorphization may disagree, but I think it was marmot love.

We stopped to catch our breath at the base of the rugged looking pass. The switchbacks were snowed over, and the trail was neither visible nor intuitive. We pulled out our ice axes, and went the hard but direct way, straight up, scrambling up the boulders. Fortunately, we were there early enough in the morning, that the snowpack was still solid enough for a safe scramble. About 80% of the way up, we found a clear switchback and went up the rest of the way on the trail.

The trail to the top of the pass was relatively clear, with the exception of one deep snow chute, which flooded my body with adrenaline. Not looking to the left, I sidled across, ice axe in hand. Another 100' of switchbacks, we were at the highest point on the PCT.

A round of congratulations, and a kazoo serenade from Moosie and BR (Battle Hymn of the Republic) later, we started our descent.

The quickest (and most fun) way down, was a full glissade down, maybe 100'-200'. (I'm bad at estimating height--this is a great trait in a thruhiker; it's like being a cornerback with a short memory). I put on rain pants, cocked my ice axe, and took the quickest ride down I've ever had.

The rest of the day was fairly grueling--post-holing through the snow up to the Kearsarge Pass trail, and the side junction out to Onion Valley.

So, in short: first major pass down; fingers crossed for more snow melt. 

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