June 14, Day 41
19.2 miles [791.9]
Frost on my bag once again, another cold start. Still a little bummed out and attempted to wake and bake my woes away. Definitely harbored some anxiety about today’s terrain and what it would bring but I quickly got enamored in the grandeur of the Sierra. In the first few miles I forded Tyndall Creek rather than take the time to find an ideal rock-hop-spot which resulted in soaked shoes ending in torn blisters. Slopping around in slushy snow didn’t help either. I have to remember to keep my shoes dry. We got to the final approach and looked up at the remaining 700 feet of gain while filtering water. It looked like Forester Pass was going to fall into space. A nearly vertical wall of snow was clearly visible from the bottom—the most highly anticipated and fear-mongered location so far. People had asked “are you going to bring microspikes? Where’s your ice axe?” There I was, time to cross the bridge, a phrase I’ve come to love. Intimidation abated with each step taken closer to the saddle. I glided across the snow-covered section with ease. Another hiker who had been tailing us the entire way up had halted before the snow. From 200 feet away, it was easy to tell he wasn’t a happy camper. “You got this”, I yelled over the chasm, “it’s way better than it looks!” He nodded, flashing a thumbs up, then took cautious steps all the way across. We saw him at the top, beaming. After a snack break we glissaded down the backside and continued to Glen Pass; it kicked my ass. Low food with a rationing mentality lead to me bonking. I was whopped, Adam was light years ahead of me. Two passes in a day is ridiculous. The thought of food kept me moving—50 miles to Bishop.
June 15, Day 42
23.8 miles [815.7]
Warm sleep for having camped above 11,000 feet. Got up and out with intention because it’s hard to lie on my back with how tender my heels are—I can feel my heartbeat throbbing in my feet. Nervous about how well I would do but blisters are a known quantity, it really can’t get much worse than this. Just have to keep putting one in front of the other. Only a few miles in, I took my shoes off in order to cross between Rae Lakes with certain dryness. After yesterday’s water-logged experience my new mantra is still ringing in my head: wet is worse. Drifted throughout treeline, dozens of half-frozen alpine lakes speckled the rocky terrain. Pinchot Pass wasn’t forgiving, albeit much easier than Forester and Glen. Intense beauty was all around but I found myself looking down most of the time, the sheer discomfort pulling me away. However, I must have hopped over 50 streams and at each one, with enough searching, there were enough slick rocks or creaky downed limbs for a strategic jump-and-pray, each leap followed by a gratifying mental ding of success—I felt like a video game character. During one of my searches I found a half-full bottle of olive oil bobbing in an eddy which went spectacularly with our pasta dinner. At this point my food bag is mostly bag and trash, free calories were a godsend. Pushed to the base of Mather Pass and set up camp as spumoni skies faded into starry oblivion.
June 16, Day 43
27.3 miles [831.0]
Heard other hikers packing and instantly craved more sleep. I stuck my head out of my vestibule and found Adam already breaking down his tent. Hustled and got up and over Mather, then began 4,000 feet of descent for the Bishop Pass trail junction. Obsessed about food to the point of fantasy. Played a mental game where I tried to imagine foods I wouldn’t eat even if offered to me right then and there (I didn’t come up with anything). It worked well at keeping my mind off my feet which are completely fucked up. Cold mornings, soggy shoes, sharp rocks and crusty socks, 25-mile days, and low calories, never have I had this many blisters. Arrived at the junction and devoured my last packet of tuna—dry. Adam and I have both done Bishop Pass many times but always the northern approach, never from the other side. It was brutal. The first three miles might have been my hardest physically. Had a few excruciating moments of wanting to “Stop”; to just not hike anymore, to sleep and get as close to death as I could, but those moments faded just as they always do. A mile before the pass, Adam threw out one of his usual outrageous suggestions. “We could always push for the parking lot”, he dryly said, both of us drenched in sweat and sucking wind, the sun already having set behind massive granite peaks. He was just as done as I was. Somehow, delirious, I agreed, adding another six miles to our day. At 10:30 p.m., broken, tired, and hungry, we arrived at windy South Lake parking lot. My resupply had two packets of Probar Bolts, a highly coveted gummy snack lovingly saved from summer camp, I had already eaten the first pack on top of Whitney, saving the final pack for a special occasion. I chewed them slowly, trying not to think too much about what I’m going to eat tomorrow.
June 17, Day 44
0 miles [831.0]
A windy night continued into the morning, I had on all my layers while waiting for a hitch. Didn’t sit long before meeting our lord and savior, weekend warrior, Thomas, who by his own account was headed home a day early since he “wasn’t feeling it”. Got dropped off at the famed bakery and I limited myself to a chocolate croissant, chocolate covered espresso beans, and a large coffee which covered a large portion of my vices. Dined al fresco and watched clean tourists before heading over to McDonald’s for the “real food”; two chicken sandwiches, a large fry, and a coke, all while refilling my podcast supply. Wandered through a few gear shops and found two things: a replacement water filter and “Trash Bath”. The three of us formulated a plan for the upcoming section while booking a room at the Hostel California. There weren’t any laundry services so I dumped out my remaining crusty packet of drink mix and a few straggling raisins from my bear can and threw in my fetid garments with a few hefty squirts of dish soap—the socks took four rounds alone. Adam pointed out that it was opening weekend for “Incredibles 2” and the dinky two-screen theater probably still had a few tickets left. We made use of the free bikes and purchased tickets before taking a quick pit stop at the grocery store for beer and munchies. Even though the theater was completely full with 8-year-olds, the movie was amazing. Stayed well past the credits, then biked back to the grocery store for a full resupply and tonight’s dinner. At the hostel, I cooked brats and onions, in a real kitchen on a real stove no less, Adam made a salad, and “Trash Bath” shared his gallon of mint chip. Feeling the vortex hard on this spectacular zero, it’s not going to be easy to leave.