Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 68: Mile 761.8 - Mile 774.2

We woke around 5:30 and started to break camp. We seemed to take our time and didn't start hiking until around 7. The trail climbed steeply at first and then switchbacked it's way over Guyot Pass. At the top of the pass the views were amazing and the mountains started to look intimidating. We descended toward Crab Tree Meadow which gave us our first glimpse of Mount Whitney and passed thru and interesting wooden gate. The trail wrapped around he meadow and it was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. Huge granite mountains surrounding a flowing creek and meadow where a herd of deer grazed. It was like a fairy tale and the mosquitos, the stuff of nightmares. I stopped to help Josh take a panorama and was mauled by the mosquitos to the point I had to keep walking. We arrived at creek crossing and since I neglected to wash my feet the night before, I took off my shoes and socks and waded across the cool water. There were tiny golden trout swimming around my toes and marmots eyeing me from the banks. We decided to take a break here and eat, rinse our socks and camel up before starting the climb out of the meadow.

It seems most of these passes start by going straight up and then get switchbacks at the end. I huffed and puffed but made my way out. We passed by a John Muir Trail southbound section hiker and chatted her up about conditions. She told us about being caught in the storm yesterday on Bighorn Plateau and we remembered someone telling us that Bighorn Plateau had better views than Whitney. The section hiker told us we were very close to that area and we thanked her as we headed on.

We followed the trail as it gained and lost elevation, dropping down to streams that were the size of creeks and creeks that were the size of rivers. Water! Water everywhere! Around each bend a spectacular view arose and my mind balked at taking it all in.

As we approached another creek crossing the sky was looking ominous and we rushed to get over the next pass. I no longer took off my shoes or looked for suitable crossings I just walked right through the river. We stopped briefly to get a liter of water not knowing if we would have to dry camp due to the weather and continued our climb.

The sky decided it was time to let loose and dropped pea sized bits of hail on us at a speed that actually hurt when they hit you. We huddled under a tree and took out the Tyvek, tenting ourselves and packs in it to shield us from the storm. I was cold, like really cold and knew we needed to pitch here or keep moving. The hail let up a bit and we pushed on. We rose above the treeline and I started to bonk. We hadn't eaten a lunch today since we were trying to out run the storm and I was starting to feel it. I tried to suck down a shot block and some corn nuts as we walked and rose up onto Bighorn Plateau. Crossing Bighorn Plateau was surreal, I've never seen anything so amazing in all of my life. Towering pinnacles of snow capped mountains shimmering in the sunlight, casting reflections in an alpine lake against a backdrop of angry cumulonimbus clouds. I stopped to take a picture when BOOM - thunder claps overhead. Holy shit! We are the tallest thing on this clearing! I started to hike fast aiming for the treeline and snapping photos blindly as I passed. Just as we reached he treeline the sky opened up with more hail and we sheltered under a tree. Josh was looking for places to pitch the tent but I wanted off this hill, now. I convinced him that we could hike out of this storm since the trail was heading down and toward blue sky's. The hail let up enough to make a break for it and we did. I hiked fast down down down, pointlessly ducking every time the thunder clapped overhead. After a mile or so we had made it out of the hail. We entered the Tyndall Creek area and decided to camp a bit above our mile mark in hopes of getting the tent set up before the storm returned. We set up next to a fast flowing creek and made dinner even though it was only 3pm. The sky's cleared and since we were camped so early in preparation for Forrester Pass tomorrow, we decided to go exploring. Josh found a lake at the top of the creek that was nestled in against a huge mountain. It was the stuff of postcards and I marveled at where I was. Not only am I in the most beautiful place I've ever been but I walked here, basically from my house. That blows me away. We spent the rest of the afternoon talking and relaxing for the big climb tomorrow.

Right now it's 9pm and I'm bundled up and feeling nervous and excited about Forester Pass tomorrow. I hope it isn't going to be as bad as I think it is. Time will tell.

Until tomorrow, goodnight.

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