Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Day 69: Mile 774.2 - Mile 788.8 + .5 up Kearsarge Pass

We woke and broke camp early to make our approach to Forester before the snow got too soft. During the night I woke to find I had started my moon and was battling bad cramps. Perhaps that's why we fought like we did the other day and why I was so verklempt over climbing Forester?

We hiked down toward Tyndall Creek and when we arrived we found it was more a raging river than a creek. We searched up and down the banks for a suitable place to cross where we wouldn't get drenched or washed down with the current but it was hopeless. Eventually we went up stream and found where the creek split into three forks that were shallow and waded through. As soon as I hit the bank on the other side I ripped off my freezing shoes and socks and squeezed out as much water as I could before we pressed on.

The trail rose gently following the river but it was hard for me to catch my breath. As we gained elevation the terrain turned alpine and we were surrounded by several crystal clear ponds and waterfalls in all directions from the melting snow. In the meadow next to the creek Josh spotted a herd of deer grazing in the morning sun. Soon we arrived in the shadow of Forester Pass and tried to make out how the trail crossed over the notch to the other side. We couldn't figure it out so we decided to go see for ourselves. We had to cross several snow fields to arrive at the base of the pass and use our phone's gps to located the switchbacks that would take us to the top. At last we found a rock cairn and climbed up to the snowy trail. This was already the highest I have ever been at more than 12,000 feet and the going was slow. I would hike a length of switchback until my heart was going to exploded and I couldn't breathe and stop for a minute to let everything settle down before starting up again. I think I had built this up in my head so much I was battling some anxiety with my elevation issues and tried to convince myself to relax. I was doing it, no sense getting spun out now! Before I knew it we were at the notch and crossed over a small ice patch to get to a series of short switchbacks that would take us to the top. When we got to the forest service sign I was all smiles! I did it! 13,200 feet!

On the other side of the pass was a snowy alpine landscape filled with icy lakes, some so blue it reminded me of toilet bowl cleaner. It was amazing. We took our photos and sat down for a snack while a couple of John Muir Trail southbounder made their way up a snow field to the top. We asked them questions about the conditions ahead before we set out to follow their footprints in reverse.

The snow was soft but not so soft you post holed with every step. Josh put on his microspikes and I took to sliding down on my feet one step at a time in small controlled glissades. At the end of the snow field we bouldered our way to a small section of visible trail before meeting with another snow field. On and on until we were out of the worst of it and back on solid ground following winding switchbacks down the side of a tall peninsula. I was looking around at the amazing area and not paying attention to my footing when I hit a soft spot in the dirt and rolled my ankle. I have pretty loose ankles from rolling them hard in the past and while I didn't do any damage to it this time, I did lose my balance and slide face first down the trail. I decided that was a perfect place to take a short break and rolled over to sit like nothing had happened. I took some preventative Advil and we joked with a day hiker as he passed by before dusting off and heading back down, this time paying more attention to my footing.

The trail paralleled a stream where we decided to have lunch. The terrain was a mix of dark gray granite peaks surrounding a brown meadow littered with shale. It was eerie and I felt like a bear was going to walk by at any moment as we ate our tuna wraps in the sunlight. We filtered some water and packed up to continue our descent.

We arrived at the treeline and Bubbs Creek which was again, more of a river, and we wanted so much to ride rafts or inner tubes down it's shallow but fast current and over it's small waterfalls. Everything was blooming and green and the snow on the surrounding peaks was melting in all directions turning the trail into a creek all it's own. We were pushing hard to get to Kearsarge Pass junction as we needed to resupply the next day so we took minimal breaks which was fine since the mosquitos would swarm if you moved too slow.

We could see the pass we were to climb to reach Kearsarge Pass junction in the distance and we continued to drop much to my chagrin. Losing elevation like this means it's going to be a steep climb to get back out, and it was. The trail junctioned and shot up steeply for about 2 miles. I was feeling pretty wasted and when we would stop for a second to rest I tried to talk to Josh but he would to respond. I realized all I was doing was complaining about the mosquitos, the lack of switchbacks, my legs hurting... I told him I would stop talking now, what a Debbie downer!

We finally reached the junction and ran into a couple other thrus who were camped, but on their way back to the trail. We chatted with them for a while before heading on to find a camp site of our own. As soon as we rounded the bend we were greeted by a gorgeous lake and a tent site next to it. We pitched and prepped dinner and called it a night. I was really happy I made it over my first pass!

Right now it's 10:30am a couple days later and I am catching up on the blog from a hotel in Bishop. I'll go write about that now.

Until tomorrow, goodnight!


  1. Way to go, guys. Forester is HUGE.

  2. Forester Pass about Killed me, but it was so worth it.. Congrats!!!