June 4, 2016
Bushcamp (mile 813.3) to Monster Rock (mile 833.6)
Today is our 2 month anniversary on the trail. At times it feels like the miles go very slowly and yet it is hard to believe we have walked over 800 miles in two months!
We woke up at our new normal Sierra Pass time, 4:30am, and were walking by 5:30. We camped earlier than everyone else yesterday because Laurie hit a wall.
And this morning Laurie was anxious to catch up with them. We had devised a plan to talk with the other people we were hiking around – a German couple and two ladies and a guy, to see what their plans were in hopes of teaming up for the river crossings.
After 15 minutes we got to a river crossing and we fell into our routine – strip down to underwear, take insoles out of shoes, take off socks and put shoes back on.
It was a refreshing but painfully cold way to start the day – ice water in shoes before 6 am! Not really our cup of tea.
We put everything back on and continued up the trail, hoping that eventually we would be able to feel our feet again.
The snow was hard which made walking reasonably easy. Our numb feet made it more difficult!
Soon after the crossing we met up with the German couple. We said good morning (Laurie showing off the few German words she knows). We explained that we are nervous about the river crossings and asked if we could hike together. They smiled and agreed.
We had a trail family!!
We hiked on together into the morning light. We found snow bridges to avoid more cold stream crossings as we wound our way up toward Mather Pass.
We reached the bowl below the pass around 7am. We stopped to put on our crampons and pull out the ice axe for Laurie (Andy is using a Whippet).
The footprints went straight up initially, so we followed.
One step at a time.
Eventually we found a path that zig zagged to the top, with the exception of a rock scramble or two. These scrambles were not easy with crampons.
We took our time and felt a sense of relief each time our foot landed on snow rather than rock.
The three other hikers we had seen the day before (Lefty, So Hard and Stoic) arrived at the base around the same time as us. Andy made conversation on the way up, again expressing our fears about difficult river crossings and inquiring about their plans.
They found the crossings difficult as well and plan to go to VVR but 1 day later than us. It is reassuring to know that if we can’t cross a river we can wait for more people to cross with.
We took a group shot atop Mather Pass and started descending. Andy couldn’t believe how quickly they got up the mountain while chatting away.
The snow was still hard and in places a little icey. Our crampons worked great and gave both of us added confidence.
We descended steep slopes, each person creating their own little switchbacks. Andy broke trail for another hiker who had previously slipped and was now terrified.
We walked down past Upper and Lower Palisade Lakes. The semi frozen lakes were stunning. Like everywhere else in the Sierras, these lakes looked so different in the early season, covered in snow.
“It is like the mountains are wearing makeup. I usually don’t like makeup but snow adds layers of depth and edge to mountains and lakes” remarked Andy as he gazed out at our view.
Just before the start of the golden staircase we stopped to get water and take off our crampons.
The water tasted so good! Crisp, clear and no chlorine.
The golden staircase includes – as you may have guessed – many steps and what seems like two miles of switchbacks. Snow melt ran down the trail, making it slippery in places.
As we dropped into the canyon the temperature wenr up and uo. It was hot!! We hiked with the German couple, taking turns leading. We crossed a few more streams and many downed logs. Sometimes we scrambled over logs with water running below us on the trail.
Around 1:30pm we got to a junction marking the end of the descent from Mather Pass and the beginning of the ascent to Muir Pass. We walked another 0.2 miles to a shady campsite.
We gladly took off our shoes and attempted to air dry our now pruney feet.
We ate and relaxed for an hour. It had been a long morning. The race to get off the snow before postholing was intense, but we succeeded.
The rest of the afternoon we gradually climbed through forests and meadows. The Middle Fork of the Kings River accompanied us, fiercely flowing in the opposite direction.
We passed the Bishop Pass trail junction – our potential exit point after yesterday’s doubts.
We checked in with one another and unanimously decided to continue on.
Laurie felt much more comfortable now that she was hiking with others. Andy was (as always) excited and curious about what lay ahead of each bend in the trail.
About a mile from camp we came to a larger stream crossing. All previous streams after Mather pass had been manageable while keeping our shoes on. This one, unfortunately, was not.
As Laurie put down her pack to disrobe she spotted a blue croc floating in the river.
“Just 1! And it is a left one!”
Once again she had a complete pair.
Laurie excitingly crossed in her mismatched crocs while Andy waded through in his boots.
We look forward to reuniting with our trail runners so they dry as we walk.
The crossing was strong in the middle but we both handled it well.
On our way to camp we passed Stoic, Lefty and So Hard as they ate dinner. We generally start earlier than they do but they are faster hikers. We said goodnight and that we look forward to seeing them in the morning.
We walked to the next campsite and set up our tent. The mosquitoes were out and Laurie excitingly pulled out her head net. She likes using everything she carries and this was our first buggy night.
All afternoon we kept looking for Monster Rock (a rock that looks like a monster with jagged teeth). Both of us took pictures at this rock in 2012 but we missed it the last time we hiked in this area together.
As we prepared to set up the tent Andy saw the rock about 15 ft away!
We were setting up our tent next to the darn thing and still missed it. Jeez!
We set the timer on the camera and crawled in the rock’s mouth for a picture.
We are now lying in the tent listening to the sound of the roaring Middle Fork of the Kings River. Tomorrow is an even earlier morning. We want to be walking by 4:30am to get up and over Muir Pass and through Evolution Basin before the snow gets soft.
It is almost 9 pm, time for bed. Goodnight.
Tonight we are grateful for snow bridges and trail finds (a croc that is close to right size and correct foot!)