Muir Pass Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass exit to Mammoth

Stretch 7: Snow, ice and high mountain passes

In Neil's PCT adventure by runhikelaugh0 Comments

Yeti’s Pacific Crest Trail PCT blog 2017

Days 47 to 58: From Kearsarge Pass exit to Mammoth

 

22 & 23 June – time off in Bishop

Great to have a chance to just hang out and get things sorted for the next section. We had a big party for Cedar’s birthday which was particularly special as some of our group are parting ways – a few are leaving the trail while others are skipping ahead further north. The last section provided a taste of what’s to come with deep snow and raging rivers, so there’s a real sense of fear among the PCT hikers in Bishop. I was glad to stay at a hotel rather than the hostel as there were fewer people around. Each person in our group was making their own decision about whether to proceed through the high sierra and then supporting each other’s decisions whatever they were. So in the end after leaving Kennedy Meadows with 15 people, we left Bishop with 10.

24 June, Day 49

Santa’s Helper, a trail angel, gave me a lift back to where I’d left the trail at Onion Valley. Luckily the road had since re-opened almost all the way to the top, which saved a huge amount of time. I had planned to hike back over Kearsarge Pass [3,569 m] and camp again at Bullfrog Lake. But part way up, it looked like a storm was about to start rolling in and a few people were heading back to Bishop. So I decided to retreat back down the mountains a little and camp out. It gave everybody an opportunity to catch up!

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Ominous sky over Kearsarge Pass

25 June – approx 13 miles in total. PCT miles from 788 to 797

Up and over Kearsarge Pass pretty early. The high route back to the official PCT trail was harder than I expected. It took some time with plenty of navigating and there were a couple of spots where I needed to use my ice axe and spikes.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Traversing Kearsarge Pass

I pushed on and decided to give Glen Pass [3,635 m] a crack. It ended up not being too bad with a pretty steep climb. The descent was similar – super steep, but a nice path kicked in just as it was getting slushy.

It was a slow afternoon navigating through snow. We crossed between Rae Lakes, which was mid-thigh height, but slow moving. Same at Arrowhead Lake outlet, but a bit deeper. Baxter Creek looked very nasty but Colton found a way across which required some team work but was really well done. We camped just on the other side of the creek, unsure if we’d get Pinchot Pass done tomorrow or just do an easy day setting up for it.

26 June – Mile 797 to 811

Crossed a couple of smaller streams in the morning.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Swing bridge. My love of bridges is becoming well known in the group.


Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Even minor stream crossings need lots of concentration.

We made it up and over Pinchot Pass without any real issues, then it was a nice easy downhill on the other side. I ran into James from Scotland who I’d met a while ago. He left Kennedy Meadows with 17 days of food planning to hike straight through to VVR. It was great to catch up and see how he was getting on. He’d made up the 4 days we were off trail in Bishop and was really in his element in the snowy mountains.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Trail family with James a couple of days prior to VVR

I made some good mileage, until hitting a raging stream just before Kings River. I crossed over on a log for the first half then went through knee-deep flowing water for the second half. We setup camp next to Kings River which was seriously raging. I was hoping the overnight cooler temperatures would make it easier to cross in the morning.

27 June – Mile 811 to 824

What a day! Kings River was raging hard. After discussing it with James, we opted for the back-up plan which was a 2.5 miles detour off the trail. Navigational fun, but this route ended up being perfect and we didn’t even get our feet wet.

Pushed onto Mather Pass [3,688 metres], which was the most difficult pass yet.

Mather Paass Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Approach to Mather Pass, the most difficult yet.

We took an alternate route up as the path was covered in snow. The first section went well, but then we got to a very steep section which had a couple of choices. Colton took the lead and locked in steps across a steep face to rejoin another set of tracks. It was probably nothing worse than what we’d done previously in smaller sections, whereas this was really long and also got very steep at the end. I was so glad to have the spikes and particularly the ice axe. Was so tired by the end.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Last of team approaching final head walk of Mather Pass

On the way down, the trail turned from one valley into the next providing an awesome view.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Mather Pass descent

We came out of the snow and steep ridges to look straight down a green valley with a river cascading down under snow bridges. Stunning and best views yet. I slowed up and trailed behind everybody as I just wanted to take my time. Was actually a bit emotional as just such an awesome day and the scenery was breathtaking.

28 June – Mile 824 to 835

Day started with a crack as I was woken by a tree falling about 100 metres away. A couple of the other guys watched it happen. Such a loud boom.

After that, it was an easy day. We were out of the snow for first three-quarters of the day, making easy miles. Lots of fallen trees and water on the trail.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Admiring the power of the river

I’d already decided that it wasn’t worth trying to cross Muir Pass today so I only had 11 miles to do. I took lots of rest breaks and a long lunch then still had an early finish for the day.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Admiring the power of the river


Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Valleys starting to have less snow

The main place to camp quickly filled up so I decided to camp right down next to the creek. Very soft underfoot and actually water squeezing up between my toes. Leaving doors to tent open left me with an awesome view to enjoy out either side.

Muir Pass Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass exit to Mammoth

Nice little campsite next to river and snow

I worked out it was only 3 days to VVR so a couple less than planned and fairly easy days.

29 June – Mile 835 to 853

Quickly back into the snow again on the climb up to Muir Pass [3,644 m].

Muir Pass Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Approach to Muir Pass

Pretty steady climb until finally reaching the hut on top. The hut was constructed entirely of rock in 1930. We celebrated Nacho’s birthday in the hut with a candle  made from toilet paper and wax from cheese. The cake was a Snickers bar with some gummy worms.

Muir Pass Muir Hut Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Muir Hut on top of Muir Pass

We descended Muir pass and crossed Evolution Creek through the meadow which was waist deep but moving slowly. I said goodbye to James as he was camping early tonight. I pushed on a little further to find a camp for the night and setup better for getting to Bear Creek tomorrow afternoon. Found out from some John Muir Trail hikers that Bear Creek was passable by going upstream approximately half a mile.

30 June – Mile 853 to 858 of the PCT with an additional 20 miles along Florence Lake Trail and road walking to Mono Hot Springs

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

One of the nicest bridges I have seen yet. Laminated large boards of timber into large through beams.

After reaching the turn-off to the alternate trail we waited to re-group and decide whether to cross Bear Creek. Although I’d heard it was passable, I decided it would be good to stay with the majority of the group and take the alternate trail. The lure of getting food earlier was also a big decider for me! My goal is to make a continuous line of footsteps from Mexico to Canada. So I’m perfectly comfortable with taking alternative paths from the PCT for safety or other reasons while maintaining the continuous line.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Florence Lake on alternative track around Bear Creek

The road walk was quite nice but long. I finished up camping next to a river but was kept awake  by nearby weekend campers partying into the morning.

1 July – approx 7 miles along the road to Vermilion Valley Resort [VVR]

Quick road walk and into VVR by 9am for breakfast. The people that run the resort were super friendly and helpful. I got my resupply package which comprised 4 days of food so I now have about 6 days of supplies for only 3 days of hiking. Less food to buy in Mammoth I guess! I spent the afternoon beside the lake eating and drinking.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Thomas Edison Lake at VVR [Vermilion Valley Resort]

 

2 July – 7 miles to get back on the PCT trail, then PCT Mile 879 to 889

Slow start after a few beers the day before. I decided to get a nice cooked breakfast before heading out. Followed the lake until reaching the PCT. It turned out that we probably didn’t need to take the detour but was hard to get accurate info. We crossed a few creeks without too much drama. Followed some advice from John Muir Trail hikers at Silver Creek to cross early and rock scramble before a waterfall rather than take the path through it. Silver Pass was a long hike with plenty of sun-cups which were hard to get through. Wasn’t feeling great today and kept slipping on the snow and ice. I eventually got over and down to a nice spot to camp next to Fish Creek.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Back into the snow where the lakes are frozen

3 July – Mile 889 to 903 of the PCT plus 3 miles over Mammoth Pass to Horseshoe Lake outside of Mammoth

Nice clear trail with easy hiking toward Mammoth. Headed out via Mammoth Pass which had heaps of trees down and patches of snow. We arrived at Horseshoe Lake with people everywhere, which was quite overwhelming. We took the free trolley-bus into town with the driver shouting out to everyone that we were PCT hikers so we were asked lots of questions. Mammoth itself was insane. The next day was 4th of July and there was a festival happening in the village centre. We felt a bit like zoo animals as people kept staring at our group or coming up to talk about our hike.

Pacific Crest Trail hiking PCT blog 2017 Kearsarge Pass to Mammoth Pinochet Pass VVR Glen Pass Mather Pass

Trail family
Left to right: Yeti [me]; Nacho; Colton; Chris; Sam; Flame; Jackpot; and Madison.

Maps

Where the bloody hell is he?

PCT map Mammoth Pacific Crest Trail

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