Day 42: Forrester Pass

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Tyndall Creek mile 774.7 to mile Bullfrog Crk Junction Mile 789 (14.3 Miles, 23 km)

An easier day than expected really. Away by 5 am to get over Forrester Pass early.

Only 4 miles to the pass and they went quick. Coming into the open bowl before the pass much of the trail was covered in snow or ice. Some route finding was required where no obvious trail could be found, buried under the white stuff.

Looking to the headwall of the mountains, Forrester Pass is not very obvious at all. A tiny V shaped slot high up on the horizon.

There was a short field of hard snow requiring the use of micro spikes, only about 200m long. And once above it, looking down, it was clear this could be avoided all together by scrambling around on a band of rocks.

Above this snow the trail disappeared but I knew there was a series of switchbacks above. I rock scrambled up until hitting the switchbacks and continued towards the pass, the upper switchbacks all snow free.

The trickiest section of the Pass was next. A very steep, near vertical, narrow chute with a snow crossing. If you loose footing here you’ll go careening all the way back to the bottom of the valley floor.

The snow was hard and footings secure. The crossing was much easier to what I’ve seen in previous years of higher snowfall.

Storm Trooper from Hong Kong was there to congratulate me on the other side. No ice axe or spikes required. Roomy did just find and revelled in the moment, loving life, but wearing spikes to be on the safe side.

A few more switchbacks and we’d made it to the top of the pass and the highest point on the PCT around 7:30am.

Descending you have two options.

1: follow the footsteps kicked in along the ridge line, out and around; or

2: glissade down (sliding down hill on your butt), to cut a steep walking descent out and traverse across to meet the trail

In these situations there is only one real option – Glissade baby! I had to give it a crack. So much fun. It makes for a fast descent for sure and requires using an ice axe as a break to control your speed.

The next hour or so was down across open snow fields. As the snow softened in the sun I post holed about a dozen times. This is when the snow collapses under you and your legs sink into the snow, thus creating a perfect post hole. These can be quite deep, where the snow literally eats your entire leg. Besides river crossings, post holing is probably where the most serious injuries can occur. It’s quite easy to twist an ankle, break a leg or cut your legs on the hidden rocks below the surface. The deepest hole I got was just above the knee.

Much of the trail was buried in thick snow and it was a matter of choose your own adventure to get down and back on track. Roomy was a natural.

The rest of the day was following the valley down along the Bubbs Creek (read raging river), turbulent with all the snow melt.

Back into the trees on the valley floor.

A short and final ascent for the day bought me to the Bull Frog Creek junction where side trails head out to the Kearsarge Pass and access to town. Most hikers take this pass to resupply but I’ll be continuing on to the Muir Trail Ranch for my next resupply. I wanted to maximise my time in the Sierras but am paying the price in terms of hauling a lot of food.

I thought I had the ideal camp site tonight. Small, quiet, tree covered and next to a tranquil creek. Given it’s such a short day (finished by 1pm) I had visions of lazing in the shade, washing clothes etc… but the mozzies are ferocious and I’m tent bound to escape them. One of nature’s cruel tricks – it was the same in New Zealand with sand flies – the perfect landscapes can not be enjoyed too much, nature throws in biting, annoying insects that make you insane.

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