Tough, tough day

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2265.1 to 2287.2, 22.1 miles

Straight off the bat it was into climbing today. Away by 6:15 I walked a short distance from camp to avoid rustling through my food bag and waking people, to have breakfast by the side of the trail.

A thick fog hung low, obscuring views of the surrounding hills and the lake below. Climb, climb, climb, that was the order of the day, First up was Cispus Pass, taking me from just below 5000ft, up to 6470ft. I remember this day well from last year and how steep it was going to be. I don’t to keep comparing 2018 to this years trip but I can’t help it. Last year climbing up to the pass was Smokey as hell with very little views. This year, climbing above the cloud the views opened up to reveal lush Meadows lying in a deep valley, dwarf by the peaks behind, snow still climbing to the deep ravines. The trail lead one way, up, with small snow drifts to negotiate but all fairlyvstraight forward.

The views from the pass down into the neighbouring valley were just as spectacular. The cloud fully cleared allowed the early sunlight to do its thing enhancing all the colours. The brightest greens of the valley floor and the crispest white of the snow capped peaks. The 12 inch trail stood out as a line of brown snaking its way across the contour.

Form the pass it was down to cross the Cispus River, snow still covering its upper reaches, the cold water pouring from an inky black tunnel.

Up and up some more. And this was a killer. The grade kicked up and made for slow glowing in the thinning air towards Old Smokey. Looking back Mt Adams filled the background, the tall volcano standing sentinel, the tallest things around. The longest runout section of snow yet have to be traverse, not easy going without shoe spikes but it had softened enough to find firm footing.

On reaching the junction to Old Smokey at 7174 ft the cloud had rolled in, enveloping the top of Old Smokey and obscuring all views. I was knackered. Although not real high, I had developed a headache and didn’t want to climb any higher, particularly if there were no views to be gained. I took the alternate stock route, traversing around the base. Still not easy. There were three steep snow patches to get across. Slip here and you’ll be at the bottom of the hill before you know it. Steady as she goes.

The traverses done, it was more ups and downs along the exposed ridge line to the Coyote trail junction. A bitter wind ripped across the ridge with the cloud. It was at this junction last year that a section of the PCT was closed due to a fire on the trail and I had to take the Coyote Trail around to White Pass. This year though the trail is open right through Washington and it was exiting to do a section of trail that was new to me. Just before reaching the junction I ran into Crunchmaster heading south bound. We stopped and chatted for a bit which was great.

A long steep descent ensued, paining the arches of my feet with every step. The trail quickly lost all the elevation gains today, over about 4 miles, dropping back down to below 4800ft, only to kick up again to ascend to my camp site for the night at Hidden Spring.

By 5:30pm I was done. Only 22 miles for the day but accounting for all the climbing involved I was pretty happy with that. The final half mile for the day was right through the fire area that shut the trail down last year.

The mozzies have been super thick and I’m happy in my decision to have brought along an ultralight tent with full bug mesh and leave the cuban fibre tarp at home, as I had planned to bring it to save some gear weight.

Tomorrow, only 8 miles to White Pass for a resupply and then a few shorter miles in the afternoon.

I’m on track with where I thought I would be. I packed food for four days to get to White Pass but it will have taken me 3 and a 1/4.

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