Waking up at 4:30am is not normally my idea of a good time, but with what we had coming today it needed to be done. The temp dropped below freezing again last night and I awoke to a tent covered with frost, both inside and out. When I got out of the tent, the full moon was just setting, and it was starting to get light with the impending dawn.
Due to the late creek crossing and freezing temperatures, putting shoes on in the morning was a difficult task. They were pretty much frozen solid, but loosened up with some manipulation. Thy were also very cold to put on, but the thing about the Sierras this time of year is that they are going to get wet with snow or creek crossing anyway, so it doesn't matter all that much. We crossed our first creek for the day at 6am and, in case you were wondering, it was cold.
We were on the trail by 5:30am and headed toward Forester Pass. With the snow being solid in the morning the first miles went quickly, but as the sun rose that began to change and there was a fair amount of post-holing and slower progress. we also got a little off trail, but that's the beauty of snow, you don't have to (or can't) follow the trail most of the time anyway.
We reached the chute up to the pass around 11am and climbed the slope up with trekking pole and ice axe in hand, and microspikes on feet. The slope was a little steeper than a flight of stairs, but there were no stairs, only snow and ice. Luckily others had been up before us so there were some steps already kicked into the snow. We reached the switchbacks and made our way up to the snow chute just below the pass. It was only about 20 yards across the chute, but the slope was steeper than the one we had just come up. Again there were steps kicked in the snow/ice which made things easier, but did not do much to lessen the precarious nature of the situation. It was quite an experience that got the heart pumping and made me have laser-like focus on each step and placement of the ice axe and trekking pole.
We all successfully made it across and continued the last 50' up to the top of the pass. Once on the other side we took a nice long break for lunch at noon and saw Jackass, Dave, Stables, Cookie Monster, Safari, Cowbear, and Punisher while on top of the pass. The view from the lass was amazing, as was the weather. It was comfortable sitting there in shorts and a t-shirt for the entire 3 hours we were there. Again, I can't put into words just how amazing the scenery is here, you just have to see it to believe it.
We headed down the other side of the pass about 1/2 mile and found a great place to glisade. It was so much fun! We dropped elevation quickly and circumvented some of the buried trail before reconnecting a few miles from the pass.
Tonight we are camped near a stream again and it will likely freeze tonight, which means another morning of frozen shoes. On the other hand, we are heading out Kearsarge Pass tomorrow and into Indepedence/Bishop and we will be dining like kings and sleeping in real beds! Mmmmm food.
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