Today was an amazing day! We were camped about 2 miles from Pinchot Pass, and didn't want to get there while it was still icy, so we left camp around 7 planning to get there between 9 & 10. We made it up and over the pass quite easily and started down the other side, attempting to glissade, but the snow was still pretty firm and not ideal for glissading.
While we were at the top of the pass, the idea was thrown out to try to do Mather Pass as well, instead of waiting until tomorrow morning. We decided we'd get to our planned stopping point and then decide what to do. We hiked the rest of the day through the snow enjoying the sun and calm conditions that we have been experiencing for a while. When we were nearing our originally planned stoping point we stopped for lunch on a rock outcropping in the middle of snow, surrounded by mountains.
Just before we were going to head out toward the pass, 12 Ounce suggested we make sure we were going toward the correct pass since others we knew (Chili and Pounder) had a 19 hour stretch where they were lost because they went over the wrong pass. It was an excellent idea to double check, because it turned out that we were heading toward the wrong pass, but were only 1.3 miles from the correct pass. Phew! That could have made for an even longer day.
Once we knew where we were supposed to be going, we took off toward Mather Pass. According to Yogi's guidebook, Mather Pass is one of the more difficult passes, which we soon found out. The first part of the pass we ascended vertically up a fairly steep snow slope. After a couple hundred feet, we walked along some rocks and then traversed across another steep snowy slope a few hundred more feet to another patch of rocks. This time we stowed our ice axes, poles and microspikes so we could climb across some more rocks and rock ledges that were barely wide enough to walk across with a backpack. On one side was a vertical rock wall and the other side an extremely steep snow covered slope. After the rocks, we again got out the snow gear for the final few hundred feet of slightly upward traverse to the pass, where we would have to climb up and over a small cornice. This was easily the most intense section of the trail so far; I loved it. What's life without a little excitement!
Once on top of the pass there were some rocks where we could hang out for a moment. Since it was getting late in the day, we started descending and came across the three best glissades yet! The second one was awesome! It started out straight, went over a little lip where the slope got steeper, and then ended out of sight. It was so cool!
After the glissades, we continued to make our way towards Palisades Lake in hopes of finding dry land for camping. Unfortunately everything is covered in snow so we are snow camping, a first for the trip. The stars are amazing as usual, but I think sleep will soon overtake me. What a great day.
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