What a day, what a day. I sit here in the tent all warm and cozy after a day of epic proportions, one I was not expecting. It's hard to believe that only a week ago we were in the dry hot desert, and today we saw nothing but snow and water.
We woke up before 7 this morning, but didn't get going until quarter to nine. The first steps onto the trail consisted of fording a raging, freezing, snowmelt fueled river. So as we packed up, and waited to put on our boots and went across in our camp shoes. Little did we know, we would be doing that FOUR times today. The ironic thing is, our book doesn't call any of those rivers ones you need to ford. It's such a high snow year, that all the creeks and rivers are overflowing heavily... making for slow miles (need to take off boots, etc.) The streams were overflowing so much, that they ran onto the trail. At one point, I saw a baby trout north bounding the PCT.
The second reason as to why it took us nearly 12 hours to hike only 18 miles -- the snow. The never ending, blinding snow. Our first encounters with I were rather tame, but today it blew us away; slowing us down, burning our face with bouncing sun, and getting us lost. The trail began to become entirely covered as the day went on. Our first meadow crossing gave us an extra half hour and a mile of hiking. Those who don't have a GPS, god speed. It was our saving grace today. At one point, the GPS lead us back to the trail, but not a single footprint was found. It seams as everyone who hiked that section was lost at one point or another.
However, none of this was as intense as what was to come... Forrester Pass. The highest point on the PCT measuring in at 13,200 feet tall. Filled with lovely switchbacks to make the 1200 foot climb up the mountain easy... when there's no snow. The trail was completely covered, and the only foot steps were going straight up. I meant it to... straight up. We threw on our crampons and hoped for the best. It was starting to get late, so we had to truck on quickly. However our energy levels were already low due to the big workout we have been getting postholing through the afternoon slush.
After what seemed like forever, we made it up to the top. Not before passing over an ice covered stretch of the trail where a small slip meant certain death. A we peaked at 13,200 feet we look to the other side of the mountain where we would be descending only to see a white blanket. Nothing. No trail, and only a few foot prints going straight across the mountain side. So we trekked on. With dark clouds starting to roll over us, we moved forward... quickly.
As we began our descent we soon got back to the trail. We were very excited to have that lovely dirt path once more, but our joy Was soon turned into despair. For the trail was once again covered with snow, and all the switch backs with it. The only path we saw was literally 500 feet straight down. We weren't too keen on this plan, and were very curious as to where all the thru hikers went down... there weren't a lot of foot prints to be seen a all. It's as if all the people we saw off yesterday just disappeared.
We made the slow, steep, and supremely scary descent. With our lives in good shape, we made it to the base of the mountain where we would gradually descend walking. However, we were falling right and left. Holes in the snow made it difficult to go very far. Our legs got stuck and had to be dug out by the other to be freed. With numb legs, cuts everywhere, and the frustration building, we slid down the rest of the way.
In that debacle we lost a trail crampon and a water bottle. A tough descent indeed.
With soaking wet boots and numb feet, we battle with the light to get into camp. Of course the trail is no where to be found, so we use the GPS to point us in the right direction and run. Yes run. Our feet were so cold, wet, and numb, we needed to get the blood flowing. Ironically, as we are running down the mountain, the light in the sky and on the mountains was the most beautiful either of us has ever seen. Trough all this anguish, was pure beauty.
Of course, right in front of the trail -- once we find it -- is a huge stream, since our boots were already soaked to the core, we just walk through. Soon after we reach the mile marker we set out for, we give up trying to fin the camp we were in search for (that's probably buried under snow and set up on a snow bank next to a stream. We quickly dry off, eat, and are now getting ready for bed. Luckily tomorrow is a resupply day, and we will be getting truly warm and dry then.