Miles 774.9 – 788.5
Our plan was to wake up at 5am to tackle Forester Pass, the first of many hair-raising passes we would encounter in the Sierra. This particular morning was extremely cold, so getting out of our tents took longer than we had anticipated the previous night. Once 6:15 rolled around, we were packed and ready to go. Right from the beginning we had to cross a leg of Tyndall Creek, but fortunately the nights freeze had slowed the river down to a more manageable pace, and we were able to cross without too much worry. Not the ideal way to start a day, with completely soaked-ice cold shoes.
Once we got moving, our feet warmed up and we were feeling pretty good again. Still five miles out from the top of Forester, we realized that we didn’t get the jump on the day that we should have. It’s so incredibly important to climb these passes before the sun gets to it, because once the sun warms up the ice these climbs can become unpredictable – any slight change in your footing can be the difference in life or death. That might seem like an over-exaggeration to some but until it’s you hiking up the face of these icy slopes you really have no clue. It’s a level of intensity I hadn’t felt, even in all my years of living in Mammoth Lakes in the High Sierra. You are out in the middle of nowhere, with no SAR (search and rescue) nearby in case you fall.
We got to the base of Forester and began our climb up. The trail is lost under many feet of snow, so the only thing to go off of is where the previous hikers decided to climb. The initial climb goes straight up, and after a few hundred-or-so feet you reach the switchbacks that takes you to the actual traverse across the Pass. The footsteps made across this section are deep, and you’d really have to not pay any attention at all to slip, but just the thought of slipping alone was enough to give you sweaty palms. If you were to slip here you would fall a few thousand feet over jagged rocks and ice. It would be a wrap on your hike, to say the least.
We took a short break up top to enjoy the views and to take a few pictures of our recent accomplishment, before continuing on. What goes up must come down, and this was a long descent ultimately leading us up to our second glissade of the thru-hike. What a good one this would prove to be! A couple hundred foot slide on your butt in the snow – what better way to spend a sunny Thursday afternoon as we entered into Kings Canyon National Park. We camped that night nearby Bullfrog Lake Junction at mile 788.5. We were all very excited for tomorrow we would be taking Kearsarge Pass to get off the PCT and hitch down into the town of Independence.