Day 37: For Some Of Us Are Out Breath

Mile reached: 788.5 (+13.2 + 7.5)

High: Timing it just right to get perfect snow conditions on Forester Pass. The snow was soft enough that traction was unnecessary but not so soft that I was postholing down the north side.

Low: I slipped on a wet log on an easy river crossing and got my right foot soaked.

Highest elevation reached on trail: 13,200′

I woke up a couple of times in the morning, because I was only a few feet off the trail. Starting around 4:30, various parties tromped by. But, I figured that I was close enough to Forester Pass that I could get a later start. Besides, I also needed the sun to come out, because I had limited warm clothing.

So, I was up and on my way by 7. As I neared the pass, I encountered the first significant snow on the trail. The snow had clearly frozen overnight; however, it was soft enough that I could cruise across it in my trail runners. Forester Pass also came into view, which is just this tiny little notch in the ridge on the south side. I had been hoping that the couloir up to the pass would be filled with snow, because I would then just go right up it. However, most of the south side was melted out. I didn’t bother pulling out any gear and climbed a few snowfields up to the switchbacks cut into the mountain. From there, it was a short traverse to the notch.

Looking back at the tree I camped in
Forester Pass is the little notch.
“Summit” photo!
The couloir which only had snow at the top
One of the switchbacks cut into the side of the mountain
See. I said the backside of Forester was gentle.

Surprisingly, I did feel the elevation a little bit and was short on breath. So, only after eating a quick snack and taking a few photos, I descended the north side. The gradient was much gentler, but the route was more hazardous. Parts were melted out enough such that if you were to slip you could smack into rocks. The valley itself was breathtaking, water everywhere and the peaks still capped in snow. There were a handful of steam crossings, and I tragically managed to dunk my foot.

East Vidette as seen on the climb out of Chubbs Creek

The next town on trail is Mammoth, and I hadn’t planned on bringing enough food to make it there. So, I needed to bail off the trail and head down to the Owens Valley to resupply. Kearsarge Pass is the shortest way to do this, so I left the trail near Bullfrog Lake heading toward the pass.

This detour was surprisingly beautiful. The pass itself was completely melted out, but the alpine lakes and peaks were still snow covered. It was heartbreaking to lose 2,700 feet from the pass down to the Onion Valley trailhead knowing that I would have to go back up it shortly.

East Vidette towering above on the way to Kearsarge Pass.
A huge frozen lake right at Kearsarge Pass

Allegedly, Onion Valley is supposed to be a challenging hitch. (It actually turned out that I was there on a weekend, so it would have been pretty easy.) However, my dad had been wanting to come visit me on the trail somewhere in the Sierra. So, he came and picked me up, and we spent the night in a little motel in Independence.

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