Day 41: Feel How The Winter Succumbs To The Spring

Mile reached: 835.0 (+20.5)

High: Taking in some of the most beautiful scenery on the trail.

Low: The north side of Mather Pass was icy, and someone took a fall.

I knew I was only two miles from Mather Pass, so I had no interest in getting out of my tent until the sun was out. Even then with a late start, it had gotten so cold overnight that the snow was rock solid. My shoes were also rock solid, and I consequently struggled to get them on.

I need to remember to loosen the laces on wet shoes. 🙁

The frozen snow up to the pass was a relief as it was so much easier to walk on than the slush from previous afternoon. However, the numbness in my toes took some of the enjoyment away. There was enough snow that I was able to take a direct line up much of the pass, and so I caught a party that had started earlier. Luckily for me, they were making snow cones and shared.

Mather Pass waiting for me across the snowfields

The north side of Mather Pass held continuous snow all the way down to the lakes below. This snow, however, was quite solid this morning. It would have made for beautiful cramponing, and I even had some light aluminum crampons on my pack. But, I was lazy and didn’t really want to spend five minutes putting them on only to take them off a half hour later. So, I gave it a go in trail runners!

When I could stay in established boot track, the going was easy. There were some slopes where I made intentionally less controlled descents but had flattish rocks at the bottom to stop me. Eventually, I caught up to “Gently Used” and “Breaker”, a couple I had crossed the South Fork of the Kings River the previous day. “Breaker” promptly asked, “Guess what I nearly broke today? Myself!” Apparently, she had slid 50 or so feet down one of the slopes but suffered only minor cuts and scrapes. Though, she was a bit shaken up by it all.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but that is the backside of Middle Palisade!

After crossing the Palisade Creek, I saw “Phoenix” and stopped for breakfast. We then played leapfrog for the next few hours. While I was eating lunch, she passed me and instructed me to pass on a message to “Shades”, who had been traveling with “Breaker”. It turned out that “Shade” is pretty fast, and it took the better part of the afternoon to finally catch him. I was about ready to give up. Anyway, I relayed news of the fall and that they might not catch up today.

“Phoenix” later admitted that this would have been a much more scenic place to take a break.
The cliffs that required the creation of the “Golden Staircase”
Much of the day was going in and out of trees as we wandered through two valleys.

The location where I intended to camp turned out to be a swamp rather than a meadow. So, I pushed on a little further and found a beautiful site overlooking said swamp. “Shades” was also camped there, and had just decided to go back two miles to wait for “Breaker” and carry her pack the 1,000 feet up to camp. In the evening, he returned alone. He found out that they had called it a day seven miles back and weren’t even going to go over the pass the following day. So, he was now separated from them by a day. I guess I didn’t get the message to him quickly enough.

Beginning the climb up to Muir Pass
The meadow in which I thought I would camp. However, I was a bit gunshy of mosquitoes and moved higher.

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