After yesterday’s long and exhausting day, we slept in until the late hour of eight. As we packed up, we saw Sole Catcher as he finished his descent of Whitney in the morning. With weight back in our packs, we wandered down the valley, splitting off the trail we climbed yesterday and onto the merger of the PCT and the John Muir Trail. We now follow the JMT for over a hundred miles through the mountains. Beginning with gentle climbing through forest, we continued to appreciate the cool temperatures in the mountains. A short descent led to another river crossing. Here we tried to have lunch, but were driven up the hill by the mosquitos. Cooking our dehydrated meals for lunch, we tried to claw back some of the calories we had burned up the day before. With food rumbling around in us, we now began the long slow climb to the base of Forrester Pass. Slowly but surely we covered the miles, leapfrogging all the other thru-hikers who were moving at the same mileages. Briefly climbing above the tree line, we were entertained by the numerous marmots around the trail. Present at Guitar Lake the day before, once again they seemed to populate the open alpine environment. Entertaining in their actions, we hiked past six thru-hikers sitting in a line watching a marmot go about his business. Dropping into the trees again, we meandered along a pleasant path, soured only by the thought that we would have to climb up to 13,200 feet over the pass, the highest point on the PCT/JMT. Passing a bunch of hikers at the bottom, we struck out for the top. A long climb led us past some gorgeous alpine lakes, fed by the nearby melting snow. Struck by the beauty and contrast, we could gaze out to the south and just see Mount Whitney. Upon reaching the base of the pass, we turned our gaze up the side of the mountain, where switchbacks had been cut through the rock. It was here that we ran into Jo, a New Zealander we know from Queenstown. She plans to hike south to Whitney, and then join us in Bishop to continue north with us. Resting briefly at the bottom, we decided to go up and over at the end of the day. In a high snow year this wouldn’t have been a good idea, but this year it was no problem. Just before the top a small chute in the rock had to be crossed. This was filled with snow, and one had to follow the existing steps sunk in along a very steep drop off. Not a good place for people with a fear of heights. Once past this, we were at the top and could see both valleys on either side. The descent was pretty straight forward, with only some small patches of snow to negotiate. I thought this valley was reminiscent of the high alpine environment found in the Remarkables, a mountain range just outside Queentown. Similar enough to believe I was back in New Zealand. This was also the point where Sole Catcher took the opportunity to take a quick swim in a snow fed lake. He also modeled himself in likeness of a model seen on the Sports Illustrated cover, seen long ago in the desert. Some what fitting, as that photo shot was in Antarctica. With Sole Catcher out of the lake, we continued down into the tree line. Here we found several perfect campsites, which we duly occupied.
Miles hiked – 20