Fox Trot and I left Independence on Monday morning, getting a ride to the Onion Valley trailhead from the motel owner’s son. We didn’t start hiking until almost noon, but it wasn’t too hot. We had a five mile uphill climb to the top of Kearsage pass, gaining 2500′ in elevation. It took us two hours to get to the pass and it was way harder now that I was carrying food for ten days.
Shortly after rejoining the PCT, we encountered a hiker, Beer Bear, whom we had seen getting dropped off at the trailhead the day before. We asked him what he was doing and he said the trail over Glen pass looked too hard and that he was going back into town since a storm was moving in.
What he described made us start to rethink our plan, but we decided to check it out for ourselves. In just a few miles we got to the snow field on the steep hillside that he described and saw several sets of footprints going out halfway then turning back. We dropped our packs and scrambled around the snowfield to get a better idea of what was ahead. What we saw didn’t look great: we would have to scramble down a boulder field to get back to the small portion of the trail we could see, then hike through the snow, around a corner to see where the trail actually went. Since it was mid afternoon by that time, the snow was really soft and mushy and our progress would be slow. We spent a long time debating what we should do.
It wasn’t practical to try going over the pass that day, but we could camp near there and go over in the morning when the snow was no so soft. Then we looked at the maps to see what was coming up in the next few days. We had five 12,000′ passes and one 11,000′ pass in the next 85 miles before we got to the next resupply place. According to the weather forecast, a big storm was going to move in on Thursday and bring 12-18″ of snow to the elevations above 10,000′. We would be above 10,000′ that whole time.
The thought of getting stuck out in the Sierras in a snowstorm, days from any protection, sounded unappealing. At best, we would hole up in our tents, waiting the storm out and hoping we didn’t run out of food. At worst, one or both of us could get hypothermia or frostbite and be in a very serious situation. After much debate, we decided the risks were not worth it and we decided to turn around and head back into town.
We made it most of the way back to the pass when we both started feeling tired so we decided to make camp and finish hiking out in the morning.
As we finished setting up camp, another hiker came up and we started chatting with him, asking where he was going. He (Dante) was on day one of a three week section hike and was heading into the high Sierras. We told him about what we saw at Glen Pass and the storm that was coming in and he decided to turn around as well.
The three of us camped together that night and hiked out, back over the pass the next day. We got a ride into Independence, then a hitch to Bishop which is a cool hiker/climber town 40 miles north on US 395. We got beds at the hostel in town and saw E-Train, the hiker we went over Forester Pass with.
That evening the four of us went to the new brewery in town, then we made dinner at the hostel. It was nice to have some space to socialize in and hang out, although I still went to bed at 9 pm.
The next day, Fox Trot made us all breakfast! Excellent pancakes and scrambled eggs for all and plenty of it.
Fox Trot, Dante, and I decided to head up to South Lake Tahoe to avoid most of the snow and cold weather that was coming in and we got a ride up to Lee Vining from a German guy who was staying at the hostel. At Lee Vining we split up to make hitching easier and Fox Trot and I waited a while to get a ride. A nice lady picked us up and took us all the way there, which was slightly out of her way.
By the time we got to South Lake Tahoe we were all tired and hungry so we met up at the Applebee’s and got some food. The three of us shared a cheap motel room that night, where I slept on the floor and Fox Trot slept in the closet.
On Wednesday, Fox Trot and I left Dante and moved to the Mellow Mountain Hostel. I had talked to Jacob a few days before and made plans to meet him there on Friday evening so I had a few days to kill.
The big storm was supposed to come through on Thursday and Friday, bringing 2-6″ of snow to South Lake. I waited the whole day for it to storm and it only sprinkled a bit in the afternoon but did snow about an inch over night. It all melted the next day.
There’s not much to do in town when the weather’s bad and you don’t have a car, so I mostly hung out, read and talked to Sarah. Fox Trot and I went to see Mad Max one day, which was ridiculous.
We heard from Horizon and Merkel and it sounded like most hikers were getting out of the mountains, so we didn’t feel bad for bailing.
On Friday night Jacob made it up with Bishop and we got a motel room for two nights. We had perfect timing because we were able to celebrate our 5 year anniversary together, near where we got married!
Saturday dawned bright, but the clouds rolled in during the morning. It wasn’t enough to dissuade us from going for a hike, so Jacob, Bishop, and I hiked part of the PCT neat Echo Lakes. I said goodbye to Fox Trot that day when we dropped him off at the outfitters. I probably won’t see him again.
After our hike, Jacob and I went out to dinner at a fancy Hawaiian fusion restaurant just across the street and I had a wonderful fish dinner. It was delicious.
The snow and rain that was forecasted for Thursday and Friday ended up not being as bad as predicted, and checking the conditions on My. Whitney it seemed like there was only minimal snowfall and warmer temps than expected. Based on the new information and the fact that most of the hikers I know were in Bishop, I decided to go back there on Sunday and get back on the trail where I left off instead of skipping ahead to Echo Lakes and coming back to the high Sierras after I finished the rest of the trail in July/August.
Jacob, Bishop and I drove down to Bishop this morning and met up with the hiker crew here. We had lunch with Horizon and Merkel, then Jacob headed home with Bishop. It was so awesome to see him and hopefully we will meet up again in two weekends.
Right now I am still in Bishop, getting ready to go to dinner. After that we will hitch back to Independence ad spend the night there. And with good weather I’ll be back on the trail tomorrow morning, after six days off!
Even though I’ve been antsy to get back on the trail, I know I made the right decision originally, based on the information I had. And I’m still ahead of my original schedule so it’s no big deal that I’ve taken this time off.