Just Keep Walking: Pinchot Pass to VVR

Day 52: Mile 813 to Mile 828.7: Mather Pass

Miles: 15.7

Steps: 53,071

Elevation Gain: 2,100

Another day, another pass…  Mather Pass is labeled as one of the most “fear-inducing”. I decided I wasn’t going to let the pass instill fear in me this time. So, I took someone’s advice. While doing the pass… don’t look up, and don’t look down. 

Well, it worked! I kicked Mather Pass’ ass!The way down was a bit more tough. Initially, the snow was hard and easy to walk on. The heat of the sun soon softened up the snow. A lot of postholing, shoe skiing and glissading took place. The further in the descent, the more the snow was melted in areas, which required slushy snow trekking and rock climbing. I fell several times. The snow was almost completely gone at 10,200 feet. It was soooo nice to walk on the actual trail, even if it was flooded with water from the massive snow melt. I didn’t care if my feet got wet. It was time to make up some miles!

The stream crossings that were suppose to have taken place in the morning, were non existent due to snow bridges, thank goodness! However, there were a few crossings in the afternoon that were about knee high.

Although the trail was snow free in the afternoon, it had its own obstacles. Fallen trees and trail flooding slowed us down. I even got a battle would from one of the trees.

I simply loved the scenery throughout the day. 

The snowless, green meadows with snowcapped mountains in the background, were very kind on the eyes.I ended up camping next to Grouse Meadows near a river, which looked like a lake. It was one of my favorite camp spots. Deer surrounded the area, a mountainous view, beautiful sunset and great sunrise. 

Day 53: Mile 828.7 to Mile 836.7

Miles: 8

Steps: 32,446

Elevation Gain: 3,075 feet

I slept in till 4 am and took my time in the morning. It was so nice. 

The stream crossings were either pretty shallow, or covered by snow bridges, so they weren’t too big of an issue. My feet did stay wet the entire day because of the stream crossings, flooded trail and snow travel, but it was warm, so they were warm wet feet. Better than cold wet feet! The snow started again at mile 831.7 (8900 feet) and completely covered the trail again around 11,000 feet.I didn’t want to go over the pass in the afternoon because the snow would be too slushy, so I camped right before the pass at 11,200 feet. I got there around 2 pm. It was sunny and warm, so I was able to dry out all of my clothes! I also took a sponge bath, cleaned my finger nails and had a snow cone! How many people can say they had a snow cone at 11,200 feet, 769 feet below Muir Pass? This girl can. 

This scenery was amongst the most beautiful I have ever laid my eyes on; however, I knew once I was out of the snow, I would be okay if I didn’t see snow for at least a year. Trekking in the snow is so hard. 

There is no trail, so it’s following footsteps, trusting that those people knew where they were going, or making your own trail. When so much snow covers the mountains, it’s easier to go straight up a mountain, verse following switchbacks. Transversing across a steep mountain is very dangerous and very scary. So, a lot of the ascents are either straight up mountains, or slightly diagonally up the mountain. I bet you’re wondering what this feels like. Well, it feels like walking up steep steps all day long, but it’s not just the physical exertion, it’s knowing that one slip, one misstep, one distraction, can lead to a very dangerous descent. It’s been so mentally and physically exhausting. 

I played in the snow a bit today to get more comfortable. I glissaded pretty far, which was fun. I also purposely slipped while transversing and when the snow was soft, I didn’t slip too far. I was becoming more confident with snow trekking, which is calming my fears quite a bit. 

I went to bed around 6 pm to get plenty of sleep for the sunrise hike up Muir pass. 

Day 54: Mile 836.7 to Mile 856.1: Muir Pass & Evolution Creek

Miles: 19.4

Steps: 64,534

Elevation Gain: 1,560 feet

According to Guthook’s, Muir Pass is considered one of the more difficult passes because of the “miles of snowfields you must pass in order to reach the summit”. Ha! Well, guess what? I had been walking through miles and miles and miles of snow fields already.. in fact, around 100 miles of snow fields. So, this was a walk in the park for the class of 2017. We woke up at 230 am to get moving by 330 am. I decided that I prefer doing passes in the dark. That way I could not see what’s around, and therefore I was not scared. Although the easiest pass so far, I moved quicker than I have on any of the passes. I’m sure me becoming more confident in the snow, also had something to do with it. 

We arrived at the Muir Shelter at 445 am. There were people camping inside the hut. The shelter on Mt. Whitney and now Muir Pass, are emergency shelters. In fact, the sign inside the Muir Shelter stated that it should be used as an emergency shelter only and no camping was permitted. That’s not the point though. I really don’t care if they were ignoring the sign, the fact that’s it’s a popular place to take photos, see the sunrise and sunset and be used by all hikers, and these JMT hikers were camped there so I was not able to fully enjoy what should have been available to enjoy, is frustrating. I hiked 839 miles to get to that shelter. I hiked in the desert. I hiked through wind storms. I hiked through snow storms. I hiked through the desert heat. I had hiked 100 or so physically exhausting and mentally challenging miles through snow. Walked through freezing “streams” up to my waste. Had freezing wet shoes for days and warm wet shoes for days. Climbed mountains at a horizontal incline, despite my at times, debilitating, fear of heights, to get over 6 passes. Had blisters from the sun on my hands and face. Blisters on my feet. A scraped knee from walking, and falling, through a freezing lake. A bruised, and severely scraped thigh, from climbing over obstacles and trees. I wanted to sit in the shelter for a bit without whispering and take photos of the inside, and the sunrise without JMT hikers sleeping in it. I think all of that, plus more, is a good enough reason for people not to camp in there unless an emergency. Although they weren’t grumpy that we woke them, it was very frustrating.The trek down Muir Pass was very long and exhausting. Beautiful, nonetheless.

I ran into several more JMT hikers. I sat and chatted with two of them, which were pretty handsome fellas. At this point, the sun was so strong, I had covered my entire face in zinc. When I approached the men, I told them I had lost my hat, which was why my face was covered in white. One of the gentlemen gave me his hat! He truly saved my already burnt and blistered face from further damage. I am so grateful for him and his kindness. I also ran into a gal who had found my water shoes! What a fantastic day! Evolution Creek was a bit scary. When I watched a few videos of people crossing, it didn’t look that scary. I took the alternate route crossing, which was basically just upstream where the creek was split into separate smaller streams. The last smaller stream that I crossed, I lost my footing on a rock and the current took me a few feet before I was able to get my footing again. After the crossing, I took a very long break to let my belongings dry and to eat a hot meal/dinner before continuing. There were several smaller creek crossings, so my feet remained wet all day. The scenery consisted of large rivers, one running through a gorgeous canyon, waterfalls, mountains, and ginormous rocks. It was a beautiful day, as were all days in the Sierra Nevada. 

Day 55: Mile 856.1 to Mile 871 : Seldin Pass & Bear Creek

Miles: 14.9 PCT miles + 2-3 mile detour for creek crossing 

Steps: 57,162

I slept in till 5 am today. It didn’t really matter when I got moving. I wouldn’t get to the pass until afternoon anyway. The morning started off in the forest, which was a nice break from the sun. It was a bit of a climb though! Seldin Pass wasn’t scary, but it was exhausting. Only a couple miles of snow covered the north side of the pass, but on the south side of the Pass, there was snow for what seemed like forever. Huge sun cups prevented me from going at a decent pace. 

After coming out of the snow, I came to the West Fork of Bear Creek. Once again, I was wet up to my hips and lost my footing a bit. I do believe there was a log across this creek, but I don’t cross on logs unless my trekking poles can reach the bottom of the creek to help stabilize me. I am not confident enough to balance myself on a log. It wasn’t terrible though, and I survived. Bear Creek was a different beast though. 

On Guthooks, Bear Creek is said to be one of the scariest and most dangerous water crossings along the PCT. I thought it might not be as bad as they made it out to be, since I had not heard anything about it from anyone else. Well shit, it sucked. I looked at the map and found where it split into other creeks upstream, and that is where I hiked to. I probably went almost a mile upstream to cross its smaller counterparts, which weren’t that small at all. When I came to one that was too large to cross, or I didn’t see a way to cross it, I would follow it upstream to where it split in smaller parts. I had gotten wet up to my waste in parts. It was the end of the day and I was so exhausted. I hadn’t planned on hiking the additional miles. 

I didn’t get to camp until 845 pm. When I finally rested my head on my pillow, I felt as if I had been to battle. My body ached, I had poison oak or poison something or another, I had abrasions all over my legs and a huge one on the back on my thigh, my feet were raw and I think my core was cold from all the water crossings. However, I was almost done with one of the toughest sections of the PCT, especially with the high snow year. I felt as if I had won the battle. I felt like a badass. 

Day 56: Mile 871 to Mile 878.7 – VVR 

Miles: 7.7 PCT miles + 1 mile to ferry

Steps: 34,080

Today marked the 9th day out on the trail. I was ready to get to Vermillion Valley Resort, shower and eat a hot meal. To get there, you can walk a 1 mile side trail to a ferry (Aka small boat), or you can hike an additional 6 or so miles there. I ran into Wizard and we were trying to make the ferry at 0945. The last 1-2 miles we practically ran to get there. We arrived at the terminal at exactly 0945 and the ferry had already left several minutes before. I was so sad. After sitting there for about 20 minutes, a boat was driving by and I waved them down and asked them if they could possibly give us a ride to VVR. They ever so kindly gave us a ride and declined our offer to give them any money. When I arrived at the resort, the workers said that I was the first they heard to get a boat hitch. One of the few benefits of being a woman on the trail! 

I was so happy to be at VVR. I had high hopes that I was almost finished trekking in the snow, but was I? 

11 thoughts on “Just Keep Walking: Pinchot Pass to VVR

  1. You haven’t had it easy, but I admire you that much more for sticking with it. Snow becomes a lot easier when you learn how to work with it as you seem to be learning. Embrace the challenge if you can and your life will be a lot easier. I agree that you are a badass and you should feel proud of what you accomplished so far.

    I’m now ashamed to say that I camped in the shelter on Muir Pass. It was my reward for a grueling day that marked a significant milestone for me. I hope I didn’t ruin someone else’s experience. I never thought of how it could impact someone else.

    Best wishes for the rest of the trail.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was thinking as I was writing it, that had I made it to the shelter, I would have probably camped there as well, not thinking about how it could impact others, so you aren’t alone. I suppose sometimes we don’t think about it, until it’s us, whose experience is altered because of it! Don’t be ashamed my friend, I’m sure it was a memorable experience. That’s a great way of looking at the snow trekking…. embrace it. I like it! Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. I really appreciate it.


  2. You are a warrior! Your ability to overcome your fears is so inspiring!! As another who struggles with fear of heights (and falling), you are teaching me how to conquer my fears out on the trail. Thank you!!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Pretty sure if the trail is not visible you have a pass to make your own route as long as you connect back up with the trail by walking. I mean, what else are you supposed to do??

        Liked by 1 person

  3. You are #1 in my book! First you have to be a bad ass to be an operating room nurse. But now you have exceeded all bad ass expectations‼️ Love you girl and can’t wait to hook up with you if possible when you get to Washington.

    Liked by 1 person

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