to Walker Pass
Meadows to Independence Sunday
20th September We spent a rest day down in Yosemite valley with
Gordon and Eric.
The valley, although extraordinarily beautiful, does suffer a bit from
extreme tourist crowding and we were lucky to find a campsite in a
quiet hiker-only area by using our PCT permit we had obtained at the
start of the trip. Martina and I had visited Yosemite on a rock
climbing trip two years earlier and, creaking our necks gaping upwards
at the granite walls, we vowed to return again!
day Gordon drove us back round to the trail at Tuolumne Meadows and
we parted there to continue our hike. We met up with Ron Vaughn and
Hikin Mike here - Mike had just sold his car to Ron who was going
to use it to return home after the trail. Given the slightly dilapidated
state of the car we doubted whether it would get Ron very far at all
but both seemed happy with the deal.
Tuesday 22nd September we hiked south with Hikin Mike from Tuolumne
Meadows up Lyell Canyon with its lovely tumbling river and spacious
views. Martina and I had good memories of chilling out here after
a rock climb two years ago but our minds were set on more strenuous
things. We were both certainly lean and fit now ('as a butchers
dog' as the saying goes) in our sixth month of the journey but this
was offset by the fact that we were pretty fatigued and sore from
so much constant hiking and load carrying- our bodies were craving
for a long rest.
HikinMike and Mt Ritter
Garnet Lake and Mt Ritter
mountain scenery was the next best thing to a rest- and the area of
Donahue Pass with its snowy bowls, rocky tops and distant high mountains-
gave us a spring to our step. Over Island Pass and its superb views
to Mt Ritter, Banner and Thousand Island Lake we dropped down to stunning
Garnet Lake feeling like we were immersed in the Sierra Nevada mountains
passed by the Minarets mountain area the next day- home to lots of
great rock climbing- and were stopped by a female ranger out hiking
who asked us for our park permits. This was the first time we had
been asked in our whole trip and, as we had convinced Mike that he
wouldn't need one, we had to do some serious persuading with the ranger
to let Mike off. Hiked past Devil's Postpile Monument- a basalt columned
rock structure a bit like our Island
of Staffa off Scotland but not as spectacular!
a cold camp that night we ascended up to Silver Pass at 10,900 feet
with some hail on top to greet us so we descended quickly to camp
down at Pocket Meadow. It hailed heavily that night and we had to
get out our sleeping bags in the dark to move the tent as a large
puddle had gathered underneath us.
aim from there was to hike to Vermillion Lake and take a boat ride
to the resort at the far side of the lake. Our only problem being
that we didn't know when the boat ran so we got up at 6am and hiked
down to the steaming, frosty lake edge, cooked breakfast with some
hot mugs of tea and waited. Luckily, the boat arrived at 9.45am disgorging
other PCT hikers El Nino and the Nike Girls along with a lama! After
a chat we had a lovely 4 mile trip across the lake to the lodge only
to meet our PCT friend Brian Sweet last seen in Washington state.
He had finished the trail ahead of us and had got a job as a waiter
at the lodge until the end of the season. It seemed that the other
hikers had been told to keep it a surprise for us that he was here!
rented a caravan as cold, snowy weather set in and had lots of good
food, borrowing a tape player and generally having a ball. It stayed
wet and cold the next day so we got a lift down to local Mono Hot
Springs with Scott and Rebecca for a refreshing dip.
The boat to Vermillion Valley Lodge
Brian Sweet, Martina and HikinMike at VVR
springs near Vermillion
reluctantly left the restful lodge on the boat the next day, hiking
on fresh snow in more lovely country all the way up to pitch the tent
with hats and gloves near Seldon Pass. Our tactic in the morning was
to get up and hike quickly in the freezing cold until we were hit
by the sun, at which point we stopped and had breakfast. Evolution
Valley was wonderful with its waterfalls, lakes, mountains and clear,
clear autumnal air- the Sierra were well named 'The Range of Light'
Muir the Scottish born naturalist and "Father
of the American Natural Parks".
the weather was certainly crisp and cold, we did have the great advantage
that this normally popular hiking area was now virtually empty as
this was considered post season to most. As for us, we were having
one of the best days of our entire hike out there. I picked up some
dead wood for a fire and filled up with water as our aim was to stay
in the Muir Hut at the top of 11,955 foot Muir Pass (John Muir made
a big impact here!). This is a remote stone shelter or 'bothy' as
it would be called in Scotland. We made it there in a tired state
at 6.30pm with temperatures well below freezing but it was a welcome
Muir Pass carrying fire wood
Martina outside Muir Hut
fire wasn't a total success as I just succeeded in smoking out the
shelter - so we reluctantly had to put the fire out and, as it was
so cold, we opted to pitch the tent inside the hut for extra warmth.
A lively mouse
to get in the tent by jumping up the tent door through the night-
we named it 'Murdo the Mouse' and wondered how it would survive the
winter up here.
and heavy snow fall greeted us in the morning and we
settled in the hut to wait for a clearing in the weather. Our few
foray's out during the day did not look good as we must have had about
18 inches of new snow fall and by about 3pm we concluded we would
stay another night as at least we had a solid, if cold, shelter here.
For a diversion Martina busied herself by sculpting a snow-bear and
we cooked our way through a fair bit of food and stove fuel to keep
the next morning was cold but gloriously sunny with the fresh powder
snow glinting in the light. Our descent down past Helen Lake and
Martina 'after the storm'
Descending from Muir Pass with fresh snow
of other smaller tarns in pure snow was another highlight of the trail
for us. As the trail dropped down to around 8,000 feet the snow cleared
and we could tread on dry ground again. We stopped at a ranger station
'Le Conte' where the ranger was packing up to leave for the end of
the summer season. He told us another storm was due in three days
and we made our mind up to hike out to the town of Independence at
Kearsage Pass in another 40 miles where we could pick up extra supplies
and sit out the storm for a day.
bitterly cold camp at Lower Palisade Lake around 10,600 feet that
night and the next day involved crossing two high cols at Mather Pass
and Pinchot Pass passing beautiful blue green, boulder dotted lakes.
The crisp crunch of snow underneath our boots was constant until we
dropped down low to camp at Woods Creek settled in a canyon at 8,500
feet. More stunning scenery followed as we ascended rocky Glen Pass
in snow and split from the PCT trail to hike 9 miles out to the road
end over Kearsage Pass. Although this diversion was a long way off
the trail it provided delightful scenery to match any on the main
trail itself and we had a great time that day.
Kearsage Pass- Martina on the ridge
a two hour dash down the path we made it to the trailhead around 4pm,
however despite our good efforts, it took an hour to get a ride into
the nearest small town of Independence where we settled down for a
wash and some food in a hotel.
Our final stage out to Walker Pass .................