Cow creek was freezing cold this morning. It took me forever to get up, eat and pack. Plans changed and we decided to do 17 miles today so tomorrow is a shorter trek to my first major challenge: Cottonwood Pass. Mountain passes are critical points on the trail - they are the portal between two valleys, and there is no way around them. You have to hike up and over them, and they are plentiful in the Sierra. They will start to get bigger and bigger over the next few days, and will last all the way through South Lake Tahoe. The hike out of camp was steep and ascended to 10,600 feet in a matter of miles. The air is getting thinner and it's generally much colder. A strong breeze never stopped since this morning.
I'm feeling all kinds of new and uncomfortable pains in my feet and back from the weight of my bear can. Over the course of several miles my left Achilles started to hurt bad. I pressed on until I could ice it in a river and take some ibuprofen. I'm generally hiking much slower because of the weight and the climbing up and over felled trees and debris constantly. The trail is in pretty rough condition out here.
The weather took a turn for the worst and a cold front blew in. It was extremely cold and the day was full of violent gusts of wind on top of the peaks and traverses I climbed.
The views are spectacular. The space is big and expansive. The Sierra mountains tower over massive Meadows. Snow peaks off in the distance. This is all the result of millions of years of geological violence. Everything is extreme.
Tonight we camped at 10,400 ft. It's still super windy and we all pitched our tents. Sub groups of hikers are forming within the larger cohort and it looks like some folks may split off soon. I immediately set up my tent and started cooking food. I desperately want to eat some of my 9 day supply to reduce the weight and the space in my pack. The more I consume, the lighter it gets, the less my feet and knees ache.
I woke up at 11pm to some racket outside my tent and I realized it was dumping snow on us. Everything is covered! Looks like all the wind was actually the beginnings of a cold front and storm which landed directly on us. My watch said it was 23 degrees the next morning - making getting out of my sleeping bag and packing up super unappealing lol.