Day 59: 749-760

This morning was beautiful, sunny, and chilly. The sunlight pierced through the trees and bounced off of Cottonwood Pass. Laying in my tent, I had a bit of anxiety thinking about our low miles. Part of me wants to find a way to keep this an 7 day section so I can get to Independence sooner. But staying with the group is the priority. 

chicken spring lake, frozen 

chicken spring lake, frozen 

After I got my bear bag out of the tree and packed up my stuff we headed out. The Lazy Fucks crew is hiking together again and it feels good. We immediately hit a meadow covered in snow and sun cups. Some are 2 feet deep and are a treacherous trap for weak ankles. It's exhausting moving through, the trail is no where to be found. We use GPS to get us over the pass and to Chicken Spring Lake. 

This lake is my first real sign that I am in a special place. Imagine a giant burned out volcano sitting at 11,220 ft. Half of the crater is blasted out long ago and at the base is snowmelt, creating a beautiful frozen lake. We stop there to eat and practice self-arrest and ice axe safety on the nearby slope. I wander off to the other side of the lake to get a couple photos. A marmot follows me around as if I'm someone he knows. 

After some photos and magical silence on the shore of the lake, I head back to the slope with the rest of the group to practice axe and crampon skills. WingIt is the most knowledgeable one so we are taking lessons from him. A few days prior, one of the PCT/JMT mountaineering legends had planned to take a large group of hikers up on a guided hike through the nastiest section of the Sierra. He got injured and left 100 hikers shit out of luck. They had to re think their plans. Many of them had planned to meet at this very lake. 

After practice, some of us took off. We still had 9 miles to do. It was a long hike the rest of the day. The trail is completely covered or ruined from the winter thaw. Everything is slush, swamp, permafrost, or mud. Going up and over big humps of snow and ice, downed trees, and the occasional boulder climbing with a 45lb pack on your back.

But all this hard work leaves you with light, life, expansive views, and a deep sense of humility. This place can kill you or bring you to life. I'm glad I'm not alone. 

Finally got into camp for the day and set up a fire, which is amazing. I also did some laundry in the river cause my hiking clothes smell bad. It's illegal to have fires above 10,000ft and we have been above that for the past 4 days. Tonight we are at 9,444 ft. Tomorrow we climb back up 2,500 to get to Whitney Portal. 

Despite the overall excellent day I got a nagging headache the last few hours of the afternoon. With some hikers sick with a stomach flu and others with altitude sicknessI was a little concerned I might be next. I decided to get to sleep early while everyone was up. I slept for about 10 hours. Woke up several times in the night to stunning moonlight shining through the woods and the sound of the roaring creek next to us.