I got great sleep last night. I didn’t set my alarm and I was still up by 6am. Ten Gallon took off before me, so I told him I would just catch him at Kennedy Meadows North. I hauled ass up a snowfield and peak to what I believe to be Sonora Pass but its unmarked. Its completely covered in snow and fully treeless, again lol. The wind was strong and had crusted the snow. I cut a foot path along a steep mile-long bowl to the summit. No one is in front or behind me. Its the first time Ive climbed a pass solo. It is majestic and beautiful up here at 10,577 ft.
On the other side the trail snakes along a dirt and rocky ridge. This is the first time the trail foes along a mountain ridge. Behind me to the south are the beautiful Yosemite ranges that kicked my ass. To the north of me, the ranges start to flatten out and somewhere out there is South Lake Tahoe. I rolled a cigarette and watched all the butterflies and bees fly around me. So many bugs that dont bite are up here and I like it a lot. They’re pretty too. I got a little bit of service so I checked in with key loved ones and kept going.
From the peak you can see the trail follow along a ridge line for miles. I started booking it to try and get to the highway. Another hiker named Two Taps was right behind me. I thought he was Ten Gallon from far away, but as he got closer I could see it was someone else I had never met. He’s from Wisconsin and he has been crushing miles. He was shocked when I told him I had been in the Sierra for a month. I guess I truly am a Lazy Fuck. As I made my way along the ridge the wind was blowing hard. It was howling. Every once in a while the trail dips into snow bowls. I could finally see the road and it made me just hike faster, like really fast. My achy knees weren’t going to slow me down from getting to the road. Im out of food and in dire need of a cheeseburger. A mile and a half away from the highway my rushed attitude almost cost me dearly.
I entered a snow chute without my ice axe and crampons thinking I could easily manage because of what I had already been through the past month. I started traversing on the snowfield and thought to myself “wow, this is fucking steep. I should get my axe out.” Right then, I slipped and started cascading down an 80 degree slope. I screamed expletives and yelled “please stop, please stop!” I finally caught myself with my shoes. I was stuck in a bad spot and for a quick second I completely panicked seeing the rocky cliff below. I couldn’t take my pack off because it was too steep. I was afraid to move for fear of sliding further down. Laziness screwed me. “Now what do I do?”, I thought to myself. Across the cirque I see Two Taps glissading down with ease. He looked over at me and yelled “cut a well int the snow and take off your pack!” I did as instructed. I got my axe out and climbed back up the slope to retrieve my trekking pole that stuck in the ice when I ate it, de-packed of course. That was a bad position to be in. I started to panic again. I finally got my head straight and put on my crampons, put back on my pack and started cutting a traverse path out of the steep area. The rocks below surely would injure me if I fall again.
30 minutes later I made a path across. Hungry, exhausted, dehydrated and scared, I got to a glissade path. Two Taps waited for me. I glissaded down and treated a sigh of relief. The trail almost rook me out 1.5 miles from the damn highway. We got down the mountain and caught a hitch with a nice young couple from Berkeley. They drove us to Kennedy Meadows.
I got a room in the hostel, a shower, and did laundry. After chores were complete, the rest of the crew showed up and we got chili cheese burgers for dinner with some beer. Today was such nice hiking, and it need with a totally avoidable close call. I feel like a fool for putting myself in that moment. WTF.
Kennedy Meadows North is loaded with weekenders and its also a horse pack station so there are a ton of cowboys. I feel like Im in Trumpville. Its not terribly hiker-friendly.Its almost like the cowboys are threatened by the fact that PCT hikers are actual badasses who just survived 300 miles of the Sierra in a record snow year.