After a lot of discussion during dinner last night the group decided that we would do a super short day and hike 4 miles from the base of Forester Pass - the tallest point on the PCT (but shy of a 1000 ft from the summit of Whitney). It's got a massive snowfield loaded with 3 foot sun cups that you must trodge through before reaching the actual switchbacks to go over Forester. The further we have hiked the past few days the more snow, and snowmelt we are dealing with. It's rough terrain. 5 miles feels like 20 on your body, especially your knees.
Yesterday we did a good amount of ice axe and crampon sections down steep gully's. It's a big snow year and everything is more dangerous. We also know that today we would need to ford two more ice cold rivers. This brings me back to my original point: we are going to do low miles today and camp below Forester so we can climb it while it's cold and icey and not slushy, tomorrow will be an early morning and a longer day to get us to town by Sunday. But part of me really wanted to just knock out Forester today. However, a good chunk of the people I trust and prefer to hike with weren't down to take the risk.
Early this morning a group of hikers crossed the creek around 6 am and one of them fell in. She became hypothermic immediately and her group rushed to make a fire in our camp to get her warm. One of the other woman helping her was from South Africa and was telling stories about doing back country hiking in Denali. She seemed real tough and salty.
About 20 minutes into the hike I had to ford the second of three rivers: Wright "Creek". The water is so fucking cold I cannot describe it. I have to stop and make sure everything I treasure is in a dry bag in case I eat shit and take a dip. I don't plan to taking any dips. I did the crossing with Speck, Mowgly, Scotty, and Cowboy. We felt good about it and we were pumped to get on to the next crossing at Tyndall creek.
We hiked through a couples miles of high altitude snowfields. Despite the sun cups it was still walkable because it hadn't heated up yet. I blasted Meshuggah to get me through and introduced everyone to my love for death metal. The expanse of these snowfields is intimidating. More massive peaks towering above us, a few frozen lakes, and valleys loaded with pine trees.
When you hike on a trail covered in 4-6 feet of snow you kind of have to just wing it and pick a line. The soft snow is fun cause I actually skip around and ski with my shoes down little chutes. My comfortability with snow travel is well versed so this is something I try to make fun by zipping in and out of little mounds and snow banks in between trees.
We finally got to Tyndall creek and it's the biggest we've had to do. We walked up and down looking for a safe crossing and finally decided to go for it. I went first. The current was very strong at the end but it was safe (enough). The rest followed. We made camp on the other side of the river and plan to get up super early to climb over Forester Pass and on to the base of Kearsarge Pass. Then it's on to Bishop for beers and relaxing. Of course when I got to camp I realized I left my ground sheet at the last camp. I heard the South African woman (I found out her trail name is Rhino) grabbed it and is headed towards us. She showed up a few hours later and the river was too swollen to cross. Hopefully I can catch her in town.