Monday 8 July 2019
Day: 71
Location: Middle Fork Kings River (mile 835.5)
Distance travelled: 4.5 miles (+8.4 miles off trail)

We woke up relatively early as we still had over 2 miles of snow hiking before we would reach Bishop Pass again.

When we reached the bottom of the pass, it was fairly clear that snow conditions had not changed much from when we descended the pass a few days ago.

After assessing the options, we decided to rock scramble up the switchbacks again rather than attempting to climb up the snow covered slope.

Going up seemed slightly less intense than the way down and we had reached the top of the pass before we knew it.

We made our way down the other side of the pass, stopping to chat with a few other hikers on their way through to Bishop.

The switchbacks down seemed to go quickly, and before we knew it we were back at the spot that we camped at on the way up to Bishop Pass. We stopped for lunch and a break (and a nap, for some of us).

Once we reached the PCT again at the bottom of another set of switchbacks we had to change gears as we were done with downhill and would now be climbing again for the rest of day. My legs weren’t happy about this and the afternoon dragged on as I pushed myself up the hill one step at a time.

Eventually, we reached patchy snow and my pace slowed again.

After crossing one final river, we set about looking for a campsite which was harder than expected with all the snow and damp ground. Eventually we found a nice flat spot just big enough for a two man tent and decided to call it a night.

Tomorrow we would be going over another pass, Muir Pass.
Tuesday 9 July 2019
Day: 72
Location: Evolution Creek campsite (mile 848.4)
Distance travelled: 12.9 miles

We were up with the sun again today to get the best conditions for Muir Pass. The going was pretty good all in all as this was the most gentle incline of all the passes so far.

The trail took us past a number of frozen lakes on the way up and we stopped from time to time to watch birds walking on the frozen surface.

We reached the top of Muir Pass by mid morning and stopped at the emergency shelter to chat with a few other hikers.

We had been warned by a southbound hiker that there were 5 miles of snow to contend with on the other side of the pass. As it was all downhill though, it wasn’t too much of a concern initially.

As the day went on though, the sun started to soften the snow and the walking became much more difficult for me. I lost count of the number of times the snow would give way under my feet, causing me to topple over. It was super frustrating.

As beautiful as it was, I was glad to see the end of the snow after reaching the stunning Evolution Lake and put my feet back on to solid ground. We still had to drop a bit of elevation to reach our campsite for the night, near Evolution Creek. It was a nice change of scenery to leave the alpine environment for more foresty areas.

We heeded the advice of some local hikers to camp a bit back from our planned campsite at Evolution Creek in order to avoid the worst of the mosquitoes. They were still out in force where we ended up camping so I can only imagine how bad they would have been further on down the trail.

Thursday 4th July 2019
Day: 67
Location: Bishop Pass trail (mile 831.0)
Distance travelled: 15.5 miles (+ 1 mile off-trail)

It was -4 degrees when the alarm went off at 4am.

Unfortunately this meant that our wet shoes and socks from yesterday were now frozen solid. It got worse though, as Leigh has also removed her inner soles yesterday afternoon, which now would not fit back into her shoes until they had been defrosted. I ended up having to wear a different pair of socks and managed to defrost my shoes by stuffing my feet into them.

We set off shortly behind two other hikers from France and Japan who had camped near us at the base of Mather Pass. We decided to follow their lead with the route finding up the pass, which turned out to be a very good decision, as the route we had originally intended to take would have been considerably longer and more difficult.

We ended up rock scrambling on exposed ledges in favour of walking on sketchy snow. Overall it felt like a safer route than I had expected. We made the top in under 1.5 hrs, which we were pretty happy with as the sun had not yet hit the snow.

It was another long, slow but beautiful decent down from Mather Pass with many lakes in varying stages of frozen-ness to admire.

After sharing our lunch break with some resident Marmots, we dropped down in elevation steeply via the impressive Golden Staircase, watching water running down a number of nearby waterfalls as we descended.

Once at lower elevations, the trail then took us through some different terrain complete with new smells, wildflowers and partially flooded sections.

We had dinner on trail before leaving the PCT and climbing up the first set of switchbacks on the Bishop Pass Trail, which would take us in to our first town in 10 days. We had a great view of the stunning Le Conte Canyon from our campsite and will aim to cross Bishop Pass early-ish tomorrow before hitching a ride into Bishop in the afternoon.

By the time we get back to the trail junction where we left the PCT in a few days time, we will have walked 26 miles and climbed about 6,000ft in elevation in total, just to top up our food for the next section of trail and have a comfy bed for one night. They say it is a beautiful trail though, so hopefully all that extra effort will pay off!

Friday 5th July 2019
Day: 68
Location: Bishop, California (Townhouse Motel)
Distance travelled: 0 miles (+ 12 miles off-trail)

The day started with a knee deep swift water river crossing just after sunrise at 5:30am, for which Leigh and I linked arms to get across safely. The subsequent creek crossing was bridged, which made things a little easier. Ahead of us were yet more switchbacks to climb before we would reach the snow line.

The snow was patchy and the morning light was stunning as we made our way towards Bishop Pass, passing a number of beautiful lakes on the way.

My strategy was to walk directly from melted rock island to melted rock island in order to minimize the amount of time spent walking on snow, which is normally slow going and energy sapping.

We eventually reached the top of Bishop Pass only to find that the descent was steep. Steeper than we were comfortable with anyway. Luckily, we were able to backtrack to find that most of the switchbacks on the trail were now snow free, so we used them to descend the steepest part of the track before scrambling down the final part of the mixed snow and rock.

As a bonus, we found a foam roller halfway down, which we took with us. No idea what it was doing partially buried in the snow on the side of a mountain! We’ll donate it to the hiker box in Bishop once we get there.

On reaching the bottom of the pass, we stopped to chat to a few day hikers and had some lunch before starting on the final 6 miles of trail to the car park.

The walk was slow on account of the snow coverage on the trail but it was also a really stunning trail. It was pretty much all downhill too which was great, but a little concerning knowing that we would need to do this trail in reverse in two days time to get back to the PCT once we have resupplied for the next week on the trail.

The heat really kicked in as we dropped down in elevation and got closer to the car park at South Lake.

Once we reached the car park, we managed to score a hitch to Bishop within 15 minutes.

As we had no reception on trail, we weren’t able to pre-organise any accommodation, which turned out to be a bit of an issue. Once we arrived in Bishop, we started to ring around and didn’t have any luck for at least half an hour. In the end, we had to take the first thing we could find that was even remotely in our price range – a dodgy motel that supposedly used to be overrun by meth addicts until the new owners took over recently. Accommodation has been unexpectedly expensive here so far.

With our accommodation sorted, we set off in search of food but found we were too late in the afternoon to eat at a cafe, so had to settle for fast food instead. We made our way to a nearby Carl’s Junior and Leigh was finally able to try one of the Beyond Meat burger patties (ie. a meatless patty that tastes like a hamburger).

I can’t believe it’s not meat…

We spent the rest of the afternoon planning our next section of trail. After reading about an earthquake in Southern California only a day or two ago, it was a strange feeling to experience a 40 second aftershock while we were sitting in our motel room. It almost felt as if you were drunk, as you could feel the ground moving slightly below your feet. Fortunately for us, we were a long way from the epicentre and were in no immediate danger.

After the earthquake, we headed down the road to do a load of washing at a nearby laundromat before calling it a night.

Tomorrow will be our first full rest day since we left Lone Pine about 10 days ago.
Saturday 6 July
Day: 69
Location: Bishop, California (Days Inn Motel)
Distance travelled: 0 miles

What a treat – our first proper zero day today!

We didn’t do a whole lot other than go out for second breakfast in the morning at a local cafe, after having a classy first breakfast at our motel. We then headed to the supermarket to resupply for the next 8 days on trail through to Mammoth Lakes.

Mmm, Fruit Loops…

We also moved to a slightly nicer motel, complete with 900 channels of subscription TV! The rest of the day was spent watching movies and packing our food into the bear canisters.

Tomorrow we will be heading back out to the trail. We found out there is an afternoon shuttle bus from the main part of town that will drop us back at South Lake, where we can start our 13 mile hike over Bishop Pass back to the PCT.
Sunday 7 July
Day: 70
Location: Bishop Pass trail (side trail back to the PCT)
Distance travelled: 3.1 miles off-trail

It was a lazy morning before breakfast at the hotel, including use of their waffle machine! It’s always hard leaving town to head back out to a tough day on the trail. Especially as there is lots of climbing ahead of us later today and tomorrow.

After checking out, we headed to a cafe up the road to do some blog writing and repair the load lifters on Leigh’s backpack, which I accidentally tore the other day when trying to lift her pack up by the shoulder strap when she fell over. It was a two person operation trying to push the needle through the multiple layers of fabric. Leigh only managed to stab her finger with the needle once before finishing the repair job, which was a pretty good effort all things considered.

On our way to the bus, we dropped off a few excess things to the hiker box at the local hostel hiker box, including a foam roller we found on the way down the snow covered Bishop Pass. I ended up sleeping for much of the bus ride back to the trail.

We reluctantly started the long walk towards Bishop Pass after arriving back at South Lake. We ended up camping about halfway to Bishop Pass, in an amazing spot overlooking a lake and will tackle the pass itself tomorrow morning.

Sounds tasty…

Tuesday 2 July 2019
Day: 65
Location: Woods Creek campsite (mile 802.6)
Distance travelled: 13.7 miles

What a whirlwind of a day! Up and walking by 6:15am, we were able to take in the spectacular sunrise colors in the reflection on a nearby lake on our way to Glen Pass.

As we got closer to the pass, the amount of snow increased, forcing us to put on our Microspikes for additional traction. It was a beautiful morning, made only more beautiful by the many frozen lakes we were able to pass along the way.

After navigating a few tricky climbing sections, we found ourselves at the top of Glen Pass without too much trouble. The only thing left to do was get down the other side, which would prove much more difficult (and terrifying) than expected.

The were a number of different foot tracks through the snow, so we decided to follow the most well used tracks to be safe. We took the first few switchbacks slow but the track then got really steep for the final descent to the bottom of the pass.

We have to go down there?

Leigh was pretty terrified of losing her footing and sliding down the slope, so she let me go ahead at one point while she composed herself. No sooner had I switched places with her did I lose my footing on the descent, and ended up having to self arrest three times in a row as I slid on my side, using my ice axe to bring myself to a temporary stop. Nothing like learning how to use an ice axe for the first time than by real world experience. I was overly confident and not wearing my gloves at the time too, which resulted in some minor skin loss from my knuckles attributed to sliding on the ice. Other than that though, I got off pretty lightly.

Leigh made it down in one piece and we sat for a while at the bottom of the slope watching others attempting the same descent. When we eventually left, we ran in to the local park ranger who told us that he estimated 60% of people who take the same route that we did have some kind of slip or fall on their way down. Apparently someone fell and broke their ribs the day before on the same section. He was on his way up the mountain to establish a new safe track for the current snow levels.

Yep, looks just as dangerous from the bottom…

With that excitement behind us, we had a relatively easy day of downhill hiking. First winding our way along that magnificent Rae Lakes, the frozen surface making them look all the more impressive.

From the shores of the lake, the trail continued to wind it’s way down through a Yosemite-like landscape, with stunning granite mountains in front of us.

I unexpectedly started to develop small welts on my hands, which were annoying as they were super sensitive whenever anything touched them. Not yet sure whether these are heat related, cold related or allergy related but will need to keep an eye on them for the next few days before we get to Bishop.

We had a few more creek crossings later in the day, the last of which required 10 people and a piece of rope to get across safely after much contemplation.

Another hiker rigged a rope across the creek to help everyone cross safely

After crossing the river (and passing the 800 mile mark), we hiked on until sunset to get within 5 miles of Pinchot Pass, which we will be tackling tomorrow morning.

Wednesday 3 July 2019
Day: 66
Location: Base of Mather Pass (mile 815.5)
Distance travelled: 12.9 miles

It was a 4am alarm this morning and on the trail just after 5am, in an attempt to reach Pinchot Pass before the snow got too soft.

I may have already mentioned that I don’t enjoy walking before the sun is up as it is cold as and dark. Today was no exception. We walked with headtorches on for the first half an hour before the sun started to shine through.

There was a lot of snow on the approach this morning which really sapped the energy from me. It was a beautiful walk though.

We had been told that the Pinchot Pass was more straightforward than some of the others we have already attempted, and in some respects this was true. The trail was easy to follow and only had a few spots where a slip would ruin your day.

While we were slow on account of my lack of energy today, we both made it to the top in one piece.

The descent down the other side of the pass was fairly gentle, but man, did it go on forever. It felt like we were walking for hours in the softened snow and had to take multiple breaks along the way.

This is what happens when you aren’t paying enough attention to where you are walking…

Eventually we reached the bottom of the valley and had a few rivers to cross before we could start hiking up to Mather Pass, which we would be tackling tomorrow.

The approach was snow covered but beautiful. We were grateful for the footprints through the snow made by other hikers as it made the frequent postholing on the afternoon snow bearable as we knew that some of our steps would still be good on the compacted footprints.

We finally reached our campsite at the base of Mather Pass, on a nice dirt island shared with a few other hikers. No sooner had we set up our tent and put our wet shoes and socks out to dry did the sun disappear behind the surrounding mountains, leaving us with the prospect of wet feet to start the morning tomorrow, which is not ideal.

This looks like a particularly sketchy pass from the bottom with a couple of different routes to choose from. Hopefully it is nice to us.

Day 63 & 64 – Getting high on the PCT

Sunday 30 June 2019
Day: 63
Location: Tyndall Creek campsite (mile 775.2)
Distance travelled: 8.9 miles

After another lazy start to the morning, we said goodbye to our Marmot neighbours along with Mt Whitney and got back on the PCT proper. There was a fair bit of climbing ahead of us today but it would be good practice for Forester Pass tomorrow morning, which is the highest point on the PCT at just above 4,000m above sea level.

I managed to get down a two course breakfast today consisting of a Muesli bar and protein powder mixed with water, which was sadly my biggest breakfast since starting on the trail a few days ago. I’m finally beginning to feel a bit better and my appetite is slowly coming back, even though I’m still underdone hiking at these altitudes. Whether I’ll be able to get over Forester Pass though is anyone’s guess.

The morning climbs gave us an opportunity to take in some of the stunning snowcapped mountains behind us.

We had three creek crossings to contend with throughout the course of the day. The first, Wright Creek, was straightforward and only around knee deep. Going back to our experiences in New Zealand, we opted to leave our shoes on for the crossing while everyone else seemed to change into their camp shoes to avoid getting their hiking shoes wet.

The second creek was more challenging with the main crossing point too dangerous, so we headed down river about a quarter of a mile where we had heard there was a large log running across the creek. We arrived just as another group was crossing and took it in turns to shimmy across the log.

Before reaching the final creek crossing of the day, the track led us to a large plateau at the top of a hill. In contrast to the patchy snow we have experienced to date, this plateau was still covered in a lot of snow and the wind was absolutely freezing as a result. After about half an hour, we eventually dropped back down to a lower elevation with less snow and warmer temperatures.

Occasionally, we’d still encounter patches of snow on the trail and towards the end of the day these patches can get quite soft and fragile to walk on as they start to melt. In one spot, Leigh stepped on the front edge of the snow patch covering the trail which immediately collapsed, resulting in her falling forward onto her knees. With her momentum moving forward, her heavy backpack then pushed her forward almost in slow motion, leaving her sprawled out over the snow patch with arms and legs flailing in every direction. Fortunately, no damage was done to either hiker or photographer.

Our final creek crossing of the day required us to walk half a mile upstream to cross the 3 separate tributaries individually. We decided to climb up the adjacent hill rather than camp by the creek to reduce the amount if climbing we will need to do tomorrow morning.

Only a touch over 4 miles and 580m of elevation gain now until we reach Forester Pass. We will be up and on the trail by 4am to hike under the best conditions across the snow.

We lucked out on the camp spot tonight – snowcapped mountains in every direction! Thinking it might be a cold one…

Monday 1 July 2019
Day: 64
Location: Bullfrog Lake campsite (mile 788.7)
Distance travelled: 13.5 miles

We were up at 3am to get ready for our 4am start. The infamous Forester Pass with it’s epic ice shute traverse awaits. I don’t enjoy getting up this early and hiking in the dark, but the plan was to reach Forester Pass before it got too much sun and the snow starts to soften.

As we left our campsite, we walked past some SOBO cowboy campers (ie. hikers sleeping without any kind of tent or other shelter) who had successfully completed Forester Pass the evening before. They offered a few words of encouragement as we accidentally woke them up on our way past and we were on our way.

We set off into the darkness of the night, and soon we were hiking through snow fields, following our GPS for directions as the trail was hard to find. The temperature dropped immediately and seemed to get colder as we climbed to higher altitudes.

As we approached the final climb, we were greeted by another stunning sunrise, lighting up the mountains all around us and creating an amazing glow of different colors on the horizon.

I felt surprisingly good throughout the morning and any sign of my earlier altitude sickness was gone, replaced by adrenaline to get me up and over the highest point on the PCT. The alternative, turning around and backtracking for two days to get to the nearest town was not an option that I was keen on pursuing.

Once we reached the final climb, it became immediately clear that it was steep. Luckily the snow was still crunchy enough as the sun had not had enough time yet to melt the top layer, meaning that even small indentations in the snow were reliable to stand on as you made your way up the steep slope. Using our Microspikes for traction, we slowly made our way up to the halfway point, where Leigh decided to break out her ice axe to give her a bit more confidence that she wasn’t about to slide back down to the bottom of the steep slope.

That’s where we are headed

After successfully getting through the snowy switchbacks, we were grateful for a snow-free path which took us all the way to the crux, the infamous snow chute.

We had watched at least a dozen other hikers already complete the traverse ahead of us, but that didn’t make it any less intimidating. Given the steepness of the shute, if you made a mistake in the crossing you’d likely end up seriously injured at best, so it demands your full attention.

Leigh went first without issue and I followed shortly behind. Given the number of hikers on the trail, there were shin deep footsteps all the way across the traverse which made it a lot easier than it otherwise would have been earlier in the season.

On reaching the top of the pass, we couldn’t believe the stunning views in both directions. Now in the full heat of the sun, we took the opportunity to layer down and prepare ourselves for the tricky snow covered descent down the other side of the pass.

It was hard to know where to look with so much beauty around us.

We had to contend with softer snow towards the end of our descent, which made for many slips and postholes (ie. when your foot sinks into the snow, sometimes up to your knee or waist) along the way.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful, walking through some greener areas, occasionally seeing signs of recent avalanche damage.

We decided to push on to get as close as possible to Glen Pass, which will be our assignment for tomorrow morning. This will be a regular theme over the next few days as we have one major pass (mostly snow covered) to climb and cross every day first thing in the morning when the snow is crunchy before getting as close as we can to the next pass by the afternoon to make our job as easy as possible for the following day.

We ended the day in an unexpected snow field, complete with temporary lake from snow melt. It was a bit of a winter wonderland and was a nice surprise.

Day 61 & 62 – Mission impossible

Friday 28 June 2019
Day: 61
Location: Whitney Creek / Crabtree campground (mile 766.3)
Distance travelled: 5.8 miles (+ 1.5 miles on Whitney Trail)

We had another lazy morning today while I’m still acclimatising to the altitude, but it was undoubtedly a better night’s sleep for me compared to my first night on trail. The water levels in nearby Rock Creek didn’t appear to have dropped much overnight, so we stuck with the original plan of crossing directly opposite the campground rather than mucking around trying to find an alternate crossing point. In any case, the depth or speed of the water did not look overly dangerous from the banks.

We broke camp at about 8:30am and dipped our toes in the icy creek. It turned out to be a bit deeper than expected, coming up above our knees and wetting the bottom of my shorts. It was a fairly straightforward crossing through, with no real issues.

Once on the other side of the creek, the trail began to climb. First steeply, before a more gentle slope later on. After getting down half a breakfast serving of granola, the first part of the climb came and went without too much difficulty for me. The second climb felt like more of a struggle though as my energy levels started to drop.

Upon reaching the top of the second climb, we took a break and watched a cheeky Chipmunk come over to check us out. Not long after finishing our break we ran into Leigh’s friend, Ruben, who was doubling back to Lone Pine after changing his hiking plans.

We were presented with yet more stunning mountain views for the rest of the day.

We had been looking for a spot to practice our ice axe skills but didn’t find any good snow covered slopes until late in the day when Leigh decided to have a go on one spot that we walked passed. Unfortunately the snow was soft by then and not overly conducive to sliding.

After another shin deep creek crossing, we had our first run in with mosquitoes on our way to the Mt Whitney tent site for PCT’ers. With this year being a high snow year though and the melt underway, the worst is definitely still yet to come as the mosquitoes breed in every bit of stagnant water they can find.

On our way through to our planned campsite for the day, we stopped off at the Crabtree Ranger Station to chat through current Mt Whitney conditions with one of the rangers. We then crossed our last creek of the day before attempting to dry out our wet gear ahead of the planned 2am start tomorrow morning to give us enough time to attempt to summit Mt Whitney before sunrise when the snow conditions get sketchy for your descent.

There are probably 30+ people in the campground tonight who are attempting to summit Mt Whitney tomorrow. Everyone is in bed by about 6pm as they try to get some sleep before the early start tomorrow morning.

Let’s see how this altitude sickness thing goes…

Saturday 29 June 2019
Day: 62
Location: PCT/Mt Whitney trail junction (mile 766.3)
Distance travelled: 0 miles (+ 1.5 miles on Whitney Trail)

Our alarm woke us up at 1:30am. The plan for summiting Mt Whitney was to cross the snowy sections of trail before the sun starts to melt and soften the snow. Thankfully, as we would be returning to the campground afterwards our summit attempt, we were able to lighten our packs and leave the excess items behind in our tent.

I didn’t sleep so well. Not sure whether it was the altitude or stressing about how things would go on Mt Whitney but I probably only got 2 hours sleep in total. I also couldn’t force myself to eat anything when we woke up, which was not ideal as I really needed every bit of energy I could muster for the summit attempt.

We headed off into the darkness at 2am, following the beam of light from our head torches. It was an eerie feeling not being able to see anything around you other than a small circle of light.

We made good progress during the first hour on dry trail and had reached the first patches of snow in what seemed like no time. The existing foot tracks were often hard to find in the snow though, so we spent a lot of time checking back to the GPS to make sure we were on track.

As we started to climb, our paced slowed as the increasing altitude kicked my butt again. Even the smallest climb would leave me completely out of breath. I didn’t feel great and started to think that it was not going to be possible for me to get to the summit today. The large sun cups in the snow also made the surface hard to walk on as you had to be careful with your foot placement to avoid falling face first into the hard snow.

As the sun started to rise, I reluctantly made the call that I didn’t feel up to the more challenging section of the climb so we turned around and headed for home instead.

Once we turned around, the early daylight views ahead of us were stunning and we couldn’t believe that we had walked past all of this beauty in the dark.

Further along the trail, we saw the sheer power of snow, which appeared to have recently destroyed and knocked down every tree in its path, probably via avalanche.

Once we got back to the campsite it was stinking hot and our tent was no longer in the shade, but we were tired so we tried to grab a quick nap. We decided to take it easy for the rest of the day and give me one more day to acclimatise, as we were due to go over the highest point on the PCT, Forester Pass (4,009m), in two day’s time. This would be the crux for me because if I wasn’t up to that climb with my altitude sickness, our only option would be to backtrack all the way to Lone Pine and skip the rest of the Sierra mountains.

We headed back to the PCT trail junction in search of shade and some space from other hikers and set up camp opposite a picturesque stream, complete with possible bear claw marks on a nearby tree. It was a chilled afternoon but the mosquitoes started to come out in force once it cooled down in the early evening.

Day 59 & 60 – A shock to the system

Wednesday 26 June 2019
Day: 59
Location: Chicken Spring Lake via Trail Pass (mile 750.8)
Distance travelled: 5.5 miles (+1.5 miles off-trail to reach the PCT)

For what would be our last day in town for over a week, we had a fairly relaxed morning, heading to the local McDonalds in Lone for a light breakfast, which ended up being surprisingly more expensive than at home (USD$20 for both of us).

Some hotcakes with your butter?

The rest of the morning was spent putting the final touches on the packing of our bags and figuring out the best way to attach our bear canisters and ice axes to our packs. Both of our packs ended up being a touch under 20kgs each, including 8 days of food and 2L of water. This should be the heaviest our packs will be for the entire trail, so I picked a good place to start my journey! No such thing as an easy introduction to the trail 😁.

Once we were ready, we checked out of the hotel around 11am and headed up the road to find a spot to hitch from. We were still over 20 miles and 7,000ft of elevation gain away from the side trail that would take us back to the PCT and didn’t particularly want to walk all that way.

Sierra mountains ready…

The road we had planned to hitch from looked very quiet, so we tried the highway instead. After the best part of an hour without any luck, we gave up on the highway and headed back to our original location. Within about 20 minutes we had a ride in the back of a ute, which was going to take us about halfway to our final destination.

We jumped into the back of the ute and held on to our hats as we wove our way up the hill towards the stunning mountains. We jumped out once we reached the drop off point and waited for another ride to take us all the way up to the campground at the top of the hill.

Here we go…

20190626_1236138377360186583474283.jpg

Waiting for a ride

After waiting in the scorching sun for another half hour or so, we were picked up by a family on their way to the same campground we were headed. After stopping to reorganise their car just to fit us in the back, we were off. The views back down into the valley were amazing as we started to climb. Unfortunately, I forgot to take photos during the drive!

Getting ready to hike

Those bears are crafty…

Before too long, we reached the campground and headed off along a connecting trail back to the PCT. We didn’t have far too walk today but the altitude really kicked my butt. We started at about 10,000ft and climbed up to 11,000ft over the course of the next few hours, and boy did I notice it after spending the last day in Lone Pine at about 3,000ft elevation.

Drinks break

The trail was absolutely stunning but I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it in the moment. To begin with, I was out of breath slightly during the climbs and was finding the intermittent snow walking quite hard going as you had to really concentrate on every step or risk slipping over.

Learning how to walk on snow

The hazards of strapping a bear canister to the outside of your pack…

I eventually ended up with a banging headache, and was unsure whether it was due to the altitude, dehydration or my heavy pack with the bear canister strapped to the top. We had a break at around 6pm and I forced myself to eat light something for dinner but my appetite had completely deserted me. I felt shot after only about 5 miles of walking in total.We walked for another hour after dinner, reaching a nice camp site near a lake just as the sun was setting and the temperature dropping.By the time I went to bed, I felt sick in the stomach and was unable to sleep for most of the night during to combination of nausea and a headache. It wasn’t a fun night for me. Leigh tells me I didn’t even manage to get into my sleeping quilt properly, I was so out of it.Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day for me. Leigh’s been awesome looking after me, but I am a bit concerned that my struggles are going to negatively impact Leigh’s ability to finish the trail if I’m going to be really slow over these first few weeks of high altitude hiking through the Sierras.

Our first campsite, near Chicken Spring Lake

Thursday 27 June 2019
Day: 60
Location: Rock Creek campground (mile 760.5)
Distance travelled: 9.7 milesA long night turned into a late start as we set off for my first full day on the trail after 8:30am.After my shocker yesterday, we decided to scale back our ambitious plans for the next 8 days into Bishop – instead of doing a 16 mile day as originally planned, we would only do an 8 mile day to give me a better chance of acclimatising ahead of our summit attempt of Mt Whitney (4,421m), the highest mountain in mainland US, the following day.Thankfully today the trail was mostly downhill, with a lot more snow-free sections than yesterday. After again struggling to eat anything in the morning, I took a short nap before lunch time on a rock during a drinks break and tried one of Leigh’s Gatorade satchels. I felt an immediate boost in my energy levels, which was a nice feeling.

That sign is not supposed to be buried in snow at this time of year!

A temporary lake formed by snow melt where we stopped for some lunch

What the trail is supposed to look like when it is not covered in snow

After the break, we made decent time through the stunning alpine landscape, reaching Rock Creek by 3:30pm, which was supposed to be our first significant creek crossing.

To cross, or not to cross?

It was definitely on the early side to set up camp, but I felt like I shouldn’t push myself too hard after my day yesterday. We decided to settle for an early finish and take advantage of the large metal bear vaults at this campsite for storing our food overnight. We’d tackle the freezing creek crossing in the morning. As an added bonus, we’re hoping that the river levels drop a bit overnight, as is normally the case when they are fed by snow melt as the river levels would generally be lowest first thing in the morning before the sunrises and highest late in the afternoon.