After having had a pretty chilly night we woke up to frozen shoes – definitely not nice. But the sun was slowly coming up which was important because the first thing we had to do after packing up was to cross a freezing cold knee-deep river. Twice.
We walked up along the Tyndall creek to where it branched out to three streams. We managed to cross the first one on a sort of snowbridge but had to do the second one in Crocs. Luckily this was the biggest river we’d have to cross that day.
The next many hours were spending on trying to stay on course (not necessarily on trail) for the Forester Pass – the highest point on the PCT with its 4000 meters. We crossed kilometers of snowfields but because it was a crispy morning the snow held well. All around us were huge mountains and some ice-covered lakes, all concentrated around this vast valley. Finally we were at the base of the steep vlimb and already could see the dangerous top part where we’d need to traverse the hillside with crampons & ice axe.
As the switchbacks going up were still all snowcovered and hardly visible we chose to just boulderhop straight up until the rocky upper part where we could see the trail again. Once we reached the snowy top we put on our winter gear and continued, reaching the pass at around 11. To our surprise the pass was quiet and warm, so we decided to have a little snack there before continuing.
On the other side of the pass we could really see what lie ahead – endless snow, huge valleys, many rivers & lakes and massive mountains. Our way down led over a steep hillside onto a ridge and then down into the valley, where we’d keep descending for hours over the snow in order to reach the treeline, hoping to find a snow-free tentsite.
Because it was now warmer the snow was melting and we postholed quite a lot, especially when getting down the ridge onto the snowfields of the valley. On our way down we looked behind and also saw Amanita, Spacejam, Yoga Bae and Young Buck coming over the top of the pass. Our shoes got soaked and legs very exhausted – we ourselves were hungry and annoyed. It felt like it took forever to get to the treeline – it must have been about 4-5 hours.
In the forest, however, it was not easier – big snowpatches with soft snow, less sun due to the canopy, melting water and streams everywhere. I stepped into these streams many a time but as all was wet anyway I reckon it didn’t matter much, it was just colder for some time. After what felt like an eternity of routefinding, postholing and wetness we FINALLY reached the campsite Kristians had in mind. We thought the four other hikers would catch up with us aswell but as they had started from further away that morning they stopped somewhere before the trees, as we found out later.
We set up camp and made a nice fire. We used our trekking poles, a long fallen branch and some paracord to build a drying rack for our socks and gloves. We dried our shoes on the rocks around the fire – of course we also managed to burn a small hole into the sole of Kristians’s shoe but it didn’t matter much as we’d both get new shoes in Bishop.
So we had our dinner and sat by the warm fire for some time before going to sleep. As we camped at a much lower altitude as the night before I was looking forward to a night of warm sleep.
We had about 3 kilometers of mostly uphill to the junction of the Kearsarge Pass trail that would lead us off the trail and into the Onion Valley, where we were hoping to catch a ride to Independence and then later on to Bishop.
The hike up to the junction was fairly okay – we managed to cross the rivers on rocks and logs (one of them was pretty sketchy, though). When we reached the small plateau on top of the climb we also reached the snowline – the whole place was covered in a big snowfield so there was no way around. We put on our long pants and gaiters and mentally prepared ourselves for another day of postholing and wetness.
We found the sidetrail and now we had about 14 kilometers ahead – the first part led us over large snowpatches onto more clear sections of the path, over billions of streams and rocks, ascending all the way to the mountain pass. As we neared the pass it got very very windy but as we crested the ridge it became more bearable. We now had a long descent ahead and as large parts of the trail were also snowcovered here we followed previous hikers’ steps, which went straight down over the scree rather than following the switchbacks.
Once we reached the treeline it was the same as yesterday – water flowing everywhere, hip-deep snowpatches to posthole through, chasing the trail and trying to go around obstacles. We could start to see the desert in the back and realized how high we actually were and how much more there was to descend. So we continued our slow progress, passing lakes and waterfalls and after many hours finally making it down to the parking lot of the campground.
We were now still more than 20km away from Independence but we had hope – there were two cars parked at the campground so there was a chance that they were dayhikers that could pick us up on their way home. As it was Friday, however, it could also be that they went to camp in the wilderness for the weekend. So we started our way down the asphalt road and after about 30 minutes saw another car driving uphill to the campground – this increased our chances of getting a ride even more as it was likely they’d come back down later on. As it turned out they did – but full of hikers who had reached the parking lot just after us and waited there for the cars. They laughed at us through the open car windows – what a mean thing to do! We were so angry.
We just kept walking and as we had on and off phone signal tried to see if there was any chance of getting s lift in other ways – uber, lyft, trail angels, hiker shuttles or hostels. Nothing worked. We walked down that asphalt for maybe six miles and saw other cars going up but not picking us up when coming down so we pretty much accepted the fact that we’d need to walk all the way.
But finally a nice couple stopped and took us on board – initially thry said they can only drop us off at the next campground as that was where they were staying but they ended up taking us all the way to Independence. We were soooo grateful! My shin had also been killing me from that roadwalk so I was looking forward to some sitting.
As we reached Independence and got to the main road, Kristians threw up his thumb and to our surprise the very first car stopped! It was Jamie who picked us up – she was luckily heading all the way to Bishop. We found out that she also works in Lake Tahoe and so as the trail passes through there later on we got her number to call her when we get there. She is apparently a trail angel there and so our luck had turned – the trail provides, as they say. It was so great to meet Jamie and I hope to meet her again at Tahoe.
Exhausted but happy we finally reached the small town of Bishop (4000 residents). It was already around 18 in the evening so after saying goodbye to Jamie we walked to the only hostel in town – The Hostel California. Here we met about 10 fellow hikers (including our good pal Amanita) and after settling in and getting showers we went to get dinner together with another vegan hiker (trail name SuperVegan).
At the restaurant we could already see that this town was full of hikers and climbers. At the hostel we saw signed & framed photos by Alex Megos and Daniel Woods. As our plan was to go climbing too in the following days I made a Facebook post in thd Bishop Meetup group about looking for climbing partners. A local named David agreed to take us climbing on Sunday and another hiker, Gandalf from Israel, who was stuck here waiting for his package, decided to join us aswell. We decided to stay in Bishop until Tuesday as there was also some weird weather and possible new snow rolling in.