We started the morning super lazy, waking up only around 8. Spacejam was just leaving as we woke and we said we’d catch up later. The sky was cloudy but calm and yet we could see some sun covering the peaks we’d be heading towards – that was a good sign. After eating breakfast behind the table for once and drying out the tent a bit we packed up and set off. The plan for the day was to do 1100m of ascent and get over the Island Pass.
The first section was pretty flat, followed the big San Joaquin river up the valley and then crossed the Agnew Meadow. On our way we met two mountaineers heading up to the Ritter Peak – they were confused as to why we would be carrying ice axes and crampons if we were not doing mountaineering. And we met three cyclists/day hikers who claimed that we’re too early to be hiking the PCT.
The trail then took us on multiple switchbacks and up close to the top of the Agnew valley wall and directed us over millions of snowmelt-streams towards the Thousand Island Lake. The sun was shining for a couple of hours in a row, making it a great morning & giving great views. There was no snow until we were a couple of miles fron the lake but in general this approach to the pass was definitely the most spring-like and much more trail was visible than in previous passes.
We had our lunch on a dry patch of grass that we found inbetween all the streams. It was sort of drizzling by then but not too bad. As we got back to hiking, just before reaching the lake, we met two weekend warriors coming back and saying they didn’t reach neither the lake nor the pass due to not having snow gear with them. What surprised us as we went on and got to the lake was that no gear was needed – it was wet and snowy for sure but in no way was it sketchy or steep. I guess they just freaked out or had no previous snow travel experience.
After taking some pictures of the lake (I’m pretty sure there’s maybe only 15 islands, not a thousand!) we continued on, enjoying the relatively snow-clear trail. The pass was very wide, flat and gradual but going downhill on the other side was much snowier. We postholed a lot and crossed some streams but at least it was only a couple of kilometers to the camp we were aiming for. During this postholing section we also caught up with a hiker called KP.
We arrived at the camp only about half an hour after Spacejam and could already smell the campfire from afar, a good sign! To our surprise there was a fifth hiker there too -Stretch. So we managed to fit all our tents on what little area was not covered by snow and as the evening was pretty calm we had ourselves a nice time, dinner by the fire & drying the socks. I of course managed to burn one of the newer socks that I had gotten in Bishop. Great!
Anyway – that was a good day with fairly good weather and we reached the goal for the day. By the way – did I mention that I had gotten a puncture in my matrass and patched it up in Mammoth? Well, it turned out that it’s still leaking from somewhere so I had to blow it up a couple of times during the nights.
This morning we woke up to a bunch of new snow. But we woke up early hoping to get to go over the Donahue Pass with nice and frosty snow conditions. The cover of our tent weighed like 5 kilos with the frozen snow so we had to first melt it in the morning sun and scrape it a bit. That and breakfast done we set off just before 7am.
The ascent to the pass was maybe only 500 meters but over a couple of kilometers. Even with the good snow conditions it felt like forever! The weather was fair, or so we thought, until we turned around snd looked down into the valley – huge dark stormclouds were rolling in. Luckily we got done with the pass rather fast but did spend some time on postholing as we went down. It was already about 10 o’clock and the snow started to melt.
Spacejam had also before the top of the pass caught up with us and passed us but on the downhill we caught him and had a short break. Luckily the trail descended pretty fast so within one and a half hours we were out of the snowline. Multiple switchbacks then took us down to the green wide open valley floor with a large meandering river. We had entered the Yosemite National Park.
From here we had about 15 kilometers (10 miles) to where the trail would intersect the road heading into the Yosemite Valley. Even though the trail was now flat it was not easy – there were billions of streams to cross, lots of mud and slippery rocks. But the weather had become better and better as we moved closer to Toulumne Meadows, there was some wind but it was dying down and it was fully sunny.
We started to see a lot of day or weekend hikers going where we’d come from, asking us about conditions. The reason there were so many people was also the fact that it was the Memorial Day weekend and the Yosemite road had only just opened a couple of days ago.
Somewhere on the way we had our lunchbreak and we dried out our tent once more. On the last section of the day the trail became very well marked and maintained and there were bridges over the rivers! We also met our first ever park ranger – a nice young guy who we talked to for half an hour or more.
After finally hitting the road we hitched a ride and a nice couple from the coast took us down to Lee Vining. But this is where it got tricky: because of my cyst I planned to take the bus or hitch into South Lake Tahoe the next day whereas Kristians would need to resupply and go back on the trail from Tioga Pass. We wanted to spend a nice evening together because it’d be more than a week when we’d get back together so we managed to pretty much get the last room in town at Murphey’s Lodging. After the shopping we had a nice lazy evening and a good night’s rest.