Day 61 – 6/21/16
1001.29 to just north of Sonora Pass 1017.79
Total miles: 16.5
Last night I was held hostage by mosquitoes. One of my tent guy lines unhooked from a tent stake and so the tent was drooping on my head. Except there were about 30 blood suckers just sitting on my netting. I kept hitting the netting to shoo them away but the bastards just kept coming back. I was hoping they would go to sleep once it got dark and cooled off but they wouldnt. Eventually I gave up and quickly got out and fixed my tent. By the time I got back in my tent about 5 of them got inside. I spent the next few minutes smashing them. I need a pet bat to sit on my shoulder so he can get fat from these stupid bugs.
At 5 I woke up and decided I should go dig a hole so I can go in peace. I took 5 steps out of my tent and they were swarming. Since I’m such a smart guy I brought my bug spray. Except they would just swarm the small areas that didn’t get covered in spray. I’ve been told it will only get worse the more north I go. I may go crazy.
The first couple miles were fairly easy. The trail was mostly flat. Eventually it went up to around 10,500 and would stay around that elevation for a little over 6 miles. The climb was gradual until about 9,700. Then the snow covered the trail. We saw the trail up above us and had to go straight up snow and loose rock. After climbing to about 10,100 we noticed the way the trail way off in the distance that horseshoed around the mountain. We completely skipped that by going straight up.
We then proceeded to traverse across the steep sloping snow that covered the trail. All it would take is one wrong step or for the snow to give way and I would slide hundreds of feet down. Possibly into rocks and boulders. Every step is careful and deliberate. Always have three points of contact and making sure my trekking poles are securely into the snow.
Looking back the way I just came
It’s slow going, especially at the high altitude, but I made it across the mountain and hit a switchback. About 50 feet from the top the trail disappeared under snow again and we had to go straight up. Imagine stairs made out of soft snow. Now add 30 pounds to your back pulling you backwards, and if you fall down the stairs you fall hundreds of feet. Sounds like a good time, yeah?
I made it to the top without any issues and walked along the crest which was loose rock. We took a short break at the top before continuing on for about 6 miles at this altitude. The trail went up and down about plus or minus 200 feet over the distance.
We jumped from the west side of the crest to the east side. The east side had all the snow. More traversing across the snow. The later the day the more mushy and soft the snow is. The more likely the snow will give. We made our way around several snow traverses and passes over onto the north side of a crest through a small window. We stopped here and took a lunch break.
Right as we stopped a guy was coming up fro..the south. He wore a bandana over his junk. That’s it. No shirt. No pants. Just a bandana. Now I was expecting this today. See today is the first day of summer. The summer solstice. Aka International hike naked day. Hiking over snow in my birthday suit is just asking for sun burns in places I never want a sun burn. I’ll stick with my burning but chafe thanks. Plus, nobody wants to see my pale hairy butt.
Naked man, Dave, of course decided to stop and take a break. Naked Dave is strange. I’m pretty sure he has dropped acid sometime in the last 48 hours. He went on and on about how amazing the full moon was last night. Thankfully, Naked Dave sat somewhat behind where we were sitting and had his pack in front of his bandana covered junk. He also would warn us if he stood up or turned around to pick up his pack. We asked Naked Dave about the snow situation going down and he said it wasn’t bad and only a couple small patches with the one just ahead the worst. Awesome. He asked me to take a picture and then he was off on his way. So long Naked Dave.
We begin making our way down the mountain. The first snow patch Naked Dave said was the worst wasn’t bad at all. Well that sounds great then. Should be easy descent down to the highway at Sonora pass!
What have I said about southbounders, section hikers, and flip floppers? They lie. It progressively got worse. Eventually we came to within a couple miles of the highway. We could see it below. The trail dropped down and horseshoed around a mountain. We followed the foot prints but the snow was very steep. The steepest I’ve ever seen it. It looked like the foot prints got halfway across and then it shallowed out some and there was a glissade chute. Ok. Just need to go 50 feet to this chute otherwise I would slide down where there were rocks and I would die or break something since it was so steep. We carefully start going across. 5 Star in the lead and Mad Dog next. 5 Star is kicking out better foot holds but the snow is mush. We get to a part where the foot prints drop down a few feet and the snow is just a mess of mushy foot prints.
Let me take a minute to talk about my shoes. I’m wearing Altra Lone Peak 2.5s. I loved these shoes in Southern California. If you remember from my Kennedy Meadow post they went 700 miles plus a tough mudder and then some. They still were in good shape. As much as I liked them then I absolutely hate them in the Sierra. They suck on the snow. I’m constantly slipping, sliding, and falling. The tread just isn’t good for snow conditions. The right shoe has a huge hole on the left side. There is only an inch of material holding it together. My foot is literally sliding out of the shoe.
Now back to the traverse. I’m stepping down where the foot prints drop a couple feet. A foothold gives out and I fall to my ass. Shit. I look down and see where there are rocks going down on the left and a big cluster of boulders to the right about 100 feet down. Only 15 feet between the two. I think about how I’m lucky I didn’t slide down the side of this very steep slope of snow. I stand back up and the snow gives way. I start sliding. I start sliding fast. My poles get ripped from my hands. I’m sliding faster and faster. I’m heading straight towards the boulders. I keep trying to dig my feet in and my hands to slow down but the snow isn’t smooth and just bounces my feet and ass around. I bend my knees slightly waiting to hit the boulders and minimize the shock to my sure to be broken legs at minimum.
Somehow I miss the boulders by mere inches and fly past them in that small gap. I continue to slide down for another couple hundred feet until the snow levels out and I come to a slow stop. 5 Star and Mad Dog shout if I’m OK. Dazed, I look back and say I’m fine. I sit for a minute in complete shock. How am I alive I think to myself. How am I not a contorted bloody mess on those rocks or boulders? I don’t have a scratch on me. I stand up and look back the way I just came. I see my poles up there. No way to go get them and no way the other two could get them. I need a pole to set up my tent I think to myself. Crap.
I reach back to get some water. No water bottles. Both fell out. Double crap. 5 Star and Mad Dog make there way to the glissade chute and have a nice leisurely glissade down. Mad Dog let’s me borrow his pole and we start going down the snow again. I’m still in shock. Normally when I slip and fall I cuss up a storm about how tired I am of the snow. I didn’t say a word. We come to another part where there is a steep section. It’s only about 20 feet drop down and there is a small glissade chute. I sit in it and use the borrowed trekking pole to slow myself way down.
We make it to the road and walk down the road some to a parking/day use area. There is a guy with a box truck that will buy or ship your bear can. The company is Sonora Pass Resupply. You can also have a resupply package sent there if you don’t want to carry all your food from Tuolumne to Tahoe. I sell my bear can. I never want to see it again. I can finally arc my pack again. I also have so much more room. It’s also about 3.5 pounds lighter! Oh happy days. We sit around for awhile. I can charge my stuff off his truck so I charge my near dead phone and locator. About 50 yards away on ledge there is service. AT&T of course, stupid Verizon. I should get a discount for their complete lack of service over the past month. I borrow 5 Star’s phone and call my mom. I tell her I I was inches away from death and that I need new poles. I tell her what I need so she can order them for me and bring them or have them shipped to the hotel in Tahoe.
I pack up my stuff and we start to head back to the trail. As we are heading to the trail a guy down by the road asks if one of us lost our poles. I yell back “Yeah!” I walk up and he has both my poles. Holy crap! A girl walks up and asks if I lost my bottles too. I said I did. I told them what happened and that I hate snow and can’t wait to be done with it. I thank them both profusely and head back. How lucky am I? Avoid death by inches and then a hiker returns my poles. I send my mom a message on my locator that my poles have found their way back to me and to cancel the order. Everything went better than expected.
We only went another half mile for the day and my pack felt 100% better. We got to a flat spot off the trail and set up camp. I sat on a log next to Mad Dog’s tent. I was sitting there thinking about the ordeal. I said “I can’t believe I missed those boulders. It’s the most vivid part. Just heading straight towards them. I can’t believe I didn’t hit them and injure myself.” Mad Dog told me he couldn’t either and that he was yelling “Left! Left!” I told him I couldn’t hear a thing. There was no sound. He said it was terrifying watching me slide towards them. I was still partly in shock sitting there.
I’m hoping that’s the last of the major snow. We go back up to 10,500 tomorrow but then it is generally down hill after that. There are still climbs but not above 10k. I’m ready for Tahoe. I’m ready to see my parents. I’m ready to get kicked out of a casino buffet for eating too much.