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2007-06-08 Climbing the Southern Sierra

June 8th, 2007

After a cold night we packed up as quickly as we could with cold fingers and set out to find some direct sunlight to warm Craig up. About half and hour along we crossed the edge of Gomez Meadow on a boardwalk. These meadows are really delightful with their bright green long grass and huge grey granite boulders. If we had moved a little faster the day before we could have slept in a really beautiful location.

A short distance on we came across Recline, appropriately lying on a boulder taking a leisurely breakfast. He was camped beside what the guidebook called an all-season water source, but the water was green and lumpy with an ugly oil sheen. Craig walked up stream a way and found flowing water that was quite acceptable.

From that point on it was ever upwards. I struggled with the thin air at 10,000 ft plus and with a general lack of fitness. We kept heading for a horizon that always seemed just ahead, but then transferred to a more distant point just as we were about to reach the top. Craig was worried that we would be forced to camp well short of our intended destination of Trail Pass because of my slow pace. We climbed 1,500 feet and emerged at last onto a small mountain saddle that looked through a gap down the steep eastern side of the range to Owens Lake and the desert beyond. We had lunch there and aired our sleeping bags in the sun. Pathfinder came past, asking about water in a distracted tone that suggested he hadn’t had nearly enough for a while. There was good water a little off the trail a mile and a half further on, indicated by a note left under a small pile of rocks by Yogi.

PCT sign

Looking north into the High Sierra peaks ahead

From there there was another 1,000 ft descent. Craig went ahead with the intention of getting water at the bottom of the hill and starting dinner while I plodded down. Pathfinder seemed to pick up when he had some water and we discussed New Zealand politics, the economy, taxation and other important matters across the level section and start of the descent. This helped take my mind off my sore feet. When I stopped to get my drink bottle out he kept moving and very soon left me behind. I was only 25 minutes behind Craig when I reached the side path to the Diaz water source. He let me lie on my back with my feet up a tree (highly recommended by others) while he boiled water for dinner. Couscous with herbs and tuna for me. Then it was up again to see how much of the 1,000 ft climb we could cover before dark. We were overtaken by Thirsty Boots and Deacon, two hikers rather closer to my age than Craig’s. We got to a high ridge at about 8 pm and decided it was likely to be the nicest place we would find before dark. It is actually very hard to find level places to camp along the trail. In New Zealand bush the terrain is so broken up by the thick vegetation that you can generally find a level or hollow spot to lie in wherever you are but these american mountains are rock hard and slope steeply above and below the trail so there is often nowhere to lie comfortably. Hikers even have to camp on the trail ledge itself.

Craig choose the wide ridge top because it was nearly level, and because there was a good chance of getting early morning sun to warm his fingers when we packed up in the morning

Craig carried my tent all day today, in addition to his own. For those who may think that this was taking unfair advantage I will point out that I have carried Craig many miles through parts of Asia when he weighed quite a bit more than my lightweight tent. I can even produce evidence that I sometimes carried him in the exact same pack I used today on the PCT.

More photos of this day’s journey can be found at Kennedy Meadows to Crabtree Meadows

Distance today: 18.3 miles. Total distance: 727.4 miles

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