5/26 – Day 49 – Losing Mather Pass

I got up about 5 am, I saw Whitney hike by about 6 am. I got on the trail 6:20 am myself. After crossing the river, I started up to Mather Pass, another 12,000 footer. After 2.5 miles the trail disappeared under the snow and I lost Whitney’s tracks. I consulted the map, and headed up to the pass in all snow. When I reached the pass, the other side was extremely steep, and I could not find the trail down.

I went for it, without a trail, down cliffs and steep, steep, rocks. In retrospect, I cannot stress enough how stupid and idiotic I was to attempt this. It was a seriously life-threatening decision. I was vertical climbing with 40 pounds on my back. I started several large rock slides.  I constantly looked for the trail, but never saw one. It took a couple hours of death defying climbing to reach the bottom. I then pulled out my map and figured I did not go over Mather Pass after all, but an unnamed pass to the west. I was in the high valley of Amphitheatre Lake. I noticed on the map that the river draining the lake led back to the PCT. So I hiked on down, hoping there was a way. It was hard going and finally about halfway down I started finding little use trails, and I knew I could make it down to the PCT. At the bottom I had to cross the river which I did wearing my boots, as it was the only safe way. Then I had to hike up a bit to find the PCT. After finding the trail, I hiked a little ways down it to where I had seen a river coming down the other side and threw off my pack as I was wiped. After resting and eating I moved on down.  When the trail met the Middle Fork of the Kings River it started up. I reached the La Conte Ranger Station, uninhabited, and camped.  

I am humbled by the massive and intimidating Sierra Nevadas.  Tomorrow is Muir Pass and I am going to bail from attempting that. I heard it is still very dangerous, and there is even a hand-written sign saying don’t do it. I am at the junction of Bishop Pass so I am going to head out of the Sierra to Bishop tomorrow. This is also a high pass but supposedly not as dangerous. I have made too many bad decisions, I could blame it on the 12,000 and 13,300 ft altitude, but I just need to face that I have my limits. I will catch a ride to Mammoth and skip the 70 miles of the PCT that is still too snow covered. Life is good.  It’s too stupid to risk my life for this trip. I hope to continue on from Mammoth.  I have hiked 20 of those 70 miles I will be missing on previous backpacking trips. I have camped next to the uninhabited Ranger Station, pleasantly joined most of the time by a heard of deer that came within 8 to 10 feet of me. The deer looked thin and their fur matted, as if they had a long hard winter. The largest and healthiest looking of all the deer (all females and juveniles), was the friendliest. She was the leader, and I could almost pet her. I have seen this before, deep in Yosemite.  I believe these deer never leave the National Park, and never have seen hunters, and therefore have little fear of humans. I am super skinny again, pretty sick looking. I ate two dinners tonight.