170908 – Pinchot (12139 ft) and Mather (12096 ft) Passes

Day:  138
Date:  Friday, 08 September 2017
Start:  Camped by the trail at Mile 802.6, 9793 ft
Finish:  Camped by the trail at Mile 818.8, 10981 ft
Daily Miles:  16.2 PCT
Total PCT Miles:  2139.5
Weather:  Sunny in the morning, then overcast with a few late showers.
Accommodation:  Tent
     Breakfast:  Muesli
     Lunch:  Gorp
     Dinner:  Rehydrated macaroni cheese.
Aches:  Right front forefoot still sore, while left seems better with donut bandage.
Highlight:  Superb alpine scenery all day, but especially spectacular from the two passes, which were way above the treeline on bare rocky mountains with a few snow patches.
Lowlight:  Some kind of gastro trouble made the day difficult.  Believe it or not, it’s not always easy to find somewhere private off the trail when you are largely above the treeline.
Pictures:  Click here

Position:  Click here.
Map:  Click here for Google Map

I slept pretty well for 11 hours, but could have slept longer.  However, I needed to get going so got up soon after 5:00am, and was hiking by 6:20am on a reasonably mild and clear morning.  I still didn’t feel 100%, and the mild headache was persisting, added to which I seem to have some kind of stomach upset.  Nevertheless, I knew I had to cover some distance today, including the climb over two high passes, Pinchot and Mather.

Pinchot was 2000 ft higher than my campsite, so the day started with a steady climb, out of the forest and onto rocky slopes.  The trail was rocky and technical a lot of the time, and was energy sapping, which gave me a good excuse to stop and admire the view quite frequently.  It was fantastic looking back down the valley out of which I had climbed, overlooked by a jagged skyline of towering rocky mountains.  I reached the pass around 9:30am, which was populated with a number of hikers enjoying the sun and views.  This section of the PCT is also part of the famous John Muir Trail (JMT) and I see many hikers doing the JMT each day, a lot of them my vintage.

From the pass, the trail descended to pass a series of beautiful still lakes and follow a creek downstream, occasionally in forest, until it met the South Fork of the Kings River, which it then followed upstream.  All day, there were challenging creek crossings and I was frequently glad of my ankle high Goretex boots.  Further up the river the trail emerged from the treeline as it approached Mather Pass.  The walking was gradual along a nice path until the base of the final climb to the pass was reached, and then it was a steep and technical slog upwards.  By this time it was nearing 5:00pm and the weather had become quite cool.  I didn’t linger at the pass and began the slow rocky descent, telling myself I would stop at the first campsite I found after 6:00pm.  At 6:10pm, as the trail met the first trees, I found a spot and set up camp, though I had only just got the tent up when an icy squall with hail blew through.  I jumped into my tent along with all of my gear and waited it out.  Too cold for a wash tonight, so I’m feeling a little grimy in my sleeping bag. 

Apart from the stomach upset, I started to feel a bit better in midafternoon, so am hopeful I will find the hiking easier ahead.  I am now well behind my schedule, and will have to ration my food but that shouldn’t be a problem. 

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