JMT/PCT Junction(767) to Vidette Meadow Tentsite(787) 20 Miles plus 1.2 back to the PCT from Whitney
What another fantastic day! We definitely had the true Sierra Nevada experience today. We postholed, glissaded, used our ice axes and microspikes, and had scary mountaineer type terrain. It was awesome. We actually stuck to our plan of getting up early and making it to Forester Pass before conditions became dangerous. The hike to Forester was amazing. It was difficult to make miles because we kept stopping to take pictures. We had a few stream crossings to deal with, but they were not too bad. We had to take off our socks and shoes to make it across, but they were perfectly safe crossings.
To be perfectly honest we weren't even sure we were going to hike over Forester Pass today. We had two plans leaving camp. Plan one was to hike up and over Forester and camp at the first place we could find. Plan two was to camp at the base of the pass. We were all pretty worn out from climbing Whitney yesterday and we weren't sure we could do another high elevation climb so soon. Surprisingly we felt great and once we got close to Forester there was no doubt that we would proceed.
Shortly after this picture was taken we walked over a very thin sheet of ice. We were probably walking on less than an inch of ice/snow. About ten feet away from us there was flowing water. We all made it safely across, but it was a scary moment. The climb up to the pass was less than a mile, but was over 1,000 feet of elevation. I really enjoyed it! I like working hard for my beautiful views.
We made it to the top of the pass in under twenty minutes. Our last obstacle before reaching the top was the infamous ice chute. This is the main reason hikers carry an ice axe and microspikes. This is also the main reason we took our time in the desert. We wanted to wait for most of the snow to melt. Forester Pass is the highest point in the Pacific Crest Trail. It is at 13,200 feet. This makes the ice chute a very risky proposition. If you were to slip on the ice it is a very long way to fall.
Outro was the first to go across. She made it look very easy. I was more than a little nervous. I put on my microspikes, but there wasn't enough snow to bother with my ice axe. I tentatively made my way across. It was an epic moment, definitely one of the most bad ass things I have ever done while backpacking.
We all made it across safely and our adrenaline was really flowing.
I am really glad that I bought microspikes. They are absolutely amazing. I felt 100% confident walking across this snowy slope. It was very slow going and we kept post holing(breaking through the snow). Every step felt like a jack in the box, you never knew when your foot would break through the snow and you would sink in up to the upper thigh. It was very tiring. Eventually I had enough and glissaded down a few hundred feet.
We crossed a few more snow fields and made it safely across to a ridge. We were absolutely floored by the stunning view. Kings Canyon is absolutely amazing. We stayed on top of the ridge for over an hour. We each took a million pictures from every angle possible.
How lucky are we?
Another group of hikers caught up to us and told us about some trail magic located seven miles away. We had planned on stopping and camping in four miles, but just the idea of trail magic spurred us on. We had one more sketchy snow field to go through. Instead of post holing our way through it we took the easy way and glissaded down.
Seven miles to go until trail magic sounded pretty easy, but in reality it was not. First of all it was seven miles of downhill. Second of all we had just climbed up to the highest point in the PCT and yesterday we climbed up and down the tallest mountain in the lower 48. I was TIRED! The thought of pasta and whiskey(the rumored trail magic) kept bouncing around in my brain. Also the spectacular scenery kept me relatively energized.
Eventually we made it to the promised land. Upon entering Vidette Meadow we were greeted by a gentleman wearing a Canadian Mounties uniform. I never got the reason he was dressed in such a manor, but he gave me Jameson, so I didn't really care.
To provide such a wonderful spread in the middle of Kings Canyon NP, these trail angels hired pack mules to bring in the supplies. I almost cried. I didn't make it in time for the pasta dinner, but they made me quesadillas and pumped me full of oreos. As the sun was setting over Vidette mountain two of the gentleman played a mournful duet on a guitar and flute. It was a magical moment to end a magical day.
"Oh, these vast, calm, measureless mountain days, inciting at once to work and rest! Days in whose light everything seems equally divine, opening a thousand windows to show us God. Nevermore, however weary, should one faint by the way who gains the blessings of one mountain day; whatever his fate, long life, short life, stormy or calm, he is rich forever."
- John Muir