Crossed the snow free Kearsarge pass and went down to the Onion valley trailhead where we got a ride to Independence to pick up a resupply and then to Lone Pine to stay a night at the Dow Villa hotel. The marmots were hoping for some food, but we regretfully had to inform them that we were out. Tomorrow we will head back up over Kearsarge with 10 lbs more food. Our plan is to go 6 days to Muir trail ranch to resupply, then 3 days to Red’s meadows, then 3 days to Tuolumne where we will the catch a bus to mammoth for a much needed day or two of rest. Mammoth is likely to be or next cell service in two weeks.
We started the descent off Forester a little before 8am. The snow was softening up, but we didn’t have to posthole. Maybe a mile or two of snow before we dropped below it. We expected the sun to be intense because of all the snow, but it still amazed us how hot it was… like an oven despite being at 13k feet at 8am. Covered everything with sunscreen or clothing except our fingertips, which apparently can get sunburned. We descended the valley and popped up into Kearsarge basin to camp before exiting over Kearsarge pass for a resupply in Independence, CA. We only did around 14 miles today, but we were very very worked at the end of the day… The Sierras are beautiful, but they do come with a price. In any case, glad to have Forester pass in the bag; the rest of the major passes are about 1k ft lower.
We started hiking at 4:45 am to make a early crossing of Forester pass and the walk up was awesome. Ben was a little worried about having issues with the altitude, but it turned out to not be a problem. We got stuck behind a slow moving group for a little bit but we snuck by them by avoiding a snowfield that they were hiking across. We managed to skip a pile of annoying switchbacks by going up a snowslope on microspikes. The last little bit had an icy chute with a nasty fall, but our microspikes made it a non-issue. We couldn’t imagine doing it without any extra traction on our feet. Saw a pika at the top cheering us on (or maybe telling us to feed him).
Today we forded a half dozen creeks that were knee high – annoying to get wet shoes, but no big deal in the end. We passed by the Mt Whitney side trail (many hikers do that, but we did it 2 years ago and have little interest). We went over the Bighorn plateau which is probably our favorite spot/best views in all of the Sierras. The we camped a few miles shy of Forester pass, which is 13k ft and is the highest point on the PCT. We have some info that the pass is clear on the south side and snowy but easily navigable on the north side.
Passed horseshoe meadows, crossed cottonwood pass, crossed into Sequoia NP, camped in a nice green meadow with surprisingly few skeeters.
Another day at 10k ft. Skeeters were out, but not so bad.
We officially entered the Sierra Nevada and it is obvious. The signs say it. The Kern River was flowing. We are at a higher elevation. The marmots are watching. And the land is rocky.
We picked up a resupply at the general store which is a place many hikers congregate to party before the Sierras. We heard many reports of a stomach bug that seems to originate from there (probably due to generally poor hygiene in a group of 100 hikers) so we elected to stay at a nearby campground to take a day off. As of the time we are writing this we have heard many reports of people getting sick about 4-5 days after staying at the general store and are happy to have (hopefully) avoided it.
The 3 days to Kennedy meadows were pretty taxing. About 50 miles in 2.5 days seemed reasonable, but there was a surprising amount of up and down. In any case, this section was pleasant enough with reasonably frequent water and it felt less crowded.
We are now in Weldon at the KOA after picking up our resupply from the post office. About 3 days and 50 miles from ascending into the high Sierra via Kennedy meadows. We are really looking forward to having a new set of challenges (no more big water carries, but plenty of snow and rivers to deal with… and maybe bugs too?). No more cell service until we resupply in Independence via Kearsarge pass in a week or two.