June 3, 2017
Total miles: 16.1 miles
Start: Death Canyon Creek (mile 730.8)
End: mile 747.0
Total elevation gain/loss: 3389.1/1619.1 ft
I was woken last night at 3:45am to the sound of the group nearby cheering. I guess they were ready to hike. I rolled over and in no time my own 4:30am alarm was going off. Time to get up.
We started the day with a big, waterless climb. The rock formations in this area are intriguing and foreign looking. At every turn there was a new outcropping, making the climb enjoyable. There was surprisingly no snow on the way up, but I guess that’s why it was waterless. I overpacked water and barely touched my bottles until I was near the top. Near the top of the climb, we had a few of the normally dry, but currently wet, Owens Valley.
We’d heard that the snow started at the top of the climb (mile 735). There were a few patches, but nothing major. We did our best to take advantage of snow-free trail to make up yesterday’s miles during the descent.
We passed a couple hikers this morning, including one who is taking Ned Tibbits’ class starting tomorrow. Ned is known for his (expensive) snow courses, including one that goes over Forrester Pass. Maybe we’ll overlap with them? We tried to quiz the guy about their timing, but it sounds like they’ll probably cross Forrester the day after us.
We stopped for lunch just before the first turnoff for Horseshoe Meadows. While we ate and yard-saled our wet tent and sleeping bags we were passed by several familiar faces (Mike, Kimi, the guy I leap frogged with yesterday). It sounds like everyone is planning to exit at Horseshoe Meadows and then return to the trail after resupplying. Given the lack of snow so far, I sort of wish we’d had our microspikes shipped to Kennedy Meadows and the bear can, whippet, and extra food sent to Lone Pine so that it would make sense for us to do the same. That was actually our original plan. But with the heavy snows and the closure of the road to the Horseshoe Meadows campground we’d changed our plans to take care of everything at Kennedy Meadows. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20. We did get someone who was exiting to take our trash though, so we’ll call it a win.
After lunch we passed the first two trail junctions for Horseshoe Meadow. And then the snow began. Since it was mid-afternoon the snow was already getting slushy. We were basically walking alongside a hill, so any misstep or snow giving out meant you’d fall down the hill. Luckily, the fall wouldn’t be too serious since the hill wasn’t large, but it still made for some slow going trail.
We both donned our microspikes and kept our whippet in our downhill hand. In several places we could see where the trail had recently given way for another hiker and tried to exercise caution during those segments. Sometimes it paid off. Sometimes we slid down the hill anyway.
My favorite part of today’s snow segment was just after Michael had passed a section that people had previously slid down. He confidently declared that his footing was “as firm as Macron’s handshake,” referencing the new French President’s recent meeting (and handshake) with President Trump. He then promptly lost his footing and slid down the hill. What a nerd 😉
Since the snow was super soft and the going was slow, we decided to cut our day short. We were surrounded by snow and weren’t sure if going further would deliver dry ground, so instead we found a dry spot around a tree just down from the trail. There’s even water nearby!
It feels weird to be stopping at around 3:30/4:00 pm, but we’re already past our mileage goal for the day and made up yesterday’s lost miles as well. Not too hard since we had so much clear trail today.
Michael: right heel blister (recovering).