20 May 2021
Middle Fork Kings River to Bishop Pass Trailhead
PCT Mile 833.5 to 831.0
I heard Ground Score and Berk leave before dawn this morning. They are eager to beat the sun and its menacing ability to turn a snowy sidewalk into a slushy morass. I wish them well.
I too was up early, ready to leave shortly after first light. The others were still sleeping. Good luck guys!
I didn’t know how I would feel today. But now I do.
I feel light as a feather.
It’s like the Eagles are lifting me off the slopes of Mount Doom.
(Okay, I promise no more Lord of the Rings references….)
I made easy work of the 3 downhill PCT miles I had to backtrack to get to the Bishop Pass Trail.
It was COLD on the way down, definitely below 32. I kept my water filter in my pocket to keep it from freezing. And the weather forecast called for temperatures to drop slightly during the day.
But all that was actually good news once I started the 3300 foot climb out of LeConte Canyon. I followed Dusy Branch up relentless switchbacks with gusto and hardly a drop of sweat.
Both the view down to LeConte Canyon and the lakes and meadows of Dusy Basin were just as stunning as always. I took a brief break out of the wind at the first lake where we swam last summer and then pressed on.
It was so cold, the ground itself heaved with frost and trail streams became ice chutes.
Snow fields and complex terrain made it difficult to follow the trail, so I just walked up the crunchy white ravines. I didn’t even need my spikes — the snow gave just enough to let my Altras grip perfectly.
I was a little worried about the descent from Bishop Pass. Some PCT hikers who came through here and passed us yesterday called it “sketchy.” I guessed that the switchbacks still had some steep snowfields blocking some of the turns. So I avoided them and headed over to a glacial moraine to the east of them, which was covered in a moderate-angle snow chute. I donned my microspikes and started down.
The snow got too steep for me. I was using my broken trekking pole as a poor man’s ice axe, but it wasn’t enough. I decided I descended too far to the west, so I climbed back up and rock scrambled over to the next ravine to the east. It was much better! I had a 20 foot section I did VERY carefully, and then after that it was smooth sailing.
I worried that the snow would run out and I would be stuck in monster-boulder hell. But fortuitously, the snow ran out right at the bottom of the switchbacks. Perfect!
The rest of the day was a waltz past all the beautiful lakes of this stunning valley.
I took a final break just past Long Lake, where I saw my very first day hiker. It’s good news I finally saw someone because I need a hitch to town!
I waited for about half an hour and then some nice people from Carlsbad who came to see the lake drove me to Bishop.
I’m back in the Hostel California for one more night, and then public transport home tomorrow!
It’s funny, I always imagined that I would be sad if I didn’t make it to Canada. But I’ve never been happier. I think I finally let go of the judgement I thought I would feel from others (and myself!) and instead I embraced fully the meaning of “hike your own hike.”
As I write this tears are streaming down my cheeks. What a wonderful life I have had the accident of living. And now I get to go home and see my friends, my wonderful parents, my beautiful sons, and my lovely wife.
Journey’s End: Just the Beginning
We hike our own hike
Sometimes in fear of ourselves
And then we let go