Thursday, December 11, 2014

JMT Hiking Day #16: Forester Pass to Guitar Lake. Aug. 26, 2014

***20 miles with around 2400 feet of total elevation gain (lots of ups and downs!).

Our next to last day!  The girls and I were excited as we began the climb to Forester Pass.  We had camped just a couple of miles down from the Pass itself, so we didn't have far to go.

It was a cool morning, but we had camped so high that the sun hit us quickly -- there were no steep valley walls blocking our light and warmth.  We climbed climbed climbed; it didn't seem difficult.  We were propelled by the excitement of being almost finished.

We reached Forester Pass around 10:15am.  Here are the girls on the pass with a view northward.

Here they are facing the other direction, with the famous sign between them.

Two older fellows arrived ten minutes after we did.  Their trailnames were M&M and Wiley.  One of them took this photo for us (thanks, kind guy!).

 One more photo of the girls...

The Beanie Boos shared our joy.

Photo by Sage Herr

M&M and Wiley were doing a JMT section hike from Whitney to Reds Meadow Resort.  They had a ton of food with them, and they offered us cheese.  We scarfed it down...we hadn't had any cheese since Muir Trail Ranch, so this particular cheese tasted fabulous.

Lisa, the nice woman I spoke to by Charlotte Lake while waiting for our resupply, arrived and the six of us hung about for a long while and chatted.  The day was gorgeous.  While we shot the breeze, a man with a small backpack approached from the south and stopped to take a short break.  His trailname was Handy Andy, and he had started hiking from Whitney Portal at midnight...he was in the process of trying to break the JMT speed record.  It was 10:30 in the morning and this fellow had hiked all the way from Whitney Portal, 31 miles away, in ten and a half hours.  He ate a bit and drank a bit, and then he was on his way.  We wished him well.  After I returned home, I discovered he had indeed broken the unsupported speed record (the new one now stands at 3 days and 10 hours!).

We eventually got a move on.  We didn't have nearly the distance ahead of us that Handy Andy did, but still...if we wanted to make Guitar Lake before nightfall, then we had to hoof it.

Down we went...

Love this sunbathing marmot...

Photo by Alex Herr

Down toward the junction to Lake South America...

I don't have any photos of the forested portions of the day.  We went up and over Bighorn Plateau, and up and over a few bumps in between that and Crabtree Meadow.  The photos below are either of the Plateau, or from one of the other bumps.  Now that I'm home and the hike was three and a half months ago, I no longer remember exactly where the following four photos were taken.

At some point during the day, we took a break and traded our butter toffee almonds for salami.  A kind couple, named Mike and Liz, were anxious to get rid of their excess meat and we were anxious to lose our excess nuts.  It was a wonderful trade.  The girls and I demolished the entire salami in about half an hour.  We hadn't eaten any meat since Muir Trail Ranch.  The meat went straight to our legs and made the rest of our long day easier.

Contrary to what the ranger at Yosemite had insisted, there were indeed wag bags at Crabtree Meadow.  A huge box of them awaits, right next to the trail, as soon as you enter Whitney Zone.

Though we were excited, the last climb up toward Guitar Lake was a killer.  It was late in the day, and I worried about finding a camping spot.  We had only seen a handful of people that day, but I had heard Guitar Lake was always Tent City.  When we arrived, I found the rumor to be true -- there were tents on every sandy spot, tents tucked up into natural walls formed by boulders, and tents on top of the boulders themselves.  Luckily, there were still many, many spots left -- that area can hold quite a few people -- so we made our way to the top of a bunch of boulders and picked a relatively flat and clear surface.  Previous hikers had built a few windbreaks out of smaller rocks up there, so I set up our tent next to one of those windbreaks and secured the guylines with large stones.

Mike and Liz found a spot not far from us...and we were pleased to see Jim and Bryan nearby.  We had miraculously caught up with them.

After setting up camp, we ate, used our wag bags (not as difficult as one might expect), and tried to decide when we should break camp.  Most people get up at 2am and try to make the summit by sunrise.  We weren't sure we wanted to get up that early, so we decided we'd go to sleep and see what happened.  If I naturally woke up early, then I'd wake the girls and we'd pack our things and go.

It was difficult to believe that this time the next evening we'd be in a hotel room drinking milkshakes.  The girls and I felt proud and happy -- and ready to be finished.  Sage was ready for hot food, Alex was ready to take a rest, and I was ready for...well, you know...milkshakes.

 The next journal entry, Mt. Whitney and Whitney Portal, will be posted late Thursday evening (December 18).