Another day of 2 big passes the next day. On the docket: Glen Pass and Kearsarge Pass. But also on the docket? Town!
If I thought Pinchot Pass was tough, then I was entirely unprepared for Glen Pass. I always have some superhuman leg strength on town day and somehow do ridiculously fast miles compared to my normal. Pretty sure it comes from the same place room in my stomach does when dessert shows up. But seriously, damn you, Glen Pass.
Before the Glen Pass climb got hard
The first part was actually really nice. It was a mild ascent, going around some gorgeous lakes. The Rae Lakes made me wish I could stop and camp there, even though it was only early morning.
But after that… It was just stairs. Trail stairs clearly meant for someone at least a few inches taller than me. And when the trail finally flattened out a little, I got the closest I ever did on the trail to pooping my pants.
A lot of the passes are free of vegetation at the top, very exposed, and hence not the ideal places to try and dig a cathole with some privacy. And I was desperate. I was very lucky and found a spot with some bushes, but wow I was not prepared for this. When I finally got past this flat part, I looked up to find that the trail was about to turn into a wall. A vertical wall.
It was a mile that took me an entire hour. A trail runner passed me on the way up, and I was jealous of his tiny pack. He asked me how I was doing, and I think I responded, "This kind of sucks." He seemed surprised and asked if I didn't think it was beautiful. Of course I did but I could not wait
to enjoy it at the top.
So close, yet so far
After that horrible hour/mile, it was time to take on Kearsarge. Kearsarge Pass isn't even actually on the PCT or JMT; it's a way for PCT and JMT hikers to get off the trail to Highway 395 to resupply. It's a pretty vital resupply point, though, especially for late season SOBOs because everything else in the Sierra is closed or closing. It's also 15 miles roundtrip, which means 15 off-trail miles.At first, I was really miffed at this; I really disliked extra miles.
Now that I've done it, I take it all back.
The Kearsarge climb started out strong
Kearsarge was my favorite pass in the Sierra, and it wasn't even on the trail. There's one steep part at the end of the climb, but other than that, it actually isn't a difficult pass. And the views? Incredible.
Leave No Trace 101
I remember messaging my partner that if we ever hike the JMT together, which I was hoping we would so I could take my time more in the Sierra, we had to hike the extra miles to Kearsarge. It was that beautiful.
Can you tell why Kearsarge was my favorite?
The descent was also one of the easiest. First, it was town at the end, so I was already hiking fast. The trail was also insanely well-maintained and rarely steep. I was able to maintain something like 3 mph on the descent, which is virtually unheard of for me, even on flat trail.
Looking back up on my descent
My partner had decided to come see me in Bishop, because he had been there before, and it was likely the last time our paths would cross before I reached the finish line. He picked me up from the Onion Valley Trailhead at the end of the descent, and we drove the hour to Bishop along the very scenic Highway 395 for a couple of relaxing zeroes.
Also, I finally got new shoes!
Bishop was my favorite town on the entire PCT. It's a wonderful community full of outdoorsy people next to some beautiful peaks. They had great coffee, good food, and good company. Oh, they also have a world-famous bakery, where I (and I am not exaggerating) got and ate 2 full loaves of their sourdough bread. Just carb-loading for the last part of the Sierra!