Day 52 – May 25, 2022
Mile 788.9 (Kearsage Pass junction) to 790.0 + Kearsage Pass Trail
1.1 trail miles | 7.4 tracked miles | 2,478 ft elevation gain | 82.4 F / 28 °C
After enjoying a triple zero in Bishop, CA, I am finally back on trail.
Getting back to the Onion Valley trailhead was much easier than my journey to Bishop, thanks to the weekday bus service between Bishop and Independence. For the final 15 miles to the trailhead, I had organized a ride with a local and split the cost with three other hikers. I appreciated our driver’s candor—she didn’t pretend to be a trail angel and openly admitted that she was just trying to make some cash. While her business might be undeclared, at least she doesn’t pretend to work for “donations.”
As soon as our driver left, I realized that I had left my hiking poles in her trunk. Proceeding without poles was not an option since I rely on them for rugged terrain and snow, and they are essential for setting up my ultralight tent. I quickly texted my driver using my InReach satellite messenger and offered to pay her to return to the trailhead. Luckily, she was going to pick up another group of hikers, so the only downside of this mishap was a bruised ego and a one-hour wait.
With my poles safely back in my possession, I embarked on the 7.5-mile hike back to the PCT via the Kearsage Pass Trail. It was exhilarating to pass the “John Muir Wilderness” sign—a place that has always evoked grandeur, adventure, and the pursuit of happiness in my mind.
Along the way, I encountered several hikers I knew who were making their way into town. Among them was Christie, who I hadn’t seen since we parted ways in Tehachapi. It was great to catch up, even if only briefly. I heard that Arnaud and Evan, with whom I was hoping to hike the next segment, were still several days behind. I also learned about a few injuries. I feel fortunate to have had a smooth journey so far.
The ascent back to Kearsage Pass was a bit arduous due to my heavy pack. Although I am only carrying 6+ days worth of food (compared to the 8 days I had when leaving Kennedy Meadows), I added more calories, resulting in extra weight.
Nevertheless, the scenery from the west side of the pass was breathtaking, and I relished the opportunity to soak it all in. Four days ago, I was walking as fast as possible to increase my chances of finding a ride into town, and I felt a tinge of guilt for rushing through such pristine landscapes.
The three miles of the Kearsage Pass Trail east of the PCT are truly a gem. Highlights included panoramic views of Kearsage Lakes, a close-up look at the frozen Big Pothole Lake, and the gloriously deep-green Bullfrog Lake.
By 2:30pm, I reached the junction with the PCT, which lies just two miles south of Glen Pass.
Under ideal conditions, this would have allowed ample time to cross the pass and find a campsite further north. However, the snow softens significantly in the afternoon, increasing the risk of postholing. Postholing involves sinking into the snow. Climbing out repeatedly consumes a tremendous amount of time and energy. Additionally, there is a risk of getting stuck in the snow or falling into an underground stream.
The hikers I shared a ride with this morning decided to attempt to cross Glen Pass anyway. I wish them luck and I’m sure they’ll be fine, but I see little value in rushing and taking unnecessary risks.
With this in mind, I setup camp about a mile south of Glen Pass, at a lovely protected site near a stream. My total mileage for the day was a meager 1.1 PCT miles!
My plan for the week is to summit one pass each day: Glen, Pinchot, Mather, Muir, and then Selden. This will allow me to tackle each pass in the morning when the snow is firm and conditions are the safest. While it means my daily mileage won’t break records, it minimizes the risk. “One pass a day keeps the doctor away!”
The upcoming stretch is renowned as the most challenging segment of the Pacific Crest Trail. The weight of my pack and the lingering snow are likely to amplify the difficulties, but I anticipate that the next few days will create enduring memories that will last a lifetime.