Chapter 12: Hail or High Water

Shew! Never doing that again. Tumbleweed and I just did a non-stop 155 mile stretch in the High Sierra. We got 9 days of food to last from Mammoth Lakes to Mt. Whitney. (Normally the food carry is only 3-5 days.) Most people hiking the John Muir Trail (JMT), which parallels the PCT during this particular stretch, typically take over 2 weeks. However, most of those people don’t have nearly 1,700 miles under their belts and have a slower pace.

So yeah, the toughest climbs, highest elevations, and heaviest pack weights. All in a 9-day stretch. Why? Well, it’s pretty annoying to get off trail to resupply in this section of trail. It takes a whole day of side trails to get out, a day-ish to grocery shop/hitch-hike, and a day of side trails to get back on trail where you left off. So instead we just carried 9-days in one shot. Efficiency.

The heavier pack weight sanded into my left shoulder pretty heavily. Then when trying to tighten my hip-belt extra hard to put more of my pack weight into my legs and off my shoulders, my hip-belt sanded into my hip-bones. I am basically a walking roll of leukotape at this point.

Upside(s)… essentially no mosquitoes, snow, or dangerous water fords. Downside… afternoon thunderstorms on high desolate mountain tops and ridge walks.

I understand physics. Electricity. Ohms Law. P=I*V, V=I*R, Blah blah blah. So what happened despite all that? Umm… getting stuck in a hail storm on the highest point of the entire PCT. Forester Pass. Over 13,000ft elevation. Then another hail storm before Mt. Whitney. Lastly, just for good measure and completeness, another hail storm on the way off Mt. Whitney. Hail or high water, this is happening.

Tumbleweed and I just finished lunch and saw it clouding up. Normal Sierra weather. We (or maybe just me?) thought we could cross the Forester Pass before the storm hits (normally storms peak around 2pm, it was only 12pm). As we ascend, the clouds move in quickly. The rain starts. Then, the rain really starts. I pull my tyvek ground cloth and we huddled under it beside a large rock. Then it begins to lightening, thunder, and hail. Yep. I’m an idiot.

After about 10 minutes of eternity, we’re pretty chilled and decide to hike on as the storm seems to dissipate. Dumb. Within another 5 minutes, another storm swoops in on us. I was not a fan of being the tallest thing on this extremely high mountain and by some sort of Tim-luck there was a spot just large enough to pitch my tent for shelter. Tumbleweed and I huddled inside, warmed up, and waited, and waited, and waited. More lightening, thunder, rain, and hail. But eventually the storm passed for good and we made it across the Forester Pass.

The next day was the going to be the last day in California. But then, Mother Nature decided otherwise. We made it to Guitar Lake (the base of Mt. Whitney) around lunch. Sure enough, clouds start rolling in. This time, we were smart and pitched our tents and waited the storm out for 4 hours. After checking our food supply, we realized we had just enough to summit Mt. Whitney and get the hell out of the Sierra the next day. So we woke up a little early and started out accent up the tallest mountain in the lower 48. So many people. Gross.

After hanging out for a while, and spreading some of my uncles ashes (he will now always be the higher than anyone else in the lower 48), we began the all-day descent. Then hey, guess what. Hail. High water. Because… umm… why not? Honestly, I didn’t mind. I knew once I was off that mountain, a hotel room was waiting.

(The above video shows a river of hail on the trail. Gross.)

Sure enough, after a 90 minute hitch hike from a fellow biking across the country, followed by a 4 hour hitch hike (yes, 4 hours) from a another guy, then a 4 hour rental car ride from Reno, NV to Ashland, OR, we are now exactly where we were 2 months ago. Time to finish this beast out going North. To Canada.

4 months / 1,700 miles down… ~7 weeks / 950 miles to go…

Humpty dumpty in 3, 2, 1, …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s