Mile 814 to Mile 833.5
Monday 25 June (0640-1700)
Distance: 19.5 miles
Weather: a fluffy white cloud was sighted, but it was a long way to the south
Number of JMT backpackers seen with a full-size garden deckchair
strapped to their pack: 1
The wind picked up in the night and it fair whistled through the tent.
Admittedly, we could have put the sides down, but it's so nice, when
waking in the night, to be able to see the stars and the mountains,
that I'll take a bit of a cool wind blowing through.
It was cool too; shortly after setting off we were walking on a frozen
trail, although once the day warmed up it did it with a vengeance and
by 3pm it was 30 degrees out - which made the late afternoon climb a
bit of a warm affair. But, I'm jumping ahead of myself...
It was a day of four parts really. The first was the up and over of
Mather Pass and as these passes go it was quite a friendly one, as we
only dropped 2000' from the previous pass and made up 1000' of that
last night. We didn't have to play 'spot the pass' either as it was
quite obvious, as we approached, where we were going. Or so we
thought, until our progress brought another contender into view. The
path then headed dead in between them, until I spotted the tell-tale
signs that we were headed to the first one we'd seen.
Our zig-zagging ascent through the scree and boulder fields felt a
little more perilous today, as the path was littered with detritus
that had slipped down the slope - some of that detritus being the size
of a fridge!
Coming down the other side we met a woman ascending with a full-sized
deckchair strapped to her pack. We couldn't let it go without a
mention and she explained that she considered the weight worth it to
not have to sit on the ground with the ants. It wasn't even a quick
weekend trip she was on either - she was walking the whole of the John
Muir Trail (which shares the route with the PCT from Tuolumne to Mt
That lady was the first of two people to mention the 'Golden
Staircase' to us. We wondered, but didn't ask, on the basis that it
was an upcoming feature and it would surely become obvious to us when
we got there.
And that was the second part of the day. Having walked past some more
stunning lakes the river dropped down into a canyon (and even I would
classify this one as a canyon, rather than just a valley), and we had
to drop down too.
Down a stoney, steeply stepped path we went with switchback after
switchback, with none of the straight sections being long. As
impressive as the path was, it felt never ending at times and the
walking surface was nothing short of horrible. My assumptions as to
the speed we would make on today's 10 miles of downhill were once
again proved false as it was impossible to get into any sort of a
stride down there. The surroundings were, however, stunning.
The same couldn't be said for part 3, where we entered a burnt area of
forest (and old burn, with lots of new trees having sprung up). For a
few minutes we were able to stride out. Then we started finding
blow-downs across the path. Over, under or around we had to go (yes
Vic, just like going on a bear hunt!), once again meaning that a good
rhythm couldn't be found. Good practice for what is to come, mind, as
we know that a storm last November took out an entire forest in the
area of Red's Meadow (where we'll be on the weekend) and the
path-clearing operation there is still ongoing.
Then came part 4 of the day, and what a picture postcard delight it
was. Lush green meadows with the river running through (even saw ducks
at one point - didn't expect that at 9000'!), with the usual stunning
towering peaks beyond.
I'm not sure whether it was the improvement in underfoot conditions,
the boost from lunch or the superb surroundings which gave me my
second wind, but suddenly I had the energy I had been lacking earlier.
By late morning I couldn't see how I could possibly walk today's
objective of 21 miles and was convinced we were going to revert to the
plan that would see us catching the evening ferry to VVR on Thursday.
By late afternoon I was happy to do the extra miles and extra ascent.
By then, however, Mick had it in his mind that we were going to stop
sooner, and when we found a good campspot at mile 833.5 there was no
argument that we should take it.
We're pitched next to a rushing river. There have been some stunning
water falls, slides and chutes today which make Cauldron Snout look
like a trickling tap (if you're not familiar with Cauldron Snout then
I'm sure there must be some footage on You Tube of it in fine flow).
There are also some fine swimming holes around, and at some points
during this hot afternoon I could have been persuaded to take a dip in
one of them. Alas, by the time we pitched it had cooled down a bit too
much to tempt me.
Our other neighbours for the night are some deer. We've been seeing
quite a few deer for a week or so now and they all share the same
trait of being happy to come within 10 yards of you, where they'll
happily graze whilst you sit there. The one that appeared next to me
whilst I was cooking tea didn't half make me jump, though!