PCT Day 36

An early morning starts this day.

As the sun rises, we all pack up our gear, met at a table and have a very quick breakfast. Soon we will start the climb up Baden Powell.

Baden Powell sits at 9,406 feet. Its the second high peak going North on the PCT, the first being San Jacinto. And just like Jacinto, there is snow, lots of it.

The start

We muster ourselves, dawn our packs and begin the climb.

Im nervous.. Ive heard so many stories back in practically every town we stopped in about how dangerous it is. Seems like everyone had an opinion on this mountain even if they have never hiked a day in their lives.

Lots of hikers heard the stories, lots of hikers took the road walk instead. For some reason, we choose to be different that day and push ourselves into the unknown.

The first mile of the trail was fairly normal, switchbacks, dirt… and then, snow. The trail vanished and now there was just snow, straight up the mountain. All we see are footprints leading directly up the mountain, no more switchbacks, no more dirt, just vertical climbing. Ice axe comes out, microspikes get put on, time to work.

This is looking down after about an hour of climbing

It took us a few hours to make the summit. This climb was one of the most tiring things I have done on the trail so far. It also started to teach me about being a big and heavy person on snowpack, not fun. As my group climbed ahead of me, they were stepping in the the footprints of the person ahead of them and when I would step in that same spot I would sink 1 to 12 inches randomly (postholing). My legs were just starting to get beat up for the day, I had no idea what was next.

On top of Baden the view was incredible, worth the strain to get up here. We all sat and had lunch, talked and enjoyed taking a break. But, we will still had 6 more miles to go before there was anything even close to resembling a campsite. We are on a snow field on top of several mountain peaks and now have to drop a couple thousand feet to be able to stop for the day.

Normally the PCT follows the side of the mountains that we are about to walk across, not this time. Currently the best route to take is literally directly over the top of every mountain in front of us. The trail is totally under snow for about 5.5 of the next 6 miles. And since the trail is on the side of the mountains the snow angle is very very steep and dangerous to traverse on, you slip, you fall off a cliff, so up and over was the best choice.

This is painful. I postholed more than 100 times, chewed the skin on my legs up, slipped countless times and fell on my ass. This was taking its toll on me and my body. The climbs up and then postholing into rock piles hidden in the snow really jacked my knees up. Then with the fresh open cuts on my legs, having to walk thru miles of thorn bushes and thistle was a new experience in pain. There is no stopping here, no mater the pain, must make it to camp, and water.

At about mile 7 into the total journey I was walking along a steep embankment with a decently long 38 or so degree slide down to a rock pile at the bottom. As I took a step my left leg sank up to my knee causing me to misstep and the ground gave out from under me…. Im now falling down a mountain. I quickly managed to flip myself over to my stomach, toss my trekking poles and whipped out the ice axe. Thinking to myself this is going to be easy, Ive watched a few YouTube videos. I attempt to stop myself via the axe…

The axe stops…

I slip off the handle…

Ended up sliding about 25 to 30 feet down the embankment before I was able to dig my feet in to the snow enough to stop myself. Im sure a little poop came out that morning… As I laid there sprawled out, thinking about life choices, I know that that I have to make it back up to my axe and my poles. Lucky for me I had a great team I was hiking with and soon my axe was sliding down the mountain to me so I can pull my big ass back up to the “trail”. I had to take a break on a log when I reached a flat spot. Quickly Im reminded that if I took that same fall only 50 feet or so back I would have been off a 1000 foot cliff. Lessons were learned and I pushed on.

The rest of this hike to the camp was extremely painful, my knees were bashed and I really messed up my right ankle on that fall.

Eventually we all make it to the campsite. Surprisingly this site had bear boxes, fire pits and pit toilets.

It was still early in the day but the team set up their tents, got the fires going, made dinner and melted snow for water.

The mountain beat the hell outa me, I needed to get of trail. Luckily for me I am currently in my local mountain range and if I can find a way down to the highway I would be able to get a ride from a friend. While everyone ate dinner I was trying to figure out a way to get down, and I do. Turns out there is a trail .3 miles back that we could take that leads us down a 5 mile walk through a massive camp area I didn’t know existed and to the highway. I ran my plan by the crew and they all agreed that a couple days off would be great.

Crashed out, my damn sleeping bag kept sticking to my new wounds…. not a good night sleep.

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