Day 59 – Cottonwood Pass to Rock Creek, 16kms

Today was in hindsight actually ok, but I (Quiz) had a freak out about the snow about 1 km from the end of the day, and that has muddled my head/confidence levels up a bit. To clarify I did enjoy most of today, but walking in the snow is fucking hard and we walked for 8 hours with very little breaks.

Ok back to the beginning, we woke at 3.30 in the cold, but the full moon illuminated the snow and it seemed quite light. It took ages to pack up, partly because we stowed our bear cans ages away from the tent and had to retrieve them, and partly because we are carrying so much more stuff our bags are full to the brim. Under night and snow the trail was hard to follow but luckily for us Justin was out in front navigating with the GPS.

By sunrise we had climbed above Chicken Spring Lake, currently frozen and snowed over, and on a steep snow bank watched the sky change colours. We crossed wide meadows covered with snow, snow bridges still intact over creeks, and under cirque cliffs…covered in snow. We walk up gradually in crisp snow till about 9am when it starts to melt, unfortunately at this time the snow became patchy and we couldn’t put our crampons on. 

We passed across a huge open snowy area, and then started to gradually then quickly descended to Rock Creek. When we hit the steepest descent the trail switch backed, and as they were all covered with snow, we just descended straight down. Princess Layers had to talk me through it as we put our crampons on and slowly struck steps into the sloppy snowy slope. It was damn scary but PL is a good teacher and I have learnt lots today. After this steep downhill we meandered on till the river. I’m not sure the exact cause but the lack of sleep, no stops for hours, and my fear of falling combined to make me lose my shit and my confidence. I had a lil cry and then continued on walking a short distance to Rock Creek.

The creek is definitely at river status. It has broken its banks on both sides and has plenty of white water. We went exploring upstream a PL found a log that crossed the fastest biggest section, it was a bit scary crossing with rapids beneath you. At this point the creek had diverted into 3 waterways, but the other 2 where easily passable only up to our knees. After such a long morning we stopped for lunch at 12, 10 miles in 7.5hrs, snow walking is slow!

After lunch we wandered the final 1 km to camp. As we had crossed the creek upstream this was all bushbashing, but the Sierra doesn’t have heaps of undergrowth so it’s fairly easy. We passed a huge waterfall, and many meadows which are actually just bogs and got our feet wet again, till we found our campsite. It’s a good one, dry ground (hard to find around here) and it has a small fire pit built into the ground. We sat around and chatted all afternoon, the girl gang went for a wash in the river, we cooked marshmallows on the fire and made miso soup with peas, mushrooms and rice noodles, it was one of the best meals we have had all trip! Oh also I saw a deer, my second in America. We are all in bed by 6pm, getting ready for another hard day tomorrow. Xxooxxoo 

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