Sierras Continued – Pt 4  Woods Creek to 3 miles below Pincho Pass

The valley we walked down

Every day brings new elements of surprise and with it come the roller coaster of emotions, tagging along for the ride. In such a landscape you can be certain that each day will pose new challenges, and with it will come a mixed bag feelings. Today I experienced dread, relief, excitement, satisfaction, joy, gratitude, and the list goes on. One thing that kept coming into my head while I walked was a huge sense of gratitude. Thanks need to go to my boots, these strong, stable and comfortable friends have been a constant support of late keeping me sturdy and sure footed and also keeping my feet warm even in the he harshest of conditions. I’m grateful also my crampons and ice axe for keeping me from sliding down the snow and my trekking poles. Who knew one could feel so much for inanimate objects. 

Now to real story. We woke at 4.15, and for the first time ever Bruce agreed to a little more sleeping in time. I hit the snooze button and snoozed for the 9 minutes granted to me. Then it was time, out we got and up we packed the Woods Creek South Fork flowing past with gusto. Perk took a while to gather himself and so we left a little later than planned. We back tracked toward the snow bridge I remembered seeing. Instead of sticking to the tree line as we had done yesterday we stayed closer to the river rambling over snow and fallen logs, testing our balance and having fun…kind of. It’s interesting how a place can seem so changed just by the different terrain. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the snow bridge up ahead. We crossed it, found the PCT and walked on. This part of the trail is very scenic. 

It follows a ridge line, placing you between two creeks, one being Woods Creek the creek the PCT follows up to the Sawmill Pass junction. It is the one we had been on the wrong side of. Ferocious and domineering it raged on while the other tributary babbled away more gently. At times it opened up into beautiful pools and gentle waterfalls. Along most of this section the snow had in parts melted and we enjoyed the walk freely across the trail. Wne dropped down onto a snow drift and our friendly creek joined another roaring torrent of water. We scouted around looking for a spot to cross, over a snow bridge we went, back we went to the bank and then we spotted some other hikers. One of the women had crossed and the two others were making their way through the water. We quickly packed away our things into dry sacks properly, stripped off and followed them. The couple seemed stranded in the middle of slip. As we crossed the first shallow crossing they moved out of our way so we could forge the more intensely following second section. We did it in a line the water rushing around our legs, on the bank it deepened up to my knees and I pulled my freezing legs out of the water quickly finding dry ground and ripping off my shoes. The couple were still standing stranded in the middle, the lady looked terrified. The woman who had first crossed went back and with the help of the man they got her across. She was freezing after standing in the cold water for so long and said she had just felt terrified. I sat on the women’s feet to help warm them and soon after we scrambled up some rocks to the trail again. Here it became the Sierra you dream about. Snow capped mountains cradling valleys of pine. We walked over some more snow, and dropped down into the tree line. Water filled the trail at times, we didn’t mind, it was far easier to get through than snow. 

Boys on the trail near Woods Creek Junction

As we entered the forest dappled light littered the floor, the canopy opening at times to reveal new ranges. Huge pines had been wiped out occasionally and their trunks filled the forest floor. Some had been decapitated as if a huge wind had come through ripping their canopy away. It could have also been lightening. We loved this section, and we stopped at 9 am for a snack break. We filtered water and chatted in the shade. The 3 hikers from the crossing arrived and we chatted to them before making our way single file across the rickety old bridge which hung perilously over a the water. 

We now began to climb, up and up, Woods Creek always to our left. It raged and we walked. We crossed streams and stepped up large steps made by granite, our shoes got muddy and our hearts pounded. At one point the trail opens out and the river is like the scene out of Prometheus (it’s a movie). The river bed here is smooth rocks and the river raged like never before. It hit the hard surface and rose like a wave along the far bank and then twisted and crashed down steeply into a waterfall. It was tremendous and exciting to stand close too. 

We kept walking and had to take our shoes off to cross water cascading down into it. The next crossing however was a little intense. Water fell steeply down to the Woods Creek below, Justin tried a number of places each time coming back to the bank unable to cross safely. Eventually we climbed up and managed to get across. Elated we walked on. Justin is a great leader and always finds us a safe path. The next crossing was impassable. With the group from the previous day we searched the bank looking for a safe crossing. The river was a waterfall almost to where it fed into the main river we had been walking up. We scrambled up along side it to see if anything further up stream was passable. Justin and Bruce went a further half mile up the waterfall but found nothing. I remembered however that on the trail about another half mile back there had been an ice bridge over Woods Creek.

Easy river crossing

It consumed the creek, a huge white iceberg structure. We could also see another icebridge that would allow us to safety cross back over it again beyond the artery we were trying to cross. Instead of crossing the artery we used these ice bridges to get ourselves back to the trail. It was time consuming and tiring and we soon pulled up under some pines for a long lunch break. We had coffee and hot chocolate and discussed our options. Justin and I wrestled, we drank lots of water and moved on. As we regained elevation the snow thickened on the trail. We walked up steeply, crossed a large snowdrift that led into a pine forest and waved goodbye to the Woods Creek. We were off trail and had to climb up rocks to get back into trail and then we walked and walked for what seemed like ever. We left the tree line and slushed across snow cups till we found a nook beside the trail to camp. A huge weather front had rolled in from the south and we could see it dropping rain in the distance. We set up camp among the boulders and ate dinner atop a huge granite beauty watching sunset on the longest day of the year. 

Navigation check as we walk up creek

Today has been incredible, full of adventure. 

I didn’t take anymore photos as my phone was packed away in dry bags 

Me (meg, princess Layers), Justin, Bruce & Perk

2 thoughts on “Sierras Continued – Pt 4  Woods Creek to 3 miles below Pincho Pass

  1. What brave hearts who go where few dare. Makes for gripping reading. What an extraordinary, unforgettable adventure. All our love G2


  2. Don’t blame you for finding those rivers daunting! Amazing that you could find a way over a stream as stolen as that!


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