How to write about today? It was an intense mish-mash of jaw clenching and sublime.
We woke at 6am and headed out to be immediately confronted by snow. After deciding to have an early breakfast, we bump into Monarch and Unicorn who have seen a mountain lion in the valley.
We navigated steep snow slopes round side of Observation Peak. It was the first time we had put our crampons on since the Sierra and I think I have some kind of residual ptsd for snow, as it fills me with anxiety for Phoebes well being. The footholes were super slippery and I Pinecone had a bit of a run in with a pine tree grazing my elbow and cutting my hand with a too vigorous ‘butt-slide’.
We soon found ourselves on the top of the ridge hoping for less snow on the next. Sadly over the next saddle was snowy too, with banks 6m high. After the mornings collision and steep snow traverses I was prepared to do anything to not put my crampons on again. We dodged the first snowbank by sticking to the top of the ridge and then dodged the second one but cutting underneath it. There is a group of 6 girls walking at the same time as us. We see one slip and fall, self arresting with her finger nails as her fold up whippet fail to work properly. It was scary to watch but she made it across the snow fine in the end and didn’t seem too phased. We had a break amongst the wild flowers to celebrate our ‘conquering’ the snow and kept heading south.
The trail then took us down and into beautiful meadow filled valleys. We cross the Oregon/California boarder and read the log book to discover that there are about 40 people headed south in front of us. That’s reassuring. Apart from the 6 girls we haven’t seen anyone. We have lunch at a little stream looking over a green meadow and realise we have only walked 6 miles. The snow this morning did a pretty good job of slowing us down. We decide we need a paper map for the next section to show us better options for avoiding north/east facing slopes (the snowiest aspects).
We keep heading down for another couple of miles. Now the pct is beautiful and easy to follow. I put on music and pick up my pace and enjoy the simplicity of walking a snow free trail. We climb the next hill crossing many logging tracks. The forest is vibrant and utterly beautiful. We 750m over 5 miles. On top of the Condrey Mountain there are giant shale meadows. They are sparse and minimal and remind me of Japanese pebble gardens. I love their aesthetic! I wait for the other 3 to catch up and have a little nap on a rock under a tree. It’s so warm and peaceful.
When the others arrive we push on through more snow. We have about 4 miles left and it’s all through thick snow. We notice on the map there is a logging road that runs parallel with the pct for the whole distance to we decide to aim for that, for the sake of easier navigation. The road makes the snow walking faster and easier but slightly arduous. We nearly take the wrong turn right at the end of the day but Quiz re-navigates for us and we finally arrive at Alex Hole Spring round 6pm. I am really proud of us today, awesome team work and some really challenging sections over 23km!