Day 69 – Lake Gilmore to Echo Lake, 16kms

Snow sleeping is wet wet wet, the floor of our tent was 3/4 wet but as our mats take up most of the floor space everything remained dry. We got up at 4.30 to try and get some firmer snow, but as we feared it was warm overnight and the snow was still soft and slushy. We hit the road and after some more navigational hiccups and a rock scramble down a steep bank found some clear trail! But not for long, only 0.5 miles from where we camped we hit a snow drift that continued patchily to Dicks Pass. The drift ended about 10-15 meters below the trail in rocks and chaparral on a steep slope. It was convex and so even steeper than the already steep gradient of the hill. We tried walking across in our crampons but the snow was so rotten we were struggling to get firm holds. We tried going above but the snow ended in an overhang on a rock cliff. Below was also not an option due to the steepness of the slop. Stumped we stopped and made coffee and breakfast to mull it over, but even after thinking time we still couldn’t see a way forward that we were comfortable with so we sadly and frustratedly turned around and headed back to Echo Lake. This brought up quite a few emotions with me as I feel I have been scared and stressed for most of the last 2 weeks of hiking (as dramatic and beautiful as they have been) and I was hoping flipping would end these emotions so I could get back to enjoying myself.

Bebe lake – Mushy


On the way back we got to follow our footsteps and we were amazed at how much quicker we were able to travel without constantly consulting our GPS. We ran into Chopper and Tripod on our descent from Gilmore Lake and then further on we saw Hamlet, Coffeebreak, Fluffy Soup and a big crew heading out. Unlike us they seemed delighted (still) with the snow.

Dave’s steps used again! – Dave


Crossing the stream leaving Susie Lake I used a dead pine floating in the water to keep my pack out of the water while I waded next to if. Good idea in theory but the stream that was up to my chest yesterday was now above my head (the melt is on!) and my pack got a bit wet. Luckily i had dry bagged all my important stuff except for the shoes. In hindsight this wasn’t such a big deal as further down the trail it became a stream up to a foot high. The others did not follow me and found a good place knee high with strong flow a little way downstream. 

Echo Lake from above – Mushy

Leaving Desolation Wilderness, see you again 👋

 

We left Lake Aloha just after lunch and suddenly went from feeling alone in a snowy desolate landscape to being surrounded by day hikers. It’s a Saturday! Everyone’s first question for us was is it snowy like this all the way? I hope they are prepared to sleep on snow.

I made a new friend! – Mushy


As I already said, the melt was on and happening extremely quickly. In the one day we had been out memorable snow banks or icebergs in lakes had shrunk to a 1/4 of the size they had been. Similarly the amount of water on the ground and the size of the streams had risen by extremes. Hopefully as we retreat from these snowy mountains the heat remains so we can come back again soon and actually see the lakes in all their glory. 

An evening bowl

Goodnight Echo Lake xx

 

We cowboy camped by Echo Lake again in one of the most beautiful spots, on a rock ledge overlooking the lake surrounded by twisted pines. As Mushy put it “it feels like we have been fighting” our bodies are so sore and beat up from the slushy snow. We are all also sporting quality sunburns in the 80.F heat reflecting off the snow (yes mum we put on sunscreen). I had a wash in the lake and cooked Dave dinner as he was too tired (plus he kicked out all those steps like a champ).

Scenic cowboy camps

POV


Due to my low mood in the morning after turning around I didn’t take any photos, so the ones in this post are by Dave and Mushy, thanks guys!

 Day 68 – Echo Lake South to Lake Gilmore – 16km

Note: this is PINECone and Quiz’s Adventures in Nth Cali. Princess Layers is finishing off the Sierra and will post intermittently. 

Today I title; Dave blazes a trail first day back!

It also a very strange day as we wake a 5am next to a beautiful lake, hundreds of miles from Bishop and the eastern Sierra. The condensation last night was crazy! We decided to cowboy camp last night and all our stuff is so damp!


Echo Lake in the distance 

We start up the trail heading north. We have jumped up about 300miles and it feels so wrong. But the sun here is warm and that makes such a difference to the smiles on our faces. The snow starts off small but by breakfast we a sitting amongst a field of white. It’s strange because it only got down to 43•f last night, the snow isn’t even hard and we are slipping all over the place from 8am onwards. Seems it will be very different front the Sierra. 


We climb over a rise and down into Lake Aloha valley. The whole lake is under snow with a few thaw patches here and there in a terrific turquoise blue colour. It looks phenomenal! Walking up he eastern edge of the lake we try to stick to rocket outcrops. We turn east at the end of the valley and head down another valley to pass a plethora of frozen lakes, all smaller than the last.



We past a few hikers earlier in the day. They are all turning back. They say there is a hazardous section ahead where the snow trail hangs over a lake. When we turn down this next valley we see the section they are talking about. It’s funny because nothing is as intimidating after a week and a half in the Sierra. Dave, back on trail volunteers going first and we walk above the lake with Dave stomping foot holes and blazing the trail in front of us! We are sad to say goodbye to Princess Layers, Justin, Little Spoon and Perk but so happy to have Dave back and Mushy continue with us! 


The trail Dave cut above the frozen lake

We eat lunch next to the lake and dry out our bedding. We have walked about 6.5 miles which is ok considering the snow. We push around a couple more lakes in the afternoon. I scramble over logs to cross a flooded lake whilst phoebe walks through the beautiful water to find that it submerges her and her pack right up to the collar bone. Luckily everything is dry bagged but it’s pretty funny. 
The afternoon moves slowly. We lose the path under snow pack twice and it takes us a while to regain momentum. The last valley we dip through is full of water and feels like a literal melting pot. We finally start the ascent of Dicks Pass which we had set as a destination for the day and camp on the only non-snow covered ground near Gilmore Lake. 

Quiz crossing the river.


Overall synopsis of flip north: there is still a lot of snow left here still to melt. I guess i assumed there might be less. It’s still difficult to walk in because it’s soft all day, so 10-15 mile days are a reality. The grade of the mountains is far more gradual and lower elevations make for less tiring walking. The sun is warm and feels amazing on my dry skin. 

PINECoNE! 🙂

Day 65+66+67 – Bishop to Echo Lake, 4kms

Rancho relaxo aka The Hostel California has been our home for the last 3 days and boy did we need it. We are all pretty exhausted mentally and physically from the last week and to wind down and relax we did a lot of drinking beer, eating and lying around. 

We went out for breakfast after our boozy evening at the brewery and everyone including Princess Layers ordered extra food on top of our full American diner breakfasts, that’s how hungry we have been for working hard over the last week. Day 65 had been dedicated as a total rest day by everyone and apart from getting our washing done we managed lots of naps, second breakfast, book reading and day drinking with cards against humanity. I (Quiz) haven’t met many of the hikers at the hostel as people have been skipping from so many exit points along the Sierra, but every hiker is a friend and the hostel has made a really great transient community space. Goliath and his wife and pup are in town and came to say hello! Goliath fits effortlessly into the hiker community and wants to come back for more trail angel-ing and hopefully a bit more hiking. For dinner Pinecone and I made spaghetti bolognese, something I have been craving and talking about doing for 150 miles. PL made salad and Jamie and Sushi Roll brought garlic bread and we had a ten person feast! Late in the evening Perk, Mushy and I snuck beers into the cinema and watched Wonder Woman very un-inconspicuously. When we returned to the hostel, the seemingly never ending game of giant Jenga was going and we stayed up late. 

Beers and drunks


Still hikers at heart we woke up groggily at 6.30am and stumbled back to the diner for more food. Today was a day of action. I spoke for the 5th time with Leki and finally got them to send me a replacement pole to Truckee. I will be walking with a ski pole that I got for free from the gear consignment store till them. 

Dave arrived last night and we made our skipping plans. For all readers that dont know us personally the Mental Snakes PCT Girl Gang is temporarily parting ways. PL who has proved herself very very capable in the snow is continuing on with Justin, Perk and Little Spoon and a few new gang members. They are taking an alternate route to miss Bear Creek and the worst river crossing and exiting at Bishop Pass to re-evaluate their plan and maybe continue on. PL will be writing a seperate blog, posting on here with updates. PC, Mushy,Dave and I are getting a ride to Echo Lake tomorrow and continuing north on the PCT. When the other group finally skip north they will come meet us. PC and I will continue writing daily entries. It was so sad leaving out family as walking in hairy situations day after day has really made us a tight knit group. Leaving PL is especially hard, we love you and miss you already PL! 😘😍💖😭

The gang! Bye babes 😭

Snow and desert all in one


Downtime


We resupplied at Vons a mile from the hostel and had fun riding loner bikes around town. Perk brought a hotdog tee shirt from a closing down department store, and upon seeing it Dave, PC and I just had to have one! Weiner Gang lasted all of one day, but we were super cool. Mushy and PC went exploring town on bikes while I finished reading Shrill by Lindsey West (read it in 3 days/3 sittings and highly recommend it to everyone, especially all body positive ladies reading). Like previous nights we stayed up late drinking sangria and eating Mexican and playing cards. Our packs are packed ready for pick-up tomorrow morning.

Badboiz

Home of the Weiner Tee

Fashon


On day 67 we got up early for our last showers, our last trip to the post office, our last town chores. Unlike previous towns this one has been very relaxing and we are excited to leave but also feeling pretty sleepy, lazy and relaxed. Perk cooked everyone French toast and we had a nice last supper together as the original gang. I am currently in the car with Lina who is driving us to Echo Lake through some amazing scenery and past many many tall snowy mountains. We plan to camp somewhere near the lake and start hiking properly tomorrow. This is a new chapter of our hike so hopefully we have made the right decisions. Will keep you posted, xo
Prologue – we hiked from a road 1.3miles to the Echo Lake Chalet and now we are walking another 1.5-2.5 miles along the lake to find a campsite. Super beautiful here, we had a picnic on the peir and drank our leftover beer. Bye town luxuries.