Four seasons in one day? You can have that just by walking from Bishop to Mammoth Lakes!
On Tuesday, we hiked back toward the PCT. We took the Piute Trail, because of the bridge closure at Evolution Creek. As every day, we started at around 3:30 AM and wound up the mountain towards Piute Pass. The Sierra welcomed us back with a heartwarming rain/hail/snow/thunderstorm in the middle of the dark.
We waited for 20 minutes within the protection of the tree line, before heading out into the open. To make it even better, the snow didn’t freeze overnight, so we slushed and postholed up the hill. In the valley near Piute Lake, we even walked through the clouds. Luckily it was no thundercloud we walked through.
When does it stop being cold?
Piute Pass itself was frozen, the air was freezing cold and an icy wind was blowing. From here it would still be 12 miles toward the PCT junction. 12 long miles along Piute Creek. It’s side creeks were wild and full of water, we think that we were the last people who could pass the last remaining snow bridges. From now on, those crossings are gonna be much more difficult and even dangerous.
At about 5 PM we finally reached the Campground at the Junction. We already had a dry trail for 3,5 miles but still couldn’t believe what we saw at the Piute Bridge: A beautiful dry campsite, lit by the sun, flowers blooming, birds chirping, busy ants crawling towards our food. The whole place felt like summer. No wonder we felt so well there.
The next morning, we started at around 4:00 AM and went towards Selden Pass. Again, the Trail was snow free on the South Face until about 9600 ft, from there on winter ruled again. We still found a beautiful still breakfast place at Sally Keyes Lake. The Pass itself was easy. We basically just walked it.
The mountains are different now, less high of course, but also rounder at the top, and the valleys are not as steep and deep. We are finally coming downhill!
The infamous Bear Creek Crossing was an easy Ford 1 Mile downtrail, the small creek afterward was more challenging, as a snow ramp towards a log gave up underneath me and made me almost fall into the water. Those bridges are not to be trusted anymore.
Welcome to the four seasons
The next day was the day of the four seasons. We started in winter next to cold and roaring bear creek, everything still covered in snow and ice. As we made our way up Bear Ridge Trail, we found out very quickly, that the climb to the peak was snow free. The trees were still without leaves, the ground covered in fallen leaves. The misty clouds meandering through the valley gave us vibes like being in the English countryside. Welcome to “Fall Zone”.
After another winter stretch and a very steep descent (Ice-axe recommended), we hit “Spring Zone”. First flowers stuck their head through the ground, the trees were wearing light-green leaves, and the trail was more a creek than dirt. Gentle sun beams were giving us a first feeling of what we could expect in the valley.
The valley, of course, was the “Summer Zone” warm, no snow left, and birds, insects, and even lizards in full action. What a nice place to have a breakfast break and dry tents and quilts on the rocks. As an add-on, we had two logs to cross Silver Creek!
Climbing steeply to avoid a waterfall crossing
The grand finale of the day was the Silver Creek Fall. Everyone recommended climbing the left side, to avoid the waterfall crossing and it was the right decision to follow this advice. Somehow there were more steep sections in this stretch, but somehow we also just don’t care that much anymore. What we still do, is watch out, take care, and put on crampons, even if there is just half a mile left. Always be safe out there. It is the first amendment for us.
Everything becomes normal
On Friday, the last full trail day, we realized, that it has become totally normal for us, to get up at 2 something AM, pack the wet tent, put on wet socks and shoes, and navigate up a mountain in the dark, to hit the next pass at 6. It has also become normal to climb 12 ft snow piles after a tiny bit of dirt trail, this is not the PCT, it is an adventure within an adventure, which is somehow our mission now.
We pass beautiful mountain ranges, and frozen lakes, that are still asleep, we see Sleepy Marmots, busy Chickens, Coyotes, and even a grey fox. The Sierra Nevada is in a state, that not many people have the honor to see it in. Do I want to see it in a normal summer? Absolutely! Would I want it to be normal this year? Absolutely not! The experiences and views we are having, are so special, that we feel honored to be able to experience this.
Today we reached Mammoth Lakes, after hiking 900 Miles from the Mexican Border, and 2,5 months ago, I never thought that we could make it this far. I received a Mammoth Lakes-Sticker from our Trail Angel in Julian and I did not put it on my Bear can until now. It is the best feeling ever to finally use this sticker. I am impressed by how impossible things can become possible if you work hard for them and believe in yourself. 2023, what a year!
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