Day 51: Drunken Legs

6/9/17 11 miles PCT Mile 760.3

Yesterday we slowly staggered down cottonwood pass trail through Horseshoe Meadowafter we said goodbye to my dad. Two other hikers quickly approached my dad for a ride back to Lone Pine, obviously he said yes. I recognized one of the kids as he has a large external frame pack that looms over him. He started a day before us.

Horseshoe Meadow

We decided to try and make it back up to the PCT 3.8 miles away. It was 5:30 and we hoped to be to a campsite by 8pm. Our packs were very heavy as we are now carring a bear can for our food, ice ax, crampons, stove, fuel, and extra clothes. Each step seemed impossible as the weight beared down. It was flat for the first 2 miles but we went very slowly. The elevation was also over 10,000ft and being at sea level for the last week provided no benefit for us. As we began to climb Matt started to get a headache and we had to go very slow, resting at each switchback to let his heart rate slow. It was nearing 8 and I didn’t know if there was going to be any good sites on the top of the pass so I found a small spot beneath two trees that would do just fine. We crawled in our new tent and longed for our other tent that is much larger. This tent however was warmer and that’s what we needed.

We woke up at 5am just as the sun was rising. Last night was a pretty mild night and both Matt and I stayed toasty in our sleeping bags. We set off just after 6am to finish the climb. 

There was snow at the top with a crossing angle of about 45 degrees so we put our crampons on. We probably could have made it without but it was extra security as we crossed the frozen snow. When we got to the top the trail was still covered in snow and it appeared we were in for a long slow day of snow travel and trail finding. 

The first two miles seemed impossibly slow as we both had mild headaches from the altitude coupled with an overall weak feeling. We quickly reached 11,500 feet and stayed here for about 6 miles. These were 6 slow miles, I remarked that my legs felt drunk. They were wobbly and on their own agenda.  We took many breaks and during one of them I took my resting pulse and it was 88. Hopefully in a few days we will get a bit more acclimated and my heart will stop racing. 

Sun Cups Make for Difficult Walking

Most of the day was uneventful aside from constantly losing the trail and then being happy when we found it. The views were amazing although we both felt too tired to enjoy them. 

Half way through the day it became apparent that we would not make it to the trail that would lead us to Mt. Whitney. We set our sights on a campsite near Rock creek. We wanted to be to camp by 4:00 since we will try to get up at 4am tomorrow. It seemed easy enough but our legs were starting to get ridiculously sore. We saw one other hiker who had just climbed Mt. Whitney and was exiting through Horseshoe Meadows. He said Mt. Whitney was fine and the last two miles to the top were snowfree switchbacks. He also reassured us that Rock creek was fine to cross as there was a big log across the river. After seeing him we could soon hear the roar of Rock Creek. At its present state it was more of a small river. I was scared just looking at it. Soon after we saw some nice campsites and decided to take the first one. We also walked a bit past our campsite to see this log we were suppose to use to cross this raging creek. It looked doable but scary.  We made it to our campsite just before 5pm a record for us. The sun was shining as we set up our tent and I cooked mac and cheese for dinner. We then went to bed where I laid awake fearing the water crossing and imagining myself falling in the creek and being swept away. 

4 thoughts on “Day 51: Drunken Legs

  1. Sounds like an incredibly challenging couple of days. “Incredibly” may not be a strong enough word – I don’t know what is. But you guys are doing amazing considering the altitude, all the extra gear, the snow — just all you guys are dealing with. I hope you are acclimated to the altitude now or soon will be.
    I’m hoping for NO MISHAPS re. that log you have to cross…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah, I read your description of that crossing….sounded slightly more than a little sketchy to me! 😊
        Wonder, when you have to do that again, if you could tie a carabiner to a guy line and lasso a branch — at least have something to hold on to….Probly not. Just grasping at straws, trying to think of something helpful…


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