Day 38: Sierra Plans
From mile 664.8 to mile 683.3
Only 18.5 miles today but I am in a lovely spot and to go further would have meant starting a long climb and likely having trouble finding a level spot.
Much of the chatter among hikers for the past week has revolved around plans for the Sierra Nevada. With 200% of average snowpack this year is a bit more challenging than most. Parts of the trail had 60 feet of snow. All the hikers are nervous and are weighing options.
When I was in Onyx I saw news of a hiker who went missing on Mt Whitney. Now I hear she is dead. Apparently various debris can cause a section of snow below the surface of the snow to melt. You can not see it from the surface because the top 5 or 10 feet are still intact but if you step on it you can fall into a deep snow chute. This woman fell 50 feet and was alone so it took days till her body was found.
I am weighing my options. Since I am taking the snow skills class I will continue past Kennedy Meadows to meet that group. With them I will do Whitney and Forested Pass, the two biggest challenges. Then out over Kearsage Pass and down to the town of Independence. Then I will have some choices to make.
My options are: 1. Continue on through the Sierra Nevada with some of the others from the class. 2. Skip north 400 miles or so and come back to the Sierra after getting to Canada. 2B. Skip forward 500 miles, hike for a month, come back and do the skipped section, then jump back north and finish to Canada. 3. Quit and go home.
Option 1 would entail 35+ days mostly on snow. The routine is to start walking by 4am and be done by 1pmwhen the snow has gone slushy and you sink in to your waist. You also often have to stop at creek crossings and wait till morning when melt flows are smaller. Chance you simply can not cross and have to turn back. I would like to go straight through but it could be a hateful and dangerous task. I am leaning towards skipping forward and returning when the melt has progressed further.
At one of the springs today I met Chris who is also in the snow skills class. He is camped near me at the moment and we have agreed to hike from Kennedy Meadows up to Chicken Springs Lake together. That is where we meet the class but first there are two snowy passes at 11,500 feet to get over. They are far from the toughest passes but it will be 10 miles on deep snow so it makes sense to not be alone.
I have about 18 miles to Kennedy Meadows so will be there tomorrow. Gear packages to get. Hopefully time to shower, laundry and rest before heading out on Wednesday.