Riding The Taboose
Beginning Elevation = 10,750
Peak Elevation = 11,500 (not on PCT)
Ending Elevation = ~9,000 (not on PCT) Weather: Sunny, high of 70°F
At 5:30am, I peaked out from my sleeping bag and looked down from my rock platform to see if others were moving…sleeping mummies. I had to get out of the warmth to visit the big green bathroom (the bgb, it’s a term we use sometimes) and grabbed my bear bag and canister too. Since everyone was having a sleep in though, I got snug back in my sleeping bag again. I had slept good on my rock and didn’t tumble off, which was a plus. I was cold around my face and toes, but overall pretty good.
Some ice droplets formed overnight on my bag and my shoes were frozen since so wet at the end of the day yesterday…
I slept until 6:00am, then started my breakfast routine. Slowly, others began emerging from their cocooned slumbers. Then, we had one last chat to talk about feelings for exiting vs. continuing onward.
In the end, for various reasons, we all decided we’d go out earlier than planned utilizing Taboose Pass together. Yesterday, I mentioned Snickers said he felt over his head out here. Personally, I felt slightly different…that we were all in some deep water (both figuratively and literally I suppose), and that if we were to keep going ahead, it’d keep rising and we’d then be over our heads. I felt like up to this point we’d handled ourselves pretty good out here and that this was a smart decision to avoid continued increasing risks every time we crossed an icy river or steep snowy pass.
Beyond that, in the realm of the bigger picture of what’s next, our plan was that we’d each do some thinking and research once in town for next steps. By going out via Taboose Pass however, we were accepting that we would not be hiking one continuous foot path like we set out to do, south to north from Mexico to Canada. So there was definite disapointment. Despite being discouraged though, we all seemed to have come to grips with it and were in good spirits at the end of our chat this morning…ready to have another day hiking in the snow. I made this lovely 3D installation set piece during our meeting.
We didn’t end up leaving camp until around 8:30am. As mentioned before, this area had a ton of snow and it was all drifted and mounded. The spikes worked excellent though and we made good progress traversing up the mountainside towards the pass.
We started out in a forest, but maybe a mile in, things nooened up for a view of the pass ahead. This was a much lower pass than Forrester, Glen, or Pinchot and had a gradual approach.
Such a stunning view looking back at the Sierra Nevada range as we headed out.
Very thankful for Kool-Aid, our leader through it all! Here he is taking a break as his eyes search the horizon for the easiest yet most beneficial long term path for us!
The pass was windy and scarce of cover, so we continued right on through. We even found the trail uncovered from snow. Unexpected and an exciting development for us!
Soon, we could see the long way down to Owens valley (the long valley east of the Sierra that holds the towns of Lone Pine and Bishop among others
The trail meandered through a somewhat narrow canyon with steep, sharp, irregularly jagged mountains on the side. For the most part it was snow free! There were lots of sections with semi-rounded talus cobbles which weren’t very comfy on the feet, but nothing too horrible. And some large snow patches, but we were able to glissade down most of those…hooray!
Around 1:00pm or so, we crossed a stream and had our lunch at a great flat spot on the other side. The mood was joyous and we were all now looking forward to the joys of being in Bishop again. Of course food was discussed as per usual. Afterwards, we hiked down the trail, which for a ways was itself a stream drainage.
About an hour later though, we halted at the point where the trail re-crossed the same stream. It had upgraded itself into a powerful river by this time and unsettlingly had a waterfall just below the crossing spot. The high drama of the high Sierra wasn’t done with us yet!
Packs came off and scanning began of potential options. Kool-Aid stared long and hard at it but couldn’t come up with any solutions. It was one we thought we probably could do, but we had a good amount of fear and uncomfortableness, so in the end made the tough call to turn around and head back up the trail. The goal was to find a crossing we’d missed or to go all the way back up to where we’d eaten lunch and re-cross there again, then make our way down the non-trail side of the stream.
Kool-Aid was frustrated, I was frustrated, I think we all were frustrated. Although Snickers tried to keep the mood up, it just wasn’t enough to brighten up our thoughts of climbing that far back up and then having to traverse across a loose rock slope to the other side. Kool-Aid tossed his boots across the river opting to lose the weight and hike just in his shoes, then we began our trek. I had some anger fueling my legs and bombed up the hill ahead of everyone else. I haven’t climbed uphill that fast the entire time I’ve been out here. I was in a pissy mood, not proud of it. But once up our lunch spot I sat down and calmed down and things got much better.
Cheer suggested the idea of camping here and starting again in the morning. The team agreed to it. The girls ended up hiking a bit down trail to some spots and Snickers, Kool-Aid, and I took the spots near the stream. It was a nice time. We had a beautiful view and the stress from having to make decisions was at bay for the time being. There was a calmness to the night and knowing that we might not have another like it together made it a bit special too.
Kool-Aid and I cowboy camped again while Snickers set up his tent. A lovely last evening in the super Sierra.!
I finished the evening writing as usual, but simultaneously looking up at a bit of a pinkish sunset down in the valley. Slowly the sky grew a darker blue and I saw the first two stars of the evening. A few mosquitoes were trying to mess with me, but I fought them off. Plus, I saw some bats diving around up above. Normally, not a bat fan, in fact I may have battled a few with tennis rackets in my time. But tonight I was thankful for them, hoping they’d snatch up all the mosquitoes!