Monday, May 7, 2012

Day 15, Fuller ridge and beyond

Daily mileage: 20

Let's just start this off by saying thank you lovely REI sales rep. At 6:15 in the morning I was able to get REI to send me a new water filter to replace my lost one to our next town stop of Big Bear, plus that is officially the prettiest location I have ever talked to customer service from.
Although on the subject of gear my camera has bowed out already. Silly zoom error, so just iPhone pictures for now.

Now as far as how today went, well it was hard. It may have not been challenging for everyone but it was tough for me.

We all leave camp at different times, but I usually see people pretty quickly bc they are so much faster then me. Not today. After climbing up from saddle junction I hit the first snow. Not to bad, you could pretty much tell where the trail was but it was still slow going.

Then it was back to beautiful trail, with snowmelt streams. All well and good. Then comes Marion Junction (poorly signed I might add) and the snow. Now I'm sure to some it would be obvious but after maybe a quarter mile or so of following possible signs of the trail and the circles other footprints made I sat down and had a small hissy fit. I have practice navigating and have hiked in snow but this was one if the few sections I had actively planned to do with others and yet here I was by myself at 8000 ft on the side of a mountain. Totally by choice, I could have waited, eventually more hikers always appear. After calming down I looked at my maps, actually figured out where I was and walked about 2 ft further and found the trail. More mentally tough than anything. Snow became patchier and after meeting up with the cousins (who had climbed Mt Jacinto as an alternate route, lots of snow and route finding) and another couple took a good snack break and headed towards fuller ridge.

Now for those of you familiar with the the PCT you know Fuller Ridge, but for everyone else out there it's one of the first big snow areas we hit heading north and has a pretty nasty reputation. Plus after the ridge we have to get off the mountain. Simple right? Ha, the person who designed this section has an interesting sense of humor. So here I am anxious about the ridge and I am working my butt off to go in what should just be a straight line to the ridge but instead get intense steep switchbacks down and then straight back up to the top of the ridge. Then there is the ridge itself, I'm not positive but I think it was around 3-4 miles of snow. The trail was very easy to see but was exhausting. No easy sliding downhill here, nope miles of traversing snow. With each step your joints get tweaked and you fight not to slip on some pretty steep sections, not to mention post holing ( when your foot breaks through and you fall way deeper into the snow, I managed as deep as my hip/crotch at least once). Finally done with the snow at close to 2 pm, I had only hiked about 10 miles all day.

So is getting down any easier? Of course not. As the crow flies getting from point A (the top) to point B (the bottom) is 4.5 miles, our trail takes over 15 miles to drop us over 6000 ft to the valley floor. Did I mention that this whole day is being done with heavy packs with 4+ days of food and enough water to dry camp bc there is no water for over 16 miles starting right before all the snow on the ridge?
The plan was to get partway down, camp and finish the descent in the morning. Moss and I started down, and just kept going. At 7pm I was done. We had only passed one or two possible spots and people were already in them. The terrain around the trail was incredibly sloped and overgrown in a few places, and while it was very pretty I was done. I just wanted to stop, I finally gave up and sat down in the middle of the trail. Moss kept going but as I sat and ate and watched the sun set the cousins caught up. We ended up all just sleeping in the middle of the trail. And can I tell you that was one great nights sleep.

Sorry for the long entry, it was a mentally and physically tough day for me.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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