PCT SOBO DAY 6 – blow by blow

Tent site – tent site. 
15.4 miles 

I tried my hardest to to stay awake until 9pm, and I was 93% through my book and determined to finish, but I just couldn’t hold my eyelids open any longer and I was asleep before it was dark!

In the middle of the night I heard a noise and I sat bolt upright. A rock slide. I could hear them tumbling down the mountain, I had no idea how close it was and I imagined the rocks charging through the campsite. There was nothing I could do about it. Luckily it didn’t affect us and I just went back to sleep. Ignore it. 

We woke to a nice bright morning, my tent was full of condensation but it was sunny!! I dressed for summer. I made the decision to drain the blister. I made a tiny hole and just let the liquid out. I didn’t squeeze. I ate a donated Kind bar for breakfast. A raspberry chia thing which was very nice, rare to find one of those things with no nuts in.

We got going at 7, our now usual start time. The morning was gentle and warm and we crossed a small snow field. As we went over the mountain and down to Glacier Pass it got cold. We were in the shadow of the mountain. I put on my vest, hat and gloves and moved as fast as I could down the seemingly endless switchbacks (did I really climb up this as part of a 25 mile day last year?!). At Glacier Pass I found a patch of sun to warm myself up in while I waited for the others. 

We continued the 3000ft descent into the valley, the views were beautiful, it started to get warmer and as we descended we were walking through overgrown bushes which almost covered the trail. It was easy walking, apart from the bushes covering all the trip hazards and we were down at Brush Creek where I collected some water and chilled on the bridge and waited for the others. This marked the start of the long afternoon climb to Methow Pass. 3000ft over 7.5 miles. Not too bad on paper. 

Just as we were packing up to leave we meet Scott from Seattle who started out yesterday from Harts Pass going south. He lead the way and I managed to keep up with him so we chatted for a bit. Then, the afternoon became very slow. The most ridiculous amount of blowdowns. Trees on top of trees on top of trees.

There must have been some serious storms through here in the winter. It is obviously a regular occurrence because there are many old cuts and stacks of logs. But we are early and the trail crews haven’t been in to chop them down yet. So we had to clamber over them which reduced our speed to about 1 mile and hour! The photos I have just don’t do it justice. 

The problem with blowdowns is you have to take so many things into consideration. The bark is sharp and it can tear your skin and your clothes. A lot of the pine trees are still oozing sap and that’s the stickiest thing in the world. Almost impossible to get off your skin and clothes. The trees have lots of branches and pokey bits sticking out of them so the chances of being impaled or getting caught on something are high. Your pack is a problem in so many ways. It makes you heavier so it’s not as easy to pull yourself up, nor is it as easy to jump down off something because of the impact on your joints. Your pack will get caught on anything and everything and there is a risk of ripping it, it pulling you backwards, it getting caught on something causing you to be wedged with no movement forward or backwards, it makes you bigger than you think you are so you can’t just crawl under that tree or squeeze through that gap. The ground may be considerably lower than it looks which can cause all sorts of problems. One slip or fall and the odds of being impaled my something or breaking something is high. Smooth logs are slippery…I could go on…

All in all an exhausting process. Scott was very gentlemanly and waited for me as I ungainly climbed over the blowdowns. The short legs are a bit of a hinderance but I always make it over. We made it to the Methow river, I tried to wash off the sap. No joy. And I assessed the damage to my legs. Luckily the calf compression protected them and I just have a few scratches on my knees. 

Scott and I ate lunch and waited for the others. He was telling me all about the very healthy and nutritious food he has with him. I told him I basically survive off candy. 

Jackie and Dan are finding it tough. I’m not surprised. I’m finding it tough and I’ve done this before. We had hopes of a 20 miles day, but in light of the difficult trail we scaled it back to just over 15. The real climb begins after the river and we were told by someone heading north that the blowdowns weren’t so bad after the river. Liar. Never trust a northbounder! I saw three more people who said the same thing. A guy called Slim hiked in 2014 and was out finishing up some sections he missed. 

But the blowdowns just carried on, and now we were negotiating blowdowns and uphill. It was tough and slow. It took us 3 hours to go the 4.8 miles to Methow Pass. I scraped my knee early on which stung and the cut stretched every time I bent my knee. I was struggle busing it a bit near the top of the climb which just seemed to go on forever. Only 1.8 miles to the top. Every time I looked at the Guthook app I was convinced I had travelled about half a mile only to find out I had been 0.1 miles. How? How is that possible?! I felt like I was moving backwards. 

I stopped for water a mile from the top. I loaded up on sugar and got a little spurt on. Only 2600 miles to go. Goodie. 

Scott was resting at the top, presumably he had been there a while. He offered me dried pineapple, usually I don’t care much for dried fruit but this was nice. We carried on with only a mile to go until we reached our campsite. We were walking along a contour and we could see the trail up ahead switchbacking up to cutthroat pass. It didn’t look like there was going to be anywhere to camp but tucked away in a bend in the mountain was a little camp spot with a great view. 

Great camp spot but the bugs were overwhelming. I put on my waterproof trousers, my down jacket and my bug net as the first line of defence. Which worked well until the sun came out and I was roasting. I quickly pitched my tent and threw myself in it, I stripped down to my underwear because it was so hot and I was now safe, cocooned in my bug free world. As soon as the sun went behind the mountain it got cold so all the layers went on. 

The others, far more tolerant of the bugs (and with appropriate bug resistant clothing), sat outside and cooked dinner. I did everything inside my tent. I had a luxury dinner of chilli con carne with added cheese, topped with string cheese and Fritos. Boy am I looking forward to a real meal. Or even something from the bakery. Just something that hasn’t been freeze dried. 

Scott is going ultralight and he just has a tarp. I don’t know how these people do it. He doesn’t have a blow up mat, just a thin bit of foam, and I would be very surprised if he had sleep clothes or a pillow in his tiny pack! 

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I’m walking thousands of miles for Just A Drop because everyone should have access to clean water. Donate here.

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6 thoughts on “PCT SOBO DAY 6 – blow by blow

  1. What a difference a year make! We had NONE of those blows downs to contend with last year, as you know! As you describe the struggle, I remember the same situation in the 17 miles of hell north of Drakesbad in Lassen National Park last year. Sometimes being early on a section means you have to struggle the most with the not yet maintained trails. Unfortunately, they only seem to be able get them cleared out at the end of the season. Wouldn’t it be nice if our government put the cost of one B2 bomber into trail maintenance for the PCT. 🙂 So it goes. Thank god for the volunteers!

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