1st September 2019
Independence/ Onion Valley – Dollar Lake
14.1 miles
Total miles: 81.6 miles


As seems normal with a town day I had a not so great sleep. Electricity and mobile phone signal meant I didn’t get to try to sleep until around 10:30pm which is waaaay later than I have been going to sleep. We also had a strange sound in the room which was like a cricket. 

I thought it could be the fridge so unplugged that but it didn’t make a difference. I concluded that there must be a cricket in the room and there was nothing I could do about it. I turned round so my head was at the other end of the bed to try and get further away from the noise and I plugged myself into a podcast, which I didn’t really hear any of and restarted 4 times throughout the night. We also left the air conditioner on all night and when I woke up with my alarm at 5:30am (Catwater had also set hers for 5:30 too without any discussion) my mouth and tongue were totally stuck together. I felt really horrible. My eyes were puffy and my lips were still sore. As soon as we turned off the air conditioner the cricket noise stopped!

Tried my best to finger comb my hair. So much hair came out, and I got too sweaty / bored / tired to do all of it so I probably got rid of 25% of the dead hair.  

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We got up early because we wanted to get that climb up to Kearsarge Pass done before it got too hot. So we arranged for Jim, the motel owner, to give us a ride at 6am up to Onion Valley trailhead. As we were a bit sluggish we were ready by 6:15am and we hit the trail at 6:50am. The sun had already come up but it was still early enough to be not too hot. 

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This is my third time slogging up this pass now and it’s always not so bad as I think it will be. Our packs were heavy again with 5 days of food and that slowed Catwater down thankfully, so I was able to keep up with her. We didn’t see many people on the trail up to about half way, just one or two. The sun was getting higher and hotter and we had a break in the same place as we did on the way down next to the lake. 

We carried on the next 2.3 miles to the top of the pass. There were loads of men running down and instead of giving way to us they just cut off the switch backs. We told them off! I was running out of steam towards the end and there were a bunch more people on the trail, Catwater pulled ahead and arrived a few minutes before me. We sat up there for a while and there were about about 16 other people up there! 

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A girl walked by with a tiny pack and I thought I recognised her. “Hey don’t want this to sound creepy but what’s your Instagram name?” I asked. It was @forestfilth. I follow her. We crossed paths in 2016 as she was heading north. We chatted briefly but I didn’t want to hang around too long because I felt like a weirdo. 

We carried on down along the high route with the nice views over the lakes and after 7.3 miles got back to the JMT junction. We had a little break and Catwater had half her sandwich left from yesterday. I was a piggy and ate all mine but I was kicking myself for not getting one to pack out. And I forgot to get some crisps and some extra chocolate from the store. I had a bit of a nightmare there. A real rookie mistake!

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Then was the small matter of climbing over Glen Pass. It’s safe to say it kicked both our asses. It was so hot and exposed. My lips are still so sore. And my lip balm doesn’t have SPF in and I thought it did. We crawled up. It wasn’t too much of a problem as we got a nice early start and we had all day, but after finding Kearsarge fairly easy it was surprising that this was so difficult. I had absolutely no energy left. And Catwater felt the same. Every step was a struggle. I was stopping in every patch of shade trying to get my body temperature down. Then I remembered I was carrying my umbrella! I rigged it up and I had my own portable shade. It worked well. It was definitely cooler under there and it no longer felt like my scalp was burning. 

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The problem was now that everyone wanted to talk to me about it! Most people had never seen that hands free system before. The heat was so intense. We eventually made it to a stream and there was a slight wind so I dipped my bandana in the water and put the brolly away for the last half a mile to the top. That half a mile took forever. Steep, rocky switchbacks that just never ended. I was stopping at every turn. Then I was stopping in the middle of every switchback too. 

I remember in 2016 coming the other way this pass kicked my ass then too. Catwater made it to the top a few minutes before me. At one point I thought ok this is it, I’m just going to have to live here now. My new address is a switchback on the south side of Glen Pass. Send snacks. 

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But of course I eventually made it and just like Kearsarge there were so many people at the top. We chatted to a few people we had been crossing paths with. There are lots of people out doing the Rae Lakes loop. 

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Then it was time to go down. The downhill seemed to go on forever and we just felt so beat. Our legs were heavy and our packs seemed to be getting heavier with each step. I kept dipping my bandana at every stream in a bid to stay cool. We passed a few people who were just on their way up. Didn’t envy them at all! 

We made it to Rae lakes and it was a fairly pleasant flatish walk around with just gentle undulations. I was still totally done in though, no second wind for me, just exhaustion, but at least the lakes are beautiful. 

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We continued on to dollar lake. Not the best choice of places to camp as most of the area is closed for restoration. Catwater lead us to an area she has camped in several times before. We set up way too close the the lake. You’re suppose to be 100ft from water but there were some sites which were really well established. Catwater chose to go quite far away from me and then we had a weird situation where a bunch of people all came around where I was camped but didn’t say anything. Then the girl started practicing yoga on a rock. Then a couple of German people came and right next to catwaters tent started making their dinner and swimming in the lake. It was all very strange!

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I just sat and stared into space for a while. Then a ranger came and asked us to move away from the lake as we were too close. He was nice about it and we moved to a patch he pointed out. Now we are camped practically on top of each other but that meant we ate dinner together and could have a chat. 

It’s surprisingly warm tonight compared to what it has been. I struggled to eat my dehydrated meal. How I’m going to cope for so many days on the ocean eating them I don’t know. 

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It’s 7:30 and I’m writing this while struggling to keep my eyes open. Today really took it out of me and tomorrow we have 8 miles of uphill to get over Pinchot Pass. The pass that has kicked our asses in 2015 and 2016, so not really looking forward to that one. And the heat is going to make it more difficult! 

Ah well. Tomorrow is another day and I might be feeling stronger. The dust and the dry air has destroyed my nostrils and my lips. 

We are naturally going to start doing bigger miles now. Jim and Tom wanted to do 10 mile days for their hike, and that was more than fine by me, it gave me a nice gentle introduction back into hiking and being at altitude. But now Catwater and I are on our own, I know we won’t be stopping at 2:30pm, we’ll run out of things to talk about! I have said I’d like to keep to around 15 miles a day, and I’m not keen on doing more than 20 miles, but we will see how that goes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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