2nd September 2019
Dollar lake – kings river tentsite
16 miles
Total miles: 97.6 miles


It was so warm last night. I didn’t even have to zip up my bag and I had to take off my hat in the night. I did my, now standard, of falling asleep before it was dark and then waking up around 11:30pm and this time my toes were on fire! 

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I really needed a poo when I woke up, my plan was to get down the trail a bit and find a tree but I couldn’t wait. It wasn’t quite dihorear but it was fast and loose and I didn’t feel good. I don’t think that meal I ate last night agreed with me. I didn’t enjoy it while I was eating it. 

Not a great start to the day, and I was apprehensive to start with, Pinchot Pass has done me over twice already. So I didn’t feel well mentally or physically. I had a feeling today was going to be long and tough. 

We started out with a fairly easy 4 mile downhill to the suspension bridge. Although it was easy it seemed to take a really long time. On the way we let someone come past us, he was really moving. I thought I recognised him, “hey Catwater, was that crunchmaster?” I asked, “No I think crunchmaster is bigger than that” she replied. I was convinced it was him so I shouted up the trail, “Hey dude what’s your name?” It was Crunchmaster!!

“We know you from 2015 PCT.” We tried to have a shouty conversation but I couldn’t really hear anything he was saying. He really looked like Tom Hanks in Castaway. He must have been living the thru-hiking life all summer. The people behind him said he was aiming for a 75 mile day. 75 miles. That’s really nuts. No wonder he didn’t hang around long to chat. 

I walked along thinking how funny it was that you can go for a walk in the woods and just bump into someone you know.

We took a little break at the suspension bridge. So far the day had been ok. It was warm but cloudy, so the sun wasn’t as intense as it had been. I would really like there to be cloud on the way up to the pass. Of course that didn’t happen and it was soon back to sweltering heat with no shade.

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Feeling tired and weak!
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Sore lips, sore nose

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We hiked together for a bit then I stopped to get water and I was dipping my bandana at every opportunity. Then I passed Catwater while she was getting water and I stayed out ahead for a bit. As the sun was getting higher it was getting hotter and hotter. The clouds seemed to be everywhere but over the sun. 

It was a 7.5 mile climb in total up to the pass and when I found some tree shade I stopped to take a break. We still had 4.5 miles to go. The reason neither of us like this pass is that it’s built for giants. Massive rock steps which really take it out of you. In 2015 we bailed halfway up and just camped early because we were struggling and in 2016 we camped half way down it after an absolutely exhausting day. 

I passed the places I had camped before. With three miles of up to go it was about 12pm so we still had plenty of time. And we have been moving around 1.5 miles an hour. 

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We continued to slog our way up and looking ahead the clouds were starting to gather which looked a little bit threatening. It finally started to cool off a bit and the wind picked up. I was hiking slowly and taking micro breaks. Where you just stop walking for a few seconds and catch your breath. I stopped to talk to a marmot. He was quite inquisitive and came up pretty close to me. Catwater was taking a break next to the final water and said I was only a couple of minutes behind her. This time there was no need to dip my bandana because it was getting chilly. 

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Spot the Marmot!

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The last mile up to the pass is rocky switchbacks and half way up it started to spit with rain. We got our waterproof coats out. I heard thunder from the other side of the mountains and though uh-oh, this really isn’t where you want to be in a storm. But we could see blue sky on the other side of the pass and we were convinced that the storm was blowing over us and would miss us. 

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We arrived at the top at almost the same time. I had been needing a wee for quite some time so I did a wee while Catwater started on the descent. It was too cold to hang around up there. The lakes on the other side looked beautiful. 

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I charged down to catch up with Catwater and it started to rain a bit heavier. The sky had gone very dark and it looked like maybe we hadn’t escaped the storm after all. We had only been going down for about 5 minutes so we were still really high. I whipped out my rain skirt just as the heavens opened and it chucked hail down.

It was really hurting. I was running as fast as I could to try and get down out of the storm. I passed Catwater as she was putting on her rain pants. “RUN” she shouted! In situations like this it’s each man for them selves. Get down. Get to safety. The hail wasn’t big, but it was intense and it was coming down so hard it was sticking to my legs. My legs were bright red from the cold and ice. I decided to put my umbrella up to save myself getting pelted so badly. 

A few minutes later a saw a flash of lightening and then the loudest thunder crack which made me scream and then I put my umbrella down as quick as possible. I didn’t want to be the thing up here that attracted the lightening! I definitely didn’t want to get fried. As I got down nearer the trees I put it back up again as I was no longer the tallest thing, and the storm had eased a bit and the thunder was more distant and the hail had turned to rain. 

My shoes were soaking and there were massive puddles in the trail. I couldn’t stop and wait for Catwater because I would have gotten too cold, I had to keep moving. I hiked holding my poles and holding the umbrella, I couldn’t take the time to set it up hands free. There were a couple of river crossings which I didn’t make too much effort with, although I still went across on the stones. There is a difference to your shoes being wet from rain to being completely submerged in a river. 

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The lower I got the more the rain eased off and it started to get a little warmer. I hiked in the drizzle with my umbrella up and the air started to dry my jacket. Underneath my rain kilt I was nice and dry. My back felt a little damp but that was probably mostly sweat rather than rain. 

I stopped to talk to a couple who were still in their summer gear and I was wrapped up in all my layers they said they had heard the thunder but they hadn’t got any rain and they were surprised by the news of hail. They are another couple of PCTers finishing up a skipped section. I chatted with them for a while, enough time to let Catwater catch up. We continued down to the creek and decided to go another 0.6 miles to a camp site. 

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When we got there it was mosquito hell so I threw up my tent as quickly as possible, staked it out properly for the first time on trail in case it rained. Chucked all my stuff in, ran down to the river and got way more water than I needed just so I didn’t have to get out of my tent once I was in it. 

I sat for a while staring into space. Knackered after the long day, but we still got to our camp site at 4:30pm. I had been sat in my tent for about 10 minutes watching the mosquitoes desperately try to get in when I heard a couple of spots of rain. Then it poured down. Thank goodness we were able to get our tents up while it was dry and we had dried out. Pithing tents in the rain is the worst. 

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I didn’t get my sleeping bag out or blow up my mat because I knew that if I lay down I would just go to sleep and it was too early for that. I’m not sure what’s wrong with my rucksack. The bottom of it inside is really wet, and the inside of the trash bag at the bottom was wet too. I was concerned over whether I had packed my bag properly and that my puffy wasn’t protected properly, but that was at the top and completely dry. It was lucky that I keep my sleeping bag in a water proof stuff sack because that would have been a bad situation otherwise. 

I feel like all my stuff is falling apart st the same time. My bag isn’t waterproof. My jet boil is knackered. My water filter is mouldy. My thermarest is mouldy. My sleeping bag also has a touch of mould and the feathers are a bit clumpy in the top baffle. It’s always the way that everything starts to break down at the same time. 

I was absolutely starving by the time we reached the creek but we held off making dinner until 6pm. We can’t eat too early or we would wake up starving! I set up my Jetboil in my tent. Not the best idea, and I have had disasters before, but I was very careful. The area was totally clear and the stove was on the lid of my bear canister. I only use one cup of water and it takes literally 30 seconds to boil. Mac and cheese tonight. It was ok. A bit watery as I think I added too much water. 

There are so many mosquitoes outside I don’t want to get out to have a pre-bed wee. A decision I will likely regret if I don’t do it. I hope it doesn’t rain too much in the night. And I hope it isn’t too rainy tomorrow, the PCTers we met said the ranger they spoke to said there was a chance of thunder storms all day tomorrow. Great! They tend to roll in around 2pm which was exactly when we were at the top of Pinchot Pass today. We only have 5 miles to get over Mather Pass tomorrow so even if we crawl at 1 mile an hour we should be there by midday. 

I feel pretty knackered. My lips and nose still hurt, but I guess one of the good things about the rain today is that it’s reduced the dryness and there is now a little humidity in the air. Hopefully that will help with all my face problems!

 

 

 

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