We may have planned to start hiking at 6:30 to get up and over Forester Pass, but absolutely nothing in that plan actually occurred.
It was still cold in the morning, and no one really wanted to wake up and start moving at 5:30; it wasn’t until 6:30 that we actually started to get out of our sleeping bags.
A Québécois couple we had talked with yesterday that was going to hike out with us came by around 7 or 7:30, and seeing that we weren’t even close to being ready to leave, went ahead without us.
We finally started hiking around 8:30, starting with our short hike west along the JMT back to the PCT, then continuing north. The trail treated us with some beautiful views of snow-capped mountains.
After a short up and down, we reached Wallace Creek, which we proceeded to cross and get our feet wet in the process.
After a short break at Wallace Creek to dry our feet off, we began our first major climb of the day, about 1000 ft over 2.5 miles, and the beautiful views continued.
The trail then dropped about 500 feet to Tyndall Creek, a pretty fast-flowing river of water. We were going to seek out a dry crossing somewhere upstream, until Quoi just charged across. The rest of us followed, soaking our feet.
We stopped at a campsite just past the crossing to dry out, and it turned into a long break; all of us wound up making dinner. The campsite had a lot of marmots, and we had to keep an eye on our belongings to make sure that adventurous marmots didn’t make off with anything. Mostly, though, they just looked on from a distance, almost begging for us to give them food.
Now getting into mid-afternoon, actually getting over Forester Pass and back down to a campsite seemed an lofty goal, but we continued hiking anyway, starting the five mile, 2200 ft climb up to the pass.
Along the way, we passed the Québécois couple, who had turned back after reaching an area of deep snow they were postholing in. We continued on, not wanting to backtrack.
As we continued climbing, the snow started to thicken, and eventually we started postholing as well. It was kind of fun, in an annoying sort of way, though it gradually became more and more difficult and more and more frustrating.
At one point, as seen in the above video of Flowers and Dylan’s frustrating postholing experience, Dylan somehow nearly impaled himself on one of his trekking poles.
Later, while assisting me out of a nearly hip-high posthole, Flowers postholed just as deep, hitting his crotch on a rock. After getting out and sitting down for a minute, he said, “The postholing stopped being funny after I hit my nuts.”
My own energy was waning, and it was taking all the mental effort I had to keep going. We took a break to recover from the postholing experience, and while we wanted to keep going, I pointed out that getting to Forester Pass today would be pretty bad given how exhausted we were, because then we’d be up at the top, with nowhere to go but down, and who knew how bad things would be on the far side. (What little information we had was that the postholing would be just as bad, or worse.)
Where we were was no place to make camp, though, so we kept going, trudging along looking for a better place. Flowers and Dylan split off to cross a creek and look for a flat area on the other side, while Quoi and I kept mostly following the trail, looking for a flat spot on this side of the creek. As we got further and further apart from each other, I kept hearing that admonishment from my Monday night D&D games: “Don’t Split The Party”. (That usually leads to some form of disaster in D&D, though it didn’t turn out badly for us.)
Quoi and I found a flattish spot a hundred feet or so off of the trail; Flowers and Dylan turned up empty; they found spots that were all too slanted to be useful.
The day was so hard and tiring that in nearly ten hours of hiking (including breaks), we barely got more than ten miles further down the trail.
Ultimately, we camped just off the trail, on a not-entirely-flat rock at around 12,160 feet (our highest camping spot so far). It was a terrible campsite, but at least we had a really good view.
As we set up to cowboy camp under Flowers’ tarp, we had the following exchange as I informed everyone of our altitude:
Longstride: We are...
Longstride: ... that too.
Anticipating a very cold night, I fully layered up: besides my regular hiking clothes (and a dry set of socks), I had my fleece on, as well as my down jacket (which I normally used as a pillow; today, my pillow would be my clothes bag). I layered my rain jacket over my feet to provide some more insulation there, and also protect my feet and that part of my sleeping bag from any precipitation, since they were hanging out beyond the edge of the tarp.
As we tried to get to sleep, a cloud started to come towards us from Forester Pass, slowly descending and covering the mountains above us.
Nominally, we agreed to get up early and tackle Forester Pass while the snow was still cold and firm, but I had my doubts that would actually happen.