Coooooold. Cold cold cold. That was how I felt when I got out of my sleeping bag this morning before the sun rose and would start to make the snow slushy on Mather Pass, which I camped less than one mile from. I wore basically all my clothing but that wasn’t enough to be comfortable and even though I was in the lucky situation of having dry shoes and socks my feet hurt from the coldness. I made jumping jacks and walked around while eating my breakfast (you guessed right,pop tarts). Packed up my stuff and got moving and eventually I warmed up and felt better.
Mather pass was supposedly one of the most frightening and treacherous passes on the PCT, so of course I felt a little intimidated. The ascent was quite easy though and didn’t take long with only a few non problematic snow patches. On the way up I passed a hiker who had done the John Muir Trail (mostly a subset of the PCT) and now was doing the whole of the PCT. The views from the top were good, but not as nice as the other passes, that we previously had been over. On the way down there was quite a bit of snow on the first part and I planned to walk across it in a slow and gradual descent, as I could see that others had done. However half way through the footings got a lot worse as the sun hat melted the previous pathway. I saw that the other hiker steered off to a steeper descent and it went well for him. I therefore backtracked slightly and took that way. I had my microspikes on, kicked my steps in, moved only one foot or trekking pole at a time and that made things feel very secure despite the steepness. Later on on the descent there were a couple of patches of snow that I either crossed without my microspikes or walked around. Due to the latter there was quite a bit of scrambling but nothing too scary. As I tried to cross a tiny creek I stepped on a rock and lost my footing as it wasn’t wet as I had assumed but instead covered with a thin layer of ice. I didn’t fall (thanks trekking poles) and even if I had, I wouldn’t have gotten seriously hurt, but lesson learned.
After maybe an hour or so the last snow patch was behind me and things got much easier. It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared. However, I was glad that I had done the pass so early and had as good as no problems with post-holing.
I had expected today to be quite boring, but after having descended the first part of the pass a serene and stunning landscape with lakes, creeks, trees and other plants unveiled itself. The trail slowly descended from there on and showed the mountains beautifully reflecting in the lakes. This was surely some of the most beautiful nature I had seen on the trail and convinced me the Sierras surpassed the European Alps in beauty, although they both have their special charms.
After some time the descent became steeper with many rocky switchbacks, which became somewhat annoying to walk on. However it eventually flattened out and made for easy walking. I found it surprisingly easy going and eventually got to my camp site much earlier than anticipated. I saw a mountain rabbit (if that is a thing), a couple of marmots, and another deer. Despite numerous creek crossings, I never got my feet wet. It all adds up to the following equation:
Nice nature + dry feet + no mosquitoes + mostly easy hiking = yay!
Tomorrow morning it will be Muir Pass, which still has a lot of snow so it will be interesting to see how that goes.