Day 141: Reunited with the PCT

11.9 miles: 4.2 on JMT and 7.7 on PCT (767.0 to 774.7)

Ice slides off my tent during the night, sounding like a rodent causing mischief. Again and again I turn on my headlamp and peer into the vestibule, but see nothing. I toss and turn inside my sleeping bag. I overheat and unzip the bag. Hikers walk by my campsite at 5am on their way to summit Mount Whitney. Finally, a little after 6am, I wake fully and begin to face the day. 

My digestive system is still unwell. I barely ate yesterday, but my body doesn’t want to eat breakfast. This isn’t good. I force down a bar. Hopefully I can get another one down in an hour or so. 

There’s ice in my Platypus bladder, which was inside my tent, next to my head, all night. My tent fly is so iced over that when I take down my tent and shake the fly, ice falls off and piles on the ground. My thermometer reads 20 degrees at 8am. That’s when I start hiking. 

Sunrise, from the place I camped when I passed through with Cucumber in July.

Even the slightest uphill grade, even over short distances, makes me gasp. Nausea comes and goes. I eat a second bar. A little later, I eat another. My body is hungry but still doesn’t want to eat. Going downhill, I feel ok. Uphill, I feel sick. 

I make my way back to the PCT. Those four miles take longer than they should. My legs want to go, but my lungs can’t keep up. At last I set foot on the PCT and turn north. It feels good to be back. 

I pass southbound hikers, some doing the JMT, some section hiking, several who came in from the west. I don’t see anyone who looks like a thru hiker. Maybe I don’t look like a thru hiker anymore, either. 

I’m slow. On every bit of uphill I force myself into the slowest pace I can manage in hopes of avoiding nausea. I take frequent stops. How long did it take me to acclimate last time? Four days? Five? I trashed my body yesterday. Will yesterday’s quick ascent help with acclimation, or hinder it (because I now have to recover)?

Lunchtime view, looking west.

I cross Wallace Creek and climb to an overlook of the mountains to the west. Here, I eat lunch and spread my tent and sleeping bag to dry. The tent parts are soaked with melted ice, the sleeping bag damp with condensation. After half an hour in direct sun and an occasional breeze, everything is dry. I pack my things away and continue on to Bighorn Plateau. 

As expected, the views are spectacular in all directions. I can finally see Mount Whitney. I may summit that mountain one day, but not this year. 

Mount Whitney from Bighorn Plateau.

On the descent, I get what I believe is my first glimpse of Forester Pass. I’m going to tackle Forester tomorrow. 

I pull into camp at Tyndall Creek at the unheard of hour of 3:45. Forester is only 4.8 miles and 2,200 feet of elevation gain away. Elsewhere on the trail, I could bust that out this afternoon and find a campsite on the far side by nightfall. Tomorrow morning, however, I expect to travel at one (that’s 1) mile per hour until I reach the pass, and I’ll be thrilled to average two miles per hour on the descent. 

So. I have this afternoon to recover from yesterday’s brutality and, hopefully, acclimate to high elevation. I’m camped at 11,000 feet. That should help, if anything will. 

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