Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 53. Glen Pass

11.5 miles
790 to 801.5

Descending down Glen Pass was one of the most scary and exhilarating things I've experienced. The wall of snow that covered the slope and buried the trail had several sets of tracks, all of which looked impossibly steep. Some rocks stuck above the snow, but mostly it was a huge snow-covered slope. I could not believe we could walk down such a steep incline without slipping and falling on the rocks below. I am not exaggerating when I say that I scanned the area for dead bodies of other hikers, since it seemed so unbelievable to me that all of us hikers could survive this.
Impossibly steep snow.
The only thing I could do to keep being terrified out of my mind was to trust that Arizona and I would find a way down if we choose a route and slowly made our way down, step by step. I reminded myself that I was a strong hiker and that my snow course had prepared me for this.
I made it up Glen Pass!
I also knew we had taken the time to get the timing for this pass right to make it safer-  but not to arriving too early when it would be icy, or too late when it could be slushy and unstable.

Still it was a tough descent, unlike anything I've ever done.  All the tracks we tried to follow were poorly formed and unstable.  Arizona decided to kick out fresh cross-steps parallel to the main tracks. I followed behind, white knuckle grips on my hiking poles. Each step took intense concentration and balance. I tested each foothold before lifting my other foot and shifting my weight, poles planted firmly each time.
This is what we went down.  I still can't believe it since it was so steep.
When my legs started shaking from the exertion, I sat down in the snow exhausted, breathing hard, trembling.  I knew I had to keep moving, but I also tried to savor the moment too.  Briefly I looked around at the incredible scenery. Rae Lakes spread out before us- unbelievably stunning. I didn't linger though- forward progress was essential for getting down before the snow got slushy and unstable and the risk of postholing increased.

We made it to a rock pile and I took the lead, making our way over loose rocks.  Moving with speed and agility over the rocks made me feel more confident- I love to rock hop.  

The descent seemed to go on forever, and we could never see where we needed to go next because it was so incredibly steep.

As we descended, the risk of postholing increased. We sunk up past our knees in a couple spots, which was also scary because it would be easy to break a leg that way.

Near the bottom, the slope was more gradual so we glissaded down, giggling and laughing. What fun!!! Though I tore a few holes in my long underwear.  Totally worthwhile though.

Glassading down Glen Pass.
It was such an incredible feeling to have accomplished something so physically challenging and terrifying. Being so in the moment made me feel incredibly alive. It is still hard for me to comprehend that I actually traveled over that steep snowy terrain, to have done the impossible.

The rest of the day was absolutely breathtaking.  Rae Lakes were incredibly blue with huge peaks surrounding them. Then we also saw huge waterfalls swollen with snow melt. I've no words to describe the incredible beauty, the powerful feeling of being so small and insignificant amid the immensity and vastness.
Rae Lakes.
We are completely exhausted. I certainly thought I'd be doing more miles, but these are tough miles.  My body hurts more than ever, and I am mentally exhausted from concentrating so intently on every step.  I am grateful to collapse into the comfort of my hammock and to sleep deeply so my body can heal and recover for the next pass tomorrow.
At home in my hammock.


  1. Looks like you're having an awesome trip! I'm jealous of your journey through the Sierra snowfest! My boyfriend and I met you (I think... pretty sure) when you were re-entering at Onion Valley (I took the photo of you and two other at the trailhead). I look forward to following your journey on the rest of the PCT!

    1. Oh wow I have that photo of all of us and really appreciated it- only one with the whole group. Thanks so much for finding my blog and commenting. And nice to meet you! Yes, the Sierra was so incredible and I felt so glad that we had so much snow. What an experience. Really want to return to the Sierra someday to hike more of the trails. Incredible place! :)