With food levels at a critical level and the race to reach the Post Office in Independence by 4pm on Friday, I knew I needed to cross Forrester Pass the same down I descended Mt Whitney. This was going to be a big ask going 25 miles from over 14,000 feet, down to 10,000 feet, then up and over the highest pass on the PCT at 13,200 feet.
I found myself out of breath after breakfast at the base of Whitney and was unable to keep up the pace with UB. I had to pick up my belongings from the bear box which made my pack even heavier, then begin the 13 miles to Forrester Pass. I got my second wind for the first 6 miles, then stopped for water and lunch at a little stream along the way.
I ate a tortilla with two strip cheeses and a packet of tuna, and for the first time on the trail felt like I couldn’t finish it. The cheese was a few days old and I think after 2 months of tuna my stomach just had enough. I polished it off because the alternative was to carry it to Independence, so I had a bad taste in my mouth for the next few miles and started to feel extremely sluggish.
The last five miles heading to Forrester went FOREVER! The climb looks very gradual at first, but it’s so constant that my legs started to feel heavy and it started to get later and later in the afternoon. It was eerily silent in the valley and I started to feel the most isolated I have on the trail. I figured anyone who was going to climb the pass would have crossed it by now, and no one else would attempt it so late in the afternoon.
After I shot the video above I heard my name being called. At first I thought I was hearing things, like the way I always hear footsteps behind me when there’s not, or the way burnt out tree stumps always look like people. After three calls I finally looked up and saw UB camped behind a huge rock just off the trail. He had already walked half way up the pass but decided to come back down because it was getting late. Thankfully this meant I didn’t have to climb it alone and UB didn’t have to camp in the cold at the bottom of the pass.
The climb from the base wasn’t as steep as I had expected, and because the majority of climbing was done leading to the base, the distance to the top was shorter than anticipated. When we reached the ridge top covered in icy snow I knew we were nearly there. I also knew this was the spot on the trail that UB had dreaded the most.
Once we made it across the treacherous ridge alive there was a little more climbing to do and then 4 miles of downhill to the next camp site with a bear box. There was a lot more snow on the north side of the mountain which made getting to the bottom slow, and after doing over 20 miles, my legs and knees were ready to call it a day.
We reached camp just as the sun was starting to set. I went into auto pilot mode, set up the tent, put on warmer clothes, cooked dinner, brushed teeth, locked food in bear box and went to sleep with my alarm set for 5am.