PCT Day 162 – Friday, September 22
Vermilion Valley Resort Mile 878.7 to 881.1
PCT Miles Hiked Today: 2.4
Non-PCT Miles Hiked Today: 1.4 Miles
Total PCT Miles Hiked: 1751.4
Feet Ascended Today: 1286
Feet Descended Today: 20
Current Elevation: 8899
When I awoke it was 33 degrees in the bunkroom. I guessed that it was colder outside but body heat must have kept the room warm. There was only one other hiker still in his sleeping bag. I realized that it was already 7:00 am and I had slept in!
The morning was clear but cold and the frost crunched under my feet. A trace of snow still remained on the ground. I walked to the restaurant and over breakfast conferred with other hikers. Southbound hikers reported over a foot of snow on Silver Pass, which I had to cross if I was to continue hiking north. At 10779 feet, it’s shorter than any of the other passes that I’ve crossed so far, but it’s clearly at a high enough elevation to get more significant levels of snow. I had only 30 miles to go and the one pass to cross until I reached my next resupply point at Red’s Meadow, and from there I planned to go into the town of Mammoth and take a day off – preferably in a heated hotel room – and reassess the situation.
But the snow had spooked me. Most hikers were heading south and no one else seemed to be hiking north. I didn’t feel comfortable venturing out into the snow on my own at all. I really wanted to make it to Mammoth if I could, as it was a bigger town with more services. If I decided to end my hike, I wanted to do it there as the town had a public bus system and it would be easier to start up again when I was ready to continue.
The locals seemed to think that the current cold front was temporary and that we would have a few more weeks of clear and sunny weather after the current weather system moved out before winter really set in for good. That seemed to be the general consensus but it was hard to confirm without any internet access. I am able to get weather forecasts over satellite with my InReach device, but the information has been a bit unreliable.
I overheard some other hikers talking about the snow conditions on Silver Pass and invited myself over to join their conversation. Two hikers, Steady (Heather) and Buck-30 (Brian) were planning on hiking out this afternoon and heading over Silver Pass. They are actually not on the PCT or the JMT, but an obscure trail called The Hot Springs Trail, a 2421-mile trail from Santa Barbara to Canada. They planned to hike over Silver Pass and then split off of the PCT to hit the Iva Bell hot springs on the way to Red’s Meadow. The route was at a much lower elevation than the PCT and also had the benefit of going by a hot springs. Heather and Brian graciously agreed to let me tag along and I was immensely grateful as I didn’t want to hike to Red’s Meadow alone.
So we sat around VVR for the afternoon, waiting for the next ferry back to the other side of the lake. While we waited, I bought another pair of socks and some hand warmers. I also acquired a pair of gloves from another hiker who was leaving the trail and some super glue to repair a tear in my thumbnail that had split down the middle.
At 4:00, we boarded the ferry back to the other side of the lake. We walked to the junction with the PCT and then headed north for a few miles. We stopped just before the trail climbed up too high in elevation towards Silver Pass and were well positioned to tackle that in the morning.
As I climbed into my tent, it began to snow again. It didn’t seem to be snowing too hard but it was a bit worrisome. I bundled up inside my sleeping quilt with my down coat on and only my nose poking out. I hope it doesn’t snow too hard tonight.
For more information on the Hot Springs Trail, you can read Brian’s journal about his experiences here.