Day 51: mile 811.3 – mile 823.2
Elevation gain: 2,161 ft
Elevation loss: 3,318 ft
First things first…a BIG happy 19th bday to our son, Max! We sure wish we could be there to help celebrate with you ♥️ Today might be my favorite day so far, and definitely my favorite Pass! Link and I have seen so much of the Sierra, but never Mather Pass (12,094 ft) and I thought it was spectacular! We started hiking at 8am cuz we didn’t want to set the alarm after our super hard day yesterday. We literally walked for only 3 mins when we came across a crazy river crossing, wet feet right off the bat. 🤨We knew we would be walking in a lot of snow today so we both had our waterproof socks on, but those don’t help when the water comes up to mid thigh! It ended up being one of FOUR wet feet river crossings today. The meadows are all starting to turn green after their dormancy which is amazing! There are so few people walking on these trails that flowers and grass are all growing right down the middle of the trail a lot of the time. It’s super hard for me to trample all over them, but what are my options? 😬
When we were about to do the 3rd wet feet crossing, we saw Mantis and Pants on the other side of the stream drying their feet because they usually change shoes for these crossings (we wear our shoes cuz we like to have the tread on our trail runners in case the rocks are slippery plus we feel more steady). They had hiked until 10pm the night before and couldn’t see our tent, so they camped just a little further from us. So then we got to walk with them toward the Pass which is always fun!
Most of the approach to the Pass was so lovely and gradual. We could talk and walk at the same time while really taking in the amazing scenery!
When we came to the 4th wet feet river crossing, Link and I walked right through and told Mantis and Pants that we would see them up ahead a bit while they switched shoes. The snow started to really increase, but with the gradual terrain, it was fine. It’s always a fun challenge to try and navigate our way as close to the trail as possible, but stepping in as little snow as possible at the same time.
This is a pic of Mather Pass…we heard the final ascent was still pretty gnarly because it’s steep and all the switchbacks still had snow (you can see them on the left).
So we stopped at 11:30, just before the switchbacks, to wait for Mantis and Pants so we could discuss strategy. The consensus was to walk up the shale because there were no foot prints in the snow on the switchbacks and we felt like that could be more unsafe. So we did…and it was fine, I promise parents 😁
It only took 30 mins to get to the top and Mantis/Pants wanted to have lunch up there while Link and I wanted to get down the other side before the snow got even softer. I’m always a little more anxious on the descent, so I just wanted to get it over with plus who knew if there would be another hail/thunderstorm. More gorgeous views on the other side of the Pass as well!
We put our micro spikes on and grabbed the ice axes because the first part of the descent was really steep. But once we were able to get over to the exposed rock, we were able to take off the spikes and it was a breeze to boulder hop. There were definitely some glissading opportunities, but with Link’s calves still healing from last time, we thought that wasn’t too swell of an idea!
Once we finally got to snow free trail it was great except that it’s never a “dry trail”. There is so much snow melt that every trail turns into a stream, but since our feet had been wet all day, it really didn’t matter.
Then came my most favorite part…lake to the left with a backdrop of snowy peaks, and on the right we had high, sheer granite cliffs. Absolutely spectacular and I couldn’t stop “oooh-ing and ahh-ing”, or stop taking pictures. This could be why we only went 12 miles today…we really wanted to appreciate and enjoy it. I absolutely love that we have everything we need on our backs so that if we want to stop after 12 miles or 25, we can! We can adjust on the fly which, if you’ve been following from the start, you know we do A LOT!
We noticed the clouds were getting darker around 3pm, and we’ve been in the Sierra enough to know that afternoon thunderstorms happen very often and we are familiar with the signs. So we threw on our pack covers but not our rain jackets since we were both pretty warm.
Just a few moments later it started to rain and that continued on and off until we got to camp…cloudy and rainy one minute, then blue skies and that amazing “right after a rain” smell the next minute. We did walk by a mama deer and her fawn, but the mom was laying down in the greenery which was super weird. Her head was up, but she just looked so relaxed. We’ve never seen that before, they’re always standing and on high alert whenever we’ve walked by them before! I just really hope she wasn’t injured or something ☹️
We got to a good looking camp site at 5:15 and we hustled to set up camp since the dark clouds were moving in again. We literally finished putting the last thing in the vestibule when the rain really started to come down, which then turned to hail AGAIN! It was super loud and sounded so cool on the tent…hopefully you can tell with this video.
Then at 6:30, Mantis/Pants came walking up just as the blue skies appeared again…impeccable timing! So we all got to eat dinner again together and share crazy stories from home.
Can you believe that the pix I put on the blog today is only a fraction of what we actually took? It was stunning and breath taking, and it’s definitely my favorite day on the trail so far! I am so happy that we only have half of a Pass to do tomorrow…my legs feel tired! Thanks for reading, guys…Double Down