Miles walked: 23.3
We started our day at 5:00 am sharp with the goal of making it up and down Muir a Pass before the snow warmed up too much. Ten minutes into our day we had to ford a creek, and it was ice cold. My toes were numb for the next hour or two.
Sleeping Beauty and Ziploc were having a rough day. Ziploc was nursing an injury to her quad muscle. Sleeping Beauty was fatigued and slowed by some Achilles tendinitis. It was also cold and breezy making our early morning snow climb up Muir Pass with numb toes a bit more challenging. To add to the hell, the snow fields we were crossing were sun-cupped. This made every step a potential ankle breaker. We also had more mental toughness tests; like crossing sketchy snow bridges over raging creeks or seeing the steep terrain in front of you, and knowing your suffering will continue until you reach the top.
|Crossing Creek on a Snow Bridge
Frustration was obvious in both the ladies. I offered encouragement and tried to get them to focus on the positive things like the stunning views, or the fact that we were not post-holing.
|i-Phone Storage Unit
We carefully rock hopped about 100 rocks in the Evolution Lake Inlet. The rocks were mostly submerged from excessive runoff, but still visible. My ankle injury made this exercise slight more difficult, but I managed. Our shoes were already 0% dry so another dose of freezing alpine lake water didn’t hurt.
At lunch, the main topic was how we were all going to run out of food before making it to VVR where our next resupply was awaiting. Sleeping Beauty also voiced concern that the conditions with such challenging snow up high was making it difficult for her to finish the JMT before she had to return home. She was exhausted and needs a rest day, but her schedule doesn’t allow it. Ziploc said that she was done with the snow, and that she was going to skip a section up to Tahoe. We all knew (hoped) she wasn’t serious.
As lunch ended, we left Evolution Lake and the trout swimming around in clear view from the shore. I was moving slow due to my ankle. Advil and Vicodin didn’t even help. I hiked about two miles and saw Sleeping Beauty and Ziploc waiting for me at a switchback. It was really sweet that they waited for me. It was right about the mile where Ziploc and I crossed the “halfway across California” milestone. I thanked them for waiting but told them that we could all reconvene at the Evolution Creek ford which was reportedly waist deep.
As I descended even more, the rocky trail gave way to soft pine needles which made my ankle happier. The trail followed Evolution Creek much of the afternoon. The creek would roar violently at narrow spots where waterfalls were present, and it other areas where the water widened into a meadow, it was serene and calm. McClure Meadow was like this and was one of the prettiest places I’d ever seen.
Ziploc caught up with me on trail after she’d taken a bathroom break. She told me Sleeping Beauty was still in front of us. However, an hour later when we reached the junction where we’d meet before fording Evolution Creek, Sleeping Beauty was nowhere to be seen. We waited for a bit and then decided to take the alternate crossing which was safer in high water. This was also the crossing that we were discussing earlier with Sleeping Beauty. She was not there either.
Ziploc and I decided that she must’ve forded the creek by herself and pressed on to camp since she was tired and probably wanted extra recovery time. Just in case, we stopped and waited for an hour. Mark and Tammy walked by and we asked if they’d seen Kate (a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty) and they said they hadn’t. This made us assume that Sleeping Beauty was ahead of us and probably kicking it at camp already.
Ziploc and I hiked another 5.5 miles from 5:30 pm till 8:00 pm and Sleeping Beauty was not at the tent site that we thought she was going to stop at. Unfortunately, we didn’t know if Sleeping Beauty was just catching some Zzz a couple miles ahead of us, or if something worse happened. Ziploc and I were already running on fumes. We were both nursing injuries and hadn’t even eaten dinner and it was 8:00 pm. The sun was setting and we made a difficult decision to stop and camp.
Now I lay here in my tent wondering if Sleeping Beauty is snoozing comfortably somewhere or whether she got swept down Evolution Creek. My mind has played so many scenarios. She’s a strong independent woman with a ton of experience. I have to assume she’s OK. But I also know from years of climbing mountains with Kate that this is highly unusual.