FALSE SUMMIT – SILVER PASS
PCT DAY 51: Mile 878.8 (Vermillion Valley) – Mile 888.5
Friday June 3, 2016: 16.2 miles (9.7 on PCT & 6.5 Lake Edison Trail) -(26km)
Rested and restored we left Vermillion Valley Resort. Rather then take the ferry across the lake we hiked the Lake Edison Trail to rejoin the PCT at Mile 878.8. It was a brilliant, warm sunny day. We were less then 3 miles along the trail when I turned on the phone and discovered there was coverage. I was overjoyed. First time we’ve had phone service in 16 days. We were expecting that through the high Sierra range we would be out of contact but the 7 days from Tehachapi were a surprise. Anyhow, we stopped and almost 2 hours later caught up on all the news.
Once we were back on trail and hiking we had 4 rather difficult creek crossings.At the first creek crossing we both commented how refreshing the water felt as it was so warm. Such a change from being freezing cold. The third creek crossing was the North Fork of Mono Creek. It really did not look possible to cross where the PCT traverses the creek. We scouted a few spots and found a log to walk on way downstream. This meant a scramble up a steep rocky escarpment on the other side to get back on trail. The dreaded creek crossing under a waterfall soon followed. This was downright scary. It left little room for error as the wall of water hit the trail and then cascaded downstream through a set of rapids. We got completely soaking wet, head to toe. Will hiking ever be just hiking again, without this constant obstacle course? Well it turns out not today.
Soon after getting through the Waterfall we hit snow, about 3 miles from the summit of Silver Pass. Luckily the sun was out and we dried pretty quickly. We did these last 2 creek crossings with another hiker Eric, who was hiking the 211 mile John Muir Trail. We ended up hiking over Silver Pass with him. Silver Pass just like the other passes had its own challenges. The snow was relatively firm underfoot despite being late afternoon and warm. The lakes we passed on the way to the summit were still frozen. We had great views of snowy peaks looking back.
We reached what we thought was the summit only to realise that it was a false summit. We still had to go another half a mile up to the east to reach the true summit. We left Eric here to have his dinner and we headed down hoping to reach a snow free area to make camp. The snow was deep but not so difficult to walk on. The north side of Silver Pass drops into what looks like a deep canyon which was more open at the top with small circular lakes. We followed fresh footsteps in the snow for what felt like a quick descent to find the trail which was clear of snow.
So happy to be off snow we followed the tail for a short while and stopped for dinner at a great spot. Hammer was keen to stop here for the night but I thought we could easily make another 2 miles to the next possible campspot lower down before it got dark. This turned out to be a mistake. Unlike other passes we’ve traversed this one did not open up through the pine forest. Instead it got narrower and the snow got deeper. Hammer was racing straight down the slope to try and get to a clear spot before it got dark. I tried to keep up but in the fading light it got more difficult.
The sunset was the most brilliant orange colour. It would have been superb to have been camped somewhere on an open meadow to watch this enourmous ball of red and orange disappear over the horizon.
Instead we were deep in a canyon crossing yet another swollen creek. Just before it got completely dark we reached the junction of the PCT with the Cascade Valley Trail. We found an area clear of snow. We made it in a whisker of time. Very relieved we quickly set up camp in the dark. It would not be an easy place for us to try and navigate through the night.
Good to meet you and hike with you both for a bit. I think I camped only a couple hundred yards down the trail from you the night we passed over Silver – I checked the map and was suprised to see the trail climb back up over 10k feet again. I woke early a dead hiking before 3:30am. I had a goal to complete the JMT in 7 days or less. I made 1,000 Isalnd Lake the next night and the Valley floor at 11:00pm the following. The snow put me behind schedule and I had to cover 78 miles the two days after Silver. Thanks for helping get through those couple sketchy creek crossings. Enjoy the rest of your hike. It was a pleasure spending an afternoon in the Sierra with you both. Thanks – Eric
So pleased to hear you made it Eric. It was great do Silver Pass with you and share the navigational challenges. And those creek crossings were sketchy. We were in awe of your ability to navigate at night in the snow. You are a legend on the JMT already. We met a few southbounders who were mentioning your name. Congratulations.