SLOW PROGRESS OVER BENSON PASS
PCT DAY 58: Mile 962.1 (Matterhorn Creek) – Mile 974.8 (Small Lake)
Friday June 10, 2016: 12.7 miles (20.3 km)
The sound of rushing water, when we woke up this morning, was an instant reminder that in less then 0.2 of a mile we had our first creek crossing of the day. My heart started to race almost immediately. It took some time to calm myself down and just wait and see what it’s like when we get there. Matterhorn Creek was listed as being a large and wide creek. It was a very chilly morning and it would be a while before the sun penetrated down into the valley.
Apart from the cold, the crossing of Matterhorn Creek turned out to be quite easy. Where we crossed the creek, it flows through a lovely meadow and was therefore moving quite gently.
Sigh of relief as we hiked on up towards Benson Pass, only to be confronted by 4 crossings of Wilson Creek in fairly quick succession. These turned out not to be so easy. There was much searching for the best place to get across at each occassion. My mouth would go dry as we approached the sound of thundering water falling. But with my heart in my throat I followed Hammers lead on the best way to get across.
We were hiking on snow almost from the start of the ascent of Benson Pass and for the most part we had reliable footprints to follow. The pockled nature of the snow made it difficult to follow tracks and our progress was very slow stopping to check on our navigation. We made the ascent of the pass eventually.
This turned out to the the easy part. The descent was not so easy. Unlike the other passes we traversed in the High Sierra mountains, Benson Pass is unforgiving if you go off trail which we did almost immediately. Hammer started to descend steeply only to pull up on top of an escarpment near a huge waterfall. We thought we could cut across to get back on trail only to be trapped underneath a huge vertical wall of rocks. Much hard slogging uphill through snow and over boulders before we were finally back on the trail.
Nearly 2 hrs later we were on a recognizable trail at the bottom of the valley. We lost a lot of time and energy on the descent. On the way down Hammer broke a hiking pole. Less then 15 minutes later I slipped and took a chunk out of my left shin and broke my hiking pole. Yesterday when I fell in the river I bruised my right shin on the underwater boulder I could not get around. A matching pair of bruised and bloodied shins and 2 broken hiking poles. We were only on day two out of Yosemite, the afternoon was not going well.
It was nearly 3pm before we were off snow and on formed recognizable trail. What a relief, we can just hike. This relief was short lived as we faced a further 9 creek crossings before we made camp. Each of these crossings was difficult and at each my heart was in my throat. A total of 14 creek crossings in one day and only the first and last were what we considered easy. My feet were pickled being wet and on snow pretty much all day.
We made camp by Small Lake on the way up Seavey Pass. I hope we have used up our quota of creek crossings. I am running out of adrenaline. Today I had serious reservations about my ability to get through any more creeks. Hammer is rock steady. He has no doubts we would get across each and every creek. We covered 12 miles in 12 hours today. It has been a very trying day.
One of the elements of your writing that I’m very much enjoying is your frank description of the challenges and fears you face. For example, the river crossings. I’ve faced them many times and so, when you get to describing your own qualms and worries, my heart is racing also. Thanks for being honest about them. It is an aspect of such hikes that few others touch on.
Looking forward to ‘seeing’ you come through Oregon.
Crossing the Sierra at this time of the year has certainly been one of the most challenging things I have done. I am looking forward to Oregon also Rick.
Sounds brutal. Stay safe
It was Karl. But now that we are moving north the pain is fading. How was Kakadu?