LEAVING SENTIAM PASS
PCT DAY 20: Saturday July 15, 2017
Mile 1998.4 – Mile 2016
17.6 miles (28 km)
The delicate smell of the pea-flower like Lupines and the cooling breeze were a distraction from the welling tears as I set off on my own from the trailhead at Sentiam Pass. I knew that I just had to keep on walking and don’t look back. Even writing this makes me tear-up. While Hammer and I have done quite a few trips separately, hiking the PCT for me has always been about the two us doing it together. Never really thought about hiking it by myself. But here I am. We’ve done a big chunk together, 1998 miles and I am really grateful for that and for this opportunity to finish what we started last year.
Before leaving we had breakfast at the Sisters Coffee House – a deconstructed breakfast burrito and an excellent coffee set me up well for the morning. Hammer dropped me off at 8.30am. A hug and kiss later we were walking away in separate directions. Being a weekend the trailhead carpark was full. And I was pleased to have company as I knew that the snowy traverse near Three Fingered Jack was not too far away.
It was a gradual uphill for about 4 miles through largely old burnt forest. The breeze was lovely. My fully loaded pack felt so comfortable despite carrying 5 days of food and 2 litres of water. Maybe it was just adrenaline as I was nervously anticipating the big snow traverse.
As the trail topped out and wound its way along the southwest side of Three Fingered Jack (mile 2004) snow banks started to increase in length and slope. Being still fairly early in the morning the snow was quite grippy and really was not a big problem at all. At a few spots I stopped to wait for the the group in front of me to make it across. While waiting at one of these stops I went to get a drink of water. The bottle slipped out of my hand and went sliding down a steep slope. A litre of water lost. Lucky I have a spare dirty water bottle. It means having to stop and filter earlier than I planned.
I passed a dozen weekend and day hikers before reaching the top of the pass. I expected a lot more snow on the north face switchbacks off the mountain. But blessedly – it was snow free. The north side of Three Fingered Jack is really quite intimidating. I was so happy that the trail was snow free, I sang a little aria on my way down.
Most of the day I hiked alone through burnt forest with the wind getting stronger particularly on the ridgetops. Mt Jefferson came in and out of view to the north and to the south a fantastic view of Three Fingered Jack and the Sisters. If only it was later in the day I would have stopped at the lovely Rockpile Lake which I passed just after 3pm. Since leaving the snow near Three Fingered Jack I did not see another person till late afternoon when I passed a south bound day hiker.
Significant banks of snow appeared around mile 2014. My heart sank a little as these were a little bit trickier to traverse being very steep and on a steep slope. My pace slowed as I tried to find a safe way around. I managed to get through. I reached a relatively sheltered campspot about 5.30pm and decided to stop before running out of reserves.
Great spot with terrific view of Mt Jefferson right in front of me.
Despite the wind, there are thousands of mosquitos. I got the tent up in 15 minutes and got in quickly. Spent the next 5 minutes swatting the blood filled suckers that followed me inside.