6/13/14 – 6/14/14
7.5 miles to Onion Valley Trailhead and 7.5 miles back to the PCT at Kearsarge Junction
788.8 miles total
Kearsarge Pass Junction to Onion Valley and back to Kearsarge Pass Junction
Yesterday we woke up early so Whiskey, Bedtime and Bumper Car could get over Glen Pass before the snow gets slushy. We packed up and choked down our classic quick power bar breakfasts and said reluctant goodbyes and plans to meet in Mammoth. Tuck, Salami and I gave them all of the food we had left, knowing that we would be eating town food and they still had 7 brutal high altitude days ahead of them.
From there, the three of us looked up towards Kearsarge Pass. We had no clue which point we would be climbing over, but given that we were surrounded by a circle of mountains, we knew it would be difficult. I didn’t actually realize in all of my planning that Kearsarge is an almost 12,000 ft pass. Not just any old side trail to town, but 7.5 miles of hiking up to almost 12,000 ft and way back down to around 8,000 ft at Onion Valley Trailhead. It really just goes to show how far out into the mountains we were.
The climb up Kearsarge was brutal. Once we stepped off the PCT and onto the side trail to town we had also stepped off of the PCTs (mostly) gentle grade. The trail climbed very steeply to the top of the pass on loose rock scree. From there it switched back down and down and down from snow capped mountains to hot dry desert air on the eastern side of the Sierra range. By the time Tuck and I had reached the bottom, Salami had already found us a ride down to town from a day hiker.
Once we were in town we went straight for the first real food we could find – Subway. Our appetites had become insatiable monsters in this last section of altitude and constant climbing. After gorging ourselves and sitting down for long enough, we hitched to Bishop the next town over. We got one of the more interesting rides that we had had on the trip so far with a brother/sister duo from Shanghai who had come to the States to drive around the west coast.
Bishop was exactly what we needed. A real bed, some good food, a place to watch the Stanley Cup Finals, a real gear store, and more food. We spent last night and most of today futzing around town doing chores and getting ready for the big push to Mammoth.
By the afternoon we were all set and figured it would be good to just hike back the 7.5 miles to the PCT. We started hitching around 1pm and could not get a ride for the life of us. I made a few different signs on my white groundsheet with marker. “PCT Hikers to Trail” “Hikers to Independence (the next town over)”. None of it worked. We tried the smile and wave, we tried it with backpacks on and off, and we just didn’t get any takers. After waiting over 3 hours, and having talked about contingency plans of where to stay tonight in town, we got a ride! And not just any ride, but a ride with two fellows who had hiked the trail in 1977. How awesome is that?! They drove us all the way back to the trailhead even though it was way out of their way.
From there we started the even more brutal process of hiking back up and over Kearsarge with packs full of 8 days of food and bear cans. It was tough. By the time Tuck and I got to the top, Salami was waiting for us and he just started cracking up because of how completely exhausted we looked.
Tonight we’re camped halfway up Glen Pass, back on the PCT. Over the upcoming days we’ll hike over the 4 remaining 12,000 ft passes and 2 more 11,000 ft passes. Its going to be a ton of work, but we are excited to be back in this gorgeous alpine landscape for a while.