It was a cool chilly morning, as we packed our things together. Izzie went to soak her foot in the river as I finished packing up the tent. Still not sure how she manages that first thing in the morning, it must be excruciating. The cold wind was low, water white noise high from the nearby creek when we finally strapped our packs on ready to take our first steps.
As we hiked up the valley we watched the creek roll down its belly in beautiful white cascading falls, sometimes fanning out, sometimes flowing over slick granite, others crashing onto large rocks. We left our hoods on as we climbed up the valley. Our hands shot with pain as the blood finally flowed back into our hands again. Izzie went to cross a creek and unwittingly placed a foot on an icy rock, slllip, wet feet on an already cold morning. The only saving grace is that we had a large climb to keep us warm.
The sun still hadn’t found our faces as we quietly passed the uppermost trail camp a few miles below the pass. It was the last big forested refuge before the stark landscape above. There were still quite a few tents nestled below the trees, still quiet with sleeping hikers stowed away. As we climbed higher we heard a sooty grouse make his un-deniable mating call, a low woomph woomph woomphhh. I love hearing such interesting birds, especially far out in the backcountry!
The frosty soil crunched beneath our feet as we ascended to Pinchot Pass. The interesting ice columns that grew below the soil’s surface looked like miniature skyscrapers, glassy crystalline pinnacles crushing beneath our feet!
When the sun finally reached us, we had a view of a huge red ridge, frozen creeks trickling across the alpine, speckled with lush tundra. The water that flowed below the frozen creek’s surface pulsed like a lava lamp, trapped air bubbling together and flowing slowly beneath the ice. It was such a colorful pass, red iron rocks, green lush tundra with purple flowers, so much more color than the other fully grey granite passes we had encountered.
We finally reached the pass and sat for a snack to look over the vast landscape we had just traversed. Soon Goldie and Workout surprisingly came into view. We exclaimed welcomes and were glad to meet back up since our brief chat the afternoon before. Once snacks were done, we bid farewell and headed down the north side of Pinchot Pass.
The valley was slightly different here than the last, small willows grew creekside, ice waterfalls led to beautiful emerald lakes across rolling planes, all under the watchful eye of the great sheets of grey granite that constructed the canyon walls above. Above grey, green and lush below.
We bombed down the valley chatting on and enjoying the beautiful views. After a long drop we reached the creek bottom and stopped for lunch near Kings River. It was nice to kick up our feet after a long climb and descent. We finally packed up and headed north past fields of purple shooting stars, so far it seems to be the flower of the JMT.
After leaving the river bottom the scene seemed to open up. The green grass field speckled with boulders and lodgepole pines seemed to singularly dominate the landscape. As we climbed the trees thinned, and only sparsely speckled the landscape covered in tundra and a few lakes. The grey granite started to take over again. The padded trail soon changed to chunky rocks and eventually small boulders which we had to dodge. This really started to go to work on our feet as we climbed. Switchback after switchback as we inched up closer to Mather Pass.
When we finally reached the top it seemed like a sigh of relief was in order, but a sigh too early. The downhill switchbacks were scattered with large rocks and we traveled carefully down trying not to roll an ankle, or stub a toe. The Palisade Lakes came into view but they seemed so far away. Yet, we pushed on, after rolling trail took us on a rollercoaster ride and really gave our feet a true beating we finally found ourselves on the edge of Palisade Lake. We put up our tent, cooked dinner, stretched, and crawled our tired yet satisfied bodies into our small snug tent. Another good day on the JMT!
- Hike Stats
- Miles: 19.5 Total:
- JMT Miles (Mile 53.5 – 73)
- GPX Track
- Miles: 19.5 Total:
- Gear: JMT Backpacking Gear List