Crossing the Pasayten (Day 5)

I have never setup camp or shoveled spicy macaroni n’ cheese into my mouth so quickly. Today, chocolate saved my life.

My best friend, Chocolate, and I hiking.

My best friend, Chocolate, and I hiking.

Distance: ~8.0 miles

Start: Little Fish Shelter

Camp: Big Face Creek (5,160′)

Highlights: High alpine views, snow travel, off trail excitement

Today I crossed eight miles of the most rugged wilderness I have ever seen, the Pasayten. I climbed over 5,000 vertical feet through moss and rocks and miles of blown down dead trees. I traversed on hands and knees through thickets of bushes that I have never seen before and growing sideways 20 feet tall. I descended, then ascended, and then re-descended a debris strewn avalanche chute with a river emerging from beneath the ice that fills it. Today’s eight miles were hard won. It took me over 9 hours. Most of my travel was on snow, with no trail and no footprints to follow. I walked along many high ridges where I had to be careful not to come to close to the edge where I might be walking on a melting cornice. I pushed my limits and at times it was amazing. I laughed hysterically as slushy snow spattered against my bare upper body while I skidded, glissading, down the smooth uppers of the avalanche chute. I laid for a long time in my down jacket, eating chocolate and a giant pot of mashed potatoes in the sun while I stared at the surrounding ridges from the day’s 6400′ highpoint. And at some point, with miles to go and no water and no flat ground in sight, it really started to suck. Maybe it was when my crampon ripped my pant leg, or maybe it was when I lost my water bottle and had to climb back up and find it. Or when the other crampon ripped the other pant leg. Actually, no, it first really started to suck right after that glissade – when I realized my water filter and bottle had fallen out during the descent and I had to climb hundreds of feet back up the debris strewn avalanche chute to find them. But I did find them and I did hike on and I didn’t find flat ground so I camped right here: in the middle of the trail, all 50 feet of it visible between snow banks in the back of the valley below towering cliffs. I could not have reached this point without everything that it took to get me here, including two leftover half-bars of chocolate from Seattle Chocolates. I prop my feet up on my pillow to keep from sliding downhill and, what do you know, there are the first stars I’ve seen on my trip. I’m seven miles from the PCT, hopefully I can make it without anymore chocolate because today needed it all. I guess it is closer to push on than to turn back anyway. G’night 😉