I woke around 7:00 a.m. to beautiful sun and frozen boot laces. This is the highest I’ve camped and it shows. Today I will climb over 7,000′ on the PCT and cross what is known as the Devil’s Stairway in conditions that one hiker, four days ago, called “death-defying”.
Distance: 10 miles
Start: Hopkins Pass
Camp: Holman Pass
The 1000′ climb out of Hopkins pass is steep and and snow is hard so I am constantly using my ice Axe. Crampons are not worth their weight, I can move faster without them. My reward for all this exertion is the satisfaction that I’ll have plenty of time to hike today in the best weather I’ve seen.
Does anybody in that plane look down and wonder if there is a lone man standing on this peak?
Today divets in the snow pass for footprints but their worth is immeasurable. With them I am able to carefully walk rather than stomp every step. I am at times so tired that if I slipped I wonder if I’d arrest or just let myself slide enjoying the rest.
Every few miles the snow breaks for a few feet of dry ground. It is a relief to see the trail, to evaluate its character and how much easier it would be to walk on that but I don’t set foot on it because it is more work to climb back onto the tall snow than it is just to walk around.
Devil’s Staircase is a non-issue but Rocky Pass is a nightmare. I dropped my water filter near the top of Woody Pass and had to go get it. Then I contoured for over an hour with no tracks to follow along the inside of the extremely steep bowl between the two. The climb up to Rocky was horrendous. The snow alternated between post holingly soft and icy with rocks. Finally atop Rocky, I ate and changed my socks, and kept hiking. The descent was steep and difficult. Finally I dropped down to dry trail. Amazing. I ate, dried what I could, and hiked a little more. I’m only 14 miles from my food cache now. Today I split my two rice dinners into three. Minute rice is what I have for a snack while hiking, hard as it is it is the softest food I have without cooking. Speaking of which, I’m low on fuel. I won’t make it to Stehekin cooking hot food. Phone batteries are holding out and the PCT isn’t requiring a lot of GPS use like the Boundary Trail, much easier to follow.