JMT – Day 16 – Marjorie Lake to Meadow at mile 169

Terrain North of Pinchott Pass

Terrain North of Pinchott Pass

August 18, 2014

The silver shimmer of the morning frost takes as by surprise. It shouldn’t. We are in an altitude of over 11,000 feet. Nature often paints here with its white brush, even now in the summer months it is not uncommon to wake up to a canvas of rime.

The air remains crisp through the morning and we are thankful for not having to climb Pinchott Pass under a burning sun. At 12,130 feet it is the second highest pass on the John Muir Trail. Once we top it, we find ourselves on a new high point. The altitude brings cool breeze and for the first time in quite a while we bundle in some of our extra layers.

Pinchott Pass calls for exploration. The East rise offers easy scrambling and opportunity to capture some interesting photo compositions while the West side provides steeper and trickier terrain but the views are great and just like its opposite it presents some unique perspectives.

Rocky terrain of Pinchott Pass area

Rocky terrain of Pinchott Pass area

One down, only  two more passes to go

One down, only two more passes to go

The descend starts on a good tread. The trail is smooth and easy through the basin where we are surrounded by small patches of grass and turquoise tarns. Meeting Woods Creek at the end of the basin is a signal for lunch break. Even though we are to follow Woods Creek for next 3 miles or so before the trail crosses it and starts heading away from its course, we top our bottles. Given the rough nature of the canyon we are about to enter we are not sure if it will be possible to access the stream. It’s a good call as the trail often travels high above the creek.

Neither of us is quite impressed with the quality of the trail as it descends steeply down into the canyon. It is by far the worse section we have encountered ever since we laid foot on the JMT. The path is full of crumbling rock, the kind that would roll under your feet. After a very short distance our feet scream in pain and even our calves take a notice. Due to the nature of the trail the descent is much slower than we estimated but eventually we catch a sight of the suspension bridge and know the suffering is nearing the end.

Great snack spot atop the pass

Great snack spot atop the pass

Had to scramble few hundred feet East to get this view

Had to scramble few hundred feet East to get this view

There is only one suspension bridge along the JMT. It takes us, one hiker at a time, across Woods Creek. On the other side there is a space for approximately 20 tents under the canopy of open lodgepole forest. Sarah and Michelle are ending their day here in order to meet with their mule resupply tomorrow morning. It’s a nice place to camp but little too busy and loud and the afternoon is young so we make a plan to meet at Rae Lakes tomorrow and with that Dave and I set out to brave the upcoming uphill.

Looking down from the rocky outcrop on the West side of the pass

Looking down from the rocky outcrop on the West side of the pass

Sarah overlooking the vast barren area South of the Pass

Sarah overlooking the vast barren area South of the Pass

Wood Creek Canyon dropped us down to 8,500 feet. The air is warm and still. I double guess our decision to move forward when the first drop of sweat rolls down my forehead but the doubt is forgotten when we find a very nice private site on the edge of a meadow with a pleasant view, a creek bubbling close by where we can dip our achy feet, and as a bonus there are several currant bushes growing around our site. This is our home for tonight.

Wood Creek Bridge

Wood Creek Bridge

Miles today: 11.4

Cumulative miles hiked: 169   Miles left: 42

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