Wednesday, 24 June 2009

6hr epic on the Pacific Crest Trail

Update 9 July. Photographs just uploaded.

Yesterday, Herman duly drove me out to Sugarbowl ski area, where the PCT crosses the old Highway 80. During our drive up past Donner Lake, the car thermometer was registering between 11 and 12 deg C. It was unseasonably cool but the intense sunshine more than compensated.

Now on my own with my two hand-held bottles and packed lunch in my bumbag, I set off up the rugged single-track trail through beautiful wilderness with the unique smell of the pine forest in my nostrils. The only sign of civilisation as I ran was the distant, mournful, multi-toned blast of a freight train horn far below.

It was not long before I hit the first patches of snow but they were relatively easy to circumnavigate to pick up the trail again. Later on as Squaw Valley drew closer, the snow increased to the point where I could no longer find the trail. Eventually with the first ski lifts of Squaw in view in the far distance and with my drink almost run out (I refilled one bottle with snow to keep me going) I gave up on trying to find the trail and trekked across country in the direction of the first ski lift. High Camp (the top of the cable car from Squaw Valley and my ultimate target) seemed too far away still.


A perilous traverse across a steep, snow-covered slope and up to the top of the ridge miraculously brought me back to the PCT and, once over the top, solid ground again. Following my nose seemed to work. A short descent brought me to the intersection with the Tevis (Western States) Trail, where I turned left up to Emigrant Pass then descended to the sanctuary of High Camp. There I could refill my water bottles and thank my lucky stars that I had made it. From the lack of footprints in the snow I think I was the second person to make it through between Sugarbowl and Squaw Valley this summer.

I rode the cable car back down to the bottom feeling a little wasted. It had taken 6 hours. A good 12 hours in bed last night have left me feeling revived and even more ready for The Big Race at the weekend. The strange taper may just work out.

I finally got to meet up with Jez and Paul today. Simon Mtuy will soon be joining us too for dinner. The annual reunion has commenced!

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