a journey of 2,652 miles
THE PACIFIC CREST TRAIL
starts with a single step.
Miles 669.4 to 679.6 (10.2 Miles) + 6.5 Mile Roadwalk to trailhead (Total 16.7 Miles).
Sisters to Lost in the Woods Camp.
Today we head back to the trail! Finally, yaaaay! The bad weather front finally disappeared and we are ready to go!
A few days back Maya found a trail angel called Fred in the PCT Facebook group who kindly agreed to give us a ride to the trailhead or basically to the furthest possible point on the road towards the trailhead. As of now, the road going up to McKenzie pass is still closed 6.5 miles before the pass because of snow - which basically means that we will have to walk that part as well…
At exactly 6.30am Fred shows up in his red Subaru Crosstrek to pick us up. What a nice guy he is! It turns out we are the first PCT hikers he ever helped out! Fred spent his youth in Germany so he still speaks it pretty fluently! Very cool. So next we drive by a coffee place, get three coffees, off we go.
As we drive up towards McKenzie pass the landscape and surroundings suddenly feel very familiar – we drove the exact same road a year ago. But last time we continued our hike north of McKenzie Pass all the way to Canada. This time we are hiking south. So after a drive of around 15 minutes we reach the barrier from where the road is closed. Fred parks the car and a lady walking her dog takes some pictures of the three of us. Then we say goodbye to our new friend Fred and start our next section on the PCT. We heard that the snow line starts at around 5'500 feet (~1'700 meters). The pass itself is only 5'300 feet in altitude- so basically we should be fine with snow.
The hike up isn't too bad and in around 2.5 hours we reach McKenzie Pass. There are some minor patches of snow left, but not a lot. Otherwise the pass is beautiful, kind of "surreal lunar surface"-looking with all the lava rocks.
Only problem is that the pass is just the entrance gate back to the PCT, which then will lead over the Sisters mountains and therefore is most of the time above 6'000 feet - snow is a guaranteed certainty.
A previous post to the PCT Facebook group revealed that we are most likely the first hikers in the season hiking those mountains from north to south. But there is another PCT hiker called "Crunchmaster" going from south to north, whom we should cross at some point in this 40 mile stretch.
The air is super clean and fresh, but cold as well, we are both a bit nervous, but excited at the same time. The first 3 miles are relatively easy, there is some snow left, but nothing major. We make our way through a big lava field, then a stretch through forrest follows. Now we start getting higher in altitude, Soon we reach 5'700 feet and the snow kicks in. Now we are glad Brad made us buy those ice axes - they come in very handy by now. We have to traverse a wall covered under 6 feet of snow and on the side the wall goes down steeply for some 600 feet at least. There is no room for error now... We put on our micro spikes and slowly make our way across this dangerous part to the other side. This was not easy, but doable. For the next couple of miles the terrain becomes flatter, but snow is getting a bigger issue by the minute. After a while we have lunch on a snowless patch next to a beautiful lake. There is not a single cloud in the sky and the sun is shining with all its power. This results in countless reflecting drops of melting snow in the tree branches over and next to us. It is like rain on a bright sunny day!
From here we continue through more and more snow and after a while the trail is completely covered under 6 to 10 feet of snow. Now it is essential to have a GPS to still find your way through this winter/summer wonderland. Of course we don't try to stick to the non-existing trail - instead we just cut through it and take the easiest way. At some point we glissade down the mountain and later we find a PCT sign that is almost completely covered under snow.
By 7pm we finally find a more or less snowfree place to pitch our tent for the night. There was no water accessible for the last hours so we need to melt 2 or 3 kg of snow. The water tastes terrible, like burnt water, but it is still water. And so we cook dinner and crawl in to our sleeping bags. Today was very exhausting, but at the same time exciting as well! The adventure continues tomorrow when we will reach the high point at 6'500 feet. But for now we turn out our lights and within seconds pass over into a deep sleep.