July 4th: We continued our intentional pattern of moving at a glacial pace through the Sierras. We woke at 7am, then spent 4 hours repairing punctures in our sleeping/air pads. We climbed over Mather Pass at 12000ft, then descended a path with many waterfalls to 9000ft.
Start location: Lake Marjorie, mile 808.9, near 36.94509, -118.42865 (coordinates to waypoint, not to actual site)
End location: Mile 823.2, 37.05463, -118.51474
Our morning started late at 7am and involved no hiking for the first four hours. The prior night’s stay near the wooden suspension bridge at the base of Pinchot Pass left many punctures in our sleeping pads that had to be repaired. Our morning was spent submerging our air pads in Lake Marjorie to find holes. By the time we were walking at 11am, we’d repaired 9 punctures between our two air pads.
Why all the holes in our sleeping pads? Pine needles. They’re sharp enough to pierce our tent floor and sleeping pads together. Don’t camp on or even near pine needles if you use an inflatable pad to sleep on.
From Lake Marjorie we descended to about 10000ft. We passed a ranger station and a trail fork for Taboose Pass, a rarely used route east to US-395. The descent was unremarkable and views were mostly obstructed by trees.
After a lunch of Rick’s homemade, dehydrated chili (nom nom) at around 1pm, we began a long, gradual climb up to Mather Pass. This climb was very easy in comparison to past climbs in the Sierras. We followed a creek upwards most of the way. We were above treeline by 11000ft, and the views at that point became very scenic.
At around 11400ft, the weather turned. We’d been hearing and seeing distant nastiness throughout the morning, but it took until this point for us to get wet. In typical Sierras fashion, it wasn’t rain which fell. Rather, small (about the size of a pencil’s eraser) pieces of hail were hitting us. They hurt! Rick was glad to have kept his hardshell rain jacket, an item which he’d previously considered sending home.
When the weather cleared a bit about 10 minutes later, we finished our climb over Mather Pass. The final sets of switchcbacks (the last 600ft or so of climbing) are harder than the rest of the ascent. The trail in this area is barren, rocky, above treeline, and steep. It can hurt to walk on such rocky, otherworldly trail.
At the summit of Mather Pass we encountered another couple, roughly our age. They too were rushing over to avoid the nasty weather. They took a picture of us and us a picture of them, then, with a loud crash of thunder, everyone left the summit. We were only up there for about 10 minutes total.
Our descent was, like the ascent, rocky. We donned our hardshell jackets for fear of the weather. Indeed, by the time we were down to 11000ft, we were again getting hailed on.
Views on the north side of Mather Pass are amazing. Waterfalls and cascades are abundant. Glacially carved rock formations line the steep hillsides. We followed a large creek for most of the descent, and often the trail approached waterfalls over which said creek ran.
We should have stopped at around mile 820.7 near elevation 10600ft. The trail in that area is snaking through a small plateau. Rivers, waterfalls, and cascades run through the area. There are many picture-perfect campsites. We were in the area around 6pm.
But we didn’t stop. In retrospect, this was a mistake. We continued another 2.5 miles of descent to our current site, at approximately 9050ft elevtion. It’s much less scenic, though still very close to water. We didn’t make camp until 7:30pm, which is late by our lazy-hiking-the-Sierras standards.
Around 8pm some through hikers joined or tent site. The three of them are a bit cliquish; they don’t talk when we try to initiate conversation. Maybe it’s because their day (today) was as long as our last two days: they came from before Pinchot Pass to get here. #notforus