June 21 (Day 51)

Rae Lakes to Lake Marjorie (793.5 to 808.6)

Daily miles: 15.1

The mornings in the Sierra are cold and I don’t want to move until the sun hits my tent.  Too bad that on this morning a big mountain range blocks the rays and I’m forced to get up and moving still in the mountain shadow.  The sun feels a long time coming up today, but eventually it does and then I take off all my warm layers and enjoy the long steady walk down out of the drainage.

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So, the the Sierra hike goes is like this: you hike 3000-4000 feet up out of a drainage and crest a pass, which is a natural spot to cross over a group of steep mountains, then you hike down 3000-4000 feet out of the next drainage and do it all again.  The passes of the Sierra (south to north) are: Forester, Glen, Pinchot, Mather, Muir, Selden, Silver, and Donahue.  I’ve already covered Forester and did Glen last night, so today it’s up and over Pinchot.

It’s a demanding pass because the approach is long and requires a good deal of elevation gain.  I spend the afternoon gasping and leaning hard on my trekking poles.  The basin south of the pass is huge and open and I have to find the route along the snowfields.  Sometimes I can make my way along the path of previous hikers, and sometimes I make my own.

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By 5:30 I’ve made it up, totally gassed, and look out to the north, beyond Lake Marjorie and off to the valley below.  The earth rises up again in the distance and I eye the chain of mounatains that hold Mather Pass, tomorrow’s challenge. 

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But it’s just that: a challenge for another day.  I make my way down quickly and easily and set up at a great site that makes for outstanding evening views.  The wind dies down and the night is calm.  I’m elated to have Pinchot Pass behind me.

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