Walker Pass, CA Highway 178

We made it through the High Sierras and to our first town stop since Mammoth, about 250 miles ago. It has been a long and tough stretch and we are feeling skinny and tired. We are eating a lot in town and retooling for the final 650 miles. We have now completed 2010 miles.
Walker Pass is the first road crossing that we have had that is open year round since Highway 88 at Carson Pass, just south of Lake Tahoe. It’s a long stretch through rugged terrain.
We have had good weather which has helped us maintain good travel of about 18-25 miles per day while snow. We had budgeted only be able to do 10 miles per day through this section. We did have two days of snow showers in the High Sierra which dropped a couple of inches each time, just enough to either have dust on crust or dust on dirt and make things tricky. We also had two really windy days. One day while going over Gabbot Pass, at 12,400 feet (not a typical PCT pass, which I will describe later), Pepper actually got picked up and lifted off the ground and slammed into a rock from a wind gust. Other gusts we would literally have to stop moving in order to hunker sheen and not be blown over. The power of the wind is amazing.
Leaving Mammoth we decided to veer off the PCT route at Mono Creek, after Silver Pass. We couldn’t resupply at VVR or Muir Trail Ranch, since they were closed, so there was no need to stay low through there and go over the relatively low Selden Pass (about 10,500 feet). We decided to do a combination of the Sierra High Route and our own route over 5 passes (Gabbot Pass, Italy Pass, Royce Pass, Puppet Pass, and Alpine Col) and reconnect with the PCT at Evolution Lake. We then followed the PCT route over Muir, Mather, Pinchot, Glen, and Forester Pass. It was definitely a challenging mix of terrain and conditions with some ski mountaineering involved. The snow conditions were so different than a spring snowpack so often times we were wallowing in two feet of unconsolidated snow and other times we were scrambling up or down rocks and talus in our ski boots. It is a relief to have gotten through these high passes before the next big storm. I worry about some of the early season snow layers we have seen that could cause major instability once the next big storm comes in.
I’ll wrap up this update with something else amazing: we saw our first other people on the trail since Snoqualmie Pass area in Washington. We saw an overnight hiker and a couple that was day hiking about 5 miles north of Walker Pass, which would be about mile 2005 for us. Considering Snoqualmie Pass was about mile 250, it had been about 1750 miles with seeing anybody on the trail, or roughly 2/3 of the total mileage!

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