Mile: 775.7 to 788.3
Susan says Forester isn't a pass, but a masters thesis project in trail construction on the face of a thousand foot cliff. She has a point. It was the last section of the current John Muir Trail constructed. A considerable amount of trail was blasted into the rock and has plenty of exposure for the acrophobic. Years ago when we did it for the first time it was white knuckle the whole way for her. Today she was better, she says she is tougher now. Who am I to argue. Considering she ascended hundreds of feet on an icy and very steep slope just to get to the switchbacks, that's toughness to spare.
From camp we still had 2000 feet of climbing to reach the summit. It wasn't long after starting that we strapped the ice spikes on our shoes where they stayed to the summit. The lower part of the final cliff was covered in firm icy snow that made for slow but secure climbing. It wasn't long before we were on the switchbacks. There is a very exposed ice chute near the top that requires a hundred foot traverse - I'm not afraid of anything on the mountains and this scared the crap out of me. Susan just stared at my feet and made it just fine. The top required a 20 foot vertical ice face to clear the cornice and we were there. Success!
The pass is in the notch on the left
The snow condition was perfect for the descent - firm enough to walk on without postholing, yet soft on the surface for good traction. The route off the top is different with spring conditions than the usual trail for summer. We took off across a snow covered ridge with huge vertical exposure, but the footing was good and shortly we were on a rock covered ridge that connected to the summer trail. After a few minutes on good trail we hit another snow slope, this one requiring a glissade to descend. Susan wasn't too keen on this at first but later would jump at the opportunity to move down a snowy slope on her rear end. It was a lot of fun!
We got to the bottom of the steepest section and to the first lake where the terrain flattened out but the snow didn't go away. It was getting late for snow hiking, and the snow was softening quickly, so we made for lower elevation to avoid sinking in the deep snowpack. Another hour had us to regular trail with patchy snow along the turbulent Bubbs Creek. We followed the creek to the junction with the Kings Canyon Cedar Grove trail where we turned north and ascended a very tiring 800 feet to our camp near the Charlotte Lake trail junction.
This was a stressful and tough but satisfying day. We didn't make big miles but accomplished a significant Sierra pass in snowy spring conditions. There are lots more to do in the coming days, nine more passes over 11000 feet before we reach Yosemite. With tris one in the bag our confidence is much higher.
Tomorrow is resupply day. Our friend Chris is bringing our food over Kearsarge Pass so we don't have to waste two days hiking out. That is a good friend.