Monday, June 13, 2016

Selden Pass and Big Water

Day 65 - June 9
Mile: 853.1 to 870.5
up/down: 3400/2500 feet 

New trip and Fresno bird: Common Nighthawk 

The crossing of Bear Creek has been weighing on our minds for several days. It is widely considered the toughest and most dangerous river ford on the PCT. Throw in the current high run off and that we would hit it in the late afternoon, well ...  

We started out this morning continuing down the South Fork San Joaquin River for a few miles. It was easy down hill walking in a low elevation pine forest. We heard the unmistakable "PEENT" of a Common Nighthawk, then saw him flying around, then heard another. Nice!  The easy walking came to an end when we hit the junction taking us up to Selden Pass. Compared to what we've been doing for passes, this one is relatively low elevation at 10900 feet and we weren't expecting the epic grandeur we are used to. Three thousand feet of climbing later we were at Sallie Keyes Lakes for lunch. They were nice but nothing special. Up to Heart Lake, we hit continuous snow, and the view improved. Then it was the top and the view north was magnificent. 

There was one very large lake below, Marie Lake, all iced over and winter like. We traversed and descended to the lake edge, continuing on solid snow all the way to below ten thousand feet elevation. It was slow going but the snow was relatively firm for so late in the day. 

And then it was time - Bear Creek was right in front of us. We had been told by another hiker on how to approach this crossing. Do NOT even think about going at the summer crossing location. Go down stream to where the river splits into two forks temporarily. Cross the closest fork to the island (easy), then walk down the island until we see a pink ribbon on the far shore. Cross straight at the ribbon using all the appropriate fording skills. We put away all our valuables in waterproof bags, donned our packs without hipbelts fastened (must be able to jettison the pack in case of a fall), then started our crossing. It was waist deep and swift. Susan held my pack and stayed slightly downstream from me, effectively allowing me to block river force. We didn't wait around, pressing hard and made it to the other side.  When it was done I must admit that it was pretty exhilarating. We checked the map and saw there was one more significant ford half a mile down trail so pushed on while we were already wet. This was the Hilgard Branch of Bear Creek which comes down from Lake Italy. At the crossing the creek had split into five parts which was fortunate for us - each piece was tough enough on its own. After that we took the first available campsite with sun and warmth. 

Summer crossing  

Where we crossed. Sorry, no action photos.  

Tomorrow we will be at Vermilion Valley Resort on Lake Edison for resupply. It's been a long couple of weeks. Maybe I'll be able to post some blogs!


  1. Fast flowing, waist-deep water. Sounds like a killer. I would have been scared witless.

  2. On the one hand, what choice do you have? Not crossing is not an option. Think it through, then go! Yes, exhilarating to get over to the other side. I'll bet that whatever level of love, honor and trust you had before this Sierra crossing it just got exponentially greater. Wow!