Monday, June 13, 2016

Susan Earns Her River Crossing Badge

Day 61 - June 5
Mile: 804.1 to 813.8
up/down: 2325/2175 feet

New trip bird: White-tailed Ptarmigan 

Susan's biggest fear in the Sierra was not the 12000 foot passes full of snow and ice but the river crossings. The heat wave that hit just as we started this section didn't help matters - rivers and creeks are running exceptionally high now. But with each crossing her confidence goes up. And that is one secret to successful river crossings - confidence. Each crossing is scouted for a safe way across, then usually tested by me. Sometimes I go back across and take her pack and then lead the crossing. Now she is doing so much better that the fear is all but gone. And it's a good thing too as today was BIG water day. 

But first we had to get up and over Pinchot Pass. An early start had us climbing in beautiful light across long sections of snowfields. The approach and descent for this pass was the mildest yet. Other than the lung sucking lack of oxygen at 12000 feet it was no problem. The views from the top were spectacular. 

Down the other side past many frozen lake we pushed on trying to get to the bottom of the canyon as quickly as possible. Because at the bottom was our biggest challenge yet, crossing the South Fork Kings River. High in the Sierra the flow goes up all day as the temperature rises and melts snow. The earlier you hit these crossings the better. We made it by noon. A southbound hiker had given me some info about this crossing. Go down river from the trail crossing for a short distance and the river will break up into three channels. Sure enough, but each one was bigger than anything we had done so far. Working with another couple we had met earlier in the day the four of us managed to safely team up and get across. Lunch on the other side was a happy affair. 

South Fork Kings River 

Next up was the climb up the SF Kings River drainage toward its source and Mather Pass. It wasn't lovely hike along an angry river with many challenging stream crossings as we moved up canyon. We are camped three miles short of the top and will repeat our early start in the morning. 

Last crossing of the day, and it was cold! 

Not a lot of river crossing photos - when we do the dangerous ones our phones are put away safely inside our packs. 

As we were descending the pass this morning we ran across our first White-tailed  Ptarmigan, a pair foraging alongside the trail. They allowed long and close looks which we really enjoyed. 


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