So the winter had showed its teeth on the 3rd day in the Sierras, it was rough and a little scary but I made it through the winter wonderland a happy man. I still had 300 miles of this high alpine scenery to cross and was hoping that no more snow would hit me though the calendar kept ticking: it was coming to mid-October and I still had the highest mountain pass ahead of me and a summit-attempt of the highest mountain in mainland US. Nothing safe, yet.
Mirror-calm lakes are reflecting the naked vertical granite faces as I approach one of the most famous National Parks in the US: Yosemite. Having walked 8 days through the wilderness without seeing much people, it was a shock to walk into this marvelous gem of a National Park: even though it was mid-fall, Yosemite seemed like Disneyland to me: shuttle-buses, pizza restaurants and all campsites completely full. Having arrived on foot and entering the Park on some small remote trails, I didn’t even have to pay the entrance fee! I hang around the laundry building and probably look a little too “hiker-trashy” with my pack laying around me and eating a block of cheese with my hands, straight from the package, as I don’t carry a knife, it’s too heavy. Random people drop by and ask about my hike and I happily explain that I am heading to Mexico. “Get outta here!”, “for real? Mexico?”, “… and you started in Canada you said?”. The Americans have a wonderful straightforward approach and have no problems small talking to strangers, a little different than the reserved European mode of sticking to yourself. They give me left-over food and a guy even dumps a six pack of beer at my table: “that’s for the effort, dude!”. His wife, a woman my moms age, looks pitifully at me and hands me 5 dollars: “that’s for a warm shower, young man”. Thanks!
I climb out of the tourist Mecca with a loaded backpack with 8 days of food, heading towards the highest passes on the entire trail, many above 3500 meter altitude. One by one, they blow my mind and beauty is exploding around me in all directions. The weather is holding up and the days stay sunny and warm, though the nights drop well below freezing. Hardly anyone else on the trail, I see 2-3 people daily as my pack gets lighter and lighter, day by day, as I eat through my supplies and head deeper into this untouched, raw, alpine wilderness.
The highest pass is the last one: Forester Pass at 13200 feet, 4020 meter that is. Reaching the ridge-crossing at midday, the wind is dead, the sun is baking and I eat lunch on the highest point on the entire 4200km Pacific Crest Trail, happily gaining comfort that I’ll escape the Sierras before a new snowstorm rolls in.
“Right next” to the trail is a very interesting little detour: Mt Whitney, the highest mountain in mainland USA with 14505 feet, 4420 meter. It’s only 15km off-trail so together with my new found hiker-friend, Bloody Mary, I summit the mythical mountain, ascending through spectacular postcard-pretty barren granite landscape and deep-blue lakes. We reach the top and there is a 360 degree view of peaks all around me. A couple of other people have made it up here and we salute them before they start their descend. Photograph, enjoy the moment.
Then, all of a sudden, I am all alone on the summit: the highest person out of 300 million inhabitants in the United States of America. I made it through the Sierras, It’s all downhill from here…