Thursday 8th August 2013

Palliside Lakes to Twin Lakes – 15.5 miles

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Our morning routine took far longer as it now involved minor surgery and re-dressing of Luke’s feet. The blisters were awkwardly positioned and needed us to do it for him to make sure  that they were secure enough to last a days hiking. We hoped that these efforts combined with some different socks would make it possible for him to heal and complete the trail.

Todays hiking started with an incredible climb up to Mather Pass, standing at over 12,100ft. It was a challenging but rewarding ascent, and although we had come to expect breath-taking views when reaching these high passes we were always left in awe of the vastness and realisation of where we stood. Mather Pass was no exception and the thin ledge perched between the two rock walls added to the drama of the setting. We stopped for a while to take in the views and some photographs.

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So far so good for Luke’s dressings. The true test though would be the descent. The initial section off Mather Pass was incredibly steep  switchbacks dropping 800ft in less than half a mile. Fortunately the path soon turned into a very gentle six mile stroll dropping just 1,200ft to our low point of the day at 10,100ft. This was great news for Luke and the day in general as we had completed one large pass, a descent to the days lowest point covering nine miles before lunch.

Our planned camp for that night at Lake Marjorie was now only a three mile 1,000ft climb away. ‘Surely we push on’ we thought, but just beyond Lake Marjorie was Pinchot Pass another 12,000ft plus monster. We would have to clear the top of this and drop down three miles beyond to reach a sensible altitude and water source. Two 12,000ft passes in one day is tough and we let the decision lie with Luke and whether his feet could take it.

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We stopped for lunch on a large flat rock in a clearing by a river crossing before the path started upwards again. Another small group travelling in the opposite direction had the same idea. They were a Scottish family hiking with a Canadian friend. We had a nice conversation and they very kindly donated some food and gave us a heads up that they had left some dessert mix in a bear locker near Rae Lakes. A while later the topic of Luke’s feet came up. They were only trying to be helpful but the Canadian chap and Chris did not see eye-to-eye with regards to how Luke’s injuries should be treated, a debate followed that almost became heated after he sarcastically asked Chris “do you think you are a doctor?” Chris’ bad feeling was fuelled even further by Luke’s decision to go with the stranger’s advice and he vowed not to help him any further with his feet.

After a very quiet lunch and all the toys had been gathered and returned to their respective prams, Luke – after receiving a miracle treatment (or so he thought) – agreed to give Pinchot Pass a go, once again chipping away at the tough long mileage days ahead.

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This turned out to be a fantastic decision, although the afternoon was a tiring hike Pinchot Pass was stunning and we descended to Twin Lakes setting up camp right on the water’s edge. Chris and Luke eventually broke the tension and hugged off the ill feeling from earlier in the day. After dinner the sky clouded over for the first time on the trip and for a while it looked like a storm was brewing. As the light started to fade we heard noises in the distance, it sounded like dogs but it must have been coyotes – either way this coupled with the looming clouds and a stronger than normal wind made the evening feel quite spooky.

We didn’t stay up long to find out what was out there, as being above 11,000ft meant the temperature dropped rapidly, so we climbed into the warmth and security of our sleeping bags and tents. AB

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