Sunday 11th August 2013
Bubba Creek Crossing to Wallace Creek – 14 miles
It didn’t get any warmer at night, none of us slept well and even though there was no ice on our tents it easily felt as cold if not colder than our night at Twin Lakes. Packing up camp was painful and the mood was tense and snappy. We had been together constantly for over two weeks now and the cold temperature and anticipation of the massive climb ahead frayed our tempers. After we got going and spent some time walking with some distance between us we calmed down and began to enjoy the day and the challenge again.
Forester Pass is the highest altitude pass on the whole trail at 13,180ft – 1,000ft higher than we had reached on the trail up to this point. We started the day at about 10,200ft so we had to climb 3,000ft in just over four miles. What a climb it was, it seemed to go on forever, step after step, higher and higher without seemingly gaining any distance. The pace slowed even more over the last mile or so as we broke over the 12,000ft mark, Chris and Luke really began to notice the altitude.
We finally reached the tiny little gap between two towering peaks making up part of the Kings Kern Divide which was also the boarder to Sequoia National Park from Kings Canyon. The drama up here was amazing and the drop through the other side of the gap was almost vertical, I could not work out how a path was going to take us down.
An enthusiastic veteran of the trail who had blazed ahead of his party of five soon joined us and we had a good chat with him about the trail and his previous treks. He helped us out with some photos and he then proceeded to unload handful after handful of chocolate M & M’s on to us which brought Luke bouncing him back into life. He then handed us some of his home made beef Jerky that was miles better than any other we had tasted.
We ended our extended stop at the top with a 13,000ft rendition of Happy Birthday for Jo, recorded on the GoPro. For eight days now we had not had a whisper of mobile reception and even at this height there wasn’t any chance for us to contact the girls and wish Happy Birthday to Jo.
With the feeling of walking the plank we left the miniature ledge and followed the incredibly steep corkscrew of switchbacks down the other side of the pass. The path was impressively carved into the cliff and it didn’t take very long to drop down to the southern side of the pass. At the bottom the path levelled on a large plateau and we passed a family with track ponies preparing to go up, we could not believe that they were going to attempt with livestock what we had just descended.
The next few miles until lunch were gradual and pretty easy going. We treated ourselves to one of our commandeered Mountain House Chilli Mac meals from the previous day and then relaxed thinking we only had a simple two-mile climb up to our planned camp on Big Horn Plateau.
It didn’t take us long to get there and we were greeted with the best 360 degree panorama I think I have ever seen. Standing on this 11,500ft high open domed plateau we had impeccable and uninterrupted views across the Great West Divide, to the east we also had our first view of our finale, the mighty Mt Whitney. Big Horn Plateau was 800ft higher than our camp last night and extremely exposed, as much as we would have loved to spend hours looking at this view, if last nights temperatures were anything to go by it could be a very uncomfortable night.
We spent the best part of an hour sunbathing and taking photos before we bribed Luke with a lie in and a shorter eight mile day tomorrow to continue down the three mile descent ahead of us to a more sheltered and lower altitude campsite.
Feeling the aches and pains Chris and I pushed on down the path and found a really pleasant campsite by a wooded creek. We started to set up camp whilst waiting for Luke so we could help him when he arrived; his feet had not taken kindly to the extra few miles of descent. Although far from our longest day it had been one of the most strenuous. AB