Tuesday 6th August 2013

McClure Meadows to Little Pete Meadow – 17 miles

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Today reminded us of why we were happy to travel to the other side of the world for a walk. The pain, hunger, solitude and everything else was all made worth while by experiencing the size, scale and sheer physical beauty of the High Sierra. I wrote in my notes that evening – best days hiking ever!

We were all tired after the long day yesterday but keen to get more miles under our belt, so after Luke had hashed together an attempt to re-dress his worsening blisters we got underway at a sensible time. The first three or four miles stayed fairly flat along Evolution Valley, gradually gaining ground on last night’s fantastic campsite backdrop. We then hit a steep 1,000ft climb over the next mile up to Evolution Lake. This presented us with a magical view of a lake in the middle of a plateau, flanked by huge, rugged mountains that towered above in every direction.

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Chris and I stopped for a while to soak up our surroundings and take some photos. Luke, who was moving a bit slower today decided not to break his momentum and carried on around the lake. We hooked up the GoPro camera to the top of Chris’ rucksack and filmed our walk around the lake.

We caught up with Luke having a break at a creek crossing. After the crossing, the path turned into a long steady climb up towards Muir Pass.

The landscape had now turned into a desolate, rugged moonscape. We quickly gained altitude but still appeared far from the pass, although for once I didn’t mind, as I didn’t want to leave this mountain paradise. As the trail twisted and passed numerous lakes the views kept changing and opening up giving you the feeling you were approaching the top of the world. We reached the last 500ft push to the top of the pass. I stuck my head down and powered on, eager to have as much time at the top as possible. The top of Muir Pass is crowned by the famous Muir Hut. Built by the Sierra Club in 1930, the hut provides hikers with temporary shelter on this exposed and desolate section of the trail. The iconic conical structure was built stone-by-stone following the architectural style of similar huts in southern Italy.

It was the middle of the day so we were not alone at the top, which allowed for some group photos all round and an opportunity to chat with some fellow hikers.

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We met an ex-pat scout leader who had let his group go off to claim a nearby 13,000ft peak and a group of three Americans who we would end up yo-yoing with over the coming days. We cooked a modest lunch (one packet of flavoured rice between us) hindered by the wind and reluctantly said goodbye to this immense panorama as the afternoon was solidly downhill and boy did we drop quickly. The first half a mile dropped us nearly 500ft and even though we had barely been going 45 minutes when we stopped on the edge of Helen Lake to filter water, it was a welcome relief on our already pained knees.

Luke’s condition worsened over the second half of the day and understandably so, a further descent of 2,500ft over seven miles lay ahead. After we left Helen Lake the steep rocky descent continued to take us away from the rugged landscape in the sky back down towards the tree line. His feet were in agony and progress was slow. He was pushing to stop at Big Pete Meadow, the closer of the possible camping spots, Chris and I were determined to make it to the next one trying to assure Luke that it made sense to chip off mileage today and that he would thank us on the tougher days ahead. This started a good cop bad cop regime between Chris and I that would ensue over the coming days. No need to guess who took the role of bad cop…

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We eventually made it to a tranquil spot by a fast flowing creek and collapsed in a heap. I think the beauty of the day had masked how tough it had been, especially considering yesterday’s exertions – 35.5 tough miles in two days. This was not the case for Luke though; nothing had masked how tough it was for him. He went about setting up camp in pain and in a bad mood. Chris introduced us to some new music to cheer us up and by the time we had relaxed for a while and got some food inside us the mood had improved. We couldn’t however fight off how tired we were and all retired to our tents before dark. A short while later we were interrupted by the unnerving and very loud sound of hooves getting closer and closer. We put our heads out of the tents to find a group of pack horses trampling through our camp, they were massive and we were worried that they would trip on our guy ropes and land on us! Luckily a cowboy arrived and called them away, said good evening to us and left as if this was the most normal of circumstances. Back into our tents the snoring soon followed. AB

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