Day 6: Two passes, thunder, and hail
I was really excited for the climb over Mather Pass. Back in 2009, I got lost on Mather Pass on the PCT—so this was my vindication! I booked up the beautifully built trail up there (I later learned it is called the “Golden Staircase”) and made it by 10 am to the top. Hurray! My first pass not taken in the afternoon!
The distance between Mather and Pinchot is short–I expected to be able to do two passes no problem. But, by the time I got to Pinchot, the weather had turned. I decided to hunker down yet again, until I saw a guy speed hiking past me, looking at me strangely for sitting by the side of the trail far from my poles and other metal stuff.
It made me feel like an idiot. The guy also looked like Andrew Skurka, and I kept thinking—if he isn’t afraid, I shouldn’t be. Then my mind went to my wilderness first aid course–taken several weeks earlier–and how that kind of mentality is silly.
But, I saw some birds and chipmunks out, and in the end, decided the animals were right: it was safe. I booked it to the majestic top of Pinchot in the rain and rushed down. Several hundred feet after I made the pass, a clap of lightening nearby rattled all the mountains. Hail came storming down on me.
I didn’t know whether to stop to put on rain gear or keep going to get to lower elevation. Finally, I got cold enough, I knew I needed to put on my cuben fiber poncho tarp. I kept rushing after the Skurka figure.
The sun came out and I was able to dry my gear and found the Skurka character down trail doing the same. He ended up being a guy who had hiked the PCT and AT and BMT and owns Emo–the hammock company. He also was a friend of a friend of mine from school–really random.
I had planned on camping at the bridge, but had a lot of extra time and pushed upwards. It rained–hard–again, and in the rain, I saw two people wearing minimal clothing and no packs, running downhill. They said they were trying to get over Pinchot Pass that night—clearly ultra runners going for a record.
I’ll write more about what I thought after meeting the ultra runners–but it was a strange experience.
Liz "Snorkel" Thomas
Liz Thomas is a well-traveled adventure athlete most known for breaking the women’s unsupported speed record on the Appalachian Trail in 2011. She has completed the Triple Crown of Hiking–the Appalachian Trail, the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail, and 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail–and has backpacked over 15,000 miles across the United States. While not on trail, Liz lives in Denver, Colorado.