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6 days and 12 hours in

I woke at 3:30 AM because I knew I had 2 scary passes today—one of them Forester Pass, the highest pass at 13,200 feet, which I desperately did not want to be on top of in an afternoon thunderstorm.

It was really awesome to hit Rae Lakes at sunrise. Rae Lakes is stunning and what a treat to have it to myself!

On the PCT, Glen Pass was the scariest pass for me—I went up in a white out over a cornice (it had snowed 6 inches the night before on my poncho tarp). On the other side of the pass, the descent was very steep—more than 45 degrees and I kept hoping there wouldn’t be an avalanche from the fresh snow. Trail and snow blazing over Glen was one of the most startling parts of my PCT hike. I hoped it would be better this time.

So this is crazy–but Glen ended up being pretty easy! The top was beautiful and I was blown away by all the cool peaks I could see. I was the first person on it at 7:30 am and had a hard time dragging myself back down because it was such a peaceful place.

Beautiful morning over Glen Pass
Beautiful morning over Glen Pass

The ascent up Forester Pass was much longer than I remember the descent from my PCT hike. I guess I couldn’t glissade any of it! It was pretty moderate grade up until treeline and then the elevation started getting to me—but I kept going. On the top of Forester, I spent a long time chatting with these three cool hikers—Ass Stain, Sunflower, and their friend (sorry, can’t remember your name!)–and we ended up hanging out on top and descending together. They stopped to cook a late lunch, but as the clouds rolled in and rain started, I headed on.

I thought after Forester, I would be below treeline for the rest of the day, but I should’ve looked at my maps! There was a beautiful Bighorn Plateau listed on the map and I rushed over it in yet another thunderstorm with hail. But the Bristlecones were gorgeous.

My plan was to camp at Timberline Lake and I got there right before it was dark enough to need a headlamp—only to discover a “No Camping” sign. I pushed on and found a spot–determined to wake up early to get the sunrise on Whitney!

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.