“And from the eastern boundary of this vast golden flower-bed rose the mighty Sierra, miles in height, and so gloriously colored and so radiant, it seemed not clothed with light but wholly composed of it, like the wall of some celestial city…. Then it seemed to me that the Sierra should be called, not the Nevada or Snowy Range, but the Range of Light. ” — John Muir from The Yosemite (1912)
Since exiting the desert, the Sierras have surpassed our expectations along the PCT and blown our minds at every corner. Days have been filled with spectacular glaciated peaks, frozen lakes and chilly rivers, passes that soar well above treeline, and meandering rivers through tranquil meadows.
We decided to hike to the summit of Mt. Whitney to watch the sunrise from the highest point in the lower 48. Instead of waking up at 3 am to polish off the last 5 miles, we though we would just sleep on top of the mountain for a leisurely wake-up time of 5 am. We reached the summit around midnight (wearing t-shirts and light pants) before realizing that our water bottles had frozen and the temperature was well below freezing. After lethargically blowing up our sleeping pads (an exhausting task at 14,000 ft) and chugging some water, we laid our heads down for a few hours of rest.
In Yosemite we were joined by Gabe’s mom, family friends, and classmates Henry and Jackson from Williams College for a week of trekking through northern Yosemite to Sonora Pass. We dined on delicious burritos (with vegetables) and spaghetti (with real chicken) during our two zero days. Most “sane” people think of “rest days” as days in which you should rest, but instead we decided to rock climb Cathedral Peak (5 pitches of 5.6 climbing) for a spectacular view of the Sierras and dayhike 17 miles round trip to the summit of Clouds Rest. This introduction to the Sierras gave Henry and Jackson some time to acclimate to the altitude and provided everyone with a beautiful vantage point of Yosemite Valley.
After hiking through 700 miles of desert, carrying 8-10 lbs of water each day and only getting to rinse our socks out once a week, we couldn’t be happier to finally be in the Sierras. We’ve swam (if quickly submersing our bodies in partially frozen lakes counts as swimming) nearly every day, can rinse our socks and underwear out each evening, and haven’t had to filter or carry more than a liter of water in the past 300 miles! As obnoxious as the large bear cans were to carry, we were happy to know our food would be safe at night as we rested both our bodies and minds.