PCT Day 54 Muir Pass

muir pass

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9th June 2015

Mileage 17.6

Grouse Meadow Camp (828.3) to Riverside Camp (845.9) Via Muir Pass

Muir Pass

Muir Pass stands at 11978 feet but is known for extensive snow fields that usually guard the pass, specially early in the season. There is around 3500 feet of climbing from our overnight camp. Muir pass is on the Pacific Crest Trail and John Muir Trail. It promises to be a hard, tiring day.

The goal for today was to cross Muir Pass on the PCT/JMT. I was not the first person awake and on trail this morning, Zig Zag and KC beat me to it. When I did wake up I saw sirrus clouds in the sky and commented to the others that we might see bad weather soon. Just how soon or how bad I was unsure.

The trail followed the middle fork of the King River. A gorgeous alpine river that meanders through meadows, crashes down waterfalls and tumbles over rapids. It wound its way past some extreme high granite cliffs that many a big wall rock climber would love to conquer. Then there were the constant supply of waterfalls that appeared at regular intervals from all sides of the trail.

After about 2 hours of hiking I caught up with Zig Zag, he will only be hiking a short day today so I will not see him again till I reach the town of Mammoth  for a rest and resupply day. The Muir Pass trail became substantially steeper after I left Zig Zag.

There were switchbacks, false summits and teasingly short flat sections of trail with constant water crossings at regular intervals. In fact water has been in such regular supply that I rarely carry more than half a litre of water. The lack of water weight in my pack is greatly appreciated.

Another 2 hours after passing Zig Zag I caught up with KC. A quick check of the map and we found ourselves only a mile or so from the pass. We had an extended lunch waiting for the others to arrive. Only Outland arrived. He advised that the others weren’t too far behind.

We chatted and waited before heading up into the expected snowfield. There were patches of snow to cross, frozen Lakes to stare at and a route to find. There were tracks through the snow in many directions. I consulted the map, found the correct bearing to head and just made a bee line to the pass as best I could. KC and Outland followed.

In some sections the snow was soft and we post holed up to our thighs but on the whole it wasn’t too bad. In two places we walked on the snow and could hear rivers of water flowing underneath us. In another section there was a steep snow bank of virgin snow. I chose to slide down it, called glissading. While both Outland and I thought it was both fun and entertaining KC thought it was so painful sliding on the snow in a pair of shorts that she thought her butt was bleeding. We reached Muir Pass with the others about 30 minutes behind us.

The summit of Muir Pass has a stone hut called John Muir Hut. It could sleep maybe 20 people and we considered sleeping there, however, we had been followed by some angry clouds and we all thought it prudent not to stay there. The clouds ahead didn’t look inviting. They looked rather angry and dramatic.

The descent into the Evolution Valley was easier than the valley we had come from. Much less snow to cross. Again the alpine scenery blew me away with its beauty. I found myself constantly gazing in all directions. Despite taking many photos I suspect the views will be engrained in my memory for a long time.

More than 7 miles passed after Muir Pass where we found a nice campsite to stay, eat, socialise and plan the coming days of the hike. Just as we went to bed at 9pm the rain started.

Bear barrels on the john muir trail
storing bear barrels and cooking gear
starting the climb up to john muir hut
start of the climb to john muir hut on the PCT
Sirrus clouds equals bad weather
would you think a storm is coming?
the rocky trail up the valley
10am
snow and lake heading up to muir pass
frozen lake
frozen lake on route to muir pass
snow on the trail at muir pass
KC and Outland outrunning a storm
glissading on muir pass
KC glissading. not a good idea in shorts
near the top of muir pass
amazing trail near the top of muir pass
muir hut
Muir Hut and pass
john muir hut at muir pass
muir pass weather with a bad storm
storms
muir hut
muir pass
snow on the descent from john muir hut on the PCT / JMT
cold river crossings in the evolution basin
frozen laks
jmt / PCT
lak and trail
river crossing on the PCT / JMT
storm nearby
storm in the mountains

Next : Day 55 Rain but Pain Free

The Best information about the Pacific Crest Trail:
Complete Guide to the Pacific Crest Trail
Resupply Guide for the PCT
PCT Gear List

PCT Gear Review

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  1. Muir Pass was my hardest pass in 2014. Due to rain, I camped too far down from the pass. So the next day when the storm clouds appeared, I was into the snow with very numb feet even with 1 sock change. Was trashed at the hut, so with bad weather and no energy, I spent the night in the hut which was fine. Should’ve pressed on the prior day to camp closer to the pass. ADL

  2. Shorts? Isn’t it cold out there, that is snow! You all continue to amaze me! I can’t believe we (I mean you) are going to be in Mammoth already!! Such beautiful pictures, you are a wizard with the camera!!

    1. Thanks for the kind words Karen. I mentioned that to KC, she said, “that was a mistake”, referring to wearing shorts.

  3. You’ve finally become delirious and lost all track of time – lol (you wrote May instead of June) –
    Been following both your and Hummingbird’s blogs for several weeks – vicariously loving the hike and the mountains!!

  4. What beautiful scenery on today’s hike! I love the perspective you chose in the photo of the river crossing near the end. Very interesting!

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