John Muir Trail Day 27: A Race to the Top of Forester Pass

Alpenglow at our campsite above Crabtree Meadow

Daily Neet Beat
Today started off like a Survivor race. We camped at the bend in the trail at 11,276 feet right about 3 miles from the top of Forester Pass, which is the highest pass on the Pacific Crest Trail at 13,200 feet (the John Muir Trail separates from the Pacific Crest Trail and includes Trail Crest Pass at 13,748 feet which is the highest on the John Muir Trail). Forester Pass and Mount Whitney (the tallest peak in the lower 48 states) are the two most imposing goals on the trail. Yesterday we stopped at tree line because of the stormy weather and to leave the pass for morning when the legs are fresh and the weather is better. We weren’t the only ones with this strategy and there are about 5 other tents spread out along the tree line at the bend in the trail.
The first to leave for the pass in the morning was Josh and Megan from North Carolina. They are in their twenties, she has long blonde hair, he has blue eyes and a beard. We see them start to head up around 7am. We take off soon after around 7:15am. Ray keeps telling me that I get faster when I see other people ahead of me so I am trying to just stay at an even pace and get in the zen mode. I watch Megan’s pink sweatshirt bob above on the switchbacks without speeding up. I hold back but we are steadily gaining on them. We pass by a beautiful lake and watch a few Sierra pikas scurry around the rocks.  We listen to their cries – I think they have deeper throatier sounds than the Rocky Mountain pikas. The 3 Ohio boys are far behind but as we start up the steep and rocky switchbacks of the last mile I see 2 guys behind us and one of them is moving fast and starting to gain on us. He is a guy in his early twenties who is using his poles rhythmically and wears the JMT standard t-shirt, lightweight pack, long shorts, trail runners and dirty girl gaiters. My zen mode abandons me and I think to myself “there is no way I am letting that guy pass me”.  He is now 2 switchbacks behind us and we have maybe 5 to go to the top. I step on the gas and Ray is right there with me. We reach the pass before him and he comes gasping up and says “I was trying so hard to pass you”. I looked at him, smiled  and said, “I know, that is why I stepped on the gas”.  He is still gasping, I take 2 breaths and my heart rate is back to normal. I still have plenty in the tank. I’m not sure what he thought, he probably was discouraged when he discovered Ray and I were not in our twenties.
Ray and I start down the other side and I think about how strong I am feeling after 27 days on the trail. I have moments of exhilaration when I feel like a thoroughbred horse that just wants to run. Coming down Forester felt like that today. The Needle Mountains off in the distance are beautiful and I feel high on the scenery. We go through a beautiful foxtail pine forest and eventually work our way past Crabtree on the Whitney trail. Tomorrow we will try for the summit of Whitney and the official completion of the JMT. Maybe Whitney will humble me. I need to be humbled after hiking faster than the mules yesterday and the young dude trying to beat us to the top of Forester Pass today.

Just the Facts
From Bubbs Creek below Center Peak to Lake just above Crabtree Meadows
Miles: 17.3
Total Miles: 289.3
Passes: Forester

Photos of the Day

Great lighting as we start hiking up Forester Pass

A Sierra pika! This picture was taken on Mt. Whitney but we saw and heard them on Forester Pass. Note that this little guy has eaten most of the rock fringe plant in front of him.
Ray and I on Forester Pass; 13,200 feet in elevation.
Feeling strong and high on the scenery as we head down from Forester Pass into Tyndall Creek basin.
Incredible geology! A late-stage dike intruding both the granitic rocks (light-color) below as well as the intermediate andesitic phase rocks above. Check out the cooling edge (dark rind) alongside the dike.
Another foxtail pine forest as we wind our way down from Bighorn Plateau into Wallace Creek. Note the lack of vegetation under the pines. This is common in the foxtail pine forests.

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