Steele Outside

PCT 2016: the grande shit show spectacular

Day 64: Glen Pass

mile 789.9 – 799.7

9.8 miles

One of my reasons for hiking the PCT was to prove to myself that I can finish something. I never finished college. I tried and tried and never could stick with it, for a variety of reasons. 

  
(My breakfast spot at the top of Glen Pass.)

In talking with friends about hiking the trail, I had a few people ask me how I would handle it if I wasn’t able to finish for some reason. I’m sure I gave them some vague answer and then pushed their question from my mind as quickly as possible, not wanting to even entertain the idea of “failure.”

When I started the trail, I told myself and everyone else that I knew that there were many reasons people had for not finishing the trail- injury, running out of money, change in family circumstances- but I secretly believed that none of them would happen to me. We all like to believe that those things won’t happen to us. Or, maybe we just hope. 

Today, I have slowly realized that I might be too injured to carry on. My knees are a mess. The 10 miles I hiked today took almost 11 hours because each step hurt so badly. 

  
(The snow trench leading away from Glen Pass. Not nearly as scary as Forester Pass.)

I’m taking the news better than I thought I might. Hey, if I go home right now, I go home having reached mile 800 of the PCT. That’s not nothing. Also, I’ve learned a lot in the process- about myself and about lots of other things. I can always come back and section hike the rest of the trail. 

It doesn’t have to be over, though. I could take a couple more days off, lighten my pack, and then just scoot up to Northern California or Oregon. I think the elevation gains and losses and the snow in the Sierras is just too much for me right now. 

Going over Glen Pass today was another difficult day of traversing snow and rock and glissading. This morning, I was scrambling up scree to find the trail going up to Glen Pass when I realized that I don’t particularly like feeling like I might slip and fall to serious injury or death. What might be just normal scary becomes really frightening when you don’t trust your knees. 

  
(Red: the snow trench leading away from Glen Pass. Orange: some switchbacks and some picking my way down snow and rocks. Yellow: glissade where I dropped my poles. Green: snow trail leading to another glissade.)

After going over Glen Pass and then traversing a snowy ledge that wasn’t nearly as bad as the one on Forester Pass ( more of a trench most of the way across), I was met again with scrambling down rocks to find the trail. I picked my way down loose rock, stalling a few times in panic. I reached trail only to see that it disappeared again immediately. Instead of trail, there was a long downhill slide. 

As I was glissading, for the second time in my life, phone securely stuffed in my bra, I got going a little too fast and freaked out and dropped my trekking poles. I had to, again, climb up to retrieve them, while people at the top waited for me to clear the chute. Later, a couple of guys who saw me drop the poles said that my trail name should be Mrs. Claus, because I’m always leaving little presents in the snow as I sled. Clever. πŸ˜‰

  
(Second glissade of the day. Much easier.)

Once I had cleared the snow, I should have been able to pick my pace back up to two miles per hour, at least, but I limped along all day in pain. I had a beautiful walk past Rae Lakes. This is why people love the Sierras. It is pristinely beautiful here. 

  
(Lunch at Rae Lakes. Just beautiful.)

Around 5:00, I reached Woods Creek Bridge, where there were lots of people camped. This is a common campground for people hiking the Rae Lakes Loop, which I just learned about today. At the campground, I met Tiffany, who is doing this loop. She told me that the Paradise Valley Junction is just up trail from here. From there, I can get to Road’s End and then hitch into a town, but she couldn’t tell me the name of the town. 

At one point she picked up my pack and gasped at how heavy it is. I could see her judging me and I felt ashamed. I packed way too much food for this leg. Sure it’s an eight day leg, but I probably packed a good 10-12 days of food (2-4 lbs more than I need). I just wasn’t being careful. Plus, I just bought a brand new fuel canister, so that’s a few extra ounces. Those things added together with the ice axe, bear canister and microspikes make for an excessively heavy pack, which isn’t helping my knee situation. I tried to explain to her that my pack isn’t usually this heavy and that I’ve hiked almost 800 miles with no problems and that I just made a mistake this time out. I don’t think she believed me, which really got to me at first. Then, I remembered that I’ve hiked almost 800 miles, so screw anyone who wants to judge me for how heavy my pack is today. Who is she to judge me?

I was on the fence all afternoon about whether to bail. Then, I started looking at my options if I stay on the PCT and try to finish this section. I’d have a mountain pass to deal with every day and who knows how long it all might take me and the further damage I might do to my legs. I just don’t think it would be smart. 

So, tomorrow morning I will begin the hike out. I’m bailing. Once I get to town, I’ll figure out my next move. I just can’t keep going like this. 

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Day 63: …And carry on

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Day 65: Road’s End?

16 Comments

  1. Dawn Henrichon

    Not bailing … being smart. 800 miles is no small potatoes and it’s far more than most people will/can ever do. I’ve enjoyed being on this journey with you. I hope if there’s another one (beyond the usual journey of life), you’ll choose to share the amazing things you see and do. Hugs and encouragement to you. And healing. Lots of healing.

  2. lindasholar@att.net

    You’re amazing. So proud of you!

  3. Listen to your body. <3

  4. Shawn Kuck

    I agree with Sandy. Listen to your body and don’t cause injury. You’re great and you have accomplished a bunch. Don’t hurt yourself so you can’t do it later if you want to. If you push your knees too far, you’ll regret it later. No matter what, you’re amazing and I love you.

  5. Tim

    I am so blown away by what you have done. There is no shame in being honest with yourself(just learned this on Mr. Rogers) and the PCT will always be there if you are not able to finish now. Lots of Love from TN!!

  6. Deby

    I am so proud of you! 800 miles is no small feat! You are so brave! You are a very accomplished woman. You may not have finished a 4 year university but you got a photography degree and you are a licensed and professional massage therapist and a damn good one! You are as accomplished if not more so, as anyone I know. But most of all you are a smart, witty, and caring person and a delight to have as a daughter, granddaughter, niece, and friend. You are loved. Myself….I admire you! Go to Sante Fe and be pampered by your lovely husband . Have honeymoon time! SAVE THE KNEES

  7. Damned heroic, if you ask me!

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