Five Passes Five Days #3

We began day #67 early, as we had to tackle Mather Pass next. Since we only made it to the South Fork of the Kings River the night before, that set us up with seven miles to the top of the pass. Once again, we knew we would end up hitting the pass in the afternoon in slush. What can you do? The best part of the morning, however, was meeting the Scottish Brothers, John and Andrew. From Scotland. Actual Brothers. The were awesome, probably in their late 50’s to early 60’s, and one of them carried a tiny teddy bear on his pack that had traveled the world. The Scottish Brothers were quite likeable and carried on with a brotherly banter heavily ladden with their accents, which made it all the more charming. After not more than an hour of walking that morning we came upon an icy creek crossing which it was clear to me that it was going to involve shoes coming off. That being said, the Brothers seemed hell bent on figuring out a way to cross otherwise, without taking their shoes off, or getting wet. I always think it’s kind of comical watching how much time some people spend trying to figure out a way to cross these creeks, when if you just took your shoes off and went straight through to begin with, you would be on the other side in minutes. But many people don’t want to hassle with the shoes off, freeze the feet, dry the feet, shoes back on routine and see it as a waste of time, not to mention quite uncomfortable. Perhaps some people also get pleasure in trying to strategize on a crossing or in the adventure of looking for a log or rocks to hop. When I approached ths crossing, I played along at first, humorning them in scouting out a way to cross. I could not see a way. Overload, in his scottish kilt, joined the brothers in the hunt. Minutes passed and no suitable crossing had been established, until one of thebrothers says “hey, how ’bout we toss a log across it?” to which the other replies “brilliant!” No sooner had this exchange occured then the two Scottish Brothers and Overload in his Scottish kilt and red beard, have their hands and a giant strap on a log 20 feet long, and they are practically breaking their backs to get this thing to move. Lo and behold, they managed to get it to the creek and into the water most of the way across, but not completely. The far end was not reaching the other shore, and the current began to push it deeper. Connection not established. By this time Prince had already made it to the other side, and I was just laughing at the whole site of it. Finally, I took off my shoes and waded through the icy water, and eventually the three Scottsmen followed suit. I did not maneage to get a photo of this debacle, I wish I had, so here’s a photo of the hike up to Mather that morning:


By the second hour of the morning we were completely on snow the rest of the way up the pass. It goes without saying that it was a complete mess by the time we got up there. On the last mile of the approach and the beginning of the final climb, we followed footprints in the snow from other hikers we had seen go up and over the pass earlier that day. Big mistake. The actual trail wrapped around a bowl, which then would have turnrred into switchbacks leading to the final lip over the top. Instead, we hugged the opposite side and went straight up the slope into a couple of boulder fields which we had to literally boulder our way over. This involved many times, taking off my pack in very precarious situations such as a steep slope with a 300 foot drop off, alanced on rocks with nowhere to actually set my pack, attempting to remove and/or put  on my crampons and also my trekking poles. There were some areas where both hands were in full use hanging onto rocks and scrambling upward trying to not let the weight on my pack throw me off balance. It was tough and I was pissed. I was pissed because we did not think about how we were going to tackle this pass, we just blindly followed where the other’s had gone. The slopes were very steep, we were postholing and digging into slush…unlike climbing Pinchot the day before, I was able to get a few photos of the final traverse and the lip at the top. Steep, steep, and slippery.


The lip over the top of Mather Pass:


Looking over the lip back to the direction we came from:


And “Three’s Company” celebrating our ascent as we continued to fall hip deep into the snow:


The night before, when we camped at the King’s River, we dubbed out team trail name to be “Three’s Company”, singing the theme song “come and knock on my door”… Of course, we had to identify who is who, so naturally Prince got to be Chrissy, the blonde, and Overload was an obvious Janet, leaving me, to be Jack. Mr. Roper, the landlord makes a special guest appearance later on.

I remember the first time I climbed Mather Pass, it was on my first JMT hike back on 2013. It was late September and although the first snow had already fallen, it had also already melted. The entire slope was a bunch of talus and scree, not a glimer of plant life. This time, still no signs of plant life, rather and bunch of rock piles covered in snow as far as the eye could see, and some frozen lakes in the distance.



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