UHT Day 7: the flip side

August 25, 2021

Miles hiked: 21

Passes: Porcupine, Tungsten, Anderson

Vertical: +3,200 ft

Campsite elevation: 10,807

I need to get out of my tent in the pre-dawn hours to pee. It takes some maneuvering to get out and not snag myself on the trees, but I manage. I look up to take in the big starry sky above and wish I weren’t so sleepy or I could enjoy them just a little longer. Instead, I am cold and it’s still windy, I can’t imagine starting my day just yet.

When I wake again it’s light out. I wonder if I will get going in time to hike up to the pass. I make coffee and eat, get dressed and feel I am being fairly efficient, that’s good! I decicde I will hike to Porcupine pass afterall, as it seems like the best turn around point and I am just too curious to see the views.

North Star Lake before sunrise

I get going just shortly after 8:00 and make good time on the climb. It’s a gradual grade until right at the final pitch, but the trail tread is super easy. In the saddle there is a giant rock cairn and a piece of wood stabbed into the center. X marks the spot, I suppose!

Porcupine Pass 11,362 ft

The views are breathtaking, with the long valley situated between two high mountain ridges, and I gawk at the artistry of this earth for a few minutes. These mountains really have a character all their own. I don’t stay long, as it’s chilly in the wind and I know I still have my work cut out for me today. Time to make the flip!

Views from the pass

On the way down, I see a figure in the distance, coming toward me. Soon she is close enough for us to recognize one another. It’s Dirty Avocado, yay!! We are super excited to see one another and are all smiles. She shares about her successful summit of Kings with me and turns out she camped with those other dudes, who are now not too far behind her. We exchange info and take a selfie together, promising to stay in touch and hike some trails together. I walk away with that happy buzz once again. I made a friend!

New friend Dirty Avocado!!

When I get back to camp it’s about 9:30am so I make quick work of packing up, have a quick snack and set off back toward Tungsten pass. About half way there I run into the three guys, Van, Packets and Brent, from the other day. Super great to see them again! We all stand there chatting for a good 10-15 minutes and it’s really fun to hear what they’ve been up to and we talk all kinds of trail and travel stuff too. Finally, it’s time to part ways, we all wish one another well and off I go again.

The valley leading back up toward Anderson Pass is just lovely this morning as the light rolls in and small, fluffy clouds begin to form. The creek I had to ford yesterday is lower this morning and I can rock hop it, which saves me time. I seem to be making good time and I feel pretty good. I think today is going to be another great day!

Approaching Anderson Pass

Just before the climb up to Anderson Pass I see three men sitting having a rest break and snacks after coming down from the pass. They chat with me for a few minutes and soon I am waving goodbye to them as well. Its strange now going in the opposite direction from everyone else, and I wonder if I will see many people on the return hike?

I decide since I am feeling good I will time myself climbing the pass and see how long it takes me to gain the 1,200 ft. I push myself to hold a steady pace and feel solid. Breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, I get into a rhythm. The trail does seem steeper and harder than I expected, going down was just such a dream. Now I am approaching 12,000 ft again and I am starting to feel a bit dizzy. I think this is odd since I just climbed Kings yesterday and already climbed Porcupine this morning. I try to ignore the dizzy feeling but it does not get any better. When I check my watch, I had been pushing for 22 minutes. I look up and see I am only about half way there. I guess I better just slow down?

I hold back my pace and walk a little more normal. I slow my breathing too so I can inhale and exhale out my nose only, and soon I am at the pass. I still make it in 41 minutes and I’m okay with that effort. At the pass it is super windy, I see no people, but there is one backpack left behind, so at least one person must be climbing up to Kings. Had I arrived only today and not yesterday I would not have attempted the summit in these winds and without company. I am so glad yesterday worked out so fantastically well. Now, time to fly down!

Descending Anderson

The descent on the East side of Anderson is way rockier than the West side, and there is a lot of water to skip around, making the trajectory of the path less efficient, but boy is it pretty today. It is still super windy even at this lower elevation after the pass, as the trail flows through a big bowl on the back side of Kings, it seems to channel the wind right through. In fact, it is the windiest it has been on this entire hike and I have to stay all bundled up.

It keeps getting prettier!!
Loving the shadows on this windy slope

I am now getting hungry but need to push to get down lower and out of this wind, as it is really incessant. I keep thinking it won’t take that much time, but it seems to take forever. I continue along the rocky trail, occasionally looking up toward Kings as it gets bigger and bigger the lower I drop. I pass one party of hikers that have day packs, looks like a father-daughter duo. I am too focused on getting to my lunch break, so I press on with a simple hello.

Bracing against the wind

I see clouds building up behind the peak now. They are giganitc cumulous clouds and seem to be collecting quite quickly. When I reach the creek that is two creeks merging together, I just cant go any further without eating something. I plop myself down next to a willow bush and hope it’s eough to guard against the wind.

The milky creek
The clear creek

The sun is mostly shining on me, with the occasional cloud blocking its warmth, and the winds are mostly not an issue now behind the willows. I thoroughly enjoy a full lunch break this time and even make Earl Gray tea, which simply hits the spot!

Tea!!

While I am sitting there sipping my tea, I realize how out of it I had become. It was almost like I was bonking, but I didn’t. Maybe the speed of the climb? The wind? Hiker hunger kicking in? Hard to say, but it is really good I stopped when I did. I sit in stillness, sipping my tea, listening to the incessant flow of the water, feeling like I am being hypnotized. It is actually a lovely and relaxing feeling, I want to linger longer but those clouds tell me to get going!

Tai Ji of the creeks

Walking on now I enter Painter Basin for the second time. I am astounded at how beautiful it is today, even compared to yesterday. There is something about the lighting, time of day, perhaps the clouds, but the colors are just popping and everything is crystal clear like I am walking in technicolor. I cringe because I am almost out of phone battery and have to conserve, so all day I take very few photos and this seems to be easily the most beautiful day on the hike. Ha, the irony!

Eventually I reach the end of Painter Basin where the trail heads North and climbs up over a knob, passing by my campsite from two nights ago. I recalled from there it was about 1.5 miles to the scary creek ford, so I have that to look forward to now, grrr! I make quick work of all the rocks, water and mud, and before I know it, I am at said creek, staring at the water which is exactly the same as it was two days ago.

I’d hoped it might have gotten lower, but it looks no different and no less scary. I spend 20 minutes scouting around looking to see if there is another place to ford and finally settle on the same spot as before. I figure if it worked last time, I can make it work again. It just takes time and focus.

Looking back where I crossed again
The flip side of the ford, yay!!

The ford is a success and about the same as last time, not easy, but do-able without sending too much adrenaline through my bloodstream. Once I make it back to the trail, I stand at a lovely campsite by the creek, hedging on stopping there for the day. I look at my watch, it is only 6:00pm. It just seems too early to stop.

I recall the three guys told me they had camped at Kidney Lakes and said it was lovely. I check my map and see it’s about three more miles ish to get there, and decide I can do that by 7pm or so. I know this next section is super tedious and rocky though, and I know it’s not 3mph trail tread, nevertheless I decide to push anyway and go for it, hoping I make it before the rain.

Magically, I am feeling strong. This time of day is not only my favorite because of the golden light, but I typically get a second or third wind and feel pretty strong. I take advantage of this and make my way quite swiftly along all the awkward rocks and still play the game of keeping my feet dry, but give myself more margin to mess up. Within about 30 minutes, the sky darkens again, the temperatures are dropping, wind is picking up and I sense the storm coming in.

It’s a rollin’ in…

I start to get a little nervous that I made a bad decision because I know there is zero camping between here and Kidney Lakes. I really have to book it! The growing clouds and low level thunder are good motivators and I continue to push faster, and am praying to the trail Gods to let me get to camp before the storm hits….and the thunder rolls.

Somehow I practically bump into the large wooden sign marking the path to Kidney Lakes and it is starting to get much darker now. The thunder is growing louder and I am geting little spits of rain already tapping on my coat.

I veer off to the Lakes and within a tenth of a mile I come upon the most perfect campsite. I am SO relieved and rejoice at this amazing gift, hooray! There is flat camping in the center of several giant pine trees, and it feels protected and is just lovely with close proximity to one of the lakes with a little running creek at it’s inlet.

One of the Kidney Lakes

I make very quick work of pitching my tent, tossing everything inside in one swoop and then realize it is still not raining. Phew!

Protocol in bear country is to cook and eat away from where you sleep so I am very thankful for the opportunity to do so. There is a perfect spot to make my kitchen and I get working fast on my dinner. I change into my PJ’s as my mac n’ cheese is hydrating, and soon am enjoying a hot meal under dry skies, what a treat!

The timing could not have been better, as when I finally climb into my tent and am sipping tea and writing, guess what happens? The storm arrives in earnest. I get steady pinging rain, giant rumbles of thunder and lightening that gets behind my eyes. But I am safe, warm and dry and I get to just lay here enjoying the power of this storm in my tent in the dark, wet forest. I am super thankful for this amazing day. What a day!

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