KCHBR Day 14: JMT and White Fork

15.5 miles
144 miles hiked

I sleep so hard and when my alarm wakes me it’s so cold I can’t get up. I forgot how meadows are freezing deathtraps. They seem so innocent in the daytime…

Yesterday we made the tough decision not to attempt King Col. King Col has a very difficult snow cornice on it in normal years, and has a reputation as being the iffiest pass of the KCHBR. This being a high snow year, King Col will be even iffier, the snow cornice larger and likely impassible. We have just one microspike each and no ice axes, and we’ve already heard of one group, this year, that was unable to get over King Col and was forced to turn around. If we attempt King Col and fail, it will add another day to this section, and I am already running very low on food, as well as stove fuel. If we had two sets of microspikes, axes, and plenty of food, I would definitely give King Col a shot. But we don’t have any of those things. I wish that Katherine was in front of us, and that she could relay information to us somehow- it’s always hard to know how seriously to take information about other groups turning around when you don’t know how prepared they are, or what what their experience level is. But Katherine got off at Kearsarge Pass to resupply, and will now be a day behind us. I’ll have to wait and read her blog to see whether or not she makes it over King Col. (spoiler: Katherine makes it bc she’s incredible. Read abt her King Col experience here. And then read the rest of her posts bc they are amaze.)

Luckily, there’s an alternate to bypass King Col wherein we replace fourteen miles of the route with fourteen miles of the JMT. So that’s cool.

We escape the freezing meadow and I’m euphoric on the climb up to Glen pass on the JMT- it feels so good to stretch out my legs and I feel like I’m ten feet tall. I got my period in the night and it’s no longer my birthday nor the full moon and the storm in my heart has broken, what joy. The JMT is bumpin- there are nineteen people on the top of Glen pass and a young man named Justin is making instant coffee for everyone so we sit down and stay awhile. What joy, eating chips and salami on Glen pass. What joy, passing Kodak’s titanium cup of bitter instant coffee back and forth. What joy, talking to sunburnt strangers. What joy!

We descend the other side of the pass and I derive even more joy from seeing the beauty of Rae Lakes absolutely blow Kodak’s mind. We take another break next to the lake, because yeah we’re on the cruiser JMT but how are we supposed to hike when everything is this beautiful? The gentle sun and the clear water and that cute island out in the middle of the lake. We jump in the water but it’s ice-cold, even this late in the season, so we shiver our way out and lay on the rocks and in this way midday becomes afternoon.

Kodak and Rae Lakes

Kodak is thrilled by the Woods Creek suspension bridge as well. A narrow one-person bridge with rickety planks that shakes when you walk across it, while Woods Creek rushes below. What joy! Not long after the bridge we reach the drainage where we’ll leave the JMT to rejoin the route, traveling cross-country up White Fork. At first I feel apprehensive but soon the methodical work of ascending jagged talus wipes everything from my brain, and I am soothed.

Ascending White Fork

The White Fork of the Kings River contains some sort of mineral salt, and all the rocks along its banks are coated in white. This reminds me of the Hayduke, where many of the water sources contained alkaline salts that would give you diarrhea. I’m worried that we won’t find another water source until tomorrow, when we cross over into another drainage, but then we reach a still lodgepole forest and find a small, clear stream winding through the grass in a meadow. I squat on my haunches on the damp ground and dip my bottles into this cold black water, feeling gratitude so strong it makes my whole body sing.

Kodak pitches his tarp in “flying diamond” formation among the pines as the last of the warmth slips away and we eat our dinners wrapped in our sleeping bags, watching the forest grow dim around us.