Day 5: 12.7 miles hiked, 59.2 cumulative, Crater Meadow to Lake Virginia (10,330′)
We had planned on camping at Purple Lake, but passing hikers told us Lake Virginia was really gorgeous so that’s where we headed. This day held no great mountain passes for us, but it did offer us nearly 3000′ of elevation gain over the day. It was really our first hard day, and I found it really difficult. I learned that I don’t really enjoy endless climbs. I am slow and always out of breath. Nathan would hike ahead, then rest while I caught up. Then we would repeat 900 times. But always there would be extraordinary views to reward us and the pain of the climb would be (somewhat) forgotten.
We stopped by Duck creek and had a nice lunch of pepperoni, cheese and tortillas. While we were resting, a couple modern day cowboys passed us leading mules loaded with supplies to some remote location. It was very entertaining to watch these guys lead their horses and mules across the swift creek and rocky terrain. It was like having front row seats to the 19th century!
All day we were leap frogging with a group of Japanese men from Silicon Valley. They were super nice guys that hike together every year. Nathan and I are usually hot and are of the mindset to hike in as little clothing as possible. These guys were of the other mindset – cover all exposed skin with multiple layers. There are plenty of hikers in both groups, I just really hate being hot. I did sunburn badly on my hands and wrists the first couple days though, so I probably could have benefited with some layers.
Nathan and I got to Lake Virginia (after one last 500′ climb!) to find it was indeed beautiful. The meadow was also home to a gazillion mosquitoes so we hiked past it to the dryer granite outcrops. Another lovely campsite.
Day 6: 7.6 miles hiked, 66.8 cumulative, Lake Virginia to Silver Pass Lake (10,386‘)
We started the day hiking down hot dry switchbacks descending about 1200′. Then we followed the white waters of Fish Creek for a few miles before climbing back into the snow. It was one of those days where we crossed several different terrains in a few miles. Never a dull day in the Sierras…
We then began our climb up to Silver Pass. At 10,740′ it wasn’t especially high or steep. There was a lot of snow, but none of it difficult. It was very pretty in fact, and we could see our previous 6 days path from the top. We wouldn’t have known that if it hadn’t been for a dirty, grey bearded man at the pass that called himself, well, Mountain Man. It was his 2nd summit of Silver Pass that day…because he just liked it up there. But he was cool and pointed out Banner and Ritter Peaks as well as other landmarks from our first weeks journey.
We encountered our first frozen lake on the way up, and Nathan attempted his first glissade on the way down. We laughed our butts off at that…it wasn’t steep enough and he couldn’t keep his feet up so it was pretty much a fail. Our campsite at Silver Pass Lake was really beautiful, so all in all another successful day in paradise.
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” -John Muir