Day 8: Tobogganing

Monday 27th June

Start: Christi’s Spring, mile 1782

End: Bushcamp, mile 1797

Miles: 15

The alarm woke us at 5:30.  We were desperate to fool the mozzies and make some miles before it heated up.  We had a 15 mile stretch to face with no water stops, and yesterday’s hiking pace was around 1.5 mph!  That’s a long day with just 4 litres each.  The mozzies were unfortunately awake.

I felt particularly sluggish as we slowly filtered water at Christi’s Spring before setting off.  I hadn’t slept well last night because I had been busy scaring myself with the noises of the forest.  At around 1am and 3am I had heard animal footsteps close by, most likely deer.  I know it’s irrational, but in the pitch black of night the wilderness can be a frightening place!

Leaving the spring we were startled by 2 skinny tall guys walking towards us.  They were thru-hikers already here from Mexico who have been averaging 37 miles per day.  They are machines.  It made me envious to know they would probably reach Crater Lake today, whilst we still felt so far from away.

Continuing on through Sky Lakes Wilderness we were plagued by the same tree and bug issues as yesterday.  This was compounded by the heat.  It’s the climbing over trees that was killing us.  Doing hurdles with the weight of a small child on our backs, or taking pointless detours that then required us to look for the trail again sucked.

Breaking to eat was not easy!

I started feeling a real sense of what ‘wilderness’ really means.  Unlike earlier in the trail we now crossed no forest service roads and met no day hikers.  There was no phone signal, only trees and mountains in the horizon.

After lunch we sat on a log at 6500 feet, the views started opening up.  As we rounded the western face of Luther Mountain we hit our first challenging traverse of steep icy snow.  Obviously professional kited out in nothing but trail runners we had to take it very carefully.  One slip would have taken us over the cliff.  Conrad was very patient and progressed slowly cutting foot wells into the snow for me to follow.  He coached me along and provided reassurance, evening making me laugh by saying that he should tie us together so that if I go over he comes too so he wouldn’t have to answer to my mum!

Ice walk over, we came to a section of trail along the Shale Butte ridge which had recently experienced a very destructive forest fire.  This made for great views, but blazing sun.  Wilting away we found patches of snow to fill up our hats and sit in to cool down.

Late afternoon and the amount of snow began to increase.  We pot-holed a few times.  My jaw dropped when we reached the north summit of Devils Peak.  People had warned us of the snow, but I had mistakenly thought we had just passed through it.  The PCT was invisible.  The only way down was straight over the edge of the icy facade.  Conrad led the way on his butt.  I was terrified, but turning back at this point was not an option.  I went down behind him gaining more and more momentum.  It ended up being scary but exhilarating and definitely cooled us down – we were now wet and freezing!  When I turned around to see where we had come from I couldn’t believe how steep it was!

The final mile to camp was navigated purely by looking for faint prints and GPS bearings.  Were they bear prints I could make out?!  We made camp at around 6:30pm near a stream where the mosquitos joined us.  It was heartbreaking to make such little miles.  This likely means another 2 nights of camping to reach Crater Lake.  I need a shower!


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