Saturday 18 June 2022

Forty Years Ago On The Pacific Crest Trail: River Crossings

Larry Lake fording Tilden Creek, June 17, 1982

In my last post on my 1982 Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike I wrote that the spring thaw was underway and that "the most dangerous part of the whole walk was about to start". This was due to the rapidity of the thaw, which meant we had many raging torrents to cross every day for six days in the Yosemite backcountry. Guessing this might be the case I'd bought a 60 foot length of 7mm climbing rope in Mammoth Lakes. We used this frequently. It was just long enough. 

Larry Lake in the Yosemite backcountry

The four of us who'd gone through the High Sierra together decided to split into two pairs at Tuolumne Meadows. I've long forgotten the reason but it was unwise. A group of four would have been much safer and more reassuring through this difficult section. As we were on the same route we did meet up occasionally but mostly I was just with Larry Lake, who like me had set off solo at the Mexican border. 

Crawling across logs over McCabe Creek, June 13, 1982

Where we could we crossed creeks on fallen trees, a slow process as the logs were wet and slippery. The roaring water just below was deafening and disorientating and the whole procedure unpleasant.

Crossing Kerrick Creek, June 16, 1982

The going away from the creeks was arduous too. The trail was rarely visible, still snow covered in places or else under water in a flooded forest. In meadows the snow was a mass of suncups - hard edged hollows that were difficult to cross.

Flooded Yosemite forest

The landscape was spectacular and I did at times enjoy it but overall this wasn't my favourite part of the trail. There were just too many creek crossings and the feeling of contant danger was wearing. I was glad when it was over and I could go back to trail hiking. Looking at my photos and reading my journals now I'm thankful and surprised that we survived. I think it's the most continuously dangerous period of hiking I've ever done.

Yosemite mountains

The full story is told in my book.


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