JMT Day 17: Crossing Forester Pass (4009m)

On top of Forester Pass
On top of Forester Pass

A windy night is followed by a windy morning, so I pack up quickly and start hiking just as Rob, Peter and John start preparing breakfast.

I have about 650 meters remaining to climb to Forester Pass. There is a lake half way up that seems to be protected from the wind.

There I cook my breakfast at one of the few tiny campsites so many hikers have aimed for yesterday. It must have been a bit crowded here, likely some of them were forced to go over Forester yesterday.

Lake below Forester Pass
Lake below Forester Pass
The trail up Forester Pass
The trail up Forester Pass

It is a really smooth uphill trail, I find it quite unbelievable that I am at an elevation close to 4000m. Back home in the Alps this would be much more alpine challenge with glaciers all around. No hiking in T-Shirts and trail runners 😉

The trail up Forester Pass
The trail up Forester Pass
The trail up Forester Pass
The trail up Forester Pass
Looking down Bubbs Creek
Looking down Bubbs Creek

During the ascent is the only time I encounter snow on the entire John Muir Trail. It’s just a little patch a few meters in size some steps off the trail.

Distant mountains
Distant mountains
The only snow I encountered on the entire trail
The only snow I encountered on the entire trail

After some final switchbacks, I’m finally there. The sign confirms it:

Entering Sequoia National Park
Forester Pass
Elevation 12.300 Ft.

And – what a view!

Sorry for keeping repeating myself, but the southern part of the JMT is absolutely breathtaking! Since Mather Pass everything appears to be getting bigger and bigger…

On top of Forester Pass (4009m)
On top of Forester Pass (4009m)

In the morning I thought Forester Pass would be the highlight of the day, but I was just wrong: To the south there is an endlessly wide basin literally dwarfing Upper Basin south of Mather Pass a few days ago.

View to the south - wow!
View to the south – wow!
View to the North
View to the North

On the pass there are a couple of familiar faces: Rob, Peter and John arrive not long after me, so does Frederick. There’s also Lars, one of the first Germans I’ve met on the trail.

On top of the pass
On top of the pass

Frederick (the geology professor!) points out one of the peaks on the horizon: That’s Mount Whitney! Ah, finally!

Well, later in the day that peak turns out to be in a completely wrong direction. But here and now I trust the expert and take a lot pictures of alleged Mount Whitney.

In fact you can’t see Mount Whitney from Forester Pass at all.

Posing ;)
Posing 😉

I stay on top of the pass for over an hour, it’s really hard to leave this place. From the south side a strong wind is blowing, but when you’re staying away from the small chute that funnels the air it is quite calm.

The trail on the south side of the pass
The trail on the south side of the pass

The trail on the southern side of the pass has been built into the rock wall, probably using a lot of dynamite. Just below Forester I cross what is probably the most difficult part of the entire Pacific Crest Trail.

The PCT hikers that come here on their way from Mexico to Canada usually do so at a time of there when there still is a lot of snow. The PCT’ers have to cross a steep snowfield in early June, knowing if they slip they’re gone. For good.

PCT hikers usually have to cross a steep snow field here when they climb Forester in early June
PCT hikers usually have to cross a steep snow field here when they climb Forester in early June

But today is the last day of July, no signs of any snow or other difficulties.

The trail down
The trail down

During the way down I take another break because I enjoy the view so much.

Looking back up to the pass
Looking back up to the pass
Hiking out
Hiking out

The many, many miles hiking out this wide basin are like nothing I’ve ever seen before. I really enjoy walking in this unique landscape.

Wiiiiide landscape
Wiiiiide landscape

At one point when I am – once more – sitting somewhere and gaze in awe at the scenery, Frederick catches up and with a simple sentence he expresses exactly what I’m thinking at that moment:

It’s big, huh?

Indeed, it really is!

Tyndall Creek ahead
Tyndall Creek ahead

When crossing Tyndall Creek, I reach another landmark of my JMT thruhike: the first signpost to Mt. Whitney! 16.1 miles, that’s already very close.

The last mileage to Mt. Whitney I saw was in Yosemite: two hundred something…

The first signpost to Mt. Whitney
The first signpost to Mt. Whitney
John Muir Trail
John Muir Trail

From Tyndall Creek it is a short (five miles) hike to today’s goal Wallace Creek. On the way there the JMT crosses another amazing place: Bighorn Plateau.

Hiking up to Bighorn Plateau
Hiking up to Bighorn Plateau
On Bighorn Plateau
On Bighorn Plateau

The lake would make a fine campsite as well.

On Bighorn Plateau
On Bighorn Plateau

When hiking the JMT southbound Bighorn Plateau is the first place where you can see Mt. Whitney – and this time it’s the real one 😉

The first sighting of Mt. Whitney (the second peak from the left)
The first sighting of Mt. Whitney (the second peak from the left)
Mt. Whitney
Mt. Whitney

At Wallace Creek I camp again together with Rob and his boys.

I could have easily continued today to Guitar Lake and then summit Mt. Whitney tomorrow. I’ve thought about it for a while, but then decided against it.

There’s only one drawback: I will arrive in Lone Pine on a Friday afternoon, and the next bus out of there will be on Monday morning, that means being stuck for the weekend in the little town.

On the other hand: I’m here to spend time on the trail, not to catch buses. And all the friends I have met on the trail seem want to finish on Friday, maybe we can reach the summit together…

Rob, John & Peter having dinner at Wallace Creek
Rob, John & Peter having dinner at Wallace Creek

As it turns out all my worries of not having enough food for the second part of my hike were in vain. While I see others already rationing their supplies, I have plenty left. In the evening I give some chocolate and granola bars to John and Peter and am rewarded with some pretty happy faces…

And I’m happy as well because my backpack just got a few hundred grams lighter. 😉

Distance hiked on JMT: 13.8 mi / 22.0 km
Elevation gained: 2300 feet / 700 meters
Time spent hiking (including breaks): 7:45 h (estimated)

Maps of Day 17:

Bubbs Creek - Forrester Pass - Tyndall Creek - Wallace Creek (part 1)
Bubbs Creek – Forrester Pass – Tyndall Creek – Wallace Creek (part 1)
Bubbs Creek - Forrester Pass - Tyndall Creek - Wallace Creek (part 2)
Bubbs Creek – Forrester Pass – Tyndall Creek – Wallace Creek (part 2)
Bubbs Creek - Forrester Pass - Tyndall Creek - Wallace Creek (part 3)
Bubbs Creek – Forrester Pass – Tyndall Creek – Wallace Creek (part 3)
<<< Day 16: Glenn Pass & Bubb’s Creek! <<< Day 17 >>> Day 18: Almost there… >>>


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