Thursday, June 19, 2014

Higher Grounds

Before I left Tehachapi to set out for the final stretch of the desert, I knew I was in for a heavy haul. Facing a distance of more than 130 miles without resupplying, I hiked out with a pack weight of 50 pounds (22.5 kg). Time to get it over with; and when I finally reached Kennedy Meadows I was sick and tired of all the dust, miserable heat and carrying five liters of water every day. Good thing I just reached the great gateway into the High Sierra. I guess 700 miles of desert was about as much as I could take.

After spending more than $130 on food in just two and a half days I felt quite refreshed and ready for the mountains; but first I had to celebrate the end of the desert by getting a new haircut:

And so I hiked out to see what the next chapter of my journey had to offer. No more blistering heat that melts the skin off your bones and no more of these terribly long waterless stretches sounded very appealing to me. Instead those things were about to be replaced by steep climbs of several thousand foot, thin air that makes you gasp for oxygen, and blood-thirsty mosquitoes.

After reaching Crabtree Meadows the rest of my crew was a bit too eager to climb Mt. Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States. It was already 4 p.m., so I was the only one to wait for the next morning to climb those 8.5 miles and more than 4000 foot in elevation. I just hiked to the next Ranger Station, set up camp and decided to get up at 3 a.m. to catch the sunrise. It was a magical hike with white walls of granite towering high above us, glittering in the light of a full moon like myriads of stars on the surface on a lake.

While I was hiking to the summit with Giggles and Happy Man, it turned out the climb took longer than expected, and by the time the sun came up we were still stuck on the west side of the mountain, hiking steep switchbacks. It took us about two more hours to reach the top. Shortly before we got there the rest of my hiking crew, who went up the afternoon before, came down after sleeping overnight in the emergency shelter on the summit. Half of them looked like they've been mauled by a black bear. That didn't really surprise me, because they must've had the coldest of all nights. Shortly after passing Guitar Lake on the way to the top the water in my bottles started freezing over. That made me think of the beer in my pack. I stowed it under my jacket, so I could enjoy an ice-cold (but not frozen) Budweiser on the top.

The next day another huge ascent was waiting for us: Forester Pass, the highest point of the entire PCT (Mt. Whitney is a side trip, so technically it's not ON the PCT). Luckily going up wasn't too difficult (thanks to Led Zeppelin on my headphones), but coming down included some snow fields that made me lose the trail a couple of times.

So I'm in Bishop, CA right now, getting ready to move out. Wait, what? Bishop? That's not even IN the Sierras. How did you end up there? So yeah, the Sierras are very remote and there are not many places to resupply there. I hiked out over Kearsarge Pass to Independence and hitchhiked 40 miles to Bishop. We rode in the back of a pick-up truck (all the other seats were already taken). That was a fun ride. Until a State Trooper pulled us over. Apparently riding in the back of a pick-up truck is not exactly legal in California. While we only got a warning, the lady who gave us the ride got a ticket. Somehow I feel bad for her, because after all it was our fault. But it seemed she knows some people at the local courthouse, so I hope this will take a good end for her.

Alright, let's get this post to an end. I gotta get outta here. The rest of the Sierras is waiting for me. Next stop will be Mammoth Lakes, about 125 miles. Here are some more pictures:

Happy Trails,


  1. Hy cheesie, great pics & your new haircut is gorgeous

  2. Hi Ben, ein mega Haarschnitt und unfassbar tolle Bilder. Total spannend, was du schreibst. Weiter so, komm heil wieder :)

  3. Die Bilder sind echt sehr geil, um den Anblick beneide ich dich. Der Haarschnitt ist von jetzt an der einzige den ich bei dir sehen will, ohne gibt es kein Bier du Zauberer XD.

    HF & GL