Morning comes to our junction camp. It is sunny and warm. This morning we will climb 1,100 feet to Glen pass, which tops out at 10,771 feet. We hear Glen has a lot of snow on the north side, and so we begin our climb early, in order to cross the snow when it is firm. By mid-day, the snow will be soft and slippery.
I climb in the quiet of the morning, my mind darting from one half thought to another. My breathing falls into a rhythm as we climb higher into the mountains.
Soon we reach a small tarn and refill our water bottles with the clear, cold water. Chef and Sriracha are there, also filling their bottles.
The final push up to Glen is steep and rocky. The snow covered granite cirque surrounds us as we switchback up to the pass. It feels huge and kind of cramped at the same time. The steep walls tower all around us. A narrow path winds it’s way to the top, until there is no more granite left to climb. At the top I catch my breath and survey the snow situation. To the east, the trail crosses a steep, snowy slope. There are pretty good tracks in the snow, so I’m not too worried about the descent. I can see a couple people descending, and they appear to be moving pretty well.
Past the immediate assessment of snow travel, I look down onto the valley to the north. Rae Lakes are immediately before us, and the Sixty Lakes Basin beyond. The water looks cold with the lingering snow all around.
Sriracha and Chef arrive at the top and we all agree to descend together through the snow. Safety in numbers I suppose! We put on our micro-spikes and Cactus, sure footed in steep snow, leads the way.
We descend into the valley with relative ease, navigating the snowy switchbacks methodically and carefully.
As we drop down to Rae Lakes, Painted Lady towers above us – a huge, jutting protrusion of granite. The lakes are a sapphire blue and so clear I can see little rocks on the bottom.
“These lakes are magical!”
Jon agrees, and we decide to eat our lunch here. It’s so beautiful that to simply walk through without stopping would be a shame.
After lunch our afternoon is a lovely stroll through the Sixty Lake basin, and then a long 3,400 ft descent to the suspension footbridge over Woods Creek at 8,300ft. Next to the bridge is a large camping area.
The bridge, stretched tall and narrow across the creek, is a long and wobbly crossing. You can only go one at a time, to minimize movement of the narrow strip of wood below your feet. Fishing in the creek below, I spot fellow hikers Machete and Blue. They are having a fire this evening, and hopefully cooking some fresh fish – if they can catch any. We are tempted to stay at the campsite and enjoy the fire, but tomorrow we are trying to go over both Pinchot and Mather passes in a single day, so we plan to climb 1,200 more feet tonight to get a head start on tomorrow’s work.
It’s a tiring, but beautiful climb to our campsite. The trail follows Woods Creek up the valley. The sound of tumbling water serenades our walk.
The campsite is crowded. Dang. There must be a bubble of hikers who had the same idea we did. But we manage to find a spot next to several other tents. I make us a quick dinner, the temperature drops fast as the sun goes behind the mountains, and we head to bed.